Navigating High Risk Auto Insurance in California

Drivers with poor driving records, serious violations, or multiple accidents often get classified as “high risk” by auto insurance companies. This makes finding affordable car insurance difficult.

Luckily, California offers some options for high risk drivers to obtain liability coverage through the state’s CAARP program. This article provides an overview of high risk auto insurance in California, eligibility for CAARP, how the program works, assigned risk plans, and tips for getting required coverage.

What Makes a Driver High Risk in California?

Insurers label drivers as high risk if they determine you are statistically more likely to file claims than a standard policyholder. Common reasons for being considered high risk include:

  • Numerous speeding tickets, accidents, or other moving violations

  • DUI, reckless driving, or license suspension on your record

  • Lack of continuous auto insurance coverage

  • Poor credit history or financial problems

  • Being a young, inexperienced driver

  • High-performance sports cars or modified vehicles

Standard insurers often deny coverage or quote sky-high premiums to these drivers. But state law requires maintaining minimum liability insurance, so alternate plans exist.

California Automobile Assigned Risk Plan (CAARP)

CAARP provides vehicle liability insurance to California motorists unable to obtain coverage through standard insurers due to their driving record. Here’s an overview of how it works:

  • CAARP is California’s assigned risk plan designed for high risk drivers. All companies selling auto insurance in CA must participate.

  • To qualify, you must have been rejected by at least one standard insurer in the past 60 days.

  • The plan assigns you to a random participating insurance company, who must provide a policy.

  • CAARP only offers basic liability coverage to meet state minimums. No comprehensive or collision policies.

  • Premiums are set at one fixed rate for all CAARP insurers. You can pay monthly installments.

  • After 3 years of clean driving, you may become eligible for a standard policy again.

Applying for CAARP High Risk Insurance

To get a CAARP policy, you first have to apply and demonstrate being denied coverage elsewhere:

  • Contact a local independent insurance broker who can walk you through the process.

  • Get quotes from standard insurers and save written proof of being denied.

  • Submit a CAARP application, signed rejections, and $250 application fee.

  • If approved, you’ll be assigned to an insurer who will contact you within 2 weeks about your new policy.

  • The entire process takes 4-6 weeks. Maintain coverage in the interim.

  • CAARP also offers an online lookup tool to check application status.

What Does CAARP High Risk Insurance Cost?

CAARP rates are set by the Insurance Commissioner and all companies charge the same. Average costs range from $150 to over $350 per month based on factors like:

  • Your age, driving record, and years licensed

  • Where you live (Los Angeles rates higher than Fresno)

  • Type of vehicle (sports cars cost more)

  • Selected liability coverage limits

  • Number of miles driven annually

The exact CAARP premium you’ll pay depends on your specific risk profile. Prices are set to be profitable for insurers, but not overly punitive.

Alternative Options for High Risk Drivers

Beyond CAARP, California’s high risk drivers can also explore:

  • Non-standard insurers – Companies like The General specialize in high risk policies, but avoid carriers with excessive complaints.

  • Low mileage insurance – Declare and verify driving 5,000 miles or less per year for potentially lower premiums.

  • Named driver exclusion – Exclude youthful drivers from your policy to reduce risk.

  • Modified car insurance – Specialty insurers cover modified vehicles other companies deny.

Work with an independent insurance broker to fully discuss your options. And take steps to improve your driving record over time.

Tips for Finding Affordable High Risk Insurance

Here are tips to get the lowest premium possible if you fall into California’s high risk category:

  • Compare quotes – Rates for non-standard policies vary significantly, so shop around.

  • Ask about discounts – Taking defensive driving courses or bundling home insurance may help lower costs.

  • Enroll in usage-based programs if offered – Drive safely and use your car sparingly to potentially qualify for rate reductions over time.

  • Drive an older, less valuable vehicle – Dropping collision and comprehensive coverage on an old car saves money.

  • Raise your deductible – Opting for a higher deductible lessens the monthly premium.

  • Improve your credit – Having poor credit raises rates. Pay bills on time and lower debts to boost your score.

  • Become a named driver – Being added as a driver on someone else’s policy is cheaper for high risk drivers.

  • Maintain a clean record – Keep driving safely. Over time, risk levels drop if you avoid new violations.

CAARP Provides Essential Coverage for High Risk Drivers

Being classified as high risk significantly raises your car insurance costs. But obtaining the state-mandated minimum liability coverage remains essential — both for legal compliance and financial protection.

CAARP offers a safety net for California’s highest risk drivers to get insured. And over time, reforming poor driving habits can help graduates back to standard insurance policies. Always drive safely and maintain required state insurance minimums.

Best Car Insurance for High Risk Drivers (2023)


What is the best car insurance for bad drivers?

State Farm is the best national insurance company for drivers with an accident or speeding ticket. Progressive has the most affordable rates for drivers after a DUI. Bad drivers may find even cheaper rates with Erie or USAA, but these companies aren’t available to everyone.

What is a high risk driver in California?

Bankrate defines a high-risk driver as one with at least one speeding ticket conviction, at-fault accident, or DUI conviction on their driving record. Most car insurance companies in California also consider drivers with a DUI conviction or with more than one accident or moving violation to be high-risk.

What is the number 1 car insurance in California?

Best Car Insurance in California
Our Score
1. Geico
2. Progressive
4. State Farm

Does California have strict requirements for auto insurance coverage?

Per state law, all drivers must carry at least the minimum coverage amount for liability insurance to financially protect themselves and other drivers on the road, which includes the following limits: $15,000 in bodily injury liability coverage per person. $30,000 in bodily injury liability coverage per accident.

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