California Car Insurance
Learn the basics about California's car insurance requirements.
California was made for hitting the open road. Our state’s highways are nothing shy of iconic, as you know if you’ve ever cruised the spectacular coastline, the gorgeous High Sierra, or your own town’s charming main drag. Of course, California is also a land of laws that are there for good reasons. So here are some key guidelines for staying safe and legal for you and your teen driver when it comes to car insurance in California.
What are average California car insurance rates?
In California, the average car insurance rate is $164 per month, or $1,962 per year. Of course, that’s just average and you’re anything but. Your specific car insurance quote will depend on factors like which policy you choose, its deductible, what kind of car you drive, as well as your driving record.
What are California car insurance laws?
Driving sans auto insurance isn’t just risky—it’s illegal. You need proof of liability insurance to even register your car. And you must carry proof of insurance coverage with you at all times when driving. If you can’t prove that you have auto liability insurance, you’re subject to fines, a suspended driver’s license, and an impounded car.
What are minimum car insurance requirements in California?
In California, you must carry the following minimum car insurance coverage:
Bodily Injury Liability coverage (for injuries you cause to other people): $15,000 of coverage for the death or injury of any individual; $30,000 total coverage for the death or injury of two or more people in a single accident.
Property Damage Liability coverage (for damage to someone else’s property): California law requires $5,000 minimum coverage for damage if you hit someone else’s vehicle or property. AAA's minimum property damage coverage is $10,000.
The above guidelines are collectively referred to as the “15/30/5 rule.” And it’s also good to know that your insurance company notifies the California DMV when you buy auto coverage, and also if you stop paying your monthly premium.
Is there a new-car insurance grace period in California?
That depends. If you’re buying a car for the first time (high five!), you’re required to have insurance coverage before you even drive your new car off the lot. If, however, you’re already a vehicle owner and are buying another car, your insurer may offer a 30-day grace period. Your new car will be graced with the same coverage as your most covered car on your current policy. If your current vehicle has comp/collision coverage, that will extend to your new car. If the insurance policy only covers liability, then that’s the coverage the new car will have, too. (Once you've added your new wheels to your account, you'll be responsible for paying any difference in your premium.)
Can I buy temporary car insurance in California?
If you’re going to be driving a car for a short time—perhaps borrowing a friend’s or buying a cheap one to drive while you’re between vehicles—then yes, you can purchase a short-term policy from some carriers. But you may also be able to add the temporary vehicle to your existing auto insurance policy, so talk to an agent to figure out your best course of action.
My teenager just got a learner’s permit. Do we need to get additional auto insurance?
First of all: Congratulations! Your teen can be added to your auto insurance policy for an additional charge, so talk to your insurer for the details. Know, though, that some insurance companies want to add the child when he or she gets a driving permit, while others hold off until the teenager has a driver’s license in hand.
How old do you have to be to get a California driver’s license?
In California, here’s when you can get a learner’s permit or a driver’s license:
Age 14 Junior driver’s permit, if the teen has a hardship
Age 15½ Provisional driver’s license, also known as a learner’s permit
Age 16 Driver’s license
How can my teenager get a California driver’s license?
When a teenager gets his or her driver’s license, it’s a big deal—for the kids, as well as for the parents. But don’t worry. California wants young drivers to be safe, so youngsters:
Must take a state-approved driver’s education course including 30 hours, or 1½ semester periods, of classroom instruction, including at least six hours of behind-the-wheel training with a professional instructor.
They must also pass a written test about traffic laws and signs, as well as a vision exam.
Sixteen-year-olds can take the DMV’s driving test if:
They have held a permit for six months,
Completed a driver’s education course, and
Done 50 hours of behind-the-wheel practice with an adult.
Teens older than 17½ (but younger than 18) can get a permit without a driver education certificate, but won’t be able to take the driving test until they turn 18.
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Car Insurance Definitions
*The availability, qualifications, and amounts of coverages, costs and discounts may vary from state to state and there may be coverages and discounts not listed here. In addition, other terms, conditions, and exclusions not described above may apply, and total savings may vary depending on the coverages purchased. For more information regarding your eligibility for certain coverages and savings opportunities, please contact your AAA agent. Insurance products in California offered by AAA Northern California Insurance Agency. License #0175868, in Nevada by AAA Nevada and in Utah by AAA Utah. Insurance provided by CSAA Insurance Group, a AAA insurer.