California Car Insurance Requirements

Fast, Free Auto Insurance Quotes

Minimum California car insurance

Auto liability insurance is essential coverage. It pays for damage and injuries you cause others. If you don't have enough of it to cover accident bills you can be sued for the rest. That's why it's often wise to buy more than what the state requires. Also, liability insurance does not cover damage to your own car. Let's sort through the California car insurance options so you can choose the best insurance for you.

Minimum liability insurance in California:

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

This is often written as 15/30/5.

Uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage:

UM/UIM covers you if you're hit by a driver who has no liability insurance or not enough. The choices in California can be tricky. Let's untangle them:

  • Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM) coverage is not required in California. Car insurance companies must offer it by law but you can reject it in writing.
  • If you buy UM/UIM, the minimum coverage limits are $15,000 per person/$30,000 per accident for injuries.
  • In California you can also buy uninsured motorist property damage (UMPD) coverage. It's not required. It pays your property damage if you're hit by an uninsured driver.
  • If you buy UM and don't have collision coverage, the UMPD limit is $3,500 or the value of your vehicle, whichever is less. So if the value of your car is $3,000, the maximum UMPD coverage you can buy is $3,000. 
  • If you buy both UMPD and collision coverage and are hit by an uninsured driver, your UMPD will pay only the amount of your collision deductible, up to $3,500.

   More: Cheap car insurance in California

Comprehensive coverage: Not required by the state. However, if you have a car loan or lease you're probably required to have it. For theft of your vehicle or damage caused by hitting an animal, hail, flood, fire, vandalism, explosions and falling objects.

Collision coverage: Not required by the state. However, if you have a car loan or lease you're probably required to have it. For damage to your vehicle caused by hitting another car or an object, like a pole.

Rental reimbursement: Not required by the state. Pays for a rental car if your vehicle is being repaired due to an accident covered by comprehensive or collision insurance. It may have a daily maximum and also a total limit.

Medical payments (MedPay): MedPay is available in California but not required. It covers medical bills and funeral expenses for you and your passengers no matter who was at fault. If you decide to buy MedPay, the minimum coverage in California is $1,000 per person injured. You can buy more.

In California you must show an insurance ID card (or other proof of financial responsibility) when:

  • Law enforcement requests it
  • You renew vehicle registration
  • Your vehicle is involved in a car accident

Penalties for not having car insurance in California

  • First offense: $100 to $200 fine plus penalties
  • Second offense within three years: $200 to $500 fine plus penalties and possible impoundment of vehicle

Source: Property Casualty Insurers Association of America

Consumer complaints against large auto insurance companies in California

The department of insurance in each state handles complaints against insurance companies and supplies numbers to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. A national "complaint ratio" number is meant to show the number of complaints against a company relative to the insurer's size of business. Shown below are national complaint ratios for the largest auto insurance companies in California.

California auto insurance complaints

Low cost auto insurance in California

If you cannot afford liability insurance in California, you may be eligible for the California Low Cost Automobile Insurance Program. Call 1-866-602-8861 or visit MyLowCostAuto.com to find out if you qualify.

California DUI laws

Driving under the influence in California is considered a misdemeanor. In addition, if you are convicted of a fourth or subsequent offense you will be designated as a habitual offender for three years.

First offense

If you are convicted of a DUI and your sentence does not include probation, you may face the following fines and penalties:

  • A $390 to $1,000 fine plus penalty assessments.
  • Jail from 96 hours to six months.
  • License suspension for six to 10 months.
  • The court may require you to install an ignition interlock for a period of no more than three years from the date of conviction.

If you are convicted of a DUI and your sentence includes three to five years of probation, you could face:

  • A $390 to $1,000 fine plus penalty assessments.
  • The probation revocation fine ($100 to $1,000) will be suspended.
  • License suspension for six to 10 months.
  • Mandatory completion of an alcohol/drug program for three to nine months.
  • The court may order you to install an ignition interlock for a period of no more than three years from the date of conviction.

Second offense

If you are convicted of a second DUI in California within 10 years of a prior DUI conviction and your sentence does not include probation, you may face:

  • A $390 to $1,000 fine plus penalty assessments.
  • Jail from 90 days to 12 months.
  • License suspension for 24 months.
  • The court may order you to install an ignition interlock for a period of no more than three years from the date of conviction.

If you are convicted of a DUI within 10 years of a prior DUI conviction and your sentence includes three to five years of probation, you may face:

  • A $390 to $1,000 fine plus penalty assessments.
  • The probation revocation fine ($100 to $1,000) will be suspended.
  • Jail for either 96 hours (in minimum 48-hour blocks) or 10 days to 12 months.
  • License suspension for 24 months.
  • Mandatory completion of alcohol/drug program from 18 to 30 months.
  • The court may require you to install an ignition interlock for a period of no more than three years from the date of conviction.

Third offense within 10 years

If you are convicted of a third DUI within 10 years of a prior DUI conviction and your sentence does not include probation, you may face:

  • A $390 to $1,000 fine plus penalty assessments.
  • Jail for 120 days to 12 months.
  • License revocation for 36 months.
  • The court may order you to install an ignition interlock for no more than three years from the date of conviction.

If you are convicted of a third DUI within 10 years of a prior DUI conviction and your sentence includes three to five years of probation, you may face:

  • A $390 to $1,000 fine plus penalty assessments.
  • Probation revocation fine ($100 to $1,000) will be suspended.
  • Jail for 120 days to 12 months.
  • License revocation for 36 months.
  • Mandatory completion of a drug/alcohol program for 18 to 30 months.
  • The court may order you to install an ignition interlock for no more than three years from the date of conviction.

Fourth offense

If you are convicted of a fourth DUI within 10 years of a prior DUI conviction and your sentence does not include probation, you may face:

  • A $390 to $1,000 fine plus penalty assessments.
  • Prison for 16, 24 or 36 months or jail for six to 12 months.
  • License revocation for 48 months.
  • The court may order you to install an ignition interlock for no more than three years from the date of conviction.

If you are convicted of a fourth DUI within 10 years of a prior DUI conviction and your sentence includes three to five years of probation, you may get:

  • A $390 to $1,000 fine plus penalty assessments.
  • Probation revocation fine ($100 to $1,000) will be suspended.
  • Jail for six to 12 months.
  • License revocation for 48 months.
  • Optional alcohol/drug program for a minimum of 18 or 30 months with a jail term of 30 days to 12 months.
  • The court may require you to install an ignition interlock for a period of no more than three years from the date of conviction.

Refusal to take a chemical test in California

By California law, you are required to submit to a chemical test (breath, blood or urine) to determine your level of alcohol and/or drugs. If you refuse to take a chemical test:

  • First offense is a one-year license suspension.
  • Second offense within 10 years is a two-year license revocation.
  • A third or subsequent offense within 10 years is a three-year license revocation.
  • For any offense, the court can require you to install an ignition interlock for a period not longer than three years from the date of conviction.

DUI penalty source: State of California Department of Motor Vehicles, the Superior Court of California, County of Alameda and the National Conference of State Legislatures

Distracted driving laws in California

Prohibits drivers from using hand-held cell phone while driving

Yes

All cellphone ban

Only for school bus drivers

All cellphone use banned for novice drivers

Yes, for drivers under 18

Text messaging ban while driving

All drivers

Source: Governors Highway Safety Association


Updated June 20, 2018

Find a California auto insurance agent

Alameda Car Insurance
Alhambra Car Insurance
Aliso Viejo Car Insurance
Antioch Car Insurance
Apple Valley Car Insurance
Arcadia Car Insurance
Baldwin Park Car Insurance
Bellflower Car Insurance
Berkeley Car Insurance
Buena Park Car Insurance
Brentwood Car Insurance
Burbank Car Insurance
Camarillo Car Insurance
Carlsbad Car Insurance
Carson Car Insurance
Cathedral City Car Insurance
Cerritos Car Insurance
Chico Car Insurance
Chino Car Insurance
Chino Hills Car Insurance
Chula Vista Car Insurance
Citrus Heights Car Insurance
Clovis Car Insurance
Colton Car Insurance
Compton Car Insurance
Concord Car Insurance
Corona Car Insurance
Costa Mesa Car Insurance
Cupertino Car Insurance
Daly City Car Insurance
Davis Car Insurance
Delano Car Insurance
Diamond Bar Car Insurance
Downey Car Insurance
Dublin Car Insurance
El Cajon Car Insurance
El Monte Car Insurance
Elk Grove Car Insurance
Encinitas Car Insurance
Escondido Car Insurance
Fairfield Car Insurance
Folsom Car Insurance
Fontana Car Insurance
Fountain Valley Car Insurance
Fremont Car Insurance
Fullerton Car Insurance
Garden Grove Car Insurance
Gardena Car Insurance
Gilroy Car Insurance
Glendale Car Insurance
Glendora Car Insurance
Hanford Car Insurance
Hawthorne Car Insurance
Hayward Car Insurance
Hemet Car Insurance
Hesperia Car Insurance
Highland Car Insurance
Huntington Beach Car Insurance
Huntington Park Car Insurance
Indio Car Insurance
Inglewood Car Insurance
Irvine Car Insurance
La Habra Car Insurance
La Mesa Car Insurance
Laguna Niguel Car Insurance
Lake Elsinore Car Insurance
Lake Forest Car Insurance
Lakewood Car Insurance
Lancaster Car Insurance
Livermore Car Insurance
Lodi Car Insurance
Lynwood Car Insurance
Madera Car Insurance
Manteca Car Insurance
Merced Car Insurance
Menifee Car Insurance
Milpitas Car Insurance
Mission Viejo Car Insurance
Modesto Car Insurance
Montebello Car Insurance
Monterey Park Car Insurance
Moreno Valley Car Insurance
Mountain View Car Insurance
Murrieta Car Insurance
Napa Car Insurance
National City Car Insurance
Newport Beach Car Insurance
Norwalk Car Insurance
Novato Car Insurance
Oceanside Car Insurance
Ontario Car Insurance
Orange Car Insurance
Oxnard Car Insurance
Palmdale Car Insurance
Palm Desert Car Insurance
Palo Alto Car Insurance
Paramount Car Insurance
Pasadena Car Insurance
Perris Car Insurance
Petaluma Car Insurance
Pico Rivera Car Insurance
Pittsburg Car Insurance
Placentia Car Insurance
Pleasanton Car Insurance
Pomona Car Insurance
Porterville Car Insurance
Rancho Cordova Car Insurance
Rancho Cucamonga Car Insurance
Redding Car Insurance
Redlands Car Insurance
Redondo Beach Car Insurance
Redwood City Car Insurance
Rialto Car Insurance
Richmond Car Insurance
Riverside Car Insurance
Rocklin Car Insurance
Rosemead Car Insurance
Roseville Car Insurance
Salinas Car Insurance
San Bernardino Car Insurance
San Clemente Car Insurance
San Rafael Car Insurance
San Leandro Car Insurance
San Marcos Car Insurance
San Mateo Car Insurance
San Ramon Car Insurance
Santa Ana Car Insurance
Santa Barbara Car Insurance
Santa Clara Car Insurance
Santa Clarita Car Insurance
Santa Cruz Car Insurance
Santa Maria Car Insurance
Santa Monica Car Insurance
Santa Rosa Car Insurance
Santee Car Insurance
Simi Valley Car Insurance
South Gate Car Insurance
South San Francisco Car Insurance
Stockton Car Insurance
Sunnyvale Car Insurance
Temecula Car Insurance
Thousand Oaks Car Insurance
Torrance Car Insurance
Tracy Car Insurance
Tulare Car Insurance
Turlock Car Insurance
Tustin Car Insurance
Union City Car Insurance
Upland Car Insurance
Vacaville Car Insurance
Vallejo Car Insurance
Ventura Car Insurance
Victorville Car Insurance
Visalia Car Insurance
Vista Car Insurance
Walnut Creek Car Insurance
Watsonville Car Insurance
West Covina Car Insurance
West Sacramento Car Insurance
Westminster Car Insurance
Whittier Car Insurance
Woodland Car Insurance
Yorba Linda Car Insurance
Yuba City Car Insurance
Yucaipa Car Insurance

MORE: Additional California Cities & Towns

Fast, Free Auto Insurance Quotes