In the event of an accident, especially one involving another car you don’t want to be caught with your pants down, and the state of California doesn’t want that either. This is why it is mandatory to carry insurance at all times while driving. Police officers can request the proof of insurance, and if you don’t have any they can give you a sizable ticket. Insurance is also required for vehicle registration in California.
Each state has its own minimum insurance rates requirements. These rates represent the least amount of money you can be legally insured up to. California’s car insurance minimum requirements are separated into three different circumstances, one for injury or death to another person ($15,000), injury or death to more than one person ($30,000), and property damage ($5,000). These circumstances fall into what’s called “Liability” insurance, which is required by law. Other types of insurance, like comprehensive or collision, are not required by law. Comprehensive is when your car is damaged from things like vandalism or theft, whereas collision is when you try to take on a tree (or a pole, whichever comes first) and lose.
Consequently, if you have no insurance whatsoever your vehicle can be impounded and in the event of an accident, you’ll, of course, have to pay out of pocket for the damages you incur. The good news about insurance is it’s easy to deal with, relatively, and insurance companies in California are legally obligated to electronically report insurance information to the DMV, leaving you with one less thing to worry about, that is as long as you meet the minimum requirements.
To cover yourself to the Nth degree, get some uninsured motorist insurance. This acts in the case of you being hit by another driver who does not have any insurance, or not enough to cover the damages they’ve done.
Insurance companies calculate it based on how much you drive, your driving record (citations, suspensions etc.) and where the car is going to be kept, i.e. in a garage or on the street. Insurance companies look at the kind of car it is and its potential for causing trouble. Mustang GTs, for example, face high insurance rates because they have a reputation for being in a lot of accidents, only have two doors (not ideal for supporting a family), and are cited a lot by police officers. If you want a car with lower insurance rates, choose a slower sedan for families that don't get stolen a lot. I.e. a Toyota Camry.
What you want to be covered specifically depends entirely on you. You might want to consider your area, for instance, if you live in places that flood easily you may want to have your car insured for water damage. Likewise, if you live in a place with a lot of crime it might be worth it to get theft coverage. If you live in a highly congested area it might be good to get some collision and comprehensive coverage. However, if you have nothing to really worry about, the minimum coverage should suit just fine. It’s also recommended to get uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, which is handy for if you get hit by someone who doesn’t have insurance.
The bottom line is, if you want to drive in California legally you’ll need some form of insurance. Shop around for different rates, as every insurance company is different. Keep in mind that low rates aren’t necessarily a good thing, as some smaller companies might not be as dependable as larger ones like AAA or Geico.
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