California Car Insurance Requirements (2024)

California only requires drivers to carry liability insurance. Your policy must meet a 15/30/5 coverage limit in order to comply with California insurance law.
Written by Sarah Gray
Edited by Jessica Barrett
All drivers in
California
must carry liability car insurance coverage that meets the 15/30/5 rule: $15,000 of bodily injury liability coverage per person, $30,000 of bodily injury liability per accident, and $5,000 of property damage liability.

Car insurance requirements in California

California drivers must prove financial responsibility to operate a motor vehicle legally. The easiest way to do this is by purchasing an
auto insurance
policy that meets or exceeds the minimum coverage limits set by California’s car insurance laws:
  • $15,000 of bodily injury liability coverage per person
  • $30,000 of bodily injury liability coverage per accident
  • $5,000 of property damage liability coverage per accident
Bodily injury liability (BIL)
: Covers medical bills for other parties injured in an accident you caused, up to your policy’s limits.
Property damage liability (PDL)
: Covers property damage from an accident you cause, up to your policy’s limits.
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Liability insurance, which is the only type of coverage required by law in the Golden State, covers personal injuries and property damage that you cause in an at-fault car accident.
Select your preferred coverages when getting free car insurance quotes in the Jerry app to make sure you have enough coverage in these scenarios.

Other options to prove financial responsibility in California

Buying car insurance is the easiest and most affordable way for drivers to meet
California’s financial responsibility requirements
, but it’s not the only way. 
You can also:
  • Make a $35,000 cash deposit with the California Department of Motor Vehicles (CA DMV)
  • Use a self-insurance certificate issued by the DMV
  • Obtain a surety bond for $35,000 from a licensed company—contact the California Department of Insurance at 1-800-927-4357 for a list of licensed surety companies
Unless you have $35,000 on hand, paying for car insurance is one of the cheapest ways to avoid penalties for driving uninsured in California.
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If you can’t afford California auto insurance
You may be able to find more affordable coverage through the California Automobile Assigned risk Plan (CAARP)—CA’s residual or non-standard auto insurance market for low-income and high-risk drivers. CAARP oversees and issues plans for the
California Low Cost Automobile Insurance Program (CLCA)
. CLCA policies include lower minimum limits for liability than required by the state, but they do satisfy CA’s financial responsibility laws. For more information, visit
www.mylowcostauto.com
, or call 1-866-622-0954.

Is minimum liability coverage the most cost-effective option?

No. California’s required liability limits are fairly low compared to other states—and they don’t come near to providing enough coverage for most California drivers.
Here’s why:
  • Low liability limits: A state minimum policy in California covers no more than $30,000 in medical bills and $5,000 in property damage—barely enough to cover the cost of an average hospital stay for one person ($30,000)1 and well below the average cost of a property damage liability payout ($5,314)2.
  • No physical damage coverage for your vehicle: If your car is stolen or damaged in an at-fault crash or another incident, your California minimum coverage won’t cover your costs—you’ll have to pay out of pocket for repairs or a replacement.
  • No medical payments coverage: Filing a bodily injury liability claim with a stranger’s insurance company to cover your hospital bills after an accident is a frustrating process—and with 16.6% of California’s drivers uninsured3, you may end up with no way to cover your costs.
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Expert Insurance Agent Insight

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Vice President Insurance Operations
A general rule that I recommend is to carry enough coverage to protect your current and future assets – at least $100,000/$300,000 of liability coverage is recommended, but you may need more coverage depending on your financial situation.
Most drivers in California need a policy that includes at least the following:
  • $100,000 per person/$300,000 per accident of bodily injury liability coverage
  • $100,000 of property damage liability coverage
  • Collision coverage
    and
    comprehensive coverage
    to replace the vehicle in the event of a total loss
The average cost of a state minimum liability-only insurance plan is $1,394 per year or $116 per month. The average cost of a
full-coverage auto insurance
policy in California is $203 per month or $2,436 per year. Despite the higher insurance costs, full coverage is the more cost-effective option overall.

Remember: Car insurance premiums are highly individualized since car insurance companies look at personal factors like age, location, your driving record, vehicle type, and more when they calculate car insurance rates and determine discounts. The only way to ensure you’re getting the best price is to compare car insurance quotes from multiple providers.
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Full coverage is required for financed vehicles: If you have an
auto loan
or lease, your lender will require you to maintain comprehensive and collision coverage insurance until you've paid off or returned the car.
If you fail to purchase full coverage, your lender will buy it for you and send you the bill—and they’re not likely to comparison shop to find the best price.

Optional coverages in California

For peace of mind, consider getting additional coverage. Here are a few types of optional coverages worth looking into: 
  • Collision insurance
    : Helps pay for vehicle repairs caused by a collision with another vehicle or stationary object.
  • Comprehensive insurance
    : Pays for the costs of non-collision-related damage to your vehicle, like hail, flood damage, theft, vandalism, and more.

Penalties for driving without insurance in California

If you’re caught driving without
proof of insurance
or financial responsibility in California 4, you’ll be subject to:
You’ll also have to
file an SR-22 certificate
with the California DMV, usually for three years.  
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FAQs

What is the required car insurance in California?

Minimum car insurance requirements for California drivers include at least $15,000 per person/$30,000 per accident in bodily injury liability coverage and $5,000 in property damage liability insurance.

Does California require comprehensive insurance?

No. Comprehensive car insurance, which covers damage to your vehicle caused by non-collision events, like vandalism, theft, fire, and severe weather, is not a legal requirement to drive in California. However, it is required by most lenders if you have a car loan or lease.

What is considered full coverage in California?

In California, as in the rest of the U.S., “full coverage” refers to a car insurance policy that includes collision and comprehensive insurance in addition to liability coverage, uninsured motorist coverage, and any other coverage mandated by your state’s minimum insurance requirements. It’s the standard level of coverage needed by most drivers. 

Is California a no-fault accident state?

No. California is a tort or
at-fault state
, meaning that drivers are not required to carry personal injury protection (PIP) insurance. If you cause an accident in California, the other driver will file claims for both property damage and bodily injuries with your insurer.

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