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Drunk Driving in California – a financial road guide of the consequences

As of December 2013, the average annual auto insurance premium rate in California is $1819. Before 1988, the auto insurance premiums were high, as there were no state regulations on the insurance industry. As a result, California auto insurance rates kept climbing to unaffordable levels. To combat what many saw as arbitrary insurance rates, Californians voted into law Prop 103 on November 8, 1988, which called for consumer-driven regulation on insurance companies.

Auto insurance is mandatory in California. The state of California has a zero tolerance policy on uninsured driving. If a person is caught driving without insurance, he will be penalized. The fine for first-time offenders is $250. Drivers could also lose their license, and have their car registration suspended.

California has one of the highest accident rates in the country, surpassed only by Texas. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), thetotal fatalities due to road accidents in California were 2816 in 2011 and 2857 in 2012, of which alcohol impaired fatalities were 774 in 2011. Alcohol-impaired fatalities contributed to 27% of the total accidents in 2011 and 28% in 2012.

California has a law that prohibits a person from driving when they have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 percent or more in their system. If you are caught violating this law, the penalties you face are very stringent. First-time offenders pay a fine up to $1000, which could be raised for repeat offenders. You could also face jail time of 6 months for your first conviction, and 1 year for subsequent offences.

One of the major financial implications of drunk driving is the increase in auto insurance premiums. In the first year of DUI, the premium rates go up to $ 3383. This can go further up in some cases for the next seven years after conviction. However, you could reduce your premium to $2876 by taking a defensive driving course.

If you're involved in an accident that causes serious injuries or major property damage, your insurance premiums could increase between $2729 and $3698 after your next policy renewal.

In California, average insurance rates differ from zip code to zip code. Orange County is the least expensive zip code, while Los Angeles is the most expensive. This means that alcohol related offenses in Los Angeles will hike up your premium to $4086 the first time you are caught.

California keeps auto insurance costs down by putting in place exemplary insurance regulation

The Consumer Federation of America published a study in November 2013 that showed that the average annual expenditure on auto insurance across the country went up by 43.3 percent between 1989 and 2010. In the same 21-year span, auto insurance expenditure in the state of California went down by 0.3%. California is unique in this regard as no other state in the entire country has been able to keep insurance rates from rising, let alone reducing them.

As per the study, the primary reason for California’s success is strong regulation that has been put in place to keep insurance costs in check. For instance, California has put in place a Prior Approval system which compels insurers to file rate changes and have them approved by the state before they can be implemented in the marketplace.

One of the features of the insurance regulation in California is the control over the criteria that determines premium rate in each particular case. When a person applies for an auto insurance policy, insurers are compelled to give more weight to their previous driving record, miles driven and years of driving experience (in that order) over other factors such as ZIP code or traffic density. This ensures that good drivers are able to get low premium rates even if they live in an area where insurance premium averages are higher. This feature has empowered drivers who have a good driving record and have proved themselves as responsible drivers.

In 1989, it cost more, on average $747.97, to buy auto insurance in California than it was across the country where the average was $551.95. The tables had turned by 2010 when California’s average stood at $745.74 (roughly the same as 1989) and the nationwide average had risen to $791.22. It now costs less, on average, to buy auto insurance in California compared to the nationwide average. California went from being the 3rd most expensive state in which to buy auto insurance, to being the 21st most expensive. The auto insurance regulations in California serve as an example for the rest of the country.

Insuring your car after an accident in California

Accidents are one of the major factors that drive up auto insurance rates. While inflated insurance rates due to drunk driving are a preventable auto insurance expenditure, accidents are inevitable and cannot be foreseen. Minor accidents that were not caused by you also affect your insurance rates. Any accident in the past three years on your record is known to increase your insurance premium.

California is one of the most expensive states to buy auto insurance. With an annual average insurance rate of $1819, California is the 6th most expensive state, after Louisiana ($2699), Michigan ($2520), Georgia ($2155), ($2074), Oklahoma ($2074), and Montana ($1894). Auto insurance rates range from $1316 (average insurance rate in Orange County) to $2195 (average insurance rate in Los Angeles) in California.

The table below shows the impact of accidents on average insurance rates.

City/ State Zip code Average Annual Insurance Rate ($) Average Insurance Rate after one accident ($) Average Insurance Rate after two accidents ($)
Orange County 92866 1,316 1,621 2,418
San Diego 92101 1,330 1,638 2,444
Bakersfield 93301 1,337 1,647 2,456
San Jose 95112 1,471 1,812 2,703
San Francisco 94114 1,587 1,955 2,916
Stockton 95202 1,631 2,009 2,997
Sacramento 95814 1,662 2,047 3,054
Tampa 33647 1,691 2,083 3,107
California 93505 1,819 2,240 3,342
Glendale 91207 1,998 2,461 3,671
Los Angeles 90012 2,195 2,703 4,033

If you have been involved in an accident that caused major property damage or serious injuries, it is likely that your insurance rates will be increased to an amount between $3293 and $4390 in Los Angeles. In addition to these increases, most auto insurance companies follow the Insurance Services Office’s (ISO) surcharge policy. According to this policy, insurance rates are likely to increase to $2183 for a multi-car policy, and to $2547 for a single-car policy.

California Auto Insurance Rates

Below are the minimum, average and maximum insurance rate estimates for neighbourhoods in and around California, CA.

Lowest Rate:$1000
Average Rate:$1800
Highest Rate:$4000

Recent Savings From Top Providers in California

Rank Customer Zipcode Amount Saved
1 93505 $469
2 89439 $462
3 90001 $460
4 90002 $458

Compare Auto Insurance Companies in California

Company A.M Best Rating on
Financial Strength
Year Founded
Progressive A+ 1937
State Farm A++ 1922
Allstate A+ 1931
GEICO A++ 1936
Farmers A 1928
Nationwide A+ 1925
Liberty Mutual A 1912

California Auto Insurance Requirements

Minimum limits of liability for auto insurance in California as per CA State Laws

Bodily Injury Liability

  • $15,000 for death/injury of any one person, per accident.
  • $30,000 for all persons per accident.

Property Damage Liability

  • $5,000 per accident.

California Car Insurance Average Rates by Make

In addition to the location, one key factor that contributes to the insurance rates in California is the vehicle's make and model. Especially the vehicle's theft rates in California

MakeInsurance Average PremiumView Details
MakeInsurance Average PremiumView Details

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Learn from people in your town & neighborhood on what coverage they have & who they close & how they saved money

Latest Auto Insurance Reviews in California


$178 a month

My name is Sandy Carabio, and I am a 51-year-old female. I've been married almost 14 years and my husband and I have State Farm Car Insurance. We live in Whittier, CA 90605. State Farm has been our insurance provider for the last 15 years. Prior to this I had AAA, which was expensive. I'm saving at least $500 a year now. My agent's name is Paul Kagan and he is very professional yet friendly whenever we talk. We pay $178 a month to insure two cars, a Toyota Avalon and a Chevy Cruze. We have your basic coverage with a $500 deductible. We picked this because our cars are not new, so I didn't want to have a higher insurance premium. I mostly drive around town. In all the time we've been with State Farm, I've only been involved in two accidents, both of which were not my fault. The claims were settled quickly both times. Other than that, I have an excellent driving record. On a scale of 1-5, I'd give State Farm a 5, because they are the lowest car insurance and provide excellent service. I really cannot find anything to complain about with this insurance company.


$170 per month

Living in California, car insurance is higher than other states. I currently pay about $170 per month for my current car insurance. I am living in Pasadena, California in a decently nice neighborhood. My driving record is spotless. I have never been an in accident nor had any DUI’s. I am currently insuring the only car I own which is a Honda Accord. I have full coverage and chose it because it was recommended by all of my friends and they had a very friendly representative whom answered every question I had. I am currently 25 years old, living by myself and male. I drive every single day to work and to class which equates to about roughly 20 miles both ways. My provider has always been AAA and I will be with them forever. They have done me so good and I will probably never switch even though I do buy a higher premium. I rate them a 5 out of 5 because they have never failed me. I love their service and the services they provide to their customers for being loyal.


$100 for 1 Month

My current car insurance is perfect for me. I don't have the greatest driving record (I have a few points on my record) so it was a blessing to find something so cheap. Also, they took care of everything when I got in my first and only accident. They made me feel safe and still do. I chose this coverage level because it covers everything. I drive about 80 miles every day due to work so car insurance is very valuable. I switched form AAA - they were extremely expensive and were always raising costs, not even the discounts I found made a difference.


$100 for 1 Month

This is a really good car insurance company. First of all, they are very nice people. Every time I have a problem or I need to ask them a question, they always respond very nicely and they always help me out. That means a lot to me. Also, their rates are not too expensive. They do not have any hidden fees, which is a really good thing. I would say that this is one of the best car insurance companies out there. I have never had a problem with them, they are an awesome company. I would recommend them to anybody. I have a great driving record, and I drive a 2008 Nissan Sentra. I drive everyday. I have the comprehensive coverage, which covers any damages in an accident. It is a great plan.

Adriana's Insurance , james michael

Adriana's Insurance Services Inc. gave me a of $3700 for the car. it was Mazda 3 speed. my terms was monthly break down for 2 years. my current driving is as good as gold its clean without any DUI. i need a car especially with my line of work because i am a doctor at cedar's hospital i need to get there asap and cant do that commuting. the coverage of the insurance is very wide. they gave me a crash insurance, domestic attack on the car even calamity insurance for the car because this is my 3rd car from last year because of unforeseen events 1 of my car just broke down and the other one was stolen. then i just decided to ensure my 3rd car. this is my first time to get my car insured but they gave me the best possible car insurance i could get. i am a mother of 2 child. and my age is 35.