Do I Need Car Insurance With a Learner's Permit in California?

Every state in the U.S. requires a learner’s permit as the first step toward getting a driver’s license. However, not every state requires car insurance with a learner’s permit. The state of California does. Whether you’re a teen taking California driver's ed course or learning to drive on your own, here’s what you need to know.

Why Do I Need Insurance With a Learner’s Permit in California?

Anyone who drives a vehicle, including learning drivers, is at risk of being in a car accident. For that reason, the state of California wants all vehicles operated or parked on California roads to have insurance coverage.

Janet Ruiz of the Insurance Information Institute explains why. "This allows the DMV to monitor insurance coverage and take appropriate actions, such as vehicle suspension, as required by this law,” said Ruiz. “Law enforcement and the court also have access to the insurance status of vehicles on DMV records.” This means you could face legal action if you are caught driving uninsured.

In California, you need the following minimum liability coverage: 

  • $5,000 for property damage.

  • $15,000 for injury or death of one person.

  • $30,000 for injury or death to more than one person.

If you don’t have auto insurance, there are other ways to cover yourself. “You can pay a cash deposit of $35,000 to the DMV who will issue you with a self-insurance certificate. You can also get a surety bond for $35,000 from a company licensed to do business in California,” said Ruiz. “If you cannot afford liability insurance, you may be eligible for the California Low-Cost Automobile Insurance Program.”

Can My Parents Add Me to Their Insurance Policy?

Yes. If you are a minor, this is the easiest, and often the cheapest way, to be covered. If you are over 18 and still living at home, you can also be covered on your parent’s insurance policy. If you are over 18 and not living at home, then it’s best to take out your own insurance. 

If you are using your parent’s car while learning to drive, it’s important that they inform their insurer. If you are at fault in an accident and the insurance company is unaware that you are driving the vehicle, they may refuse to pay the claim.

What Happens if I Don’t Have Insurance?

Each state has different penalties for driving uninsured. In California, your car could be impounded and you’ll face a fine. For a first offense, you could pay between $350-$700. For a second offense, fines run between $900-$1800. Always keep proof of insurance with you every time you drive. An electronic copy of your insurance document presented on your smartphone is acceptable in California. 

How Can I Lower My Insurance Rate?

If your parents add your car to their insurance policy, they may qualify for a multi-vehicle discount. If you have your own insurance, take a California driver's ed course with a reputable California driving school. Young drivers pay higher insurance rates due to their lack of experience. However, most insurance companies will lower your rate if you take a Traffic School course from a California driving school. 

Learning to drive is exciting but can be daunting. makes it easy to get your California learner's permit, and our easy-to-follow driver’s ed course prepares teens for the California driving test.