Since automobile insurance is a requirement and not a luxury, if you live in California, you’re probably interested in how to get cheap auto insurance in California. The good news is that the California Department of Insurance offers a guide to help consumers select the best premium and coverage.

Key things to keep in mind are that this guide is not a guarantee of a particular premium for coverage, but it is useful for comparison purposes. Also, don’t ask for the “best coverage,” advises the state site, since you may be offered more insurance than you need.

It is also important to know that California requires drivers to carry basic liability insurance, covering $15,000 bodily injury liability per person, $30,000 coverage per accident for injuries caused by others, and $5,000 in property damage (known as 15/30/5). But companies also offer coverage that exceeds basic liability, called standard coverage, which contain higher liability limits, comprehensive and collision coverage, uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage, medical payments and rental car reimbursement.

Using the guide to calculate standard coverage and entering hypothetical information for Los Angeles County, Santa Monica, male, 9 to 15 years licensed, 12,600-15,000 annual mileage, no violations or accidents in three years, BMW 328i, the results show sample premiums from 48 insurers. Some of the long-time auto insurance companies represented include AAA, Allstate, Amica Mutual, Farmers, GEICO, The Hartford, Mercury, Nationwide, Progressive, Esurance, and Travelers.

There are also clickable links for each auto insurer showing the company profile, as in this one for Allstate, well as a link to a page that shows various discounts available from each of the auto insurance companies.

Using the same hypothetical information as above but shopping for basic liability insurance shows quite different sample premiums in the results page. But bear in mind that a single automobile accident can well exceed basic liability coverage and, if you are determined to be at-fault, you may be on the hook for many more thousands of dollars in expenses, especially if other vehicles were severely damaged or totaled and/or if there were serious injuries or fatalities.

How can you best use this guide from the California Department of Insurance in figuring out how to get cheap auto insurance in California? First of all, keep in mind that these are examples of annual premiums. The factors you input form the basis of the results, which take into account some of the most common variables used to calculate automobile insurance.

What you’ll clearly see is that premiums will be less for some individuals than others, those driving 10,000 miles a year or less, with a clean driving record and driving a less-expensive model vehicle. You can, however, expect to lower your own premium by taking advantage of all available discounts.

Tips to getting Cheap Auto Insurance in California

Prepare to spend an adequate amount of time shopping and comparing rates for auto insurance in California. The time to look for rates isn’t the day before you’re going to buy a new or used vehicle, for example. It’s better to allocate a couple of weeks to get everything in order.

Use rate comparisons only as a guide, and ask for direct quotes from the manufacturer or through sites that provide multiple quotes from several highly rated (by A.M. Best Company) auto insurers.

Besides the annual premium, also check out the number of discounts each offers and how much this can save you.

See what kinds of services they offer that are attractive to you and definitely see how they stack up in terms of customer service, claims handling, and ease of use of their websites.

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