Many insurers state that their policies offer ‘full coverage’ without detailing what that means, because, well, it doesn’t really mean anything. According to Jonathan O’Steen, personal injury attorney and partner at O’Steen & Harrison LLC, “Some insurance agents use ‘full coverage’ as a shorthand way to describe auto policies that only meet state minimum limits for coverage. True full coverage would provide unlimited protection for all losses arising from an automobile accident.”
While the above is the lowest amount of insurance coverage you can have, you should consider adding more if you have more to lose. For example, we typically advise drivers to match their liability coverage to what they have in total assets. If you own a house in one of the most expensive zip codes in California, Atherton, and have sizable savings and investment accounts, we'd recommend you increase your liability limits and consider adding umbrella coverage on top. On the other hand, if you're a first-year student at UCLA, you may be fine with liability limits that are closer to the minimum.
Auto insurance rates in California are among the most expensive in the nation, with annual premiums of $1,665 per year on average. Additionally, auto coverage rates in the state have increased 13% from 2017 to 2019 across the 10 largest insurers. While some price hikes are unavoidable, the best way to get low rates is to shop around and compare quotes.
What is most important to you? Cost or personal interaction and local expertise? If you have a budget, then a national and direct insurance company that does most of their business online will likely get you better rates. An agent-based insurer focuses on providing a more high-touch and local experience - helpful when submitting a claim, but costs can be higher.
Here's the information you'll need to get an accurate quote: your SSN, driver's license, VIN, (or vehicle specifications including airbag, anti-lock, alarm etc.), a record of accidents or traffic violations, the number of miles you drive a year, as well as a list of the memberships / associations you belong to. Go to each insurer and get a quote for the liability limits you're comfortable with.
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So how much liability coverage should you get? We recommend purchasing as much protection as you can afford and reasonably covers your exposure if you're at-fault in a collision. For reference, the average auto bodily injury liability claim is over $15,000, and the average auto property damage liability claim is over $3,000. But the severity, or size, of a claim will vary significantly. If the driver or passenger in another vehicle was killed, for instance, the costs could easily exceed $100,000, as fatal claims are some of the most expensive. Or if the other vehicle was very expensive, such as a Mercedes, you will face much higher property damage costs as opposed to an accident with a cheaper vehicle.
Beyond the standard protections, supplemental (or “add-on”) coverage will keep you protected against the additional costs that often come with accidents. Features like car rental coverage may not seem essential when you view them as just another added cost, but the increase in your rate could still be lower than the cost of renting a replacement vehicle if your damaged car is in the shop for a while. The options offered by providers vary widely in both availability and cost. Our favorites offer supplemental coverage options that can build a policy for every profile.
With a population of 391,000, Oaktown is California’s eight largest city. With an average rate of $1,408 for our sample driver, Oakland was 12th cheapest city in the entire state. We found the cheapest car insurance rates in Oakland at Century National, Nationwide and GEICO. In total,annual premiums in Oakland at these three companies averaged $943 – 49% lower than the overall cost in the city. Here are the average rates for the five cheapest companies in Oakland:
Some, like deductions for paperless billing, are widely available and don’t have special eligibility requirements. Others will be determined based on conditions beyond your control, like the city you live in or the technology built into your vehicle. While not everyone will be eligible for every discount, the companies that offer more discounts give you more chances to save.
As you get your instant quote, Nationwide will help identify discounts on car insurance that might apply to your policy to save you money. Depending on where you live, you may qualify for lower rates when you have multiple Nationwide insurance policies or have an accident-free record. If your vehicle is equipped with an anti-theft device or passenger restraint system, you may save even more. You may also earn a discount through the SmartRide program, which is a usage-based program that gives members feedback to help encourage safe driving. Get more ideas on how to lower the price of your auto policy.
Any car insurance comparison tool you look at should have your state’s minimum car insurance requirements pre-loaded into its options. States requiring PIP or medpay are generally referred to as “no-fault” states, meaning that when injuries occur, each driver in a crash makes a claim with their own insurance company to pay for them. Beyond the PIP or medpay limit, the at-fault driver’s liability insurance kicks in to cover the rest.
The cheapest car insurance rates in Los Angeles were found at GEICO, Century National and Nationwide. Car insurance in LA can cost on average $2,257 for a 30 year old male, making it the second most expensive city in our study. However, if you go with quotes from our five cheapest companies in LA, then rates are about 30% cheaper than the average. Here are rates for the top five.
It’s important to note that every company considers credit very differently, and even among insurers this factor fluctuates by state. For example, NerdWallet’s 2019 car insurance rate analysis indicates that while State Farm charges higher rates for poor credit in many states, it doesn’t seem to do so in Maine. Similar variations are true for many other companies as well.
Car insurance rates vary greatly depending on age. Your risk profile as a driver will change throughout your life, so you may be eligible for discounts at some points in your life while other times you may see your car insurance premium increase. This is why you want to keep shopping for car insurance throughout your life so you ensure the best value.
As we mention above, Nationwide was the best company in California for cheap car insurance. The large auto insurer even bested typically cheap insurers like GEICO and Progressive. In most cities that we surveyed in the Golden State, Nationwide was the go-to local company for low cost rates. In terms of the company's customer satisfaction however, Nationwide is only mediocre according to the J.D. Power auto insurance study of California. Nationwide scored mostly 3/5 stars in most categories including interaction with agents, and their method of billing. They did score 4/5 stars however when it came to the claims handling process
Progressive offers a unique discount through a program called Snapshot, a usage-based insurance plan that transmits real driving data to the company. Using a telematic device installed in your vehicle, Snapshot monitors your driving behaviors — such as how rapidly you accelerate or how often you stop abruptly — as well as the miles and times you drive, which can increase your risk of an accident.