Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products including home, life, auto, and commercial and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs. She has since used that knowledge in her more than ten years as a writer, largely in the insuranc...

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Melanie Musson is the fourth generation in her family to work in the insurance industry. She grew up with insurance talk as part of her everyday conversation and has studied to gain an in-depth knowledge of state-specific car insurance laws and dynamics as well as a broad understanding of how insurance fits into every person’s life, from budgets to coverage levels. She also specializes in automa...

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Reviewed by Melanie Musson
Published Insurance Expert

UPDATED: Apr 8, 2020

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Car insurance premiums vary from one state to the next due to a number of factors. Insurance companies gather statistical information about drivers in various areas and provide rates based upon this information. Although the average cost of premiums in an area may be higher or lower than surrounding states, an individual driver’s history is still the most important element of car insurance costs.

How Much Does Car Insurance Cost in California?

California car insurance is the sixth most expensive coverage in the country. The average annual premium for a standard insurance policy in California is around $1,991. The other states above it on the list, Michigan, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Montana and Washington, D.C., cost an average of between $500 and $100 more per year, making the monthly payments only a few dollars higher in some cases.

Some drivers may be surprised that California is not the most expensive state for insurance. A highly-populated state, California has nearly twice as many licensed drivers as any other state in the country. Cities in California tend to be more sprawling than other metropolitan areas, and more people commute rather than using public transportation, leading to a high number of people on the roads at any time.

Nevertheless, California does not share the same risk factors as the other, higher-cost states. Michigan and Louisiana, for example, handle injuries differently than other states; because medical expenses are paid according to different laws, claims in these areas can become extremely pricey very fast. Similarly, mortality rates in car accidents in Montana are quite high, and the unpredictable weather in Oklahoma and high crime rate in Washington, D.C. leads to a high number of claims.

Why Does California Car Insurance Cost So Much?

Although car insurance in California is not the most expensive in the country, it does cost more than most other states, and people moving to California may be unpleasantly surprised by the increased cost of coverage. There are several reasons why coverage costs more in California than in surrounding areas:

— High number of drivers.

The large driving population of California means that more people are on the roads at any given time, increasing the likelihood of being involved in a collision.

— Uninsured Motorist Population

States with a high number of uninsured drivers have higher premiums than areas where most drivers are uninsured. Approximately 15% of drivers in California are uninsured, and this number increases in poor areas and those near the border.

— Auto Theft Rates

California is first in the nation for auto theft, and six of the top ten cities for theft are in California. The proximity to Mexico and prevalence of other types of crime makes California especially attractive to car thieves.

— Low Mandatory Limits

Compared to other states, California has low limits of liability for insurance policies. This makes the base cost of insurance comparatively lower, but requires drivers to purchase additional limits in order to avoid personal liability for accidents.

How to Lower the Cost of Car Insurance in California

As a California driver, you can save money on car insurance in several ways. Because theft is a major issue in the state, it’s worthwhile to install a car alarm or other anti-theft device on your vehicle. Insurance companies offer deeper discounts to drivers who have more than one theft protection device, so you might want to save money by doubling-up your protection. Keeping your vehicle parked in a garage at night will also reduce its chances of being stolen or vandalized and lead to a decreased car insurance cost.

Low-income drivers can also apply for reduced-rate auto insurance. California is one of the only states to attempt this type of program. If it becomes successful and wide-spread, the uninsured population of drivers may decrease, causing the overall cost of car insurance in the area to drop.

You can also save money by taking a defensive driving course, adding safety features to your vehicle and modifying your deductibles and limits to best suit your needs. Purchasing affordable-to-insure vehicles is also a good way to keep your insurance costs down in the long term.

Of course, the best way to save money on car insurance no matter where you live is to focus on safe driving habits. If you have an excellent driving record, you can always get the best rates on auto insurance. Good drivers get the best benefit from comparison shopping as many insurance companies will offer safe drivers an impressive discount to encourage them to switch over.