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ByBrett Benningfield Staff Writer

As a writer and researcher for Reviews.com, Brett has spent literally thousands of hours figuring out how to help you make better, smarter buying decisions.

The Best California Auto Insurance Companies

The best California auto insurance companies go above and beyond the required minimum, and we’ve pulled together a list of the top five in the Golden State. We compared discounts, financial strength ratings, and quotes in order to help you find the best coverage for your needs. While it’s true that California has some of the lowest minimums for auto insurance in the nation (only Florida requires less), it’s always a smart idea to pay for more coverage. Armed only with California’s minimums, you’re at high risk for having to pay out of pocket after an accident — either for someone else’s medical bills and damaged property if you’re at fault or for your own if you’re hit by an uninsured driver (which roughly one in six California drivers are). Because of this, we recommend comparing quotes from multiple companies below to see which offers you the best quote for the highest coverage.

The Best California Auto Insurance Companies: Summed Up

Best Companies For
California Auto Insurance
AAA

AAA

AAA is technically a federation of regional motor clubs across the United States, but it’s also one of California’s largest insurers thanks to a reciprocal inter-insurance exchange known as the Auto Exchange Club Group. Its Consumer Reports “Reader Score” puts it head and shoulders above every other top pick except for USAA. Additionally, both J.D. Power and Consumer Reports readers gave AAA high ratings across the board for claims handling.

AAA offers a pretty standard range of discounts, including multi-policy discounts for bundling things like auto and home insurance. And because it’s technically a “reciprocal inter-insurance exchange” rather than a single corporation, AAA customers are also eligible for dividends (a discretionary sum out of the company’s surplus). In 2018, policyholders received an average of $186 just for insuring with AAA.

Best Companies For
California Auto Insurance
State Farm

State Farm

State Farm is the provider of choice for 13.7% of California’s insured drivers — more than any other company. Those customers are fairly satisfied, with the company earning a stellar four out of five rating from J.D. Power and a high score from Consumer Reports. State Farm also has one of the lowest complaint ratios of our top picks.

When it comes to pricing, State Farm was middle of the pack. It does seem to offer more discounts for teen drivers than other companies and has several discounts for good drivers, so it’s still worth getting a quote. We liked the in-depth info on coverage types and options we found on State Farm’s website, and there’s no denying the company’s elite financial strength.

Best Companies For
California Auto Insurance
Allstate

Allstate

Among California’s biggest insurers, Allstate is about average in financial strength but offers some of the most expensive quotes, cheaper only than Farmers. It ranks about average in claims satisfaction and had one of the highest Justified Complaint ratios in 2018 of every provider we looked at. We found its website to be harder to navigate than others, too — big on eye-catching graphics, it takes longer to find information on relevant coverages and discounts.

Still, Allstate is a reputable name, and if you have a new car, it offers something none of the other companies on this list do: a “gap” coverage designed to negate the effects of depreciation if your car is totaled in the first year. But even if you drive an old clunker, saving on car insurance is all about comparing individualized quotes. Since there’s always the chance Allstate will offer you a great rate for your situation, it’s smart to grab a quote from it.

Best Companies For
California Auto Insurance
Farmers

Farmers

Farmers has the second-largest market share in California, at 10.7%, and a decent standing in Consumer Reports' and J.D. Power's ratings. The company’s financial strength is a couple of notches lower than the others on this list, but it's still sturdy enough to reliably pay out on claims.

Perhaps the biggest drawback for Farmers, at least in California, is its high premium prices. It was the most expensive provider on our list in three out of four driver profiles we ran (the exception being a middle-aged woman, for whom it was just a few bucks cheaper than Allstate). Still, it’s worth getting a quote from Farmers, since every person’s insurance profile is different.

Best Companies For
California Auto Insurance
USAA

USAA

USAA often makes our top picks list when we do a state-specific breakdown of auto insurance companies. However, it rarely makes it to the No. 1 spot, despite having exceedingly high customer satisfaction ratings and the highest financial strength rating. This is because, simply, USAA is not for everyone. In fact, you can only get coverage if you are an active duty military member, a veteran, or the spouse of a military service member. We couldn’t even get quotes due to this stipulation.

Despite the high bar to entry, however, USAA boasts an excellent track record in both claims handling and customer service. The discounts offered by the provider come pretty standard but, with a financial strength rating of A++, you at least know that your claim will get paid. If you’re eligible, then USAA is definitely worth considering.

Cheapest Car Insurance Companies in California

Average Annual Premium by Company

Car Insurance Companies Average Annual Premium
GEICO $863
Wawanesa Insurance $881
21st Century $956
Mercury Insurance $975
Allstate $1,015
Metropolitan Insurance $1,096
Chubb $1,121
California Capital $1,137
Travelers $1,164
Progressive $1,197
Infinity $1,230
Farmers Insurance $1,259
State Farm $1,230
Alliance United $1,312

Top 3 Cheapest Companies

  • GEICO: $836
  • Wawanesa Insurance: $881
  • 21st Century: $956

Top 3 Most Expensive Companies

  • Alliance United: $1,312
  • State Farm: $1,267
  • Farmers Insurance: $1,259

The cheapest auto insurance companies in California are GEICO, Wawanesa Insurance, and 21st Century. California rates can go fairly high in part due to quirks within the laws for underwriting in the state. Two factors, gender and credit score, are by law not allowed to be considered when someone is applying for insurance in the state. This means fewer variables are being considered when an agent is calculating a rate. California also consistently leads the nation in vehicles stolen per year. Partly it’s a function of the state’s large size, but international shipping ports and a border with Mexico also make it easier for thieves to offload stolen cars before law enforcement finds them. Southern Californians should be especially wary, since more than half of all the state’s thefts occur in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, and San Diego counties. You’re also at higher risk if you drive a Honda Civic or Accord, the top two models stolen in California in 2017.

Guide to California Auto Insurance

California minimum liability

California requires only that you insure yourself against bodily injury and property damage liability, so it’s your choice whether to add coverage for yourself, your passengers, and your vehicle. California drivers are required to have the following minimum liability coverage for auto insurance: $15,000 bodily injury coverage per person, $30,000 bodily injury coverage per accident, and $5,000 property damage coverage per accident. This liability minimum can be expressed in the shorthand 15/30/5.

These amounts do offer some protection, but it’s not hard to imagine instances in which they wouldn’t cover your entire financial liability.

Don’t settle for the minimum

Say that you’re driving down Rodeo Drive and accidentally collide with a luxury car. Those repairs could easily cost more than the required minimum $5,000 in property damage coverage. And if the other driver is injured, their medical bills could well exceed the minimum $15,000 for bodily injury coverage. In both situations, you’d be responsible for making up the difference yourself — that’s why it’s a good idea to buy as much insurance as you can afford.

Think about coverage for theft

While it’s a nightmare having your car stolen, it’s even worse if you don’t have comprehensive insurance, which reimburses you for non-accident claims such as theft. The additional premium isn’t cheap, but you can lessen the cost by selecting a high deductible (like $2,000). It’s no fun to pay, but it sure beats starting from scratch purchasing a replacement vehicle.

California Auto Insurance FAQ

How much auto insurance do I need in California?

As much as you can afford. Some people think they can get away with only insuring for the minimum cost, but that can backfire. Even if you’re the most careful and diligent driver, accidents can happen and, in most cases, the minimum coverage just isn’t enough. If you want to avoid having the cost of repairs and injuries coming out of your pocket, it pays to pay a little more when it comes to auto insurance.

What's the cheapest auto insurance company in California?

Your premium cost depends largely on personal factors: your age, credit score, how much you drive, and the type of vehicle you’re insuring, among other things. But because different providers will charge the same individual more or less for the same coverage, the only way to nail down your cheapest rate is to compare tailored quotes. Still, there are many other important factors besides price, making our reviews of California’s top auto insurers a good place to begin your search.

Will the increase in California wildfires affect my auto insurance premiums?

Probably not. Although some customers have been told erroneously that an increased risk of fires helped drive up their premiums, California’s highly regulated insurance market makes that very unlikely. Nancy Kincaid, press secretary for the California Department of Insurance, says that “insurers have to use their losses and their projected losses to justify raising their rates,” and there just “hasn’t been a catastrophic loss of cars from wildfires.”

What makes California auto insurance rates go up?

California’s rate of premium increase (18%) actually trails the nation’s as a whole (25%). The primary increase driver seems to be the inclusion of gadgets and computers in new cars, which, while useful, are more expensive to repair.

Methodology

We worked with Quadrant Information Services to provide data on auto insurance rates by company and credit score. Quadrant makes this information available using rate data insurers are required to file with state Departments of Insurance. Rates are based on sample profiles created by Reviews.com for comparative purposes.

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