So, what does the best car insurance look like? The best car insurance companies balance their rates with the amount of coverage they offer, so their customers don’t pay more than they have to and are covered when they need to make a claim. The best car insurance companies work with you to figure out how much car insurance you need and explain your policy to you. When you need to file a claim, the best auto insurance companies walk you through the process, keep you informed, and work with you to resolve any issues you have. The best auto insurers will help you understand how car insurance works and make you feel like you’ve gotten the best value for your money when you insure your vehicle. The best car insurance companies will also offer you auto insurance discounts for things like having multiple policies or a good driving record. Finally, the best car insurance companies have great customer service, keep their customers updated on the status of their claims, and make sure the customer is satisfied with the way the claim is resolved.
The best car insurance companies have a few things in common: They have straightforward shopping experiences, take good care of policyholders after a crash and treat their customers with respect and courtesy. That means only insurers with high customer satisfaction scores and relatively few complaints to insurance commissioners make it to the top of our list of the best auto insurance companies.
Each of following insurers who transact business in California are domiciled in California and have their principal place of business in Los Angeles, CA: Farmers Insurance Exchange (#R 201), Fire Insurance Exchange (#1267-4), Truck Insurance Exchange (#1199-9), Mid-Century Insurance Company (#1428-2), Civic Property and Casualty Company (#4241-6), Exact Property and Casualty Company (#4240-8), Neighborhood Spirit Property and Casualty Company (#4242-4).
You’ll notice that none of that liability coverage pays for your car or injuries, nor for any injuries your passengers sustain if you cause a wreck. This is why many people — particularly those whose car isn’t yet paid off — want “full coverage” car insurance. This isn’t actually a type of coverage, but instead typically refers to policies that include liability coverage, plus comprehensive and collision coverages.
Let's use the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy as an example to illustrate the differences between collision and comprehensive. Within that storm, let's consider two events that might have happened: 1) a heavy tree branch fell on your car, or 2) you swerved to avoid a falling tree branch and wound up crashing into a tree. In the first event, you had no control over when or why a tree branch would fall on your car. This kind of accident would get reimbursed under your comprehensive policy. In the second situation, you were driving the car and ultimately swerved into the tree, which makes it a collision, and collision insurance therefore pays for the damages. Events like the hypothetical ones stated above are why it's important to differentiate between the two types of coverage.
Any car insurance comparison tool you look at should have your state’s minimum car insurance requirements pre-loaded into its options. States requiring PIP or medpay are generally referred to as “no-fault” states, meaning that when injuries occur, each driver in a crash makes a claim with their own insurance company to pay for them. Beyond the PIP or medpay limit, the at-fault driver’s liability insurance kicks in to cover the rest.
You can also save on car insurance by choosing the lowest amount of coverage you can get while still making sure that you’re meeting your state’s legal requirements for insurance and giving yourself the coverage you need if you’re in an accident. For example, let’s say you choose to get the legal minimum for liability coverage, which we’ll say is $30,000 for this example. If you are at fault for an accident that hurts someone, resulting in $100,000 in medical costs for them, you will be on the hook for the $70,000 difference between your insurance coverage and the harm you caused. You can be sued and lose assets, like your home or retirement savings, if this happens – so make sure you have enough insurance to keep your assets in the event of an accident where you are at fault.

How much car insurance costs depends on the amount of risk you pose to your auto insurance company. Remember, if you have an incident and make a claim on your insurance policy, your insurance company must pay – even if you’ve only paid them $1,000 in premiums and you make a claim that costs $100,000. If it’s more likely that you’ll need to make a number of claims on your car insurance, you’ll get charged more. It’s just the insurance company making sure they don’t lose money on your policy.
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Next, take a good hard look at your driving record and credit report, and clean both up if they’re not in good shape. Moving violations, citations for driving under the influence, accidents, and a low credit score all tell car insurance companies you’re at higher risk of being in an accident, making a claim, and costing them money. Some car insurance companies will give you a discount if you can prove you’re a safe driver by installing a tracking device in your car, which can lead to lower rates over time (however, if the tracker shows you routinely drive in an unsafe manner, your rates might go up). A few years without a citation or an accident, as well as a steadily improving credit score, can help you save on car insurance.

You can also save on car insurance by choosing the lowest amount of coverage you can get while still making sure that you’re meeting your state’s legal requirements for insurance and giving yourself the coverage you need if you’re in an accident. For example, let’s say you choose to get the legal minimum for liability coverage, which we’ll say is $30,000 for this example. If you are at fault for an accident that hurts someone, resulting in $100,000 in medical costs for them, you will be on the hook for the $70,000 difference between your insurance coverage and the harm you caused. You can be sued and lose assets, like your home or retirement savings, if this happens – so make sure you have enough insurance to keep your assets in the event of an accident where you are at fault.
Regardless of the type of car you drive or where you drive it, by owning and operating a vehicle and driving it on public roads, your car is vulnerable to all types of losses and damages, both to yourself and to others on the road and their property. Though you’re probably most concerned with accidents, your vehicle can also be damaged by acts of weather such as falling tree limbs or monster-sized hail, vandalism or even invaded by creepy crawlers, especially if you park outside or on the street.

Disclaimer: NerdWallet strives to keep its information accurate and up to date. This information may be different than what you see when you visit a financial institution, service provider or specific product’s site. All financial products, shopping products and services are presented without warranty. When evaluating offers, please review the financial institution’s Terms and Conditions. Pre-qualified offers are not binding. If you find discrepancies with your credit score or information from your credit report, please contact TransUnion® directly.
How much car insurance you need depends on how much coverage you are legally obligated to get, as well as how much coverage you need for your situation. Each state has certain legal requirements for car insurance, and not meeting them can result in negative consequences. Check out our car insurance state guides to see the legal car insurance minimums in your state.
We surveyed 2,799 consumers who filed a car insurance claim in the last five years, asking questions about their car insurance company. These questions covered satisfaction with the ease of filing a claim, customer service, claim status communication, claim resolution, and overall value. We also asked whether they’d recommend the company and if they planned to renew their policy. We used their responses to build our Best Car Insurance Companies ranking.
Travelers: Travelers is the second-best car insurance company. Travelers' customers report that they appreciate the customer service Travelers provides, and the company gets high marks for how it resolves its customers’ claims. Travelers' lost a few points from customers who didn’t feel like they got good value from the company, and Travelers' average annual rates are a bit higher than average among all companies on this list.
USAA: USAA is the best car insurance company we found. Customers report that they love USAA for its customer service, ease of filing a claim, and frequent updates on claim status. USAA customers also report that USAA is a good value, and USAA’s average annual rates are some of the lowest in the business. The only downside we could find to USAA is that its insurance products are only available to veterans, members of the military, and their immediate families, so not everyone will be able to work with the top-ranked insurance company.
Liability auto insurance protects you from that worst case scenario by providing a cushion between your assets and the amount you’re on the hook for. For this reason, choosing the right auto liability limits is the most important part of your car insurance quote comparison. NerdWallet typically recommends having at least as much liability coverage as your net worth.
For some, the best coverage is the cheapest car insurance policy that makes them able to legally drive on the road. For others, the best coverage is the type that covers the full cost of repairs on your vehicle when you file a claim. The only way to be certain you are fully protected is to purchase both comprehensive coverage and collision coverage. Each coverage has its own job to do.
1The RightTrack® discount applies only to the base coverages on the participating vehicle, which may include Bodily Injury, Property Damage, Comprehensive, Collision, Personal Injury Protection (PIP) or Medical Payments, Uninsured Motorist, and Underinsured Motorist (subject to state availability). Initial discount may vary by state and is replaced with a final discount upon completion of a review period. Not available in all states. Coverage provided and underwritten by Liberty Mutual Insurance and its affiliates, 175 Berkeley Street, Boston, MA 02116. ©2017 Liberty Mutual Insurance.
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