5 Reasons San Francisco Car Insurance Is So Expensive


The Bay Area can be an expensive place to live, from the sky-high real estate prices to the above-average cost of living. Auto insurance is no exception — for example, the national average for car insurance is $742 yearly. In the state of California, it’s $942. In somewhere like Brentwood, Discovery Bay, or Oakley? It might run you as much as $1100 or much more, depending on which car insurance company you have.

So why is auto insurance so expensive in the Bay Area? There are several reasons, some of which may surprise you. We’ll dig into the reality of auto insurance in San Francisco, and what you can do to help keep your premiums down.

The Costly Reality of San Francisco’s Auto Insurance

For some real talk on just how much car insurance in San Francisco could end up costing you, let’s turn to Renata Balasco at the insurance comparison site The Zebra. According to Balasco’s data, San Francisco motorists could pay as much as $1,753. So why is it so sky-high?

High-Density Population

One of the big perks of living in the Bay Area is the vibrant and varied culture — but that comes at a cost. SF’s high population means more drivers on the road, and more drivers on the road means more opportunities for traffic violations and accidents. That means higher risks for insurance companies, who tend to raise their premiums to compensate.

Auto Theft Rates

Accidents and vehicle damage aren’t the only things that can raise insurance rates — car theft and vandalism also cost insurers money when claims are filed, and cases have been on the rise everywhere, including the epidemic of catalytic converter theft. In San Francisco alone, reported cases of auto theft have risen from 4,900 in 2018 to a whopping 7,700 in 2022. Auto thefts also tend to have a low arrest rate, meaning the problem isn’t going away anytime soon.

Deteriorating Road Conditions

It’s no secret that infrastructure is suffering all over the United States, and San Francisco is no exception. According to the TIP Urban Roads Report from 2018, 71% of San Francisco roads received a “poor” rating — and that situation has not improved much in the intervening five years. Poorly maintained roads create increased opportunities for accidents and vehicle damage, which means more expensive claims — and insurance companies can only compensate by adjusting premiums upward.

Surge in Vehicle Repair Costs

If you’ve noticed everything getting more expensive, you’re definitely not alone. Inflation and ongoing supply chain disruptions have created a dire situation for motorists, as vehicle replacement parts are more in demand than ever, and tougher to acquire. The price of labor has also gone up, meaning car repairs are as expensive as they’re ever been. This is another area where insurers must, unfortunately, pass on the financial burden to their customers in the form of higher premiums.

Wildfire Risk

Alongside vehicle theft and accidents is another source of risk: wildfires. California, particularly the Bay Area, is well-known as an epicenter for dangerous and destructive wildfires. Not only are these fires a hazard to life and limb, but can also cause damage to property, including vehicles. Insurers must take this into account when assigning premiums, not only for wildfires but all sorts of extreme weather events, which have been on the rise in recent years.

Tips for Finding Cheap San Francisco Auto Insurance

With auto insurance rates unlikely to go anywhere but up in the future, it may be incumbent on drivers to find their own ways to lower their auto insurance premiums. Here are a few common and effective strategies:

  1. Shop around and compare quotes using free online tools. Every company assigns risk differently, and so rates may vary quite a bit between companies.
  2. If possible, bundle your auto and home insurance together for a discount.
  3. Do your best to keep a clean driving record and avoid accidents and citations.
  4. Take a defensive driving course or attend traffic school. Not only will this help with avoiding accidents, but insurers will often give discounts for it.
  5. If you can bear it financially, consider increasing your deductible. It’s essentially a gamble, as you’ll pay more out of pocket if you do happen to get in an accident, but in the meantime, your monthly premiums will be significantly lower.
  6. Don’t be afraid to ask your insurer about possible discounts. In addition to getting a discount for safe driving, you might also qualify for student discounts, low-mileage discounts, and more. Talk to your insurance company and see what might be available.

While there’s no doubt affording car insurance in the Bay Area can be challenging, you do have some options when it comes to bringing down your premiums, while not giving up the necessary coverage.


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