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California drivers don’t get very much bang for their buck. Four of the five largest cities in California have car insurance rates higher than the national average, especially Los Angeles and San Francisco. And despite these expensive rates, California rated as the worst state for driving in the entire country on a 2019 report. With horrendous traffic, crumbling roads, and the nation’s highest gas prices, driving in California is certainly no picnic. Fortunately, we can help you take some pressure off of finding the best cheap car insurance in San Diego.

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Finding Cheap Car Insurance in San Diego

However, San Diego residents have it a bit better than the rest of the state. The average auto insurance policy in San Diego clocks in at just below $1700 annually, which is slightly above the national average but far below the rates seen in Los Angeles or San Francisco. Still, $1700 per year is a lot for car insurance.

San Diego residents can lower these costs by shopping around for the best deal. Even if you’re content with your current insurance provider, shopping around every few years helps you maximize discounts and keep your premium as low as possible. Here are a few important things to know for San Diego drivers.

California State Minimums and Insurance Laws

Despite its reputation, California state insurance minimums are fairly low compared to other states in the US. In California, state law requires insurance coverage of 15/30/5, which in normal human language means:

  • $15,000 per person in bodily injury liability
  • $30,000 per accident in bodily injury liability
  • $5,000 in property damage liability

What do these figures mean? If you’re found to be at fault in an accident, your insurance company will cover $15,000 in medical expenses for each person hurt, up to $30,000. Your insurer will also pay $5,000 for repairs to the other car or any property you may have damaged.

Does this seem like a lot? Well, it isn’t. In a serious accident, $30,000 in medical costs and $5,000 in property damage will likely dry up quickly. Any further medical costs or damages will fall on you personally.

At-Fault State

California is an “at fault” state, which means blame is assigned in every accident. California’s system is known as “pure comparative fault”. Using pure comparative fault means blame can be split evenly amongst drivers, assigned to only one driver, and everything in between.

For example, if you’re found to be 30% responsible for an accident, you can claim 70% of the benefits from the other driver’s insurance. However, they can claim 30% from your provider as well. Some states have a modified comparative fault system that prevents drivers from going after benefits in accidents they are more than 50% at fault for, but California residents should be aware of their obligations in a pure comparative fault system.

Factors Affecting Your Car Insurance Rates

California law has banned gender and credit score from being used to price auto insurance premiums, but some common factors remain. Here’s what affects your car insurance prices most in California:

Driving History – Age is going to play a large part in your driving history simply because older drivers are more experienced.

Driving Record – How well you drive plays an even bigger role than how long you’ve been driving. Motorists with clean records pay the least for car insurance. If you have speeding tickets or other legal infractions like DWI, your rates will be much higher.

Miles Driven Annually – The more miles you drive, the higher your chances of being involved in an accident. Drivers with long commutes pay more for insurance than those who work around the block or drive infrequently.

Each insurance company weighs these factors differently, so it’s not unusual to see wildly different prices for the same coverage. Shopping around is the only way to guarantee the best possible rate.

Most and Least Expensive San Diego Zip Codes for Car Insurance

Car insurance companies don’t just want to know what city you live in, they want information right down to your zip code. Insurance companies price premiums based on crime and claims rates in each specific zip code. Here are the five most and least expensive zip codes in San Diego for auto insurance.

Most Expensive

  • 92136 (Barrio Logan)
  • 92145 (Miramar)
  • 92135 (North Island)
  • 92105 (Oak Park)
  • 92113 (Logan Heights)

Least Expensive

  • 92131 (Scripps Ranch)
  • 92120 (Allied Gardens)
  • 92129 (Rancho Penasquitos)
  • 92122 (University City)
  • 92124 (Tierrasanta)

Best San Diego Car Insurance Providers

Most Affordable: GEICO – Geico will almost always have the cheapest available policy because they don’t have agents (and therefore don’t have to pay them commission). Whether you’re looking for state minimum or a full coverage policy, Geico usually comes out on top in the affordability department, especially if you have a couple of tickets on your record.

Best Overall: Esurance – Outside of USAA, Esurance is the only California-based insurance provider to get all five-star ratings on JD Power’s 2019 US Auto Insurance Study. Esurance offers tools to customers like DriveSense, which keeps tabs on your driving habits and can lower monthly expenses significantly.

Best Customer Experience: USAA – USAA is only available to members of the armed services and their families, but the perks they provide are second-to-none. With outstanding marks for customer service, a host of discounts, and affordable prices, USAA should always be a company to consider if you have a military affiliation.


Shopping for car insurance is a time-consuming process. Every driver has different needs. The best policy for a single 35-year old might not fly for a 50-year old with multiple children. We always recommend protecting yourself with as much coverage as possible. State minimums often come up short in the aftermath of an accident. Drivers wind up paying more out-of-pocket than they can manage.

Always consider a full coverage policy with a liability of 100/300/100. If you can’t afford a full coverage policy, buy the maximum amount of coverage you can swing. Paying a little more now could save you tens of thousands in the event of an accident. Car insurance guides and resources can help you pare down your options.

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Johnny Jet Editorial