California Auto Insurance [Comparison & Companies]
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UPDATED: Mar 13, 2020
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|California Statistics Summary||Stats|
|Miles of Roadway||195,834|
|Number of Vehicles||28,595,129|
|Most Popular Vehicle||Honda Civic|
Rank – 12th
|Total Driving Related Deaths||Speeding – 927
DUI – 1,069
|Full Coverage Annual Premiums||Liability – $489.66
Collision – $396.55
Comprehensive – $100.54
|Cheapest Providers||USAA and United Financial|
Perhaps you are relocating to the Golden State soon or are simply planning a visit. Or perhaps you’re intrigued by the most populous state in the United States and would simply like to learn more.
If so, this article is for you.
From its creative and aspirational film industry in Hollywood to its innovative and free-spirited Bay Area in the north, California is host to an array of beautiful cities and landmarks.
In this complete comprehensive car insurance guide, we’ll be talking about everything from the best companies and rates in the state to state and insurance laws.
We’ll also be discussing motor vehicle theft, fatalities, and congestion because whether you find yourself in the Salton Sea, the Mojave Desert, or even atop the mountainous terrain, we understand the importance of such information for drivers.
Taking on the task of researching independently can be more than overwhelming, so sit with us.
We’ll start by diving into coverage types and rates for California drivers. You can use our FREE quote comparison tool to find the best rates by entering your ZIP code.
California Car Insurance Coverage and Rates
Nearly everyone knows that you must be covered in order to drive on the road. But in regards to California, what are state requirements for coverage and rates that individuals usually pay for their insurance premium?
We know that understanding coverage and figures associated with that coverage could be overwhelming. That’s why we’ll break down acceptable forms required for insurance, or financial forms of responsibility. We’ll also talk add-ons and rates associated with ZIP code and city.
This you’ll want to stick around for.
What is California’s car culture?
Every state has its unique car culture, a certain taste or class that speaks to their lifestyle or culture.
Some states make big statements by being attracted to trucks or sophisticated tech-savvy vehicles, while some like to save on gas and prefer to zip through the city in a compact car, saving pennies without sacrificing luxury.
For Californians, the most favored car from the bunch happens to the sleek and reliable Honda Civic.
Hondas are very reliable cars. Not only are they good on gas, but they are also good on mileage.
So not only are Californians a stylish bunch, but they are also resourceful — this is super important, especially when you may be trying to cut costs on the amount you pay out of pocket for car insurance and coverage.
How much coverage is required for California minimum coverage?
Every state has its minimum coverage requirements as it relates to car insurance. Before one can legally get on the road, this coverage must be met. How much coverage is required for residents in the state of California?
|Bodily Injury Liability||$15,000 per person
$30,000 per accident
|Property Damage Liability||$5,000 per accident|
Let’s break this down a bit.
Bodily injury will assist in paying for medical expenses or loss of income in case you cause an accident and injure another person. This type of coverage may also pay for legal fees if another party takes you to court over a collision.
Per limit applies to each person affected, and per accident refers to each incident.
Property damage, on the other hand, usually covers costs to repairs if you are at fault in an accident like public property such as a building front or fence.
Again, it is illegal to drive in the state of California without these coverage requirements being met.
What are forms of financial responsibility in California?
What are other forms of proof, or financial forms of responsibility, that are acceptable in the state of California? According to the trusted legal entity NOLO, you can meet the basic minimum insurance requirements in California if you do the following:
- make a cash deposit of $35,000 with the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)
- get a self-insurance certificate from the California DMV
- get a $35,000 surety bond from an issuer licensed to do business in California
These forms are used to determine the minimum requirements are met and the status of the insurance policy is current and active.
How much percentage of income are premiums in California?
So let’s talk about income per capita. This is the amount of money that remains after taxes to spend or save. Knowing how much Californians are paying out of pocket from this disposable income is very telling.
We got these telling numbers from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (or NAIC).
|Year||Average Disposable Income||Average Full Coverage||Percent of Disposable Income|
Keep in mind that this data is a bit dated. In fact, premiums have probably increased since then, but if you want a reliable reference point to evaluate the impact of car insurance on the lives of Californians, it’s a great place to begin.
In 2014, the income per capita for each person in California was $35,099.00.
This means that drivers spent $951.75 for full comprehensive car insurance, 2.16 percent of their annual income. This number increased to 2.20 percent in 2013 after declining from the 2.10 percent drop in 2012.
How did this compare to its surrounding neighbors Arizona, Nevada, and Oregon?
California actually paid the cheapest at 2.16 percent. Following was Oregon at 2.45 percent, then Arizona at 2.80 percent. Nevadas paid the most out of the bunch at 2.97 percent for their car insurance out of their annual income.
While 2.16 percent of one’s income may seem a bit pricey, California was lower than the national average all three years.
That’s good news, considering.
Again, this data is a bit dated. You can find out what percentage of your income is going to your insurance policy by using our free calculator tool below.
What are the core coverages in California?
The data below was taken from the NAIC; again, you should expect the insurance rates to be a tad bit higher today.
|Coverage Type||Annual Costs (2016)|
While buying the state minimum insurance requirements is a good step toward protecting your wallets, you should always consider expanding that coverage to be prepared in case of an incident.
What additional liability is available in California?
While learning about your insurance premiums is extremely important, it is equally important to learn about the financial health of a state’s auto insurance providers.
We have access to that information because of a little something called loss ratios.
A loss ratio shows how much a company spends on types of claims compared with how much money they take in on premiums.
A loss ratio under 40 percent is probably too low, and a loss ratio over 75 percent is too high. If a loss ratio is too low, the company is collecting more premiums than it needs for the amount of claims it is getting.
If a loss ratio is too high, the carrier is not collecting enough premiums for the claims it is receiving. This is a sign that a rate increase might be coming.
A high loss ratio doesn’t mean an insurance company is facing bankruptcy (unless the loss ratio is high for several years in a row). More than likely, a high loss ratio means the company is going to have a rate increase in the relatively near future.
So let’s take a look at the loss ratios for California’s auto insurers.
|Medical Payments (MedPay)||77.97%||81.16%||83.87%|
|Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UUM)||68.68%||57.95%||59.49%|
The loss ratios for MedPay in California have gotten healthier over the recent amount of years, meaning the companies in California have gotten better at paying out their claims.
Loss ratios for UUM coverage, on the other hand, have shown an increase, though they are still in the safe zone.
So buying additional liability insurance, in these cases, may be worth it. Furthermore, 15.2 percent of drivers in California are uninsured. That’s 12th out of the entire United States (Florida ranks number one with 26.7 percent, respectively). This is yet another example of why one should purchase additional liability, as accidents do happen.
What add-ons, endorsements, and riders are available in California?
In case you’re looking to bulk up your insurance policy, here are a few add-ons you may not be too familiar about. Feel free to explore them below.
- 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 or Usage-Based Insurance
We’re talking male and female rates next. Stay with us.
Does gender and age affect my car insurance in California?
In most cases, age and gender are vital factors that influence your car insurance rates. While they are not a part of your insurance score, they are factored in later on. In recent years, however, California lawmakers have banned such practices in the insurance writing process.
So in the state of California, it is unlawful for insurance companies to base rates on age and gender. The reasoning behind this was that such practices were seen as unfair methods of determining one’s frequency of being in collisions.
Still, there are other facts that can affect your rates.
We’ll talk about that next.
What are the cheapest rates by ZIP code in California?
Do you live in an area with a scenic body of water? Or an area with much crime? The area that you live in can influence how high, or possibly low, your rates turn out to be.
The table below outlines the cheapest ZIP codes, by rate average, in California.
Let’s take a look.
|Cheapest ZIP Codes||Average||Allstate||Farmers||GEICO||SAFECO||AMCO||United Financial||State Farm||Travelers||USAA|
Looking at the table, we see that the cheapest ZIP codes are 930401, 96094, 93428, 96067, and 93437. Rural areas like Mt. Shasta appear in the top, indicative of less populous and governed areas.
Now let’s take a look at the chart below for the most expensive rates by ZIP code in California.
|Most Expensive ZIP Codes||Average||Allstate||Farmers||GEICO||SAFECO||AMCO||United Financial||State Farm||Travelers||USAA|
From the table, we learn that the most expensive ZIP codes are 91210, 91606, 90010, 90211, and 91405. It isn’t a surprise that areas belonging to Beverly Hills and North Hollywood make up the topmost expensive cities in California.
Overall, there is a difference of over $3,500 between the most expensive and least expensive ZIP, proving that areas are indeed a factor when considering the amount one is assigned for premiums.
What are the cheapest rates by city in California?
The city you live in could also affect your annual rates for car insurance. But is that the case for California?
From the table, we see that the cheapest cities in California are the following:
Here we have the most expensive cities regarding insurance rates in California:
|Playa Del Rey||$6,198.55|
Again, we have the most expensive cities in California, such as Los Angeles and the Greater Los Angeles area, along with other popular cities like San Francisco.
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Best California Car Insurance Companies
Car insurance companies offer us different rates and packages. How can we truly know which ones give us the best deal for our pockets?
We’ve got you. We know that attempting to compile various rates for various entities can be overwhelming. This section deals with rates from car insurance companies, including important factors like rates and complaints.
We’ll also dive into the best companies for commutes and driving history, as well as coverage levels.
Keep scrolling to learn more.
What are the financial ratings of the largest car insurance companies in California?
A.M. Best is all about looking at various factors to determine an institution’s financial health. Yes, companies can get graded on their strengths, or lack thereof, as well.
This is important because you want to ensure the provider you choose does a great job of maintaining their organization from an internal perspective, versus simply its outer, and often glamorized, persona.
Let’s take a look at the A.M. Best scores for companies in California below.
|Company||AM Best Rating|
|Auto Club Enterprises Insurance||A+|
Getting an A is great in itself, but A.M. Best awards an A++ to companies it considers to be superior on all levels. Thus, companies like Allstate, Geico, State Farm, and USAA rank above the bunch.
But what about customer satisfaction? We’ll explore that next.
Which car insurance companies have the best ratings in California?
J.D. Power, most known for its work in consumer insights, advisory services, and data and analytics, recently conducted the Auto Insurance Survey. The results for the California region of the United States are as follows:
|Allstate||808||3 – About average|
|Ameriprise||830||4 – Better than most|
|Auto Club of Southern California|
|834||4 – Better than most|
|California Average||817||3 – About average|
|CSAA Insurance Group||809||3 – About average|
|Esurance||847||5 – Among the best|
|Farmers||805||3 – About average|
|Geico||825||4 – Better than most|
|The Hartford||821||3 – About average|
|Kemper||778||2 – The Rest|
|Liberty Mutual||808||3 – About average|
|Mercury||805||3 – About average|
|Nationwide||780||2 – The Rest|
|Progressive||821||3 – About average|
|Safeco||822||3 – About average|
|State Farm||824||4 – Better than most|
|USAA (only for military |
members and their families)
|884||5 – Among the best|
|Wawanesa||828||4 – Better than most|
One company surpassed the rest, rating among the best — Esurance (remember USAA, which also rated “among the best” is simply for military members and their families).
Next, we’ll talk about the complaints.
Which car insurance companies have the most complaints in California?
What companies have the most complaints? Here is some data provided by the NAIC for the biggest companies in California.
|Company Complaint Ratio 2017||Total Complaints 2017|
|Auto Club Enterprises||1||0.69||18|
State Farm had the most complaints at 1,482. Looking at their loss ratio of .44, one can infer that they are not paying out their claims as well either. On the other hand, companies like Auto Club Enterprises showed strength as a company with a loss ratio of .69, with only 18 company complaints.
Something to consider.
Now we’ll take a deep dive inside the companies themselves, starting with those that offer the cheapest rates. Curious? Keep reading.
What are the cheapest car insurance companies in California?
In the chart below, we’ve selected a list of the top providers in the state of California
Let’s take a look.
|Company||Average||Compared to State Average||Percentage of Difference|
USAA (only for military members and their families) as well United Financial prove to be the cheapest providers, with 36.93 percent, and 29.41 percent, respectively.
Farmers, however, are 23.20 percent above the state average, proving to the most expensive provider from the top organizations in the state of California.
Does my commute affect my car insurance rate in California?
Is your commute short? Or does it take you a long time to travel to work?
Sometimes rates fluctuate based on your mileage — if you rack up longer miles, your rates might be higher than those who only drive a small distance on their daily commute.
6,000 Annual Mileage
12,000 Annual Mileage
State Farm penalizes its customers the least with only a difference of $305.65 for longer commutes. Nationwide, on the other hand, charges over $1,000 for those who have longer commutes.
This goes to show that commute rates are indeed a factor when establishing rates.
Can coverage level change my car insurance rate with companies in California?
Every person starts off with a basic amount of coverage. If you decided to expand upon this coverage, would it be a big deal financially? Let’s take a quick look at the chart below in relation to companies in the Golden State.
|Company||Low Coverage||Medium Coverage||High Coverage|
Allstate had the lowest rate change at 10.55 percent when one goes from low to high coverage. Nationwide, on the other hand, had the highest rate change at 20.75 percent, respectively.
It’s important when shopping around then, to not only look at the cheapest starting rates but how these rates change in different scenarios over time.
How does my credit history affect my car insurance rate with companies in California?
So does your credit history affect your insurance rates? It absolutely can.
Your insurance score, which is a score calculated by insurers, is comprised of your credit score. This is used to assess risk and determine one’s financial responsibility. So in some cases, credit scores are used as a portion of the process when determining your rates.
In the state of California, however, it is now illegal for one to factor in one’s credit score as a way to determine one’s financial responsibility.
Opposing parties argue that things such as financial and medical emergencies are not differentiated when reporting on your credit history. So, insurance companies pulling from these reports and basing important decisions like your insurance premiums would target disadvantaged individuals.
In other cases, you could inquire with the insurance company to see if they utilized your credit score during their decision-making process.
How does my driving record change my rates with car insurance companies in California?
Your driving record is a critical factor when determining your rates.
If you happen to get in a certain amount of accidents or file a certain amount of claims within a specific time period, it could be that you may face higher insurance rates.
Let’s take a look at how companies in California may embody this ideal.
|Company||Clean Record||With One Speeding||With One Accident||With One DUI|
Liberty Mutual shows the most forgiveness when a driver with a clean record ends up with a DUI. With Liberty Mutual, there was a rate change of 20.91 percent. On the other hand, Allstate had a rate change of 164.71 percent.
All companies penalized you to some degree, which is why it pays to keep a clean driving record.
Which car insurance companies are the largest in California?
A market share is the portion of a market controlled by a particular company. So, what portion of the market share do insurance companies in California claim?
See the chart below.
|Company||Direct Premiums Written||Market Share|
|Auto Club Enterprises||$2,312,230||8.48%|
|State Farm G||$3,910,351||14.34%|
In California, State Farm has the highest market share with 14.34 percent, followed by Farmers with 11.59 percent, respectively.
How many car insurance companies are available in California?
Lastly, how many insurers exist within the Golden State?
|Type of Licensed Insurers||Number of Licensed Insurers|
Domestic insurance laws are formed under the laws of that specific state, while foreign insurance laws are formed under U.S. laws. In California, there are 99 domestic companies and 671 foreign companies, totaling 770 insurers.
That’s quite a bit of insurance options to choose from when shopping around.
Shuffling through countless pages of information to stay informed on laws in the Golden State can seem endless. Don’t worry. This part of our comprehensive guide will define state laws that are useful for all types of drivers in California — teens, new, and older residents, to name a few.
We’ll also be covering laws off and on the road, including car insurance laws, vehicle licensing laws, rules of the road, and safety laws.
Buckle up. We’ll start with car insurance laws first.
What are the car insurance laws in California?
Every state has its own unique set of car insurance laws. Whether you’re driving through sunny California for the first time or you’re a regular, knowing these laws are extremely important.
Let’s take a look.
How California Laws for Insurance Are Determined
California is under a prior approval system. What this means is that government interference is necessary to ensure adequate but not excessive rates for consumers.
In a nutshell, insurance companies must obtain approval for rate changes, with the justification of those rate changes submitted as well, prior to their implementation.
Prior to 1988, the Golden State had no government regulations on insurance policies. This caused the rates in California to continue to climb at unstable levels that, for many individuals, were unaffordable.
Californians then decided to vote Prop 103 into law in November of 1988; this called for insurance companies to cut their rates to 20 percent than that of the previous year.
Not only were rules put in place to keep a grasp on how insurance companies establish car insurance rates, but the Good Driver Discount policy was put into an act that states good drivers should receive a 20 percent discount.
According to the California DMV, to qualify for the good driver program, you must have the following:
- Been a licensed driver for the past three years
- During the past three years, you have not
- Had more than one point on your driving record due to a violation(s)
- Taken traffic school because of a traffic violation more than once
- Been the at-fault driver in an accident that resulted in injury or death
Next, we’ll take something extremely practical, that is, windshield coverage.
Hang in there.
Some states have no laws pertaining to windshield coverage, but there are few regulations in the Golden State that are extremely beneficial to know about.
On window replacement, aftermarket parts allowed with written notice and at least equal in terms of fit, quality, performance, and warranty. On window repair, the consumer has the right to choose the repair vendor.
Furthermore, zero deductible with comprehensive coverage is not a law in the Golden State — individual insurance companies may offer this with comprehensive coverage.
Next, we’ll talk about the laws surrounding high-risk insurance.
In some cases, drivers may obtain too many violations on their driving record. They are then considered “high-risk” drivers and are seen as a liability for insurance companies to provide coverage to.
California provides high-risk insurance under the California Automobile Assigned Risk Plan.
Under this plan, people with difficulty finding insurance are paired with an insurance company willing to approve them. In the event that the insured or producer faces difficulty contacting the insurance company on their own, members of the assigned risk plan assist in communication.
While the assigned risk program is not an insurance company, the Advisory Committee suggests rates to the Department of Insurance.
For consumers looking for coverage, you can contact the Plan Office Customer Service number at 1-800-622-0954. You can also reach through mail at 150 California Street Suite 200, San Francisco, CA 94111.
If you’re having trouble getting approved and have a poor driving history, you may want to check out the California Automobile Assigned Risk Plan. Failure to maintain high-risk insurance can have serious consequences — and we wouldn’t want that.
In 1999, California established its California’s Low-Cost Automobile (CLCA) Insurance program as a way to provide good drivers, eligible in income, with liability insurance.
This state-sponsored program makes insurance affordable for residents meeting the eligibility requirements, regardless of one’s immigration status. The CLCA is administered by the CAARP, which, as we learned about in the previous section, handles the at-risk drivers in the state of California.
To qualify for the Golden State’s low-cost automobile program, you must:
- Have a Valid CA License
- Meet Income Eligibility Requirements
- Own a Vehicle With a Value $25,000 or Less
- Be at least 16 Years Old
- Have a Good Driving Record
Next, we’ll talk about a more sobering matter, insurance fraud.
Stay with us.
Automobile Insurance Fraud in California
According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), insurance fraud amounts to approximately $30 billion each year. This fraud may involve different parties — applicants for insurance, for example, and even policy insurers and third-party claimants.
Insurance fraud can be either hard or soft. Hard fraud refers to fabricating claims, and soft fraud is misrepresenting the payment of lower premiums by a policy insurer, for example.
The mission of the California Department of Insurance (CDI) is “[t]o protect the public and prevent economic loss through the detection, investigation, and arrest of insurance fraud offenders.”
If you suspect fraud, you can report through the following ways in California:
- Headquarters Office – 2400 Del Paso Road, Suite 250, Sacramento, CA 95834
- Phone – 1-916-854-5760
- Fax – 1-916-854-5848
Committing insurance fraud comes with serious consequences. The good thing is that you can start shopping for affordable quotes today by entering your ZIP code below.
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Statute of Limitations
So now we’ll talk about the statute of limitations in the Golden State. What is a statute of limitations?
Simply put, the statute of limitations is the amount of time one has to bring a legal matter to court, whether to file or resolve their claim or file a lawsuit to preserve the statute (of limitations).
In the state of California, the statute of limitations for personal injury is two years. The statute of limitations for property damage is three years.
Three years may seem like a lot of time, but the processes your case may go through could end up taking time. Insurers may handle thousands of cases, so filing right away if there is an accident is extremely important.
Some states have common laws across the board, such as seat belt laws and speed limits (we’ll get into that in a second). However, laws vary from state to state.
Take CA’s Automobile Mediation Program, for example. In 2001, a law was passed, an expansion of the meditation program, to include specific disputes arising from automobile collision or physical damage coverage.
Under this program, mediation is used to bring the consumer and their insurance company together with a qualified mediator in an attempt to resolve a dispute.
A major purpose of mediation is to provide the consumer with an opportunity to express your perspective to the insurance company in a joint session regarding the dispute. An auto policyholder who has comprehensive and collision coverage from their insurer and has a claim dispute is eligible for a mediation request.
You can call the consumer hotline at 1-800-927-4357 us TTY at 1-800-482-4833, or visit on the web at www.insurance.ca.gov. To write or visit, the physical address of the California Department of Insurance is 300 South Spring St., South Tower, Los Angeles, CA 90013.
CA’s Fair Claims Settlement Practices states that the California Insurance Commissioner upholds the power to penalize insurance companies for partaking in improper claim settlement practices based upon even a single act of misconduct.
Knowing this legislation is important, as knowing your rights as a consumer is extremely significant when dealing with insurance companies at hand.
What are the vehicle licensing laws in California?
So what exactly does the law call for when getting a license? In the upcoming sections, we’ve outlined the state’s vehicle licensing laws for you.
Scroll to learn more.
What’s all the commotion with the REAL ID? Well, beginning October 1, 2020, federal agencies will enforce the REAL ID Act.
What it requires is a REAL ID, U.S. Passport, or another federally approved identification to board commercial flights and enter federal buildings. The California REAL ID is a driver’s license that complies with the REAL ID Act.
While you do not need to upgrade to a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license, you might want to invest in one, as simply put, it makes everyday life easier. If you don’t, you’ll be required to carry additional documentation when traveling.
To obtain a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license and save time at the California DMV, you should:
- Fill out the application online
- Gather the necessary documents
- Make an appointment to visit your local DMV office
Penalties for Driving Without Insurance
What are the penalties for driving without insurance in the Golden State?
- First Offense – A fine of $100–$200 plus penalty assessments. The court may order an impoundment on the vehicle.
- Second Offense – A fine of $200–$500 within three years plus penalty assessments. Again, in this case, the court may order an impoundment on the vehicle.
We wouldn’t want you to be penalized for driving without insurance, so be sure to always have your proof readily available whenever you’re out on the road.
Now let’s talk teen driver laws.
Teen Driver Laws
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (or IIHS), the following requirements are mandatory for teen drivers in the state of California.
- Minimum entry age – 15 years old, six months
- Mandatory holding period – six months
- Minimum amount of supervised driving – 50 hours (10 of which must be at night)
- Minimum age – 16 years old
Intermediate Stage – Restrictions on Driving While Unsupervised
- Unsupervised driving prohibited – 11 p.m.to 5 a.m. secondary enforcement
- Restriction on passengers – except for family members unless otherwise noted; no passengers younger than 20 (limited exception for immediate family) secondary enforcement
- Nighttime restrictions – 12 months after initial license (minimum age of 17)
Unrestricted Stage – When Restrictions May Be Lifted
- Passenger Restrictions – 12 months after initial license (minimum age: 17)
Now we’ll take a look at renewal procedures for older drivers in the Golden State.
Older Driver License Renewal Procedures
Renewing your license is still something that affects senior drivers. In the state of California, the older population has to renew their driver’s license every five years. At this renewal, a vision test is required for senior drivers upon allowing one back out on the road.
Unfortunately, mail and online renewal are not allowed for individuals 70 and older.
If you are new to the Golden State, don’t be overwhelmed. The licensing procedure for new residents is fairly simple. Assuming you already have a license from another state, you’ll want to visit a local DMV location and take both the written and vision test.
Passing these allows the driving test to be waived, granting you a California license and nullifying your former one.
License Renewal Procedures
For the general population, your license must be renewed every five years in the state of California. This may be done by mail if the license is not probationary and the individual’s records for the two years preceding display none of the following:
- Violation of specified traffic laws
- A point count of not more than one
- Refusal to submit to a chemical test
- Suspension of the license.
No more than two sequential mail renewals are permitted at a time.
Negligent Operator Treatment System (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.
Your traffic convictions and collisions can stay on your record for 36 months or longer, depending on the manner of conviction.
You may be considered a negligent operator if you have points totaling these amounts within the specified time period.
- Four points in 12 months
- Six points in 24 months
- Eight points in 36 months
So be sure to drive safely as to avoid these marks on your record.
What are the rules of the road in California?
Getting a ticket or having an accident is absolutely no fun. That’s why discussing the rules of the road is so important.
We’re talking seat belts and car seats, speed limits, and more. Knowing these rules before you get behind the wheel is imperative when driving through the Golden State.
Let’s get to it.
Fault Versus No-Fault
California is an at-fault state. This means that in California, an individual will be held legally and financially responsible for an accident caused by that particular individual.
In regards to an at-fault state, the insurance company pays for damages to the degree of the fault of the individual at-fault. The person who caused the accident is responsible for the damages to the injured party.
In the event that the at-fault party doesn’t think the amount of payout is fair, they can contest it.
This differs from a no-fault state, where one must use their own car insurance coverage for paying medical bills and other out-of-pocket losses, regardless of who may be at fault of the collision.
Seat Belt and Car Seat Laws
Riding in the Golden State, like any other state, comes with precautions. These precautions, like seat belt and car seat laws, for instance, are extremely important in loss prevention.
In the state of California, all drivers and passengers 16 years and older are required by law to wear seat belts.
Riding in cargo areas of a pickup truck is not allowed, though some exceptions do apply.
Child Seat Law
- Must be in child safety seat – younger than 2 years and less than 40 pounds and less than 40 inches in a rear-facing infant seat; 7 years and younger who are less than 57 inches must be in an appropriate child passenger restraint
- Adult belt permissible – 8 through 15 years or at least 57 inches
- Maximum base fine first offense, additional fees may apply – $100
- Preference for rear seat – children 7 years and younger who are less than 57 inches must be in the rear seat
While these things can come across as a nuisance, it’s important to be safe; you’ll want nothing but grand memories traveling through the Golden State.
Keep Right and Move Over Laws
The law in California requires you to keep right or move over to let another vehicle pass on the left if you are traveling at a slower speed than those around you. The law also requires that you slow down and move over to pass an emergency vehicle on the side of the road — that is, if it’s safe to do so.
Speed limits differ from state to state. Here are the speed limit regulations for the state of California:
- Rural interstates (mph) – 70; trucks 55
- Urban interstates (mph) – 65; trucks 55
- Other limited-access roads (mph) – 70; trucks 55
- Other roads (mph) 65; trucks 55
Following the suggested speed limit could ensure safety and potentially save lives.
TNCs (or “Transportation Network Companies”) such as Lyft and Uber are a major factor in the way we get around nowadays. These are the following providers who provide rideshare coverage in the Golden State.
- Liberty Mutual
- State Farm
With rideshare advances also come additional advances, such as automation on the road.
We’ll talk about that next. Keep scrolling.
Automation on the Road
Automation refers to any computerized feature or system, such as sensors, that were once done by human hands. California law allows automated vehicles to be on the road. An operator is not required, but liability insurance is.
The minimum coverage for an autonomous vehicle in California is $5 million in liability.
What are the safety laws in California?
Safety is universal, applicable to any driver. Simply knowing laws on DUIs or distracted driving, for instance, could save your life, or possibly another’s.
We’ve compiled everything you need to know about both topics below.
In California, it is illegal to drive if your blood alcohol content is .08 percent or more.
|DUI Law in California||Details|
|Name of Offense||Driving Under the Influence (DUI)|
|High BAC Limit||0.15–0.2; 0.2+|
|Criminal Status by Offense||Non-injury DUI are misdemeanors. Fourth and subsequent offenses felony if offender sentenced to incarceration in state prison.|
|Look Back Period||10 years|
The consequences of breaking the law are sobering. Just look at the chart below.
|Offense||ALS or Revocation||Imprisonment||Fine||Other|
|First Offense||Four months||96 hours to six months, including 48 continuous hours||$390–$1000||$125 license reinstatement fee ($100 under 21 years old suspended under Zero Tolerance Law) plus California Insurance Proof Certificate (SR 22/SR 1P) +DUI program for license reinstatement|
|Second Offense||One year if offense within 10 years of previous||96 hours to six months, including 48 continuous hours||$390–$1000||For license reinstatement during DL suspended/revoked period, must do DUI program, install IID and agree not to drive anywhere without it, file SR 22, pay reissue and restriction fees.|
|Third Offense||18 months if offense within 10 years of previous||120 days to one year, including 48 continuous hours||-||-|
|Fourth Offense||One year if offense within 10 years of previous||-||-||-|
You wouldn’t want to face fines, or worse, imprisonment, so be sure to be responsible while driving.
Marijuana-Impaired Driving Laws
Similar to marijuana, alcohol can also impair your ability to drive safely on the road. There is no marijuana-specific driving law in the Golden State. There is, however, zero tolerance for THC.
Driving while impaired by marijuana carries the same consequences as a DUI in California.
Lastly, we’ll talk about distracted driving laws.
Distracted Driving Laws
Distracted driving can refer to anything that limits or distracts your focus while driving, such as eating in the car or holding a cellular device. The most notorious form of distracted driving? Texting while driving.
Texting while driving is illegal for all individuals.
Furthermore, in the Golden State, It’s illegal to use a cell phone while driving unless it’s a hands-free device — this is applicable for all drivers over the age of 18.
Driving in California
While the Golden State has many natural wonders to offer, from deserts, lakes, and mountains, getting on the road comes with a risk. Just how safe is it to drive in California? Sometimes it’s hard to make out all of the statistics that briefly flash across the screen when watching the news.
Don’t worry, though, we’ve got you covered. From facts on stolen cars to crashes by county and type, we’ve gathered important information that you need to know. We’ll also cover underage drinking so you can see what you’re up against while you’re out on the road driving.
Want to gain insight into these sobering figures?
Keep scrolling to learn more.
How many vehicle thefts occur in California?
Let’s take a look at the chart below that outlines vehicle theft in California.
|Chevrolet Pickup (Full Size)||2006||6,048|
|Ford Pickup (Full Size)||2006||4,504|
Can you believe it? The Honda Civic and Accord are equal in theft amount.
The following data below on motor vehicle theft was extracted by the FBI department.
Let’s take a look.
|Del Rey Oaks||5|
|Desert Hot Springs||254|
|East Palo Alto||77|
|La Canada Flintridge||20|
|La Habra Heights||6|
|Los Altos Hills||1|
|Palos Verdes Estates||5|
|Rancho Palos Verdes||35|
|Rancho Santa Margarita||18|
|Rolling Hills Estates||8|
|San Juan Capistrano||32|
|San Luis Obispo||94|
|Santa Fe Springs||177|
|South El Monte||201|
|South Lake Tahoe||73|
|South San Francisco||207|
It isn’t a surprise that the most popular areas in California, like the Greater Los Angeles area and the Bay Area, have a higher theft occurrence.
How many road fatalities occur in California?
Hang in there, as now we’d like to present an in-depth look at the statistics surrounding road fatalities in California.
Keep reading for insight.
Most Fatal Highway in California
Unfortunately, accidents happen. According to the leading commercial telematics vendor Geotab, over 30,000 people are killed in road crashes in the U.S.
The most dangerous highway in California? Interstate 40.
Be careful any time you’re on the road, but take extra caution when you’re on this highway.
Fatal Crashes by Weather Condition and Light Condition
Yes, there is data on crashes that fatally took place under certain weather conditions. Let’s take a look.
|Weather Condition||Daylight||Dark, but Lighted||Dark||Dawn or Dusk||Other/Unknown||Total|
Most crashes occurred under normal lit conditions. There was also a handful of crashes that occurred while it was dark.
We’ll talk crashes by county next.
Fatalities (All Crashes) by County
Depending on what county you live in, you could be some susceptible to a higher fatal-crash rate. According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), here are fatal crashes by county.
Let’s take a look.
|2015||2016||2017||2018||Fatalities per 100,000 Populations|
|San Luis Obispo||32||34||32||34||40||11.5||12.14||11.35||12.02||14.08|
You can use the tools in the table to search for fatalities in your county.
Do most fatal crashes happen out in the country, or are cities prone to more accidents?
More urban accidents occurred than rural in the Golden State, with the number of or urban fatalities steadily on the rise.
Next, we’ll look at fatalities by person type.
Fatalities by Person Type
There is also data on the type of people who are involved in fatalities. Let’s take a look.
|Light Truck – Pickup||209||294||272||287||245|
|Light Truck – Utility||271||288||307||346||372|
|Light Truck – Van||79||88||88||91||77|
|Light Truck – Other||6||9||6||6||10|
|Bicyclist and Other Cyclist||129||136||155||145||155|
The group that had the largest number of fatalities was passenger car occupants. This was followed by pedestrians and motorcyclists.
Fatalities by Crash Type
There’s even data to tell which crash is more prominent.
|Involving a Roadway Departure||1,374||1,530||1,754||1,669||1,557|
|Involving an Intersection (or Intersection Related)||811||881||1,024||1,038||919|
|Involving a Rollover||696||770||800||827||809|
|Involving a Large Truck||301||305||375||383||352|
|Total Fatalities (All Crashes)||3,102||3,387||3,837||3,884||3,563|
Most individuals experienced a single-vehicle crash. This was followed by those involving a roadway departure.
Five-Year Trend for the Top 10 Counties
Here is the five-year trend for fatalities in the top counties:
The top three counties — Los Angeles, San Bernardino, and Riverside — all experienced a decrease in fatalities in 2018, from 2017.
Fatalities Involving Speeding by County
Next, we have speeding fatalities by county.
|2015||2016||2017||2018||Fatalities per 100,000 Populations|
|San Luis Obispo||11||7||8||14||7||3.95||2.5||2.84||4.95||2.46|
From the data, we learn that Los Angeles County had the most speeding fatalities in 2018.
Fatalities in Crashes Involving an Alcohol-Impaired Driver by County
Did you know that we also have data on alcohol-impaired fatalities by county?
|2015||2016||2017||2018||Fatalities per 100,000 Populations|
|San Luis Obispo||8||12||12||12||12||2.87||4.28||4.26||4.24||4.23|
From the data, we learn that even in alcohol-impaired fatalities, Los Angeles County comes in first.
Teen Drinking and Driving
Teen drinking and driving continues to be an epidemic in the United States.
|Teen Drinking and Driving||California||National|
|DUI Arrest (Under 18 years old)||493||102.82|
|DUI Arrests (Under 18 years old) Total per Million People||54.22||94.84|
|Under 21 DUI fatalities for 100,000 Population||1.3||1.2|
California’s DUI arrests for drivers under 18 greatly exceed the national U.S. average. DUI deaths under 21, however, are only slightly above the national average.
EMS Response Time
Finally, here’s a look at average EMS response times in California:
|Area||Time of Crash |
to EMS Notification
|EMS Notification |
to EMS Arrival
|EMS Arrival at Scene|
to Hospital Arrival
|Time of Crash
to Hospital Arrival
It’s easier for EMS to transport you quickly to a hospital in urban areas, likely because your proximity to the nearest hospital is so much closer.
What is transportation like in California?
And last but definitely not least, we’ll talk about transportation. How many cars do Californians own? What is their commute time like? And what is their favorite method of commuting?
We’ll also take a look at congestion. Stick around for more.
So just how many cars do most Californians own?
According to the U.S. government-based DataUSA, most Californians own two cars, followed by the ownership of three cars.
On average, employees in California have a commute time of 28.4 minutes. This is longer than the average U.S. worker at 25.7 minutes.
Also, 4.38 percent of employees in California have “super commutes” in excess of 90 minutes.
In 2018, the most common method of travel for workers in California was those who drove alone — 73.8 percent. This was followed by those who carpooled at 10 percent.
Lastly, those who worked at home accounted for 6 percent of workers.
We know that congestion affects Californians, but just how so? Let’s take a look at congestion in the Golden State according to the global leader in transportation services, INRIX.
|City||World Rank||Hours Lost in Congestion||Cost of Congestion per Driver||Inner City Travel Time (Minutes)||Inner City Last Mile Speed (mph)|
California has seven cities that show up on a global scale for congestion. Los Angeles leads the pack, followed by San Francisco.
And that’s that. We hope that you found this guide to be more than useful. Do you believe we missed anything? And what did you find that was most useful to you?
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