Car Insurance Requirements in California

Every state requires minimum levels of coverage for vehicle insurance, and California is no exception. Here is what you can expect when looking for minimal car insurance requirements in California.

One of the most important requirements for those driving motor vehicles in California is the ability to prove that you are carrying financial responsibility, otherwise known as vehicle insurance, when driving within the state.

Proof of insurance is required under specified circumstances, which include requests by law enforcement officials, renewal of vehicle registration or when you are involved in a car accident. Under California law, insurance companies are legally responsible for passing along insurance information to the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles so that law enforcement officials can have easy access to these records.

Minimum Liability Requirements

Drivers are required to carry the following minimum coverage for liability:

  • $15,000 for injury or death per person
  • $30,000 for injury or death per accident
  • $5,000 for damage to property
  • $3,500 for uninsured motorist property damage

These figures only cover payments to other motorists or individuals who may incur damage or injury as the result of a vehicle accident. Failing to maintain minimum coverage requirements can result in stiff penalties, which include a traffic citation, a fine of at least $1,000, and the impounding of your vehicle. Minimum liability does not include all requirements under California’s financial responsibility laws.

Financial Responsibility Requirements

California also requires motorists to provide evidence of financial responsibility when operating a motor vehicle in the state. These include the following:

  • Vehicle liability insurance policy
  • Cash deposit of $35,000 with DMV
  • DMV-issued self-insurance certificate
  • $35,000 surety bond

Not all financial responsibility requirements pertain to every driver. Check with the DMV or your insurance company to determine which you need to meet.

In some instances, the DMV may require additional proof of financial responsibility. Other applicable documents include insurance company documents, a DMV authorization letter for self-insured individuals and cash depositors, a California Proof of Insurance Certificate, an owner’s policy, or evidence that the vehicle in question is owned or leased by a public entity.

Requirements for Canceling Insurance

California is somewhat unique in that the state requires motorists to notify the DMV before canceling a vehicle insurance policy. You can submit an Affidavit of Non-Use if you are not operating a vehicle that is currently registered. After filing this affidavit, the insurance may be canceled. However, if you still own the vehicle when registration renewal fees are due, you must still pay them.