The Best California Auto Insurance Companies

California has some of the lowest minimums for auto insurance in the nation (only Florida requires less), but just because you can stay legal with less coverage doesn’t mean it’s a smart idea. 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 1 in 6 California drivers are). According to the Insurance Information Institute, the Golden State is also number one in the country for car thefts, so comprehensive insurance, while not required, is generally a wise addition to your policy.

AAA (Auto Exchange Club Group) - Best California Auto Insurance Companies

Best Companies For
California Auto Insurance
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” of 94 is head and shoulders above the next-best (State Farm and Farmers scored 89). Additionally, both J.D. Power and CR readers gave AAA unprecedented highest possible ratings across the board for claims-handling.

AAA offers a pretty standard range of discounts — a total of 13, including multi-policies like Auto+Home. 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 2017, policy holders received an average of $182 just for insuring with AAA.

State Farm - Best California Auto Insurance Companies

Best Companies For
California Auto Insurance
State Farm

State Farm is the provider of choice for 14% of California’s insured drivers — more than any other company. According to both J.D. Power and Consumer Reports, those customers are fairly satisfied. However, we were a little concerned to see that among all the insurers we profiled, State Farm had the highest number of “justified complaints” leveled against it in 2017. While this is no guarantee that you’ll have a bad experience with State Farm — clearly, a lot of California drivers are happy with this insurer — it’s something to keep in mind.

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.

Allstate - Best California Auto Insurance Companies

Best Companies For
California Auto Insurance
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 slightly below average in claims satisfaction, and had a Justified Complaint Ratio only slightly lower than State Farm’s. 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 them.

Farmer - Best California Auto Insurance Companies

Best Companies For
California Auto Insurance
Farmers

Farmers has the second-largest market share in California, at over 11%, and a Consumer Reports overall score of 89 (above average, and tied with State Farm). While, J.D. Power respondents rated Farmers below average for claims satisfaction, it did have the lowest number of justified complaints of all our providers in 2017. The company’s financial strength is a couple of notches lower than the others on this list, but still sturdy enough to reliably pay out on claims.

Perhaps the biggest drawback for Farmers though, 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.

Guide to California Auto Insurance Companies

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. The state’s liability minimums can be expressed in the shorthand 15/30/5, which means:

  • $15,000 bodily injury coverage per person
  • $30,000 bodily injury coverage per accident
  • $5,000 property damage coverage per accident

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, his or her 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

California 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.

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 Companies FAQ

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 "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 more and more new cars, which, while useful, are more expensive to repair.

The Best California Auto Insurance Companies: Summed Up

AAA
State Farm
Allstate
Farmers
A.M. Best Financial Strength Rating
A
A++
A+
A
Number of Justified Complaints (2017)
42
77
61
39
Discounts
13
11
11
15
Consumer Reports Car Insurance Rating
94/100
89/100
88/100
89/100
J.D. Powers Overall Customer Satisfaction Score (California Region)
840/1000
813/1000
820/1000
795/1000