California Car Insurance Laws

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  • Insurance requirements in CA
  • Is minimum car insurance enough?
  • Penalties
  • Mandatory SR-22s and FR-44s
  • Additional coverage
  • Cheap car insurance
  • FAQs
California drivers must carry a minimum amount of liability insurance to avoid fines, penalties, and legal liability. The car insurance minimums in California are often summarized as 15/30/5 (or, $15,000 of bodily injury liability per person; $30,000 of bodily injury liability per accident; and $5,000 of property liability per accident).
The car insurance shopping app Jerry has compiled all the information you need to know about California car insurance laws and what they cover.
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Read on to find out more about car insurance laws in California.
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What insurance do I need in California?

California drivers are required to carry a certain amount of minimum liability insurance—but they may choose between four different ways of demonstrating financial responsibility. The most practical way is to purchase a car insurance policy that meets the California minimum car insurance limits.
Drivers can also take out a $35,000 surety bond, file a $35,000 deposit with the California DMV, or obtain a self-insurance certificate.
California drivers are required to show proof of insurance if they are pulled over by law enforcement or if they are involved in an accident. They also need to show proof of insurance when they go to register their vehicle**.
Required auto insurance in California
Minimum liability coverage15/30/5
Bodily injury per accident$15,000
Bodily injury per person$30,000
Property damage per accident$5,000
Key Takeaway California drivers have different options available to purchase their minimum state liability coverage.

Will California minimum car insurance be enough?

California’s minimum insurance is low compared to most states—and could easily leave you vulnerable if you cause an accident.
If you are found at fault, the liability insurance that California requires drivers to carry will only cover the costs associated with the other party. You will have to purchase additional coverage options like collision insurance and medical payment coverage to help cover expenses for you and your passengers if you cause an accident.
Here is a detailed breakdown of the California minimum insurance requirements and what they cover. If the minimum insurance requirements fall short, you might have to pay additional expenses out-of-pocket.
$15,000 of bodily injury liability coverage per person
Your insurance company will pay up to $15,000 per person to help cover the cost of injuries resulting from an at-fault accident.
$30,000 of bodily injury liability coverage per accident
$30,000 is the total amount that your insurance company will pay out to cover the costs of injuries in an at-fault accident.
$5,000 in property damage liability per accident
Your insurance company will pay up to $5,000 to cover the costs of property damage for other parties in an at-fault accident.
Key Takeaway California minimum car insurance limits can easily fall short of covering the expenses associated with an accident.

What is the penalty for not having car insurance in California?

Drivers who can’t prove they have insurance will face fines and penalties—and will be on the hook for any damages they may have inflicted while driving. In addition, their license could be revoked, and their car might be impounded.
If you are involved in an accident and can’t produce valid proof of your minimum liability coverage in California, your license will automatically be suspended for one year.
Penalties for not having car insurance in California
OffenseFinePenalty assessment fees
First$100 - $200$260 - $520
Second$200 - $500$520 - $1300

What is a mandatory SR-22 or FR-44?

SR-22s or FR44s are forms that prove to the state that you have the minimum insurance coverage required. California requires that any drivers who have their license suspended for driving without minimum liability insurance file an SR22. Your insurance company will typically charge a small fee to file an SR-22 with the California DMV.
Drivers caught without insurance will have to keep an SR-22 on file for three years. Since SR-22 drivers are considered high risk, you can expect your insurance premiums to increase as well. If you let your insurance policy lapse, you will have to keep an SR-22 on file for a full three years or until you have successfully fulfilled your requirements.
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Is additional coverage worth it?

You might want to consider increasing your liability limits so you will have more coverage to help cover the costs associated with causing an accident. There are many additional coverage options that you can choose to add to California’s minimum liability insurance requirements.
Here are some popular insurance options that you might want to add to your minimum California car insurance.

Medical payments (MedPay) insurance

Medical payment insurance will help cover medical expenses for you and your passengers.

Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage

If you get an accident with a driver who doesn’t have coverage or doesn’t have enough coverage, uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance will help cover your expenses.

Collision insurance

Collision insurance will help cover the cost of the damage to your car after a collision with another object or a rollover.

Comprehensive insurance

Comprehensive insurance will help cover the cost of non-collision-related damage resulting from external events, like fire, floods, storms, or theft.

Gap insurance

If your loaned or leased car is totaled after an accident, gap insurance will help make up the difference between your insurance payout and the money you still owe on your car.

Rental car reimbursement insurance

Rental reimbursement insurance will help cover the costs of a rental car or alternate transportation while your vehicle is in for repairs after an accident.

Roadside assistance insurance

Many insurance companies will offer roadside assistance coverage that will help cover the costs of standard roadside services.
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How to find cheap car insurance in California

If you are looking for a quick and easy way to find cheap car insurance in California, Jerry has you covered.
Jerry is a personal insurance broker that lives in your pocket. But don’t worry about buying tiny office furniture. Jerry is an app.
Once you download Jerry, just answer a handful of questions that will take you roughly 45 seconds to complete, and you’ll immediately get car insurance quotes for coverage similar to your current plan—or use Jerry to customize your options.
Jerry customers save an average of $879 a year. Oh, and we should mention … Jerry is free.
“Jerry cut my car insurance in half! I have no clue how they did it, but they just about cut my rate in half with the same provider and the same coverage. I still can’t believe it! The app takes about 20 minutes to get your finalized quotes, and their agents handle purchasing your new policy once you give them the go-ahead. The process is super easy, and I can’t recommend this app enough!”—Jerry user.
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Frequently asked questions

Do I have the right to sue another driver in California?

Yes, but only if the at-fault driver’s insurance doesn’t cover your damages.

Is it mandatory to have car insurance in California?

Yes. It is mandatory to carry a liability insurance split of 15/30/5 in California. The minimum liability limits are $15,000 bodily injury per person, $30,000 bodily injury per accident, and $5000 property damage liability.

Is the car or person insured in California?

In California, car insurance typically follows the car, not the driver. If another driver borrows your car, you will still be covered as long as they are listed on your policy or you give them explicit permission to drive.
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