California requires drivers to carry insurance to cover the cost of damages and injuries to others in a car accident. The state requires drivers to carry a minimum of $15,000 of bodily injury liability insurance per person, $30,000 of accidental bodily injury liability insurance and $5,000 of property injury liability insurance. This coverage is known as 15/30/5 coverage.
However, these minimums are far from sufficient coverage in many cases. In addition to liability coverage, drivers may want to consider adding extra coverage, such as uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, which helps pay for damages and injuries caused by uninsured or underinsured drivers.
Let’s dive into the other California auto insurance requirements and look at the penalties that drivers can face if they don’t carry the right insurance.
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California minimum car insurance requirements
Every driver in California must be able to prove that they have insurance whenever they drive.
The four types of insurance that qualify in California:
Motor vehicle liability insurance policy: A liability insurance policy can help pay the costs associated with injuring someone or damaging their vehicle in an accident. It is intended to cover accidents for which you are found guilty.
$35,000 cash deposit with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV): Insurance is proof that you can handle financial expenses as a result of an accident. If you really don’t want to sign up for insurance, a $35,000 cash deposit provides the same level of proof.
DMV-issued self-insurance certificate: If you can prove that you have the financial means to be labeled as “self-insured,” you can get a certificate from the DMV that you can use as proof of insurance.
Surety bond for $35,000: If you can’t provide a $35,000 cash deposit, you can work with a company that can offer a guarantee that they will pay in the event of an accident. The company must be licensed to do business in California.
Minimum liability requirements
Liability insurance is a type of insurance coverage that helps cover other drivers and their vehicles in the event that you cause an accident. All of the states that require insurance policies will require liability in some form.
California auto insurance laws require what is known as 15/30/5 coverage. This means that drivers must have at least the following coverage limits:
$15,000 for injury or death to one person
$30,000 for injury or death to more than one person
$5,000 for property damage
This is the minimum coverage Californians need. These numbers mean you should have a policy that covers up to $15,000 in bodily injury liability coverage for the bills associated with injuring another driver or their passenger while on the road.
If you injure more than one person, you must have enough coverage to cover $30,000 in costs. You’ll only have $5,000 of property damage liability coverage to help with costs associated with any damage you cause to another driver’s vehicle.
Many drivers opt for more than the minimum coverage requirements for additional financial protection in the event of an accident.
Penalties for driving without insurance
Driving without insurance in California is a punishable offense. The exact consequences for driving a vehicle without insurance depend on the number of times a person has committed the offence.
For the first offense, the driver will receive a citation, be fined and may have their vehicle registration suspended. The penalty for a first offense is a minimum fine of $100.
For subsequent violations, the driver will be fined a minimum of $200 and up to $500. In addition, the vehicle may be impounded, and the driver may be required to provide proof of insurance before the vehicle is released.
If your vehicle is impounded, you may also have to pay towing and storage fees in addition to the fines and costs associated with starting or reinstating an insurance policy.
It is important to note that driving without insurance can result in more serious penalties, such as having a driver’s license suspended, if the driver is involved in a traffic accident.
California low cost auto insurance program
Although there are minimum auto insurance coverage in place, the California government understands that not every driver can handle the financial obligation to meet these minimums. So California has a program — the Low-Cost Auto Insurance Program — that helps low-income drivers stay on the road legally.
This program lowers the liability limits required by the state, but does not eliminate them entirely. You will still have to meet the following limits:
$10,000 bodily injury or death per person
$20,000 bodily injury or accidental death
$3,000 accidental property damage
To qualify for the program, drivers must meet certain requirements regarding income and the vehicle they drive. You will need to meet all of the following requirements:
Your annual income must be 250% or less of the federal poverty level.
Your car must be worth $25,000 or less.
You must have a valid California driver’s license.
You must be at least 16 years old.
You must have a good driving record or be a newer driver.
For more information about the program, visit www.mylowcostauto.com.
Other types of coverage to consider
State minimum requirements are a way to cover basic costs associated with an accident, but just having liability won’t do much for you in the event that you are the cause of the accident. You may want to consider adding additional types of coverage to your policy.
Medical payments coverage helps pay for any medical expenses you or your passengers experience as a result of an accident, regardless of who was at fault.
Comprehensive coverage helps cover damage to your vehicle caused by something other than a collision. This can include theft, vandalism, tree damage and fire, among others. This coverage is especially important for drivers who live in areas prone to natural disasters.
Collision coverage helps pay for any damage to your vehicle caused by an accident, even if you are at fault. This can help cover the difference between the other driver’s liability coverage and the cost of the damage to your vehicle if you are not at fault.
Uninsured/Uninsured motorist coverage
Uninsured motorist coverage and underinsured motorist coverage help cover the costs involved in an accident with someone who does not have insurance, or with someone who does not have enough insurance to cover the costs of the accident.
GAP insurance (guaranteed asset protection) is an optional type of cover that ensures that a driver is compensated for the difference between the car’s actual cash value (ACV) and the amount still owed on the vehicle loan if the car is a total loss is. GAP insurance is especially useful in California, where car values can depreciate quickly due to the state’s weather and traffic conditions.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does California require full coverage auto insurance?
For drivers who lease or finance their vehicles, dealers and lenders usually require a full coverage auto insurance policy. Because you don’t officially own the vehicle, the dealer or lender will want to protect their part of the deal should you get into an accident.
For drivers who own their vehicles, you don’t need to cover anything other than liability car insurance. The minimum liability amounts outlined in this article, but you may want to consider additional coverage if you can afford it.
Do you need a California driver’s license to get car insurance in California?
You must have a valid driver’s license to hold auto insurance, but you do not necessarily need a California license to get insurance while living in California. If you live in California temporarily or have recently moved and have not changed your license, most insurance companies will still offer you a policy.
That said, many states require that if you move permanently to a new state, you register your vehicle at that state’s DMV and that you obtain a new license in that state.
How Much Will Car Insurance Cost in California?
There is no single answer to this question, as car insurance costs can vary significantly depending on factors such as your driving history, age, marital status, the type of car you drive, where you live, and more.
Overall, the average cost of car insurance in California is about $1,700 per year according to The Zebra, an insurance comparison website. However, if you are a young driver, have a poor driving history or live in a densely populated area, you may find yourself paying more for your car insurance. Conversely, if you have a good driving record, are an older driver or live in a rural area, your car insurance rates may be lower.
California’s minimum auto insurance requirements and other auto insurance laws are designed to protect drivers and ensure that all motorists on the road are properly insured. Failure to comply with these laws can result in hefty fines and even the suspension of a driver’s license.
By understanding these laws, California drivers can ensure that they are properly insured and protected. To make sure you get the best deal, get some quotes from some of the best auto insurance companies in California.
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