Cheapest Car Insurance In San Francisco, CA For April, 2024

We’ve done our homework (and yours) and have found that Wawanesa has the cheapest overall rates in San Francisco.

min read
Updated: 04 January 2024
Written by
Bob Phillips
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San Francisco is home to many famous landmarks: Fisherman’s Wharf, Alcatraz, and the Golden Gate Bridge, to name a few. Unfortunately, the Golden City is also home to some pretty expensive rates for car insurance, with drivers paying an average of $1,498 annually for full coverage, which is higher than California’s state average of $1,387 and the national average of $1,265.

Finding the best, cheapest car insurance in San Francisco is constantly on the mind of Bay Area drivers. We’ve done our homework (and yours) and have found that Wawanesa has the cheapest overall rates in San Francisco.

We’ll also give you details on the cheapest car insurance companies in some other essential categories: the cheapest for full coverage (Mercury), the cheapest for minimum coverage (GEICO), the cheapest if you have driving violations (CIG), the cheapest for young drivers (State Farm), and the cheapest for seniors (21st Century).

Cheapest and best car insurance companies in San Francisco, CA 2024

Cheapest Car Insurance, San Francisco 2024

Read on to learn the important facts about each of these companies so you can make an educated decision and find the right policy from one of these top car insurance companies in San Francisco.

Compare the cheapest car insurance companies in San Francisco, CA

Overall Rating Best For J.D. Power Rating (California) Average Annual Cost AM Best Rating Get A Quote
GEICO
4.9

Cheapest Minimum Coverage

824

$364

A++

Instant Quote
Wawanesa
4.9

Cheapest Overall

879

$1,066

A-

Instant Quote
Mercury
4.8

Cheapest Full Coverage

827

$1,344

A

Instant Quote
CIG
4.7

Cheapest for Driving Violations

Not Rated

$1,617

A

Instant Quote
21st Century
4.3

Seniors

Not rated

1,176

A

Instant Quote
State Farm
4.9

Young Drivers

817

$1,979

A++

Instant Quote
Scroll to see comparisons

Our Methodology

To find the cheapest car insurance rates in San Francisco, we analyzed findings from numerous car insurance review sites, some of which analyzed rates from public filings obtained by Quadrant Information Services. We’ve used an average of those rates for this review, but each company’s rates change frequently and will vary based on your situation. Also factored into the overall rating is my subjective opinion based on fifteen years of experience as a licensed insurance agent, sixteen years as a California resident, and over three decades of purchasing car insurance.

54

Quotes Analyzed

15+

Yeard Experience

16

Brands Reviewed

24+

Research Hours

Cheapest car insurance companies in San Francisco, California


Cheapest Overall

Overall Rating
4.9

Key Statistics

10/10 Affordability
10/10 Customer Reviews
8/10 Claims
8/10 Coverage level

Why We Like Them

When reviewing the cheapest car insurance in San Francisco, California, we found Wawanesa to be competitive in all categories, but their average rate, which includes minimum and full coverage, was the cheapest overall.

Available only in California, Wawanesa’s standard coverage includes state-required bodily injury and property damage liability but also offers some extras, like special vehicle equipment coverage, which insures aftermarket customizations and equipment added to the vehicle will be original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts, not standard or aftermarket parts.

Benefits & Drawbacks

Benefits
  • Consistently high customer satisfaction ratings from J.D. Powers
  • An extensive list of add-ons
  • Sold by a large number of independent agents in California
Drawbacks
  • Wawanesa only does business in California, which is inconvenient if you leave the state
  • Claims assistance and policy support are only available during regular business hours
  • The mobile app is available only for Android users

Cheapest For Full Coverage

Overall Rating
4.8

Key Statistics

10/10 Affordability
7/10 Customer Reviews
8/10 Claims
8/10 Coverage level

Why We Like Them

Mercury placed first when it came to having the cheapest full coverage in San Francisco. Mercury has a bountiful number of the standard discounts most car insurance companies offer, but it also has several that we found unique: Mercury RealDrive and MercuryGO.

Mercury RealDrive tracks the miles you’ve driven, and lower mileage drivers get rates up to 5% lower. This is a nice benefit for people who work from home or have short commutes.

MercuryGO can save drivers up to 40% (10% for teens) who exhibit safe driving behaviors, like smooth driving, avoiding speeding, and not using your phone while driving.

Benefits & Drawbacks

Benefits
  • Competitive rates for all age groups
  • Offers mechanical breakdown insurance
Drawbacks
  • Many poor online reviews of customer service
  • Sold by fewer agents than many competitors

Cheapest for Driving Violations

Overall Rating
4.7

Key Statistics

9/10 Affordability
8/10 Customer Reviews
8/10 Claims
9/10 Coverage level

Why We Like Them

Having driving violations in California will quickly drive up your rates, but we found Capital Insurance Group (CIG) to have the cheapest rates for drivers with violations in the Golden State.

CIG is a leading West Coast property and casualty insurer that only offers auto insurance in five states, including California. It sells its products through a network of independent agents representing multiple car insurance companies.

Curiously, CIGs mobile app, which appears robust, is only available on iTunes and Google Play, not Android, eliminating that service aspect for thousands of San Francisco drivers.

Benefits & Drawbacks

Benefits
  • 24/7 customer service availability
  • Over 120 years of experience
  • Over 120 years of experience Has an A+ BBB rating
Drawbacks
  • Only available in five states which is a drawback for California residents leaving the state
  • No online quotes are available

Cheapest for Minimum Coverage

Overall Rating
4.9

Key Statistics

10/10 Affordability
9/10 Customer Reviews
10/10 Claims
9/10 Coverage level

Why We Like Them

In San Francisco, we found that GEICO offers the cheapest state minimum coverage on average. California requires drivers to carry a minimum of $15,000 in bodily injury liability coverage per person and $30,000 per accident. You also need a minimum of $5,000 in property damage liability per accident.

These rates are appealing if you’re okay with having minimum coverage, but you may want additional coverage if you drive a lot, have a history of driving infractions, or want more protection.

GEICO consistently scores high in customer service, claims handling, customer recommendations, policy renewals, and customer loyalty. It is the second-largest auto insurance company in the U.S. and is known for offering low rates to consumers online and over the phone.

GEICO offers plenty of discounts and is the most affordable for San Francisco drivers with older vehicles looking to cut costs by carrying California’s minimum mandatory auto insurance coverage. You can manage your policy through the company’s website and mobile app, which are user-friendly.

Benefits & Drawbacks

Benefits
  • Above average J.D. Power score for customer satisfaction
  • Robust website and mobile app
  • Many discounts available
Drawbacks
  • Does not offer gap or rideshare insurance
  • Has a limited number of local agents

Cheapest for Seniors

Overall Rating
4.3

Key Statistics

9/10 Affordability
6/10 Customer Reviews
8/10 Claims
8/10 Coverage level:

Why We Like Them

Senior drivers typically pay some of the cheapest car insurance rates in San Francisco for any age group. We found 21st Century to have the lowest rates for seniors.

Backed by Farmers Insurance, 21st Century has an A (Excellent) rating for financial strength from AM Best. The company is not ranked by J.D. Powers for customer service by insurers in California, but many negative online reviews can be found online.

Though roadside assistance is a standard policy feature with 21st Century, there are limited coverage options and the company only sells car insurance in California, which is a drawback for customers leaving the state who will have to change carriers if they relocate.

Benefits & Drawbacks

Benefits
  • Backed by Farmers Insurance
  • Offers a mobile app
  • Strong financial rating
Drawbacks
  • High number of complaints online
  • Only available in California

Cheapest for Young Drivers

Overall Rating
4.9

Key Statistics

9/10 Affordability
9/10 Customer Reviews:
10/10 Claims
10/10 Coverage level

Why We Like Them

Because teen drivers are the most likely to be involved in an accident and are the least experienced drivers on the road, they pay the most for car insurance of any age group. State Farm has the cheapest rates for young drivers in San Francisco.

State Farm is not only the cheapest for young drivers, but their coverage is also comprehensive, with plenty of discounts available. One discount young drivers can use to lower their rates is the “Good Student” discount, where drivers who are students that maintain a “B” average or better get a discount of up to 25% off the standard rate.

State Farm also has many neighborhood offices that can provide sales and service, in addition to the numerous claims centers the company has located around the Bay Area. State Farm scores consistently among the best in annual customer service rankings by J.D. Powers and has an A++ rating for financial strength with AM Best, which is its highest rating.

Benefits & Drawbacks

Benefits
  • Many discounts are offered, including good student discount
  • Generous rental car coverage is standard
  • High customer satisfaction and financial strength ratings
Drawbacks
  • Only sold by State Farm agents, not brokers
  • Doesn’t offer gap insurance

Average cost of car insurance in San Francisco

Average cost in San Francisco– by age

Age Group Average Yearly Rate
Teenagers $7,512
20s $3,765
30s $2,808
40s $2,556
50s $2,484
60s $2,424
70s $2,440

Average cost in San Francisco – by gender

Gender Average Annual Rate
Male $2,398
Female $2,398

Average cost in San Francisco – by marital status

Marital Status Average Monthly Rate
Single $94
Married $94

Largest Rate Increases in San Francisco – by violation

Violation Average % Increase
DUI 158%
Refusing Chemical Test 158%
Leaving Accident Scene 152%
Racing 151%
Reckless Driving 148%

Average cost in San Francisco – by zip code

ZIP Code Average Rate
94122 $1,932
94110 $1,968
94109 $1,944
94121 $2,007
94112 $2,040

Minimum car insurance requirements in California

As you shop for car insurance, keep in mind the minimum coverage required in California:

  • Bodily injury liability: $15,000 per person / $30,000 per accident
  • Property damage liability: $5,000 per accident

This is California’s minimum coverage requirement. You may want higher limits and add collision and comprehensive insurance, depending on your vehicle and how much time you spend on the road.

How to buy car insurance in San Francisco

If you’re buying car insurance in San Francisco, follow these five steps:

  1. Gather your driver and vehicle information: have all drivers’ names and dates of birth, driver’s license numbers, vehicle’s VIN, current mileage, current insurance information, and the name of the registered owner.
  2. Decide if you’ll buy online or through an agent. Both methods will work; it’s a matter of personal preference and how confident you feel about knowing what type and how much coverage you need.
  3. Get quotes from at least three companies. Make sure you’re comparing similar coverage amounts and deductibles.
  4. Look for discounts. There are many discounts available that can help make car insurance in San Francisco more affordable for you.
  5. Cancel your old policy. Once you pick a carrier and your new coverage is in force, contact your old insurer and cancel your policy so you’re not paying for duplicate coverage.

Factors that impact the cost of your car insurance policy in San Francisco

The cost of living is high in San Francisco, including car insurance rates. The city is known for its steep hills and intense storms, which contribute to accidents and lifts rates higher. Of course, the type of vehicle your drive and your driving record will also impact your rates.

Here are three other reasons why auto insurance can be expensive in San Francisco:

  1. Population density: San Francisco is one of the largest cities in the U.S. and is densely populated. Like all metropolitan areas, traffic is congested, which leads to an increased probability of accidents. Some ZIP codes are more populated than others and will have higher rates.
  2. Crime statistics: certain areas of the city have higher crime rates, including theft and vandalism. Living and working in one of these areas will cause your rates to increase above the city’s average.
  3. Accident rates: if you travel around San Francisco during rush hour or listen to the traffic reports on the radio, you know how many accidents there are every day on the city’s streets and freeways. Insurers offset this high number of crashes by charging higher rates, particularly for drivers with long commutes across the Bay or Golden Gate bridges.

California car insurance laws to know

  • According to the California Department of Insurance, you must show financial responsibility for any vehicle you own in case of injury to other people or damage to their property. Most people show financial responsibility by buying auto liability insurance. California law states, “All drivers and all owners of a motor vehicle shall at all times be able to establish financial responsibility and shall at all times carry in the vehicle evidence of the form of financial responsibility in effect for the vehicle.”
  • If you do not have auto liability insurance, you can be fined, your license may be suspended, and your vehicle could be impounded.
  • The state of California prohibits insurance companies from using a person’s credit history or credit score to make decisions concerning insurability and rates. This helps keep the cost of insurance fair for people of all economic classes.

In the news

According to CBS News, major auto insurers are pulling back in the California marketplace because they are saying the state’s drivers are too expensive to insure.

Californians are driving about as much as they were before the pandemic, but apparently not as well. As a result, auto accidents are up, and some insurance companies say they are paying out more than they are taking in.

From 2020 to 2021, auto insurance losses spiked by 25% while premiums increased by only 4.5%, according to the American Property Casualty Insurance Association. The rate and severity of auto accidents and the costs to cover them are up.

Information about San Francisco

If you’ve seen “Visit California” commercials and toured its website, you’ll know it’s crazy about San Francisco. It says, “It may measure less than 50 square miles and have a population that doesn’t even crack a million, but San Francisco justly ranks as one of the greatest cities in the world. Famous for grand-dame Victorians, cable cars, a dynamic waterfront, and a soaring golden bridge, this city truly has it all.

With trend-defining cuisine ranging from Michelin-starred dining to outrageous food trucks; world-renowned symphony, ballet, theater, and opera; plus almost boundless outdoor adventures, San Francisco justifiably stands out as one of the ultimate must-visit cities on any traveler’s wish list.”

Car insurance discounts in San Francisco

Shopping for discounts is vital if you want to cut costs on car insurance in San Francisco. These are the most common discounts you’ll find:

  • Being a “safe driver” with a good driving history
  • Installing vehicle safety features
  • Customer loyalty discount for staying with the insurer for a specified period
  • Being claims-free for a specified period
  • Driving fewer than average miles
  • Having a short commute to work
  • Being a student with at least a “B” average
  • Being in the military
  • Being age 55+ and retired

FAQs

What is the cheapest car insurance in the State of California?

GEICO has the cheapest car insurance in California at $364 per year for minimum liability coverage.

How much does car insurance cost in San Francisco on average?

The average cost of car insurance in San Francisco is $1,498 annually for full coverage.

Do I need car insurance in San Francisco?

Auto liability insurance is required by law in California, so San Francisco drivers must carry it.

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