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Blog category: Driving

What’s the Minimum Car Insurance I Need in California?

7 min read

Most states require drivers to carry a minimum amount of car insurance on any vehicles registered in the state — and California is no exception. In fact, California is a pure comparative negligence state. This means if you’re found to be at least 1% at-fault for an accident, you could be responsible for paying some or all of the medical and car repair bills for anyone else involved in the accident.

You’ll need at least the minimum amount of coverage, but the minimum auto insurance in California isn’t always enough. We put together a quick guide to help you better understand the legal minimum insurance coverage as well as other coverage options that could help protect you and your vehicle in case of an accident.

California Minimum Car Insurance Requirements

There are lots of different types of car insurance coverage, but only liability coverage is required in California. Liability car insurance protects you financially if you are found to be at fault for an accident. It helps pay for medical bills and property damage repairs for the people who were involved in an accident you caused. It’s important to remember that liability coverage doesn’t help pay for damage to your own car or medical bills.

Under California law, you are required to have two types of liability coverage with minimum coverage limits:

Bodily Injury Liability Coverage - The minimum limits for Bodily Injury coverage are $15,000 per person and $30,000 per accident.

Property Damage Liability Coverage - The minimum limit for Property Damage coverage is $5,000 per accident.

The minimum liability insurance in California is often not enough coverage to fully protect you or your assets if you are found to be at fault in an accident.

Is Minimum Liability Coverage Right for You?

It can be tempting to only purchase the minimum auto insurance coverage in California. By purchasing the minimum, you can save money on your monthly car insurance premiums. This savings may not be enough to offset the potential long-term costs if you’re found to be at fault in an accident, however.

Let’s say you accidentally cause a wreck that results in injuries and car damage to another driver. You’ll likely be on the hook to cover their medical bills and car repair costs. Their medical bills are $20,000 and their new car has $10,000 worth of damage. The minimum liability insurance coverage will only cover the first $15,000 in medical bills and $5,000 to repair damages. You’ll most likely have to cover the remaining $5,000 of medical bills and $5,000 of repairs out-of-pocket.

Deciding on Your Level of Liability Coverage

How much liability coverage should I buy? The simple answer is as much as you can afford. You really can't go wrong with more liability coverage. If you are found to be at fault in a serious accident, the medical bills can be astronomically expensive. A robust policy will give you the peace of mind of knowing that your savings and assets are protected.

Most financial experts recommend raising your liability to $50,000 per person and $100,000 per accident if you have few assets. With more assets — like a house, expensive car, or large amounts of savings — experts recommend bumping your coverage up to at least $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident.

Considering Additional Types of Coverage

Liability insurance will protect you if you are at fault in a crash and would then be required to pay for another person's medical bills or car repairs. What if you are also injured in an accident you caused, or if you are hit by a driver who does not have sufficient insurance to pay for your injuries and damages? These situations call for additional insurance coverage, including:

Collision Coverage

This pays for damages to your vehicle if you are involved in an accident with another car or an object, regardless of who is at fault. For example, you accidentally back into a telephone pole. Your collision insurance should help pay for the repairs to your vehicle, after paying your deductible.

Comprehensive Coverage

This coverage pays for damage to your vehicle that is not caused by a collision. This includes fire, theft or vandalism. If someone steals expensive parts from your car, comprehensive coverage helps cover the cost to replace them.

You may want to consider your deductible instead. Your deductible is the amount you would have to pay first before the Collision and Comprehensive coverage steps in to pay the rest. Deductibles typically range from $100 to upwards of $2,000. The higher your deductible, the lower your premium. While it may be tempting to choose a higher deductible to save a few bucks on your insurance bill, keep in mind that when an accident happens you'll have to pay that high deductible out-of-pocket.

Medical Payments Coverage

This type of coverage (commonly called MedPay) pays for your medical bills and the medical bills of any of your passengers, regardless of who is at fault.

Uninsured Motorist Bodily Injury (UMBI)

This pays for injuries to yourself and others on your policy that result from an accident caused by an uninsured driver (someone without any Bodily Injury liability coverage), or an underinsured driver (someone who has Bodily Injury liability coverage, but they've chosen limits that are not enough to cover all of your injuries). In addition to covering medical bills, UMBI may also cover lost income or other general damages.

Uninsured Motorist Property Damage (UMPD)

UMPD can pay for damage to your car caused by an uninsured driver only if the driver can be identified and confirmed as having no insurance whatsoever. This coverage can only pay up to a maximum of $3,500 towards the repair or replacement of your vehicle, regardless of how much the total repairs cost or what the car is worth.

Uninsured Motorist Collision Deductible Waiver (UMC)

UMC can waive your Collision deductible if the accident is caused by an identified and uninsured motorist. This is a great coverage to pair with your Collision coverage. Most people don't want to have to pay their deductible after being crashed into by someone else AND that person didn't have insurance!

Rental Expense Coverage

If you have an accident and your vehicle's in the shop, you'll still need a way to get around. Rental Expense coverage can pay for a replacement vehicle while yours is in the shop for a Collision or Comprehensive claim.

Roadside Assistance

This coverage can help pay for a jumpstart, lockout service or any number of other roadside services which will help you get back on the road quicker. If you wouldn't feel comfortable changing a flat tire on the side of the road or flagging down a stranger with jumper cables, Roadside Assistance coverage can give you that peace of mind.

When it comes to deciding how much auto insurance to purchase, your best bet is to opt for as much coverage as possible within your personal financial restrictions. The more coverage you have, the less you'll have to worry about severe financial setbacks resulting from an accident. For more information, contact a Wawanesa Insurance professional to find out what California car insurance coverage is right for you. 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.

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