Car insurance in California is expensive because the state has multiple densely populated, high-crime urban areas. In California, you can expect to pay approximately $4,556 per year for full coverage car insurance or $1,291 per year for minimum coverage. Car insurance in California is about the same as the national average, which is around $2,000 annually for full coverage and about $700 per year for minimum coverage.
The cost of car insurance is steadily increasing, too, both in California and nationwide. As the cost of providing insurance goes up, the premiums insurers charge also rise. All insured drivers share the increasing cost of insurance. That is why your rates tend to go up every time your policy is renewed, regardless of whether any individual factors—like your driving record or location—have changed.
There are several unique reasons why car insurance goes up every year in California, too, even if your details remain the same.
Top Reasons Car Insurance Is Expensive in California
- People in California are driving more. As a result, the number of accidents, claims, and payouts is rising, too. For example, there were approximately 3,558 fatal crashes in 2020 in California, versus 2,859 fatal crashes in 2014.
- Auto repairs are getting more expensive. Vehicles today cost more to repair due to the added technology and features. For example, a National Association of Insurance Commissioners study found that the average cost of vehicle repairs was around 8% higher in 2018 than it was in 2014.
- People in California drive uninsured. As the cost of car insurance continues to rise, more drivers take the risk of driving without car insurance. In 2019, 17% of drivers lacked even minimum liability insurance in California. The cost of uninsured drivers is passed on to consumers through higher premiums.
- Healthcare in California is getting more expensive. Car insurance companies are hit hardest when paying out claims involving medical bills, and it’s not getting any cheaper. Healthcare spending increases by an average of 5.7% every year in California.
- California is experiencing more severe weather. In California, weather events like wilfires, droughts, and floods are becoming increasingly common. These weather events cause insurers to pay out a higher number of claims, which tend to be more expensive and less predictable. As a result, they have to raise rates to keep pace.
However, there could be other issues elevating your rates.
If your driving record is clean and your rates are still high, your car insurance might be expensive because of your:
Age. Drivers under 25 and older than 65 pay more for auto coverage because they are statistically more likely to be involved in serious and fatal accidents. In California, 16-year-old drivers pay an average of $2,534 per year, 25-year-old drivers pay an average of $900 per year, and people over 65 pay an average of $732 per year.
Location and driving patterns. Population-dense cities have higher premiums than rural areas because city living usually means more accidents, more property crime, and more frequent claims. In California, the most expensive locations for insurance are Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Anaheim. You can also expect rates to change based on your driving patterns—long commutes or regular driving in high-risk areas can cost you.
Financial responsibility. You can demonstrate financial responsibility by maintaining minimum car insurance with no gaps in coverage. Letting your coverage lapse could result in a higher rate when you get your next policy.
Claims history. Numerous recent claims can drive up your premiums. That's one reason why it sometimes makes sense to pay out of pocket rather than file a claim, especially if a claim won’t get you much more than your deductible.
How to Get Cheaper Car Insurance in California
Multiple factors affect the cost of car insurance. Some things you can’t control, but you do have a say in most of the contributing factors. Driving safely, obeying traffic laws, and keeping a clean driving record are the best ways to keep your insurance costs down.
Other than that, the best way to lower your car insurance costs is to compare rates from at least three insurance companies. Ideally, you should check your rates every 6-12 months, when you renew your policy. But at a minimum, be sure to check your record and shop for rates every three to five years, since you may be able to get a lower rate if a traffic violation falls off your record.
In California, the most expensive policies cost roughly $2,673 per year, and the least expensive coverage costs around $895 per year, when all driver profile information is the same. That means you could save as much as $1,778 simply by shopping around. Be sure to confirm you’re getting all the discounts you’re eligible for, too.
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