Image via Unsplash by Martin Katler
If you’re trying to put your vehicle on the road in California, you’re going to need a car insurance plan with a minimum of liability coverage. Below you’ll find everything you need to know about California’s minimum insurance requirements and what that insurance entails.
What Is Liability Coverage?
Liability coverage is split up into three numbers: the maximum injury coverage for each non-liable person per accident, maximum total injury coverage for everyone involved in the accident, and maximum property damage coverage per accident. It’s important to know that liability coverage does not cover any bodily injuries or property damage for the at-fault driver or their passengers.
You need to present proof of liability insurance in three situations: when law enforcement asks for it, when you’re renewing your vehicle’s registration, and, of course, to cover damages caused to other people and their property if you find yourself in an accident.
Each state has its own requirements for the limits of all three. A couple of states don’t require any. This is important to know for drivers who plan on moving to California or have vehicles insured in other states.
Minimum Insurance Requirements in California
In California, your minimum liability insurance coverage should include:
- $15,000 of coverage for bodily injury per person per accident.
- $30,000 of coverage for bodily injury per accident.
- $5,000 of coverage for property damage to property owned by people who aren’t the driver.
Let’s make these numbers clear in case there is any question about them. The $15,000 is to help you pay for the bodily injury cost of each of the other people involved in the car accident. The policy pays up to $15,000 and you may be held responsible for anything over that amount.
The second part refers to how much the insurance plan will pay for bodily injury per accident. For example, if two people are involved in a car accident with the policyholder’s vehicle and end up with $15,000 and $17,000 worth of bodily injury, the plan’s $30,000 limit would cover all but $2,000. But it would have only paid up to $15,000 for the second person’s bodily injury due to the limit for bodily injury per person coverage.
Finally, the last part of the plan — the $5,000 for property damage — goes toward helping pay for the damage the policyholder is being held accountable for. This can cover payments for the other vehicle or other pieces of property that the policyholder’s vehicle has damaged. The policyholder may be held responsible to pay for anything past that $5,000 mark.
If you want to protect yourself more than liability coverage does, you can upgrade your plan with collision coverage to apply the same protections to your vehicle. Collision coverage works much the same way as liability coverage, except it focuses on your vehicle rather than the other people involved in the collision.
You can turn your insurance policy into a full coverage one by adding comprehensive coverage. Comprehensive coverage protects your vehicle from many non-collision damages, such as hail damage, fires, theft, and animal damage. Comprehensive and collision coverage limits are set by the actual cash value of your vehicle. If the covered damages to your vehicle exceed this cash value limit, your vehicle is considered totaled and your insurance plan generally pays out the maximum amount.
Tips for Shopping for California Insurance
Many of us — especially when we become first-time car-owners and policyholders — were thrown into the sometimes confusing world of acquiring insurance and expected to figure it out as we went along. You don’t have to do that. Below, you’ll find some good tips and tricks on finding insurance and affordable plans in California.
How to Read Insurance Rates
As you look around for your insurance in California, you might see the coverage limits for liability written out in shorthand. This can look one of two ways, assuming the plan offers California’s minimum requirements:
- $15,000/$30,000/$5,000, or
These are simply different ways of showing the same information. The order should always be bodily injury per person/bodily injury per accident/property damage.
Get Many Quotes
Though insurance companies use your credit score to decide how much they want to charge you for their coverage, there are no consequences to getting a quote from them to get an idea of what that price might be. The insurance company will perform what’s known as a soft inquiry on your credit score, which doesn’t affect your credit score as hard inquiries do. This means that you can get as many car insurance quotes as you would like without fear of affecting your score. This allows you to shop for the best insurance prices available to you.
Ask About Discounts
Many car insurance companies offer discounts that can lower the cost of your insurance. Once you think you’ve found an insurance company you want to work with, ask your agent about any discounts you’re eligible for. You may be able to lower the cost of your insurance by taking a safe driving class, claiming military status, going to school, and many more.
Finding Cheap Car Insurance in California
Car insurance companies look at several factors to decide how much they will charge you for insurance. Those factors include, but are not limited to:
- Driving history
- Credit score
- Your vehicle’s year, make, and model
Due to these factors, it can be difficult to recommend one car insurance provider that offers the cheapest insurance. But according to ValuePenguin, these insurance companies offer the lowest annual rates for minimum liability insurance on average:
- GEICO: $390
- AAA NorCal: $454
- Progressive: $476
- Mercury: $549
- State Farm: $627
- AAA SoCal: $629
- Allstate: $750
- Farmers: $958
Californians on average spend $604 for their minimum liability car insurance. As we mentioned above, you should reach out to several insurance companies for quotes to get the best deal for you. Keep in mind that if one company offers a significantly less expensive rate, they may also be offering you less insurance coverage and benefits.
At FIXD, our mission is to make car ownership as simple, easy, and affordable as possible. Our research team utilizes the latest automotive data and insights to create tools and resources that help drivers get peace of mind and save money over the life of their car.