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While San Francisco residents enjoy spectacular ocean views and one of the highest average incomes in major US cities, it is unfortunately also one of the most costly cities to call home. So it might not come as a surprise that car insurance rates here soar well above both the state and national averages. The good news is that with a little research, you may be able to trim down your monthly car insurance premium. Compare the average car insurance costs in San Francisco and get tips for driving in this city.

Why is car insurance so expensive in San Francisco?

There are a few things that factor into why auto insurance rates in San Francisco are so high.

Large population.

San Francisco County is the fifth most densely populated county in the US.

High crime rate

Property crime is 113% higher in San Francisco than the California average.

Weather conditions

The Bay Area is known for its dense fog, which can up the rate of car accidents throughout the city.

Although you’re going to pay more for car insurance in San Francisco than you probably would in a small town in the Midwest, it’s still worth your while to compare providers. To help you in your search, we’ve done some of the legwork for you.

Cheapest car insurance in San Francisco

CompanyAverage annual rateRead review
USAA$1,547Read review
Geico$1,592Read review
Progressive$2,009Read review
Metropolitan$2,097Read review
State Farm$2,236Read review
Mercury$2,352Read review
  • Best car insurance in San Francisco

    Our car insurance experts chose top insurers that balance well-rounded coverage options, steep discounts to help drivers save and each company’s reputation in San Francisco. See which companies made our list of best car insurance companies for San Francisco drivers.

    Progressive is best for the discount hunter


    Finder rating 4 / 5 ★★★★★

    Progressive has a long list of potential discounts, including a 31% discount for safe drivers with no claims or tickets for three years. Many other insurers, such as Geico, require that you have a clean driving record for five years before qualifying for the safe driver discount.

    Some other discounts Progressive offers include good student, homeowner, defensive driving, bundling, military and more. You'll also have options for roadside assistance, accident forgiveness and SR-22 support. Plus, Progressive has 80 years of experience in the industry, along with its lavish discount menu, online tools and its Snapshot telematics program that can save you money for safe driving.

    While Progressive serves all 50 states and DC, its customer service ratings are average. The company scores a 1.4 star rating on Trustpilot, which is quite low but not uncommon within the insurance industry. However, Progressive has an A+ rating with the BBB, so it's a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to ratings.

    Metromile is best for low-mileage drivers


    Finder rating 4 / 5 ★★★★★

    Metromile is a startup that aims to help low-mileage drivers save on car insurance using a pay-by-mile system. The less you drive a year, the more discounts you earn. With Metromile, you only pay for the miles you actually drive.

    If you're a senior or retired driver and drive less than you used to, then Metromile could be for you as well. Metromiles rates for California drivers with clean driving records start as low as $151.80 per month, depending on age.

    Metromile doesn't offer an exhaustive list of discounts like Progressive or Geico, but on average, drivers save $741 a year due to the pay-by-mile system. If you drive less than 8,000 to 12,000 miles a year, this may be a good money-saving option to check out.

    Metromile only serves a handful of states to date, but California is one of them. They have an A+ rating with the BBB, which means high ratings for customer interactions, and a 3.8 star rating on Trustpilot, higher customer review ratings than any others on our list.

    Geico is best for drivers on a budget


    Finder rating 4 / 5 ★★★★★

    Geico is known for its low rates, various discounts for many walks of life and seamless online tools for filing claims and getting quotes. If you're a single 35-year-old man with a sedan, you may qualify for a $40 monthly premium — rates for Geico are historically cheap if you are a low-risk driver and need minimal coverage. However, if you need gap coverage, you'll need to get it elsewhere.

    If you're the type of person who prefers online spaces, you can get quotes, sign up for coverage, get ID cards and even file a claim all online with Geico. The Geico app has 4.8 stars on Google Play and the same rating on the Apple App Store.

    Geico serves all 50 states, but If you prefer calling an agent or having face-to-face interactions, know that Geico has average customer service ratings. Geico has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau (BBB), which means the business touts good interactions with customers. However, it only earns a 1.6 star rating on Trustpilot, which is quite low — though not uncommon — within the insurance industry.

    How we chose these insurers

    To find the best insurers in San Francisco, we chose companies based on individual needs, typical rates, discounts offered, online access and ease, claims process, telematic options, Better Business Bureau (BBB) ratings and customer ratings on Trustpilot.

    A good BBB rating indicates the company interacts well with its customers, does its due diligence to resolve complaints and has transparent claims practices. Trustpilot is a business review platform where customers of the business submit reviews and ratings, and the higher the rating, the better customer service you can expect.

    Finder tip: We recommend full coverage for San Francisco drivers

    If you’re financing your vehicle, full coverage isn’t optional. Lenders require comprehensive and collision coverage on top of liability coverage. But even if you don’t have a car loan, comprehensive and collision coverage can offer peace of mind.

    Comprehensive coverage kicks in for storm damage, fire, floods and animal strikes — things many San Francisco drivers may encounter. Collision coverage can help you repair or replace your car in the event of a vehicle accident.

    Remember that minimum liability coverage is typically only there to help you pay for the damages and medical costs for another driver after an accident, but full coverage helps you protect your own assets.

    Car insurance coverage costs in San Francisco

    One way to cut down on your car insurance premium is to trim down your coverage. However, getting only the state minimum requirements could end up costing you a lot more out of pocket later on if you get in an accident.

    You’ll pay considerably more for a low coverage policy compared to just the state minimum coverage. However, if you’re already paying for low coverage, it’ll only cost you about $300 more per year to bump up to medium coverage. Here, we compare various coverage options and the average rates for each in San Francisco.

    State minimum car insurance requirements in San Francisco

    The state of California requires 15/30/5 in minimum liability car insurance. This means to be on the road, you must carry a minimum of:

    • $15,000 for bodily injuries to one person
    • $30,000 for injuries to two or more people per accident
    • $5,000 for property damage liability

    California is an opt-out state for uninsured motorist and underinsured motorist coverage. While not required in the state, it’s recommended if you live in an area with many uninsured drivers or drive frequently. And with an estimated 16.6% of uninsured Californians on the road, according to the Insurance Information Institute, it may be worth considering.

    How can I get the California Good Driver Discount?

    If you live in the state of California, you could save 20% on car insurance if you qualify for its state-mandated Good Driver Discount. To qualify, you’ll need to have:

    • Had a license for at least three years
    • No more than one point on your driving record in the past three years
    • Not been found at fault for a car accident that caused a death or more than $1,000 in property damage over the past three years

    Driving tips in San Francisco

    Driving in San Francisco is similar to driving in other parts of the state, except for the fact that there’s going to be significantly more traffic here than in rural areas. When driving through San Francisco, keep these tips in mind.

    • Don’t drive with your cellphone in your hand for any reason. A new law was recently passed in California that prohibits drivers from using their cellphones in their hands for any reason, including using their GPS. If you need to use your phone for navigation, you must mount it on your dashboard or in the lower right- or left-hand corner of your windshield. It cannot obstruct your view, and you’re only allowed to use one finger to swipe your screen while driving.
    • Motorcycle lane splitting is now legal, but there are some rules. Bikers can now legally drive between lanes of slow-moving or standing traffic, but they must do so at no more than 30 mph or no more than 10 mph faster than moving traffic. Note that lane splitting, also called lane sharing, is not legal across double yellow lines.
    • Always watch for pedestrians. Foot traffic can be just as busy on San Francisco’s congested streets, so be on the lookout for pedestrians. Pedestrians always have the right of way in San Francisco.
    • Slow down in foggy conditions. The Bay Area is known for its foggy weather. Turn on your lights and use caution when driving in low-visibility conditions to avoid accidents.

    Overall, California has a theft rate of 475.24 as of 2020, reported by the NICB. To compensate for higher insurance costs due to a high theft rate, consider purchasing a vehicle with anti-theft features and looking for car insurance discounts that come with having those features.

    San Francisco car accident stats

    San Francisco is in line with many other large counties in terms of accident stats, with a total of 5,206 injured or killed in vehicle accidents in 2017, according to NICB. Its numbers are low compared to countries like Los Angeles (92,020) or San Diego (20,648).

    Severe weather year-round, poor road conditions or densely populated areas may all create a high risk of motor accidents. Insurance companies can charge more or less based on this risk factor, so fewer accidents each year in your zip code can mean savings.

    How to save on car insurance in San Francisco

    Saving money on car insurance is likely on your mind, so we have a few tips to consider in San Francisco:

    • Research California Clean Vehicle Rebate Project for a possible $7,000 tax rebate
    • Consider a defensive driving course
    • Reduce your mileage for discounts
    • Consider telematics if you’re a safe driver
    • Check local insurers and shop around
    • Get an online quote first
    • Sign up for paperless billing
    • Pay in full ahead of time, when possible
    • Increase your deductible for a lower payment — just be sure you can afford to pay it after an accident

    Compare cheap car insurance in California

    San Francisco drivers can expect to pay higher car insurance premiums than drivers in many other parts of the state, with an average yearly premium of $2,502. Compare that to California’s state average of $1,968 and the national average of around $1,300, and it’s easy to see that the cost of car ownership is pricier in San Fran. Filter car insurance companies by roadside assistance, discounts and more to get a quote.

    1 - 5 of 5
    Name Product Gap insurance Homeowner discount Telematics Has an app? Available states
    The Zebra
    All 50 states
    All 50 states & DC
    Affordable car insurance with highly rated customer service. Only available to military members and veterans and their family.
    Quinstreet -
    Quinstreet -
    Depends on provider
    Depends on provider
    Depends on provider
    All 50 states
    Liberty Mutual
    All 50 states & DC
    Earn free accident forgiveness after five years claims-free and customize your policy anytime.
    All 50 states
    Compare personalized rates from multiple insurance companies in one go. Plus, access a live agent for any questions along the way.

    Compare up to 4 providers

    Bottom line

    With its characteristically foggy weather, dense population and high crime rates, San Francisco unfortunately has some of the steepest car insurance rates in the state. But the good news is that there are ways to trim your bill without sacrificing much-needed coverage options.

    A great place to start is by comparing car insurance policies with your current rates and coverage level to see if you can find a better deal.

    Frequently asked questions about car insurance in San Francisco

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