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California Car Insurance Laws, Learn What’s Required

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Most states require you to purchase some form of auto insurance coverage if you own or operate a car. This is to ensure that all drivers are able to provide for medical and financial expenses resulting from an accident. Since minimum car insurance requirements vary from state to state, people who are new to California might not know exactly what type of coverage to get, and how much coverage they need.  Getting caught with the wrong coverage, or no coverage at all, can be costly.

To help you avoid any auto insurance mix-ups we have provided an easy guide explaining everything you need to know about California car insurance laws and requirements:

California Car Insurance Laws: Mandatory Coverage

The state of California requires that all motor vehicles registered in the state are covered by a minimum level of liability auto insurance. This means that every driver operating a vehicle in the state, even those with an out-of-state license or no license at all, still must abide by the minimum auto insurance requirements while driving in California.

In California, you are required to have the following two types of liability coverage:

  • Bodily Injury Liability (BI) - This coverage protects you against potential financial losses should you be found liable for an accident resulting in the injury or death of the driver and/or passengers in the other vehicle. In California, you are required to have bodily injury coverage of at least $15,000 per person, and up to $30,000 per accident.


  • Property Damage Liability (PD) - This type of coverage protects you from paying out of pocket for any damage to another person’s property and/or vehicle that results from an accident for which you are found legally liable. In California, you are required to have a minimum of $5,000 in Property Damage Liability coverage.

Proof of Insurance

The State of California also requires that you carry proof of your insurance with you whenever you are behind the wheel. To prove that you have sufficient liability coverage, you will need an insurance ID card, which lists the insured vehicle, the name of the policyholder, policy number and the start and end dates of the policy period.

If you are pulled over and found to be without sufficient evidence of insurance coverage while operating a vehicle, it may result in your vehicle being impounded, and your driver’s license or vehicle registration could be suspended. California auto insurance laws could also leave you with fines ranging from $100 - $200 for the first offense, and $200 - $500 for each subsequent offense within three years of the first.

Luckily, the California Vehicle Code allows for the use of electronic documents for proof of insurance, which can be accessed via smartphone, even when offline, with apps like Wawanesa Mobile.

Optional Coverage

While liability insurance coverage is mandatory in California, there are also several other auto insurance options and add-ons available to drivers in the Golden State. And while these are not required by law, they can add some peace of mind to your road trip or daily commute. Here are a few examples of optional insurance coverage:

  • Automobile Medical Payments – This coverage protects you from financial loss if you or anyone is injured in your vehicle, regardless of who is at fault. This typically relates to any costs associated with medical care resulting from a motor vehicle accident, including expenses for medical care, dental care, hospitalization and funeral arrangements. With Wawanesa, this coverage also protects you and your household relatives should they be struck by an automobile even if they are not in a car themselves.


  • Comprehensive – This coverage pays for damages that are not caused by auto accidents. These can include theft, fire, vandalism, earthquake, explosion, riot, storm, and other causes not related to collisions. When you opt for comprehensive coverage, you will select a deductible, which is the amount you pay out of pocket toward a claim. Your insurance company will then cover the remaining balance of the cost of repairs up to the total actual cash value of the vehicle.


  • Collision – This type of coverage pays for loss or damages (after deductible) to your vehicle if you are involved in a collision with another vehicle or other object or structure, regardless of who is at fault. Incidents that might be covered under collision insurance include collision with another car, another car striking yours while parked, collision with a tree, streetlight, or pole or severe damage caused by ditches or potholes.


These are some of the most common types of optional coverage. Others include roadside assistance, rental expense coverage and uninsured motorist coverage. For more information contact a Wawanesa Insurance professional to get the most up-to-date info on everything you need to know about California car insurance requirements. Looking for better coverage with lower rates? Get a free quote today to see how Wawanesa Insurance can help.


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The above content is for informational purposes only and is not a direct representation of coverages offered by Wawanesa or its policies. The information does not refer to any specific contract of insurance and does not modify any definitions, provisions, exclusions or limitations expressly stated in any contracts of insurance. All references within the above content are illustrative and may not apply to your situation. The terms and conditions of the actual insurance policy or policies involved in a claim are determinative as to whether an accident or other loss is covered. To understand the coverage under your current policy, please log into the account management platform to review your policy or contact an agent directly.