UPDATED: Mar 5, 2020
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Vehicle Honda Civic
Uninsured Motorists 15.2
If you were hoping to live in a place that has it all, you chose wisely! California truly does have it all. From oceans to mountains, cities to farmlands, and deserts to woodlands, you’ll find it all in the state.
With a population pushing 40 million, California has more residents than any other state in the U.S., yet it doesn’t even make the top ten for population density. What does that mean? There are still places to get out, stretch your legs, and connect with nature.
Whatever your favorite pastime is, you’re probably going to have to drive to do it. And if you drive, you’ll need insurance. And that’s where we come in.
We’ll take you through everything you need to know and help you get started down your path to making an informed choice in car insurance.
One awesome resource we have to help you is a quote comparison tool. Enter your zip code right here to get started, and you’ll receive several rate quotes for car insurance. You might be surprised when you see how much you could save.
California Car Insurance Coverage and Rates
You could spend a solid part of your week figuring out what kind of insurance you need and where to get it. Or you could find everything you need to know right here and go do something fun with all your extra time.
We’ll cover what’s required, optional car insurance coverage, and what you can expect for rates.
California Minimum Coverage
Liability coverage is required in California. If you damage property or injure a person in an accident, you’re liable for the costs incurred. Liability coverage helps you pay for that.
The bare minimum that you must carry to comply with the law is as follows:
- $15,000 – Bodily injury liability per person
- $30,000 – Bodily injury liability per accident
- $5,000 – Property damage liability
You’ll often see those figures shortened to this: 15/30/5.
Now, before we go any further, I want to make a case for getting a higher level of coverage. If you’ve been to a hospital recently, you’re well aware of how expensive it is.
If you cause an accident and the other party sustains a major injury that requires surgery and therapy, the costs can quickly exceed the $15,000 in minimum coveraage required.
The $5,000 requirement for property damage is among the lowest in the nation. The average vehicle is worth far more than that, and a new vehicle could be in the $60,000 price range. If you cause significant property damage, your measly $5,000 of coverage will not go very far at all.
So, what? If the costs of the accident exceed your insurance limits, you could be liable for the difference. If you have assets right now, or you plan to have assets in the future, just one accident could throw you into a financial pit from which you might never dig out.
A more realistically protective starting point for liability limits is 100/300/100, and higher levels would provide even better protection.
Forms of Financial Responsibility
In California, you must carry proof of financial responsibility in your vehicle at all times. The following forms are acceptable:
- A document or identification card from your insurance company.
- A DMV authorization letter, if you are a cash depositor or are self-insured.
- California Proof of Insurance Certificate (SR-22) form for broad coverage or owner’s policy.
- Evidence that the vehicle is owned or leased by a public entity defined in California Government Code §811.2.
- A Notification of Alternative Forms of Financial Responsibility (REG 5085) form for a vehicle covered by commercial or business policies and being registered for the first time.
- A Statement of Facts (REG 256) form certifying the motor carrier has evidence of insurance on file with the Public Utilities Commission or DMV pursuant to CVC §34630.
If you go with the cash deposit option, you’ll need to deposit $35,000 with the DMV. You can also go with a surety bond for $35,000 from a company licensed to do business in California
Far and wide the most common form of financial responsibility, and the focus of this guide, is a car insurance liability policy.
Premiums as a Percentage of Income
|Year||Annual Full Coverage Premium||Annual DPI||Percentage of Income Paid to Car Insurance|
Disposable personal income (DPI) is the money that is left after income taxes have been paid. Nationally, the average percentage of DPI paid for car insurance is 2.34 percent. Californians pay less of their income to car insurance than the average American.
When you compare the percentage of income going to car insurance with the states adjacent to California, you’ll see that California’s percentage is lower than Oregon’s, Nevada’s, and Arizona’s.
If you want to see what percentage of your income is being paid to car insurance, use our tool right here.
|Coverage||State Average||National Average||Over/Under National Average|
Overall, California residents pay less for car insurance than the average American. The collision part of full coverage is higher than the national average, but the lower cost for the other coverages make up for it.
There are a couple of options for car insurance to protect yourself. Medical Payments (MedPay) will pay for your medical costs up to the limits in your plan regardless of who is at fault in an accident.
Uninsured/Underinsured motorist coverage will also pay for your injuries if you’re hurt in an accident when the at-fault party doesn’t have insurance or doesn’t have enough insurance.
You might also want to consider uninsured/underinsured property damage coverage. Considering $5,000 is all the property damage liability required in California, if your car is worth more than that, you could be left with a lot less compensation than you need.
Uninsured/underinsured property damage coverage would kick in once the other party’s insurance (or lack of insurance) is exhausted.
California’s uninsured motorist rate is 15.2 percent. That’s pretty high, in fact, only 11 states have a higher percentage. If an uninsured motorist causes a crash with you, you’ll be wishing you would have bought uninsured motorist coverage!
|Coverage||Loss Ratio 2012||Loss Ratio 2013||Loss Ratio 2014|
|Medical Payments (Med Pay)||73%||69%||62%|
The table above displays the loss ratios for MedPay and uninsured/underinsured motorist coverages in California. Both are in good shape. The number given is the dollar amount paid to claims for every $100 earned in premiums.
If the loss ratio was approaching or exceeding 100 percent, you could expect steep rate hikes so the companies could keep up with claims. Such a scenario is not happening in California with MedPay and uninsured/underinsured motorist coverages.
Add-Ons, Endorsements, and Riders
- Guaranteed Auto Protection (GAP)
- Personal Umbrella Policy (PUP)
- Rental Reimbursement
- Emergency Roadside Assistance
- Mechanical Breakdown Insurance
- Non-Owner Car Insurance
- Modified Car Insurance Coverage
- Classic Car Insurance
- Pay-As-You-Drive Insurance
- Usage-Based Insurance
Usage-based insurance is a popular option some insurance companies offer.
By choosing a usage-based plan, you allow the insurance company to monitor your driving through a telemetric device installed in your vehicle or through an app. You are then rewarded for good driving habits.
Pay-as-you-drive plans take usage-based plans a step further. You only pay for the miles you drive! Metromile offers exclusively pay-as-you-drive plans. Some of the major companies, like Allstate, are offering similar plans.
Demographic and Rates – Male Vs. Female Vs. Age
Until 2019, California car insurance companies used gender to formulate their rates. The resulting differences in prices between men and women sometimes favored men, and sometimes favored women.
Universally, 17-year-old males paid significantly more for car insurance than their female counterparts. The statistics for male teen drivers back up the argument that they present more risk to the insurance company. More risk equals higher rates.
Genderless car insurance rates are one of the natural outcomes of California’s law that adds a third choice to the gender options for drivers’ licenses and birth certificates. The choices are:
This law went into effect on January 1, 2019, and car insurance companies were given six months to comply with gender-neutral rates.
For the most part, residents haven’t experienced a huge impact on their rates, as already, the rates were split with some males paying slightly more and some females paying slightly more.
The demographic that will see the biggest financial impact are teen females. Despite their statistical lower risk than males, they will be charged identical rates as their male counterparts.
Our team partnered with Quadrant Data Solutions to find and compare rates for California residents. Because this law had not been enacted at the time of our data gathering, our quotes represent differing rates based on gender.
We have averaged the rates between male and female coverages to give you a more accurate idea of the rates you can expect.
|Company||17-Year-Old Single||25-Year-Old Single||35-Year-Old Married||60-Year-Old Married|
One thing that stands out about California car insurance rates is the older you get, the less you pay. The only exception to this in our data is that with USAA, 35-year-olds pay about seven dollars less than 60-year olds.
Rank by Demo and Carrier – Average Annual Rates
Below you’ll see the companies in order of lowest to highest rates for each age group.
|Ranking (least to most expensive)||Single 17-Year-Old||Single 25-Year-Old||Married 35-Year-Old||Married 60-Year-Old|
|1||USAA - $4416.71||USAA - $2597.19||Geico - $1787.31||United Financial - $1660.63|
|2||Safeco - $5181.45||Safeco - $2607.16||United Financial - $1811.60||Geico - $1680.52|
|3||United Financial - $5258.22||United Financial - $2674.13||USAA - $1878.60||USAA - $1886.00|
|4||Geico - $5481.52||Geico - $2595.60||Safeco - $2240.96||Safeco - $2111.11|
|5||Travelers - $5536.17||Travelers - $3214.71||Travelers - $2457.66||Allstate - $2137.03|
|6||State Farm - $6822.45||State Farm - $3720.81||Farmers - $2715.31||Travelers - $2194.59|
|7||AMCO - $8752.49||AMCO - $3881.60||Allstate - $2922.56||Farmers - $2451.83|
|8||Allstate - $9143.80||Allstate - $3928.97||AMCO - $3198.63||AMCO - $2781.60|
|9||Farmers - $11428.11||Farmers - $3401.82||State Farm - $3310.18||State Farm - $2957.44|
Cheapest Rates by Zip Code
If you want to live in America’s most famous zip code, you’re going to pay for it! Beverly Hills 90201 has the highest average car insurance rates in the whole state at $6324.83 per year!
San Luis Obispo residents had the lowest average rates in the state at $2,731.32! Beverly Hills 90210 residents pay far more than double what San Luis Obispo 93401 residents pay for auto insurance.
Best California Car Insurance Companies
We’ve given you a peek into the rates in California, and shown you a few of the larger insurance companies’ rates for different areas and demographics. But there is so much more you need to know to make a wise choice.
Customer satisfaction and company financial ratings are two other variables that will have a big impact on your happiness with a company.
We’ll cover that information for California’s largest insurers. If you have to make a claim, you definitely need the company to be able to pay, and you also want the experience to go smoothly.
The Largest Companies’ Financial Ratings
Financial ratings matter because they give consumers a report on how an insurance company handles money. If a company has a poor rating, it could be at risk for bankruptcy. If a company has a good rating, they have every indication of being able to pay claims.
Below we list the ten largest car insurers in California with their financial rating awarded by AM Best.
|Providers (Largest-Smallest)||A.M. Best Rating|
|Auto Club Enterprises||A-|
Nationwide, the insurance companies with the largest market share tend to have good financial ratings. Things are no different in California. The largest insurers have positive financial ratings.
Companies with the Best Ratings
Customer satisfaction is another important subject to investigate when choosing an insurance company. A company with higher customer satisfaction rates is more likely to keep you happy as a customer.
J.D. Power reveals the ranking of some of the major contenders in California.
Companies with the Most Complaints in California
|Company||2017 Approx. Exposure Count||Complaint Ratio 2017||Complaint Ratio 2016||Complaint Ratio 2015||Justified Complaints 2017||Justified Complaints 2016||Justified Complaints 2015|
|Amco Ins Co||293,359||0.3||2.4||2.4||1||7||7|
|California Capital Ins Co||72,267||1.4||2.7||1.4||1||2||1|
|United Serv Automobile Assn||422,767||1.4||2.4||4.0||6||10||17|
|Mid Century Ins Co||545,680||1.6||1.3||3.3||9||8||23|
|USAA Cas Ins Co||482,178||1.7||3.0||5.5||8||14||25|
|Interins Exch Of The Automobile Club||2,365,985||1.8||1.9||1.8||42||43||37|
|Viking Ins Co Of WI||258,652||1.9||5.7||6.0||5||13||12|
|Government Employees Ins Co||397,264||2.0||1.4||6.0||8||5||21|
|21st Century Ins Co||589,781||2.0||4.9||4.6||12||32||30|
|State Farm Mut Auto Ins Co||3,773,478||2.0||3.1||5.4||77||119||204|
|Geico Gen Ins Co||1,522,095||2.1||3.3||7.7||32||44||92|
|California Cas Ind Exch||141,781||2.1||2.9||6.0||3||4||8|
|Allied Prop & Cas Ins Co||134,452||2.2||1.5||1.5||3||2||2|
|Mercury Ins Co||1,551,611||2.4||2.7||2.8||38||42||44|
|Geico Ind Co||601,267||2.5||1.7||7.8||15||9||37|
|Amica Mut Ins Co||73,785||2.7||4.2||2.9||2||3||2|
|Farmers Ins Exch||1,352,855||2.9||2.4||3.3||39||32||40|
|Safeco Ins Co Of Amer||368,833||3.0||6.1||8.3||11||21||28|
|Allstate Northbrook Ind Co||1,997,214||3.1||2.5||2.2||61||50||38|
|CSAA Ins Exch||1,976,557||3.2||2.9||3.5||64||55||63|
|Esurance Prop & Cas Ins Co||276,197||3.3||5.3||6.1||9||14||16|
|Progressive Direct Ins Co||121,783||3.3||5.6||1.7||4||7||2|
|California Automobile Ins Co||300,426||3.3||4.1||3.9||10||13||13|
|Wawanesa Gen Ins Co||506,086||4.1||4.6||3.5||21||23||17|
|Garrison Prop & Cas Ins Co||140,295||4.3||2.5||1.0||6||3||1|
|Financial Ind Co||160,518||4.4||7.4||8.1||7||10||10|
|Coast Natl Ins Co||224,780||4.4||5.2||8.2||10||15||30|
|Progressive West Ins Co||329,588||4.6||5.7||4.3||15||19||16|
|USAA Gen Ind Co||206,282||4.8||5.6||3.3||10||10||5|
|Geico Cas Co||238,038||5.0||6.3||13.1||12||13||20|
|Trumbull Ins Co||71,507||5.6||3.9||1.5||4||3||1|
|Infinity Ins Co||819,470||5.6||8.4||9.2||46||76||86|
|Nationwide Ins Co Of Amer||143,688||6.3||6.8||12.4||9||9||15|
|IDS Prop Cas Ins Co||438,249||6.8||9.2||7.6||30||39||31|
|Kemper Independence Ins Co||72,724||6.9||0.0||5.2||5||0||3|
|Farmers Specialty Ins Co||116,996||7.7||7.2||2.4||9||10||2|
|Travelers Commercial Ins Co||177,157||7.9||3.2||16.9||14||2||1|
|Loya Cas Ins Co||210,387||8.6||11.5||15.4||18||28||38|
|Commerce W Ins Co||91,857||8.7||9.5||10.5||8||8||10|
|United Financial Cas Co||435,740||8.7||2.9||5.0||38||12||19|
|Metropolitan Drt Prop & Cas Ins Co||144,507||9.0||9.2||6.8||13||14||10|
|Alliance United Ins Co||949,556||9.2||16.9||15.9||87||156||123|
|Liberty Mut Fire Ins Co||392,750||9.7||14.5||7.4||38||55||28|
|Hartford Underwriters Ins Co||196,048||11.2||6.5||12.6||22||14||28|
|Integon Natl Ins Co||209,177||12.0||22.0||26.5||25||34||30|
|Progressive Select Ins Co||211,936||12.3||5.6||9.1||26||10||15|
|Permanent Gen Assur Corp||66,908||16.4||16.0||20.3||11||9||11|
|Anchor Gen Ins Co||104,936||21.9||21.8||28.8||23||28||37|
|Western Gen Ins Co||86,864||40.3||57.8||86.4||35||41||41|
|Access Ins Co||390,785||117.7||78.1||27.1||460||263||88|
This information is very valuable! The state of California collects complaint reports from consumers, investigates those complaints, and then decides if the complaints are justified.
The table above shows a three-year trend for justified complaints about the 50 largest car insurance companies in California. The important numbers in the table are the complaint ratios.
The complaint ratio is the number of complaints to the number of exposures. A larger company will tend to get more complaints than a smaller company just because of the higher number of customers. The complaint ratio levels the playing field.
Pay careful attention to the companies that consistently have a high complaint ratio. If a company has three straight years of high complaint ratios, your chances for having a complaint-worthy experience are high if you choose them to insure you.
In the chart below, we highlight the ten largest insurers in California with their three-year average complaint ratios.
Cheapest Companies in California
If the following average rates seem high to you, you’re probably a decent driver without much risk. These averages include all driving records and all ages. If, for example, you’re 30 years old with a clean driving record, you can expect your rates to be much lower!
But, if you’re 17 years old with a speeding ticket and an accident on your record, you could be looking at even higher rates.
These rates just give you a starting point to see which companies are the most expensive and the cheapest overall. Your individual rates will vary!
|Company||Average||Compared to State Average||Percentage Over/Under State Average|
Commute Rates by Company
Are you curious how much your commute is going to cost you? In most parts of the country, the length of your commute doesn’t make a huge difference in your rates. In California, it does, thanks to California’s consumer protection laws.
Rates in California must be set based on your driving record, years of experience, and annual mileage.
In fact, California is the only state in which Farmers and Progressive offer any discount for low mileage.
|Company||10-mile commute||25-mile commute|
Coverage Level Rates by Company
|Company||Low Coverage Level||Medium Coverage Level||High Coverage Level|
Credit History Rates by Company
California is one of three states that does not allow credit rating to be used in car insurance rate calculations. Good credit or bad credit, it won’t make a difference in your car insurance rates.
Driving Record Rates by Company
|Company||Clean record||With one speeding violation||With one at-fault accident||With one DUI|
A couple of interesting points are as follows:
- Nationwide increases rates over a clean record by the same amount for a speeding violation as for an accident
- Liberty Mutual charges $350 less for a DUI on your record than they do for an accident on your record
Largest Car Insurance Companies in California
|Company||2017 Direct Premiums Written||Loss Ratio||Market Share|
|Auto Club Enterprises||$2,312,230,000||65.03%||8.48%|
The 10 largest companies have 79.5 percent of the market share while the other 760 companies licensed to sell auto insurance in California are competing for the remaining 20.5 percent.
Yes, you read that correctly! There are a total of 770 car insurance companies licensed in California.
- 99 domestic insurers
- 671 foreign insurers
It can prove to be difficult to study all of California’s laws and weed out the relevant ones to you and your car insurance. You could waste a lot of time. Or, you could just read on because we’re about to highlight the most important laws for you to know.
California has several unique laws concerning car insurance. You’ll want to see how these laws affect you.
Not only will we cover car insurance laws, but we’ll also cover road laws from car seat requirements to DUI penalties.
Car Insurance Laws
California stands out from other states in how car insurance laws are determined. In 1988, Proposition 103 passed with a 51 percent vote. That bill is estimated to have saved Californian’s billions of dollars.
A 2013 report estimated 100 billion dollars of saving in the first 25 years since Prop 103 was passed.
Another stunning statistic is that consumers spent less on auto insurance in California in 2010 than they did in 1989, while the rest of the nation spent over 43 percent more.
Those who oppose Prop 103 argue that it was other laws that have resulted in consumer savings and that it is California’s extremely low liability requirements that rank California 22nd in the U.S. for insurance rates. Opponents say Prop 103 has removed the free marketplace for car insurance.
Whether you’re for or against Prop 103, it is the law of the land, and it’s how property and casualty insurance is regulated in California. Here’s how it works:
- Rates must be based primarily on driving record, years of experience, annual mileage, and any other factor that can be scientifically shown to substantially relate to risk
- Insurers must offer a 20 percent discount to any individual who requests it as long as they meet the criteria of a “good driver.” To be a good driver the following must be true:
- licensed to drive for the previous three years
- not convicted of more than one moving violation (this include an at-fault accident) during the last three years
- Rates from insurers must be filed and posted publicly
- The Insurance Commissioner is an elected position
- Consumers may challenge the actions of the insurance company or the decisions of the Commissioner
Public notices of insurance rate filings can be found at the end of each business week on the California Department of Insurance (CDI) website.
A few states require that insurance companies provide deductible-free glass replacement. California does not. Repair and replacement parts may be aftermarket only if they are comparable quality to manufacturer parts.
If you have been convicted of a DUI, have been in an accident without insurance, have accumulated too many driving points, or committed another serious offense, you will be required to keep an SR-22 on file with the California DMV for three years.
An SR-22 is just proof that you have insurance. It is NOT insurance. If your coverage lapses, the insurance company must notify the DMV.
If you are required to file an SR-22, you’ll have to notify your insurance company. They can file it for you. If they decide to cancel your coverage because of whatever high-risk offense you committed, you can contact other insurance companies.
If you’re unable to find car insurance in the competitive marketplace, California Automobile Assigned Risk Plan (CAARP) will be where you will turn. They will match you with an insurer. Since you must have insurance to drive, they will make sure you are enabled to do that.
Nationwide, there are very few low-income car insurance programs. Hawaii offers a program to a very limited group of individuals. New Jersey has a program for individuals on Medicaid that costs a dollar a day and provides compensation for only immediate emergency injuries sustained by the policy-holder.
California’s low-cost program is by far the broadest of the three states that have a low-income program.
To qualify, the following must be true of your situation:
- Have a Valid California Driver’s License
- Meet Income Eligibility Guidelines
- Own a Vehicle Valued at $25,000 or Less
- Be at Least 16 Years of Age
And your income must be less than these maximum qualifications for household size:
|Household Size (number of people)||Maximum Yearly Income to Qualify (2019)|
If you qualify and decide to go with this program, here’s the coverage it will provide:
- Up to $10,000 per person in case of bodily injury or death
- Up to $20,000 per accident in case of bodily injury or death
- Up to $3,000 for property damage
You have the option to add:
- Up to $10,000 per person uninsured/uninsured motorist protection
- Up to $20,000 per accident uninsured/uninsured motorist protection
- Up to $1000 Medical Payments
You can’t get comprehensive and collision coverage through this plan, but can purchase that directly through the agent that assists you.
How much savings could you get by using the low-cost program? Here’s a list of the annual rates below.
|County||Liability||Uninsured Motorist Bodily Injury||Medical Payments||Youthful Male Surcharge||Inexperienced Driver Surcharge||Age 16-18 Driver Surcharge|
|San Luis Obispo||$247||$32||$22||$321||$346||$494|
These rates certainly do not reflect California’s new genderless car insurance laws as males aged 19-24 must pay a 30 percent surcharge with this program. Their rates will likely be reformulated.
Having insurance is the most important thing. And if the only way to get it is to purchase the low-cost policy, then you need to do what it takes to do that!
However, if I cautioned previously that the standard liability limits are insufficient, I must caution that these lowered limits are far less protective. Shop around to see if you could find a policy with adequate protection for a price you can afford!
Automobile Insurance Fraud in California
Automobile insurance fraud plays a big role in rates. It’s estimated the 10 percent of your premium is wasted on fraudulent activity. In other words, if there was no fraud, you’d pay 10 percent lower premiums!
Fraud is a broad term. First, we’ll look at consumer vs insurer fraud. A consumer who lies to an insurance company commits fraud. An insurance company who offers illegitimate policies to consumers commits fraud.
Now, let’s break down consumer fraud a bit more:
- Soft Fraud – Any misrepresentation of yourself to your insurer. It can include omitting household residents and lying about where you park your car.
- Hard Fraud – Any fraudulent claim. It can include staging accidents and faking injuries.
It’s easy to see how hard fraud can cost insurance companies and the consumer, but the white lies of soft fraud have just as much of an impact. Soft fraud happens so often that the little the minor offenses make a big dent.
In California, to be convicted of insurance fraud, you have to commit an act, so lying about how many miles you drive a year won’t be enough to charge you criminally. Your car insurance company can drop you if they find out you’ve been lying. So, just be honest!
Not only do you have to commit an act of fraud to be convicted, but the prosecution must also prove that you had the intent to commit fraud.
If it can be proven you committed an act of insurance fraud with intent, here are the maximum penalties.
|Insurance Fraud Classification||Jail Time||Fine|
|Misdemeanor||up to one year||up to $10,000|
|Felony||up to five years||up to $50,000|
A common organized insurance fraud scheme is to force an accident. Watch out for these scenarios shared by the California Department of Insurance (CDI):
- Sudden Stop – The driver of the vehicle in front of you stops suddenly for no reason, causing you to rear-end the vehicle.
- Swoop and Squat – A fast-moving vehicle swoops in front of the vehicle in front of you, causing that vehicle to brake suddenly, causing you to collide into the “victim” vehicle. A third vehicle has also forced you to remain in your lane so that you cannot avoid the collision.
- Stuffed or Jump-in Passengers – Passengers who were not in the vehicle at the time of the collision.
- Right of Way Collision – An on-coming driver gives you the right of way and waits for you to enter the roadway, and then purposely causes a collision.
To report a suspected case of fraud, download, print, and fill in the form from CDI. Then mail it to:
California Department of Insurance
Enforcement Branch Headquarters
9342 Tech Center Drive, Suite 100
Sacramento, CA 95826
California’s fraud division released the following stats for the 2016-2017 fiscal year:
|Fiscal Year 2016-2017||Number of Cases|
|In progress as of June 30, 2017||230|
|Reports of Suspected Violation as of June 30, 2017||64|
There are several divisions of California’s fraud unit. In the automobile insurance fraud division, there are several specialized units specializing in specific dimensions of the penal code.
From their annual report:
“During fiscal year 2016-17, the Fraud Division received 19,006 suspected fraudulent claims (SFCs), assigned 470 new cases, made 260 arrests, and referred 260 submissions to prosecuting authorities. The potential loss amounted to $100,143,746.”
Statute of Limitations
If you’re in an accident, the best course to take with insurance is to make a claim right away. It will be easier to prove and you can gather the information that could be lost by waiting. If for some reason you can’t decide if you should file a claim, there’s a hard and fast time limit.
If you pass the statute of limitations you will be out of luck.
|Type of Claim||Time Limit|
|Personal Injury||2 years|
|Property Damage||3 years|
Automobile Mediation Program
The state first started an insurance mediation program in 1995 to help settle disputes over a 1994 earthquake. In 2001, the program was expanded to include automobile claim disputes.
When the insurer and the insured cannot agree on a settlement, the mediation program will provide a qualified mediator to help both parties come to an agreement.
To be eligible:
- You must have a comprehensive or collision policy
- The dispute must be over a first-party damage claim (liability and injury claims do not qualify)
- The claim must be over $7,500
- The amount in dispute must be over $2,000
The goal of mediation is to help both parties come to an agreement. An agreement is not required, though, and if no settlement can be reached, the next step would be a lawsuit that could incur significant costs.
California’s Automobile Mediation Program is free of charge.
Fair Claims Settlement Practices
This regulation was established to protect the consumer.
- It gives the insurance company 40 days to accept or deny a claim.
- It demands the insurer provide a written explanation for denials.
- It demands the insurer pay for claims within 30 days of acceptance.
The bullet list above is just a brief summary of all the law requires. It was written to protect the consumer.
Vehicle Licensing Laws
Whether you’re new to California, a new driver, or a seasoned, longtime California driver, we’ll cover the information you need to keep yourself out of trouble.
Penalties for Driving Without Insurance
If you’re pulled over for a traffic violation or you’ve been in an accident, you’re going to be required to show proof of insurance. Law enforcement can access a DMV database with insurance information, but this does not release you from the requirement to provide proof.
The proof can be physical (a paper copy of your insurance card, most often) or electronic (on your phone, usually).
If you do not have insurance, here are the penalties you can expect.
|First Offense||Fine up to $200 + penalty assessments|
Possible vehicle impounding
|Second Offense (within three years)||Fine up to $500 + penalty assessments|
Possible vehicle impounding
If you have stopped paying for insurance, you will receive a notice that your registration will be suspended. You may return the notice with proof of insurance and a $14 reinstatement fee to the address listed here.
You do not need to purchase insurance for a car that you do not drive. If you plan to not use your car, there are a couple of ways you can suspend your registration properly, and thus not be required to purchase insurance.
- If your registration is up for renewal, you can file your car as Planned Non-Operational (PNO) status.
- If your car is already registered, you can submit an Affidavit of Non-Use (ANU) to the DMV.
Once the DMV has received either the PNO or the ANU, you will be notified and you may cancel insurance coverage. While your car is not registered or insured, you cannot drive or park on a public road. If you do, you can be cited and required to reinstate your registration and insurance.
Teen Driver Laws
California, like every other state, has a Graduated Drivers Licensing (GDL) system. Their system complies with the five of the seven key elements spelled out by the National Institute of Health, and is thus labeled as “most effective.”
|Restriction||Permit||Provisional License||Full License|
|Minimum Age||15 1/2||16||18|
|Prerequisites||Teen and parent must bring proof of residency, SSN, and a copy of the birth certificate to a driver exam office.|
Teen must pass a written test.
Teen must have completed or be enrolled in a driver education course
|Must have completed: 50 hours behind the wheel (10 of which at night)|
Drivers education program
Pass a driving test
|Passenger||Must be accompanied by a licensed parent, guardian, spouse, or instructor over 25 years old||No passengers under 20 except when accompanied by a licensed driver over 25||No restrictions|
|Cell Phone||Cell phones prohibited (even hands-free)||Cell phones prohibited (even hands-free)||Hand-held prohibited. Hands-free cell phone use allowed|
|Time of Day||No restrictions||First 12 months: no driving between 11 pm and five am (some exceptions)||No restrictions|
The key restrictions that California has enforced are:
- A mandatory waiting period of at least six months before a driver can apply for an intermediate license
- A requirement for 50-100 hours of supervised driving before testing for an intermediate license
- Restrictions on nighttime driving
- A limit on the number of teenage passengers allowed in the car
- A minimum age of 18 for a full license
Nationwide, laws restricting nighttime driving have lowered fatal crash rates by 10 percent and laws limiting teenage passengers have lowered fatal crash rates by nine percent.
Older Driver License Renewal Procedures vs General Population
|Renewal Action||General Population||Older Population|
|License Renewal Cycle||5 years||5 years|
|Proof of adequate vision required at renewal||when renewing in person||70 and older, every renewal|
|Mail or online renewal permitted||both, limited to 2 consecutive renewals||not permitted 70 and older|
You may renew online if you can answer no to all these questions:
- Does your driver license expire more than 60 days from today’s date?
- Will you be 70 years of age or older when your current driver license expires?
- Are you currently on any type of driving probation or suspension?
- Did you violate a written promise to appear in court within the last two years?
- Have you already received two consecutive five-year extensions by mail?
- Do you have a driver license from more than one state or jurisdiction?
Once you establish residency in California, you have 10 days to get a California drivers license (DL). Residency is established by any of the following:
- voting in a California election
- paying resident tuition
- filing for a homeowner’s property tax exemption
- any other privilege or benefit not ordinarily extended to nonresidents
Appointments to get a California DL are recommended. You must be prepared to do the following:
- give your social security number
- verify your identity
- verify your California residency
- pay an application fee
- take a knowledge test
- take a vision test
- get fingerprinted
- get your photo taken
If you have a valid DL from another state, the requirement to take a driving test may be waived.
You have 20 days after establishing residency to register your vehicle with the state of California.
If you’re moving from a state where auto registration renewal is a one-step process, you should know that in California, you have to have a smog inspection completed. You’ll also need to have your VIN verified.
Negligent Operator Treatment System (NOTS)
Here’s a succinct definition of NOTS:
The Negligent Operator Treatment System (NOTS) is based on negligent operator points and consists of a computer generated series of warning letters and progressive sanctions against the driving privilege.
If you commit certain offenses, you will receive points. If you accumulate too many in a set period of time, you will have your license suspended.
|Level||Point Count||Time Period|
|Level I Warning Letter||2||Within 12 months|
|Level I Warning Letter||4||Within 24 months|
|Level I Warning Letter||6||Within 36 months|
|Level II Notice of Intent to Suspend||3||Within 12 months|
|Level II Notice of Intent to Suspend||5||Within 24 months|
|Level II Notice of Intent to Suspend||7||Within 36 months|
|Level III Probation/Suspension||4||Within 12 months|
|Level III Probation/Suspension||6||Within 24 months|
|Level III Probation/Suspension||8||Within 36 months|
Here is a list of infractions with their point values.
|One-Point Violation||One-Point Violation||One-Point Violation||One-Point Violation||One-Point Violation||One-Point Violation||One-Point Violation||One-Point Violation||One-Point Violation||Two-Point Violation|
|Disobedience to traffic officer||Illegal movement/yellow light/arrow||Driving on sidewalk||Yielding right-of-way to horseback rider||Basic/prima facie speed limit||Stop required/railroad crossing||Unsafe/unlawfully equipped vehicle||Airbrake system||Removable containers/regulations||Evading peace officer/reckless driving|
|Evading peace officer||Illegal movement/red/light/arrow||Freeway ramp/entering/exiting||Yielding right-of-way to emergency vehicle||Exceeding posted/freeway speed limit||Stop for school bus||Operation after notice by officer||Emergency stopping system||Explosives transportation||Driving while suspended/revoked|
|Disobedience to fire official||Traffic signals||Load obstructing driver's view||Unsafe operation of emergency vehicle||Maximum speed 70 mph||Speed contest/aiding or abetting||Lighting equipment||Vacuum brakes||Inhalation hazard transportation||Driving, suspended/revoked for refusing test|
|Unsafe vehicle load||Disobedience to flashing signals||Interfering with driver's control of vehicle||Yielding right-of-way to pedestrian||Speed in excess of local limits||Transporting person in truck load space||Failure to dim lights||Child Passenger restraint||Inhalation hazard transportation||Hit and run/injury/property damage|
|Disregarding non-student crossing guard||Double lines/one broken line||Driving hours limitation||Due care for pedestrian on roadway||Speed in excess of local limits||Driving on trails and paths||Lamps/flag for extended load||Child seat belt||Tank vehicle regulations||Driving wrong side/divided highway|
|Youth bus/children crossing highway||Use of two-way left turn lane||Following too closely||Prohibited use of freeway||Speed/construction zone||Drinking while driving||Lamps on projecting load||Motorcycle/passengers and equipment||Driving hours limitations||Speed over 100 MPH|
|Disregarding funeral escort officer||Disobedience to traffic control device||Driving in fire area||Yielding right-of-way to blind pedestrian||Restricted speed/weather conditions||Marijuana or open container/driving||Brakes||Fifth wheel connecting/locking device||Driving hours, equipment, maintenance, operation||Reckless driving|
|Crossing safety flares/cones||Keep right||Driving in safety zone||Turning and U-turns||Speed/traffic lanes||Ignition interlock verification||Brakes/combination vehicles||Hitch and coupling device||Safety regulation violation||Reckless driving/causing bodily injury|
|Violation of license restrictions||Crossing divided highway||Towed vehicle swerving||Unsafe starting/backing of vehicle||Driving too slow||Defeating ignition interlock device||Forklift truck brakes||Towed vehicle coupling||Vanpool vehicle maintenance inspection||Speed contest /exhibition of speed|
|Disregarding traffic officer's directions||Entering highway from service road||Unlawful riding/towing||Signaling turns and stops||Speed/bridge/tunnel||Disobedience to toll highway officer||All wheel service brakes||Pole dolly/load and length||Violation of special permit||Minor driving with BAC of 0.05% or more|
|Driving in bicycle lane||Lane use/slow moving vehicle||Turning across bicycle lane||School bus signaling||Maximum designated vehicle speed||Unauthorized towing||Brakes/stopping distance||Caldecott tunnel restrictions||Extralegal load/weight||DUI/alcoholic beverage or drugs|
|Disobedience to traffic signs/controller||High-occupancy vehicle lane/entering/exiting||Illegal passing||Speed/use of designated lanes||Speed/solid/metal tires||Width/load of vehicle at crossing||Braking system/towing vehicles||Hazardous waste transportation||Lift-carrier/speed||DUI/causing bodily injury or death|
|Illegal movement/green light/arrow||Improper lane use||Right-of-way||Maximum speed||Speed limit on grades||Disobedience to sign/vehicle crossing||Adjustment/use of air brakes||Farm labor vehicle/unsafe operation||Bale wagon load width during darkness||Explosives transportation|
Rules of the Road
Everywhere you go, there are things you need to know about when you hit the road. Finding the laws and determining which ones are key to remember can waste a lot of time. We have what you need to know.
Fault vs No-Fault
California is a tort, or fault, state. The person at fault in a collision is responsible for all costs incurred.
California is a pure comparative negligence state. That means that if you are 10 percent at fault and the at-fault party is 90 percent at fault, you are only entitled to collect 90 percent of your damage costs from the other party.
Seat Belt and Car Seat Laws
The driver and all passengers must wear a seatbelt while traveling. The enforcement is primary, which means you can be pulled over just for not wearing your seatbelt. The penalty is a $20 fine.
Here are the regulations for car seats:
- Children under two years old must be secured in a rear-facing car seat. The only exceptions are if the child is over 40 pounds or over 40 inches.
- Children under 8 years old must be secured in a car seat or booster seat. The only exception is if the child is over four feet nine inches.
- From the time a child graduates out of a booster seat until they are 16, they must wear a seat belt while in the car. (Over 16 years old are covered by adult seat belt laws)
A child seat violation (including not wearing a seatbelt when under 16) is a primary offense and will result in a $100 fine and points.
People can ride in the cargo area of a pickup truck only under the following situations:
- if the person is restrained by a federally approved restraint system
- if the vehicle is farmer-owned and used exclusively within farming land or one mile of highway between one part to another
- if the vehicle is in a parade if not more than eight miles per hour
- if it is an emergency situation
So, practically speaking, you cannot ride in the cargo area of a pickup truck.
Keep Right and Move Over Laws
When traveling on a multi-lane highway, you must move to and stay in the furthest right lane if you’re traveling slower than the speed of traffic around you.
When approaching emergency vehicles, tow trucks, or DOT vehicles with emergency lights flashing, vehicles should:
- Move into a lane not immediately adjacent to the vehicle with lights flashing if safe to do so
- If not safe to change lanes, slow to a safe and prudent speed
|Roadway||Speed Limit||Truck Speed Limit|
|Rural interstates (mph)||70||55|
|Urban interstates (mph)||65||55|
|Other limited access roads (mph)||70||55|
|Other roads (mph)||65||55|
In 2018, Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into law requiring rideshare app drivers to share a picture, first name, and a picture of the vehicle the driver is approved to use. Also, in the bill, is stronger background checks for drivers.
Ridesharing companies must provide one million dollars in liability coverage from the time a match is accepted (beginning of period two) until the rider exits the vehicle (end of period three).
Those who drive for ridesharing services must maintain liability limits of 100/300/50 when the app is on before accepting a match (period one). This coverage can be provided by the rideshare company, but if it’s not, the driver must purchase it.
The rideshare company must provide $200K in excess insurance during period one.
A regular personal auto policy may not extend any coverage to ridesharing activities. So, to be covered as a driver, you need to get a special rideshare policy. Here are the companies that offer rideshare coverage in California:
- Liberty Mutual
- State Farm
Automation on the Road
Autonomous vehicles must have five million in liability insurance.
In order for your driving experience to be safe and orderly, there must be laws to set a standard. Following these laws will help keep you safe and will keep you from being penalized.
Driving under the influence (DUI) is dangerous and illegal.
|Penalty Type||First Offense||Second Offense (in 10 years)||Third and Subsequent Offenses|
|License Suspension||Four months||One year||One year|
|Imprisonment||96 hours to six months with 48 hours continuous||96 hours to six months with 48 hours continuous||30 days to one year with 48 hours continuous|
|Fine||$390 - $1000 plus $125 license reinstatement fee||$390 - $1000 plus $125 license reinstatement fee||$390 - $1000 plus $125 license reinstatement fee|
|Other||Completion of a DUI program for license reinstatement||Completion of a DUI program for license reinstatement|
Installation and use of an ignition interlock device (IID) for license reinstatement
|Completion of a DUI program for license reinstatement|
Installation and use of an IID for license reinstatement
If you refuse to take a chemical test, here’s the license suspension length you’ll face:
- A first offense will result in a one-year suspension.
- A second offense within 10 years will result in a two-year revocation.
- A third or subsequent offense within 10 years will result in a three-year revocation.
If you’re under 21 years old, a first offense will result in a one-year suspension.
Marijuana-Impaired Driving Laws
While there are no specific marijuana-impaired laws, a DUI in California includes driving under the influence of alcohol OR drugs. The penalties for DUI drugs are the same as DUI alcohol.
Distracted Driving Laws
Handheld electronic devices are banned for all drivers in California. Handsfree electronic use is legal for drivers over 18 years old. Drivers under 18 years old may not use a cell phone in any way while driving.
California Can’t-Miss Facts
The roads can be dangerous. Accidents happen, thefts happen, it can be depressing to hear about. But, if you take this information and use as a way to be on the lookout for dangerous situations, you can improve your driving experience through the bad driving and road etiquette of others.
We’ll look at vehicle theft, fatal crashes, and finally, traffic conditions.
Vehicle Theft in California
The Honda Accord and Honda Civic blew the thieves’ favorites competition out of the water. If you have one of those vehicles, keep it locked up and in the garage!
The model years listed in the chart above are the most popular model years the total number of vehicles stolen represents all model years stolen of that make and model.
Five of the top 10 cities for vehicle theft in the U.S. are in California. Here they are with their national ranking:
- Redding – #4
- Bakersfield – #6
- Modesto – #7
- Stockton-Lodi – #8
- Yuba City – #9
In the table below, you can find any California city and see how many vehicle thefts were reported in 2013.
|Santa Fe Springs||241|
|South San Francisco||181|
|Desert Hot Springs||141|
|East Palo Alto||130|
|South El Monte||119|
|San Luis Obispo||63|
|South Lake Tahoe||46|
|Rancho Palos Verdes||36|
|San Juan Capistrano||22|
|Rancho Santa Margarita||13|
|Big Bear Lake||12|
|La Canada Flintridge||11|
|Rolling Hills Estates||7|
|Palos Verdes Estates||4|
|City of Angels||3|
|La Habra Heights||2|
|Los Altos Hills||1|
|Del Rey Oaks||0|
You should also know: California is home to some of the most expensive tollways in the United States, so plan your driving here accordingly.
Road Dangers in California
Weather, speed, and numerous other factors play a role in your driving experience. We’ll look at how these variables affected safety.
Fatal Crashes by Weather and Light Condition
These stats are for 2015.
|Weather Condition||Daylight||Dark, but Lighted||Dark||Dawn or Dusk||Other / Unknown||Total (2015)|
Fatal Crashes by County
|County||Fatalities 2013||Fatalities 2014||Fatalitites 2015||Fatalities 2016||Fatalitites 2017||Rates per 100K Population 2013||Rates per 100K Population 2014||Rates per 100K Population 2015||Rates per 100K Population 2016||Rates per 100K Population 2017|
|San Luis Obispo||28||32||34||32||34||10.15||11.49||12.13||11.34||11.34|
Traffic Fatalities Urban Vs. Rural
Traffic Fatalities by Person Type
|California Traffic Deaths by Person Type||2013||2014||2015||2016||2017|
|Passenger Car Occupants||1,098||1,066||1,170||1,357||1,269|
|Pick-up Truck Occupants||239||209||294||278||279|
|Utility Truck Occupants||241||271||288||307||336|
|Large Truck Occupants||38||33||32||48||53|
Fatalities by Crash Type
|Crash Type||2013 Fatalities||2014 Fatalities||2015 Fatalities||2016 Fatalities||2017 Fatalities|
|Single Vehicle Crash||1,922||1,861||1,987||2,273||2,067|
|Large Truck Involved||259||301||305||354||361|
|Involving an Intersection||797||811||881||1,024||927|
|Roadway Departure Involved||1,442||1,374||1,530||1,754||1,588|
Five-Year Trend for Traffic Fatalities in the Top 10 Counties
|10 County Total||2,060||2,107||2,192||2,555||2,363|
Fatalities Involving Speeding by County
|County||Fatalities 2013||Fatalities 2014||Fatalities 2015||Fatalities 2016||Fatalities 2017||Rate per 100K Population 2013||Rate per 100K Population 2014||Rate per 100K Population 2015||Rate per 100K Population 2016||Rate per 100K Population 2017|
|San Luis Obispo||8||11||7||8||13||2.9||3.95||2.5||2.83||4.59|
Fatalities Involving an Alcohol-Impaired Driver by County
|County||Fatalities 2013||Fatalities 2014||Fatalities 2015||Fatalities 2016||Fatalities 2017||Fatallitiy Rate per 100K Population 2013||Fatallitiy Rate per 100K Population 2014||Fatallitiy Rate per 100K Population 2015||Fatallitiy Rate per 100K Population 2016||Fatallitiy Rate per 100K Population 2017|
|San Luis Obispo||4||8||12||11||13||1.45||2.87||4.28||3.9||4.59|
Teen Drinking and Driving[table “242” not found /]
The average commute time in California is almost two and a half minutes longer than the U.S. average.
https://www.carinsurance.org/california/In the charts below, California is represented by orange while the U.S. average is represented by gray.commute time compared to national average
commuter transportation compared to national average
Congratulations, California! You are home to the top two cities nationwide for traffic! Los Angeles takes home the trophy while San Francisco is the first runner-up. If you’re one of the millions of Californian’s stuck in traffic every day, these rankings come as no surprise.
|Cities||Congestion Level||Morning Peak||Evening Peak|
Now that you know what you need to know about car insurance and driving in California, it’s time to get started comparing car insurance quotes. Enter your zip code right here to find and compare rates for free.