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The Golden State is known for many things, including beautiful beaches, fruit and wine production, cosmopolitan cities, and the entertainment industry. California is so large, in fact, that if it were its own country, it would have the eighth-largest economy in the world. However, there are significant homeowners insurance risks that you should be aware of, whether you’re looking to move there, or are already a Californian.
Homeowners insurance premiums in California are moderate compared to other states. According to the most recent available data from the Insurance Information Institute, in 2014, the average cost of homeowners insurance in California was $974, slightly lower than the national average of $1,132. There are 18 states and the District of Columbia that have higher average home insurance rates than California.
|California Annual Average||$980||$966||$974|
|California Price Per Month||$81||$80||$81|
|US Annual Average||$1,034||$1,096||$1,132|
|US Cost Per Month||$86||$91||$94|
Choosing a homeowners insurance company in California should be easier. Actually, it’s already easy; you could just go with whichever company your mortgage lender recommends, but you probably won’t get the best rates that way. The key to finding the best rates is to compare home insurance quotes in California from multiple companies.
Last year, these were the most common home insurance companies reported by QuoteWizard users living in the state of California. Out of the 48,266 California homeowners that used QuoteWizard to request insurance quotes last year, 2,332 had no home insurance.
Why contact every individual company in California that you want a homeowners quote from when you can just answer a few questions about your home and desired coverage, and get competing quotes from agents? Save time and money with QuoteWizard.
|Rank||Company||Direct Premiums Written (in thousands)||Market Share|
|1||Farmers Insurance Group of Cos.||$1,146,424||16.2%|
|3||CSAA Insurance Exchange||$452,487||6.4%|
|5||Auto Club Exchange Group||$378,453||5.4%|
|6||USAA Insurance Group||$340,605||4.8%|
|7||Nationwide Mutual Group||$271,670||3.9%|
|8||Mercury General Corp.||$252,688||3.6%|
|9||Travelers Companies Inc.||$244,081||3.2%|
Source: A.M. Best (Ratings as of 8/20/2015)
|Rank||Company||Direct Premiums Written (in thousands)||Market Share|
|1||Farmers Insurance Group of Cos.||$5,177,524||8.5%|
|5||Travelers Companies Inc.||$2,433,039||4.0%|
|6||American International Group||$2,270,136||3.7%|
|7||Auto Club Enterprises Insurance Co.||$2,133,652||3.5%|
|8||Mercury General Corp.||$2,125,863||3.5%|
|9||Nationwide Mutual Group||$1,907,385||3.1%|
|*Represents both home and auto insurance|
Many different factors come into play when insurance companies calculate the cost of homeowners insurance. Some, like the age of your home, are within your control. Others, like crime rates or natural disasters, are beyond your control. Here are some of the factors that affect the cost of homeowners insurance in California.
Home prices can greatly affect the cost of insurance in any given state. A higher average home price generally means higher premiums in that state. For California, the average listing price is $592,252 as of July 2015, more than twice the national average of $284,748. Homeowners insurance rates in California are lower than one would expect given this high average home price.
Burglary is a serious and sometimes violent property crime. States with higher average burglary rates generally have higher average homeowners premiums, because the likelihood that someone will need to file a claim is higher. According to data from the FBI Uniform Crime Report, in 2013, California’s average burglary rate was 605.4 per 100,000 people, which is about the same as the national average of 610.0 per 100,000.
States with more law enforcement per capita tend to be safer than states with fewer policemen and women. In California, there are 30.1 law enforcement personnel per 100,000 total citizens, which is barely lower than the national median of 32 per 100,000.
California is the third-largest state by area, and its geography and climate varies greatly depending on where you are, so the homeowners insurance hazards are very different depending on whether you’re in Northern or Southern California.
Earthquakes: From the famous 1906 San Francisco earthquake, to the 1994 Northridge earthquake, California certainly has a reputation for big earthquakes. The San Andreas Fault extends over 800 miles through California, contributing to its reputation for seismic activity, although it’s only one of dozens of faults. California has been home to some of the largest earthquakes in US history, though small earthquakes occur every day and are generally not felt.
Large earthquakes are extremely destructive, and can cause tsunamis, landslides, avalanches, fires, and floods, all of which are especially hazardous to homeowners. Moreover, aftershocks can occur for months afterwards, worsening the damage. Most of the destruction from earthquakes is caused by destroyed structures and landslides, most of which can take years to repair. Be sure to discuss this concern with your insurance agent.
Drought: Recently California has dealt with the most severe drought in its history. Water conservation measures have been put in place for both residents and agriculture. While drought is not uncommon in the state, this level of severity is extremely hazardous. According to the US Drought Monitor, droughts are ranked from D0 to D4, where D0 is “abnormally dry” and D4 is the worst possible drought. As of July 2015, California was experiencing the worst drought in its history, with 97% of the state at level D1 (moderate drought) or above, and 71% of the state at level D3 (extreme drought) or above. 99.9% of the state faces some level of drought, affecting nearly 37 million people. Whether the result of climate change or other factors, these conditions should be considered a hazard. Extreme heat can cause power outages due to excess use of air conditioning as well as heat stroke and heat exhaustion, especially in children and adults over 65.
Santa Ana winds: These hot, high winds blow westward, from the desert to the coast, and are most common in spring and fall, mostly in southern California. Because of a difference in air pressure between the Sierra Nevada and the Rocky Mountains, this air circulates, increasing in temperature and decreasing in humidity. These winds can reach hurricane speeds, and combined with heat and dryness, they are a recipe for wildfires. The Santa Ana winds can also knock over trees and blow around debris, so if you live in an area where they are prevalent you should take steps to reduce the risk of wildfire damage.
Wildfires: According to the California Fire Service, wildfires happen basically every year throughout the state. From late spring to early autumn, hot, dry, windy conditions produce wildfires that range from gentle to devastating, though they can occur any time of year. Wildfires can cause billions of dollars of property damage in a single year, and force people to evacuate their homes. The Cedar Fire of 2003, the largest wildfire in California history, burned about 800,000 acres and destroyed thousands of homes. As of August 3, 2015, 20 unique wildfires were burning throughout California. The drought as well as abnormally high temperatures motivated these fires.
Fog: Whether it’s “Tule fog” in the valleys or the “marine layer” near the coasts, California has a great deal of fog. In the San Joaquin, Sacramento, and Central valleys, Tule fog forms in late autumn and may persist until spring. This fog is notorious for causing car accidents because it decreases visibility to a matter of feet. For the coasts, the marine layer is nearly year-round, but almost always burns off by early afternoon. It is especially prevalent during late spring, earning its nickname “May gray” or “June gloom,” because of when the cool off-shore water and wind patterns cause fog and humidity.
Fog is considered a homeowners insurance hazard because it is essentially moisture in the air. If this moisture is trapped inside, it can promote mold and mildew development, which can be devastating to homes.
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