You have surely seen all the catchy commercials from car insurance companies like Progressive and Farmers that promise the cheapest rates, so you just need to pick one at random, right?

It's not quite that easy, unfortunately, as there are a whole bunch of unknown factors like the number of miles you drive each year, whether you are a man or a woman, if you just need liability coverage, and your credit rating. The information below will cover the best ways to avoid high prices and will hopefully give you a good start to your coverage search.

Deciphering which companies have the most affordable insurance rates for drivers with bad credit in California will take a little more effort than just quoting one company's rates. Each auto insurer has a different formula for filing rates in each state, so let's rank the most budget-friendly insurance companies in California.

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What's the cheapest car insurance in California?
Rank Company Cost Per Year
1 USAA $1,109
2 CSAA $1,186
3 Wawanesa $1,192
4 Nationwide $1,213
5 Century National $1,226
6 21st Century $1,366
7 Grange $1,447
8 Progressive $1,496
9 Mercury $1,533
10 GEICO $1,559
11 Allstate $1,559
12 The Hartford $1,575
13 Allied $1,588
14 MetLife $1,638
15 State Farm $1,682
16 Esurance $1,705
17 Unitrin $1,733
18 Bristol West $1,795
19 Travelers $1,806
20 Farmers $1,966
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USAA generally has some of the lowest car insurance rates in California at around $1,109 annually. CSAA, Wawanesa, Nationwide, and Century National also make the cut as some of the cheaper California insurance companies.

As the rates illustrate above, if you are insured with Nationwide and switched to USAA, you might achieve a yearly savings of about $104. California drivers with Century National may save as much as $117 a year, and 21st Century insureds might reduce rates by $257 a year.

Bear in mind that those policy rates are averages for all insureds and vehicles and and are not figured with a price increase for drivers with bad credit. So the car insurance company that fits your age and vehicle best may not even be in the list above. That is why you need to get rate quotes from many companies using your own individual information.

The vehicle model on the policy is probably the biggest factor when quoting the lowest-priced auto insurance for drivers with bad credit. Vehicles with high performance engines, poor passenger safety features, or an increased likelihood of liability claims will cost substantially more to insure than more modest models. The data below presents coverage prices for a number of the most affordable vehicles to insure.

Cheapest Vehicles to Insure for Drivers with Bad Credit in California
Insured Vehicle Estimated Cost for Full Coverage
Honda CR-V EX 4WD $1,597
Ford Escape XLT 4WD $1,603
Chevrolet Equinox LT AWD $1,631
Volkswagen Jetta S 2.5 Station Wagon $1,637
Toyota Prius $1,674
Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara 2WD 4-Dr $1,676
Ford Explorer XLT 2WD $1,684
Dodge Grand Caravan CV $1,690
Nissan Rogue S AWD $1,745
Ford Edge SE AWD $1,748
GMC Sierra SLE Crew Cab 4WD $1,750
Ford Fusion Sport 4-Dr Sedan $1,757
Chevrolet Impala LT $1,782
Ford F-350 Super Cab Cabela Package 2WD $1,792
Chevrolet Malibu LT $1,819
Toyota RAV4 Limited 4WD $1,835
Hyundai Sonata Limited 4-Dr Sedan $1,864
Nissan Altima 2.5 S 2-Dr Coupe $1,870
Chevrolet Silverado Crew Cab Hybrid 4WD $1,869
Ford F-150 FX2 2WD $1,877
Toyota Tacoma Double Cab TRD Off-Road Package 4WD $1,886
Toyota Corolla S $1,880
Hyundai Elantra SE 4-Dr Sedan $1,886
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Data variables include single male driver age 50, no speeding tickets, no at-fault accidents, $1,000 deductibles, and California minimum liability limits. Discounts applied include multi-vehicle, safe-driver, claim-free, multi-policy, and homeowner. Premium costs do not factor in vehicle location which can alter price quotes considerably.

Looking at the data, vehicles like the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, Chevrolet Equinox, and Volkswagen Jetta should be some of the cheaper vehicles to insure for people with poor credit. The cost of auto insurance will tend to be more expensive because of the fact that there is more inherent risk for drivers with bad credit, but in general those particular vehicles will most likely have the best insurance prices that you are likely to find.

For people with poor credit, one of the big considerations that are looked at to determine auto insurance rates is your address in California. Cities with larger populations like Los Angeles, Oakland, and Sacramento likely pay more, whereas areas with lower vehicle theft rates and fewer weather claims profit from lower rates.

The information below shows the priciest cities in California for drivers with bad credit to buy car insurance in.

Where does California rank for car insurance cost?
Rank City Premium Per Year
1 Los Angeles $2,168
2 Glendale $2,121
3 Oakland $1,755
4 San Francisco $1,711
5 Sacramento $1,703
6 San Bernardino $1,580
7 Santa Clarita $1,580
8 Long Beach $1,578
9 Fontana $1,566
10 Garden Grove $1,554
11 Stockton $1,541
12 Moreno Valley $1,506
13 Fresno $1,502
14 Modesto $1,502
15 Santa Ana $1,497
16 Riverside $1,482
17 Anaheim $1,474
18 Fremont $1,403
19 Huntington Beach $1,402
20 San Jose $1,395
21 Bakersfield $1,394
22 Irvine $1,384
23 San Diego $1,381
24 Chula Vista $1,350
25 Oxnard $1,344
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Premium amounts are approximated as specific California garaging address can influence price quotes noticeably.

Get discount California auto insurance

Insurance providers that provide coverage for drivers with bad credit may provide price discounts that may potentially lower prices by as much as 35% or more if you qualify for them. Popular insurance companies and a selection of discounts are shown below.

The diagram below illustrates the comparison of annual premium costs with and without discounts applied to the premium. The data assumes a male driver, no claims, a clean driving record, California state minimum liability limits, comp and collision included, and $500 deductibles.

The first bar for each age group shows insurance cost with no discounts. The second shows the rates with homeowner, anti-theft, claim-free, multiple vehicle, marriage, and accident-free discounts applied. When discounts are factored in, the average amount saved each year on insurance for drivers with bad credit is 28% or $630.

Insuring your vehicle with the top car insurance company is difficult considering how many choices drivers have in California. The ranking data listed below could help you pick which auto insurers to look at comparing prices from. The rankings below are for companies with a nationwide focus, so smaller companies are not taken into consideration for the list.

Top 10 Major Auto Insurance Companies in California Ranked by Customer Satisfaction

  1. Titan Insurance - 95%
  2. USAA - 94%
  3. AAA of Southern California - 92%
  4. AAA Insurance - 91%
  5. Nationwide - 90%
  6. State Farm - 90%
  7. The Hartford - 89%
  8. GEICO - 89%
  9. The General - 88%
  10. 21st Century - 88%

Top 10 Major Auto Insurance Companies Overall in California

  1. USAA
  2. American Family
  3. AAA of Southern California
  4. State Farm
  5. The Hartford
  6. AAA Insurance
  7. GEICO
  8. The General
  9. Titan Insurance
  10. Progressive

Rate comparison of full coverage and liability-only

Paying a lower price for insurance is the goal of the majority of people, and one easy way to lower the cost of insurance for drivers with bad credit in California is to not buy full coverage. The illustration below illustrates the difference between premium costs when comparing full coverage to liability only. The data assumes no claims or violations, $1,000 deductibles, single status, and no discounts are applied to the premium.

If the expense is averaged for all age categories, full coverage on your policy costs $2,467 per year more than carrying just liability coverage. That amount may make you wonder when is it safe to stop buying full coverage. There is no clear-cut formula for phasing out physical damage coverage on your policy, but there is a general guideline. If the annual cost of having full coverage is about 10% or more of any settlement you would receive from your insurance company, then you might want to think about dropping full coverage.

For example, let's pretend your vehicle's settlement value is $9,000 and you have $1,000 deductibles. If your vehicle is totaled, the most your company will settle for is $8,000 after the deductible is paid. If premiums are more than $800 a year to have full coverage, then it might be time to consider dropping full coverage.