Cheap California Auto Insurance

California license plateThe Golden State's average coverage expenditure ranks around the middle when compared with the rest of the nation, which means most residents should have access to relatively cheap auto insurance in California. According to the latest data from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), the average expenditure on a policy in the state was about $776-that's $13 below the national average. With a thorough quote comparison, Californians increase the likelihood of locating a cheaper policy.

Find the Cheapest CA Car Insurance Quotes

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Rating Factors Affect Access to Cheap Insurance

Whether a resident can get the cheapest auto insurance in California, as in any other state, depends mostly on how much of a risk he or she poses to coverage providers.

Insurers in the Golden State have 19 factors they can use legally to help them judge an individual's risk level. All insurers must use the first three: driving safety record, annual mileage and years of driving experience. These factors are given the most weight in pricing, so motorists will want to keep their records clean and put in as few miles behind the wheel as possible.

The other 16 factors are optional and do not hold as much weight, but they can still significantly affect access to cheap coverage. They include specifics about the vehicle that will be insured, whether the rated driver is a smoker, whether the rated driver is married and whether the area has a claims record that is better or worse than surrounding areas.

(Readers can read the full list of rating factors on our California car insurance laws page.)

Available Discounts from California Insurers*

Discount typeMinimum number of insurers offering the discountDiscount size
Airbag172 - 30 percent
Anti-theft devices22Up to 25 percent
Anti-lock brakes63 - 15 percent
Automatic daytime running lights12 percent
Drivers training131 - 35 percent
Low mileage13Up to 30 percent
Good student34Up to 33 percent
Mature drivers course50Up to 15 percent
Multi-car52Up to 39 percent
Multi-policy credit32Up to 27 percent
Passive restraints13Up to 35 percent

Source: California Code of Regulations
*Data is from an insurance department survey of 53 of the state's largest auto insurers

Maximizing Discounts to Get the Cheapest Price

Car insurers in California are actually required to give a discount to motorists with clean records.

If a driver has been licensed for the past three years, has not had more than one violation point during that period and has not caused an accident resulting in more than $500 in damages, he or she should qualify for the 20 percent good driver discount.

But there are many other, smaller discounts with varying levels of availability. A California Department of Insurance survey of more than 50 of the state's largest insurers showed that nearly all offered multi-car discounts and discounts for mature drivers who had taken a driver training course. Other types are less popular. Price breaks for having automatic daytime running lights, for example, are offered by only one insurer.

The best thing shoppers can do is to ask about all available discounts and to determine which they qualify for.

Other Factors Influencing Price

While some factors are under the driver's control, many others are not.

In addition to using facts about the driver and car to be insured, coverage providers also take into account their bottom line. If they have experienced higher than expected losses in the past several months, they may decide to raise their base premiums in order to compensate for those losses.

Because insurers will have different loss records and will weigh rating factors differently, shoppers will want to get quotes from a variety of companies. Readers can find more information about evaluating quotes from different companies on our California car insurance comparison page.

Consumers may also want to ask about increasingly available pay-as-you-drive programs that give cheaper rates to those who put in fewer miles behind the wheel.