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California Car Insurance Requirements and Coverage

A road sign that reads California to illustrate the insurance requirements and coverage for that state.

California is one of several states that have required car insurance minimums in place for their resident drivers. It’s important to know California car insurance requirements to legally drive and comply with the California car insurance laws. But what are these laws?

What are the lawful minimum coverages for car insurance in California? What are the penalties for driving in California without proper insurance? What coverage should be considered when getting car insurance quotes in the Golden State? Read on for the answers to these question and additional details about California insurance.

California Car Insurance Minimums

The purpose of the state requirements is to ensure that all motorists can financially cover any injuries or damages done to another party if they are responsible for a car accident. The simplest way to enforce this is to require drivers to have auto insurance. California drivers are required to have liability insurance with the following minimum amounts:

  • $5,000 to cover property damage
  • $15,000 to cover the injury/death of a single person
  • $30,000 to cover the injuries/deaths of more than one person

It is important to note that these are just the minimum requirements for CA car insurance. It is recommended to have additional coverage and protection with higher liability limits. It is also worthwhile to get an insurance policy that could help assist with any personal losses or injuries.

Good Driver Discount

Even though having liability coverage is required, it doesn’t mean you have to pay a lot for your car insurance. California state law requires insurers to offer a “Good Driver” discount for those that qualify. Good Drivers will have at least a 20% discount on their auto insurance policy, whether it meets or exceeds the state minimums. Drivers that qualify for this discount must have a minimum of three years of driving experience and within the past three years have not:

  • Had more than 1 point on their driving record due to a violation
  • Taken traffic school because of a traffic violation more than once
  • Been the driver at-fault in a car accident that resulted in injury or death

If you keep your record clean for three years, you’ll qualify and be able to get the best car insurance in California at a cheaper rate.

Other Methods of Financial Responsibility

While purchasing car insurance is the most common way to fulfill your financial responsibility according to California state law, it isn’t your only option. If for some reason you do not wish to purchase an insurance policy, you can meet the requirement with:

  • A Certificate of Self-Insurance provided by the California Department of Motor Vehicles
  • A $35,000 cash deposit with the CA DMV
  • A surety bond of $35,000 from any company licensed to do business in CA

California’s Low Cost Auto Insurance Program

In an effort to help low-income drivers stay insured, the state developed the California Low Cost Auto Insurance Program (CLCA). To qualify for the program, you must:

  • Have a valid California drivers license
  • Own a car that is worth $25,000 or less
    Be at least 19 years of age
  • Meet the income requirements

Talk to an insurance agent to see if you meet the income qualifications in order be protected and legal.

SR-22 Coverage

If you have been convicted of certain traffic violations such as a DUI, a judge may require you to purchase SR-22 insurance on top of the state required minimums. SR-22’s are certificates issued by insurance companies in order for the driver to prove that he or she is properly insured. Drivers are required to maintain an SR-22 for 3 years, possibly longer if new violations are added within the duration of the policy. There is certainly plenty more details to know about SR-22 insurance, but it is not required if you have proven yourself to be a responsible driver.

Penalties for Driving Uninsured

There are a variety of penalties if you are caught driving uninsured in the state of California. First time offenders are fined between $100-$200, but can skyrocket to $300-$500 for any offense afterward within 3 years after your first offense. Depending on your circumstances, the court may impound your car until you’re able to provide proof of insurance. You’re even subject to having your car registration suspended if you are caught driving without insurance. It’s best to at least get the minimum coverage to save yourself a headache.

Other California Insurance Information

Aside from having adhering to the financial responsibility, there are other items about car insurance in California that drivers should know.

  • Proof of insurance coverage must be provided in the insured vehicle at all times
  • Proof of insurance coverage must be provided when renewing a vehicle’s registration, when law enforcement requests it, and if/when your vehicle is involved in a traffic accident
  • The California DMV can monitor your insurance coverage through an electronic records system and issue actions based on their data
  • Insurance providers are required by law to inform the DMV of the status of your coverage.
  • Law enforcement officers and court officials have access to the DMV’s electronic records
  • The DMV is notified before an auto insurance policy is cancelled, in order to protect the driver from a potential vehicle registration suspension.

Now that you know what type of coverage you need to drive legally in California, it might be time to change up your auto insurance policy. Freeway Insurance can get you the best auto insurance rates that will fit your needs without spending a penny more than needed. Get a California car insurance quote online or over the phone at 800-777-5620 for proper protection at a low price.

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