From cruising down majestic highway 1 to sitting in traffic in the Los Angeles streets, driving and car ownership in California has some amazing benefits and some pitfalls to be avoided. Below we’ve laid out everything you need to know about California auto insurance.

Most and least expensive cars to insure in California

When shopping for auto insurance in California, it’s a mistake to limit your choices to one or two options. Rates vary widely from company to company, so your best bet is to compare auto insurance rates from many different insurers.

No matter which company you choose, some types of cars are likely going to be more expensive to insure in California than others. If you prefer driving around the Golden State in a flashy ride, be prepared to pay for that preference in your auto insurance bill.

The 10 most expensive 2012 cars for California auto insurance

  1. Mercedes CL600 (two-door coupe): $4,043
  2. Audi A8 L Quattro (four-door sedan):  $3,454
  3. Jaguar XJ Supercharged (four-door sedan): $3,433
  4. Audi R8 Spyder Quattro (two-door convertible): $3,320
  5. BMW 750Li (four-door sedan hybrid): $3,320
  6. BMW 750i (four-door sedan hybrid): $3,290
  7. Mercedes CL63 AMG (two-door coupe): $3,243
  8. Mercedes CL65 AMG (two-door coupe): $3,160
  9. Jaguar XKR Supercharged (two-door convertible): $3,142
  10. Mercedes C63 AMG (two-door coupe): $3,134


If you are in the market for a new car in California, and you are looking to save money on your car insurance, you might want to consider buying one of the least expensive cars to insure in California.

The 10 least expensive 2012 cars for California auto insurance

  1. GMC Sierra K1500 Work Truck (two-door regular cab): $ 1,220
  2. Ford Escape XLS (four-door SUV):  $ 1,320
  3. Jeep Compass Sport (four-door utility): $ 1,324
  4. Honda Odyssey LX (four-door wagon): $1,330
  5. Toyota Sienna-V4 (five-door wagon): $ 1,333
  6. Toyota Sienna LE (five-door wagon): $ 1,333
  7. Jeep Patriot Sport (four-door utility): $1,341
  8. Toyota Sienna-V6 (five-door wagon): $ 1,344
  9. Ford Escape XLT (four-door SUV):  $1,360
  10. Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sport (four-door utility): $1,360


Minimum requirements for California car insurance

In California, you must purchase enough liability coverage to meet minimum levels set by state law. Failure to do so means you are breaking the law when you drive.

Here are the minimum insurance requirements for California car insurance, according to the California Department of Insurance: 

  • Bodily injury liability: $15,000 for death or injury of any one person in one accident; $30,000 for all persons in one accident.
  • Property damage liability: $5,000 for any one accident.

You can satisfy these requirements by purchasing car insurance in California that provides at least as much coverage as cited above. Or, if you prefer, you can leave a cash deposit of $35,000 with the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

Another option is to obtain a surety bond for $35,000 from an insurance company licensed to do business in California. Owners of fleets of 25 or more vehicles also can satisfy the minimum insurance requirement via a certificate of self-insurance issued by the DMV.

California graduated driver’s license program

In an attempt to curb teen accidents, California passed a graduated driver license law in July 1998. To get a driver’s license, teens must go through a two-step process starting no earlier than age 15 ½. The two steps are:

  • Apply for an instructional permit. With this permit, a driver may operate a vehicle other than a motorcycle or moped as long as he or she is accompanied by a licensed parent or guardian, or a licensed California driver over the age of 25.
  • Apply for a provisional license. Six months after getting an instructional permit and meeting several other key requirements, a driver may apply for a provisional license. Once the provisional license is granted, drives under age 18 must still abide by two key rules during their first year behind the wheel.

According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, drivers under age 18 must be accompanied by a parent/guardian or other person designated by law when:

  • Transporting passengers of any age for the first 12 months after they begin driving.
  • Driving between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. for the first 12 months.

You can find more information about requirements for both the instructional permit and the provisional license at the California Department of Motor Vehicles website.

To learn more about your teen and your car insurance policy read about teen driver car insurance and when to add your teen driver to your car insurance policy at

California car seat law

California state law mandates that all children under age 8 must be secured in a car seat or a booster seat in the vehicle’s back seat. A seat belt may be used to secure children under the age of 8 who are at least 4 feet, 9 inches tall. However, these children must continue to be secured in the back seat and cannot ride up front.

If you are unsure about how to secure your child, set up an appointment at a California Highway Patrol area office to learn how to do so. Find the office closest to you and to make sure your car seat complies with the California car seat law.

California motorcycle helmet law

California state law mandates that all motorcycle drivers and passengers must wear helmets. The helmet must meet Department of Transportation safety requirements, be fastened with helmet straps, and fit securely without excessive lateral or vertical movement.

Find more information on motorcycle safety and California state requirements at the California Department of Motor Vehicles website.

Find motorcycle insurance quotes at

California DUI penalties

California DUI penalties are tough – the decision to drink and drive could result in suspension of your driver’s license, fines and possibly time in jail.

The legal blood alcohol content level for California adults of drinking age is 0.08 percent. For drivers under age 21, the limit is 0.01 percent, and there is a zero-tolerance policy for drivers under age 18.

Drivers who are convicted of a California DUI face numerous potential penalties, including:

  • Jail time of 96 hours to six months.
  • A fine of between $1,000 and $1,600.
  • License suspension for six months.
  • The requirement to complete a DUI program.
  • An order to install ignition interlock device.
  • California SR-22 insurance required for a restricted license.

It’s important to note that refusing to submit to a Breathalyzer test also will result in penalties. After a first offense, you’ll face a one-year suspension of your license. A second offense within 10 years results in a two-year revocation, and a third offense within 10 years leads to a three-year revocation.

California SR-22 rules

As mentioned above, if you are convicted of a California DUI, you will need to file an SR-22 form. This is a form filed by your car insurance company that proves that you are carrying California auto insurance up to an amount required by the state.

You also may need to file an SR-22 if you’ve had an “admin per se” suspension, if you get into an accident when you are not carrying auto insurance coverage, or if you are reinstating your driver’s license after a suspension or revocation. 

Typically, you will be required to carry an SR-22 for three years.

Largest insurance companies in California

According to the California Department of Insurance, the top 10 property and casualty insurance companies in California by market share are:

  1. Zurich (includes Farmers)
  2. State Farm
  3. Liberty Mutual
  4. Allstate
  5. Travelers
  6. auto club enterprises
  7. California State Auto
  8. Mercury Insurance
  9. AIG
  10. Nationwide

More information on car insurance in California can be found at:

 California Department of Insurance

Mailing Address:
California Department of Insurance
Consumer Services Division
300 South Spring Street, South Tower
Los Angeles, CA 90013

Phone number:
(213) 897-8921

Fax number:
(916) 445-6552

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