Shuman Roy is an entrepreneur, business owner, and musician. He started RoysNoys, LLC in 2013 as a music production and education service company. He also offers small business consulting and advisory services to help businesses get from start-up mode to turn-key operations. Shuman earned his M.B.A from the Stern School of Business in 2001 and has an undergraduate degree from Manhattan College in ...

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Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity-backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He has an MBA from the University of South Florida. Joel...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder, CFP®

UPDATED: Oct 26, 2021

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Below is a list of the top auto insurance companies in California, based on written premium. Keep in mind that these companies aren’t necessarily the top rated, just the most frequently used. Some are known for offering competitive insurance rates. No matter where you go, auto insurance rates are based on a combination of factors from a clean driving record to credit score, your zip code, and more. The only way to be sure you’re getting the lowest rates on auto policies for you is by comparing quotes from different companies.

When you look at the top auto insurance company, it is probably a name you recognize. You’ve heard them on the radio or seen them on TV. Maybe you know someone who has an insurance policy with them. Keep in mind, there are many lesser known companies that may offer better coverage for you, especially if you have a few tickets or a classic car. Whether you live in San Francisco, Baker, Los Angeles, or somewhere else, there are more options than you may realize.

Do the top companies offer a competitive auto insurance rate?

As you can see, State Farm was the top auto insurance provider in California in 2008 (the most recent data available), according to the California Department of Insurance.

The company grabbed 12.9% market share with $2.54 billion in written premium, followed by The Automobile Club, which raked in 8.9% market share with $1.76 billion in written premium.

The California State Automobile Association grabbed the third spot with 6.8% market share and $1.34 billion in written premium, followed closely by Mercury, with 6.6% market share and $1.3 billion in written premium.

Rounding out the top five was Allstate, with 6.4% market share and $1.26 billion in written premium.

A number of other notables are in the top 25, including Farmers, 21st Century, Progressive, GEICO, and Esurance.

Perhaps rather surprisingly, GEICO held only a 1.8% share of private passenger insurance in California in 2008, despite their strong advertising push; Esurance held less than 1% market share. Auto insurance rates vary heavily between these companies. Sometimes, your best rates or the right coverage may not be with one of these companies.

market share

This report looks at total insurance written for both private passenger liability insurance and physical damage coverage. In other words, it does not account for collision coverage, personal injury protection, or other insurance that would cover your losses in an accident, only liability.

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Are there really that many auto insurance companies in California?

While California is a large state, many insurance companies have subsidiaries and are listed multiple times. You might see a small name you don’t recognize offering more specialized auto coverage such as coverage for high-risk drivers. But the underwriting and claims service is ultimately handled by a larger entity. This can result in a greater customer satisfaction rating and financial stability for the company.

Insurance providers often write through multiple “companies” with the same name, which is referred to as the “holding company.” The reasons can be many.

For example, it is near impossible for an insurer to raise rates in California. So “another company” may be formed to introduce a new, more expensive product line. In some cases, insurance companies want to isolate certain types of risk (such as drivers with more tickets or specialty cars).

An insurance company may sell both direct to the public and through independent agents. That’s what Mercury, Allstate, and others are doing here.

Also, a company may serve two markets, such as a non-standard, non-credit auto program, and a more standard in nature credit scored program.

One product cannot have both credit and non-credit lines, so each would need to be written under a different company.

As I mentioned before, this isn’t necessarily a gauge of quality, but more about market share, and the names an independent agent may throw your way.

Generally, it’s much easier for an established insurance company to open another branch under a different company name. Companies who have no insurance presence may be too small starting out. They don’t have the financial numbers to offer competitive rates and pay out claims that come up at the same time.

Read more: Top 10 auto insurance companies by market share.