Getting and Staying on the California Roads

Cars driving over bridge on San Francisco bay

What You Should Know About Driving in California

Whether you love California for its amazing scenery or the mind-boggling traffic — we’re kidding, nobody likes the traffic — chances are you’ll need to know how to drive in this state in order to get around. Whether you’re new to the open road or simply new to the roads in California, there are some things you should know, like what kind of insurance you will need or what requirements you must meet, before getting started.

Luckily, we break down all the basics of what you need to know in order to drive in the state of California below: 

Insurance Requirements in California

Like all states, there are minimum auto insurance requirements that you must meet in order to drive legally on the road in California. Drivers who don’t meet these requirements are technically not legally allowed to drive their vehicles. 

California’s minimum requirements for car insurance are as follows: 

  • $15,000 per person/$30,000 per accident in bodily injury liability. 
  • $5,000 in property damage liability. 

Contrary to popular belief, the following is not mandatory in the state of California:  

  • $15,000 per person/$30,000 per accident in uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage. 
  • $5,000 in uninsured motorist property damage coverage. 

Although insurance companies must provide these coverage options, you are free to reject it in writing. 

Woman driving older passenger in the car

With that in mind, be aware that you may need additional insurance if you’re paying off your vehicle. In fact, most lenders will require you to carry collision coverage and comprehensive coverage to protect their investment until you own it outright. 

And even if your vehicle is paid off, you may still want to consider purchasing additional insurance. Why? Because minimum insurance requirements are meant to protect other parties and don’t account for damage that occurs to your vehicle. It also doesn’t account for damage that isn’t a result of an accident or the potential theft of your car. Choosing comprehensive and collision coverage is a better option to protect your vehicle because it accounts for all of those scenarios. 

Necessary Documents to Receive Insurance 

Whether you are buying a policy in person or choosing to get a quote online, you must gather all the necessary paperwork ahead of time to get the insurance that you need. 

Before attempting to purchase insurance, make sure you have your driver’s license in order. First, it will prove that you can legally drive and second, it will give the insurance company access to your driving record. If your car will be driven by multiple drivers, you will need to provide each of their driver’s licenses. 

Finally, you need to make sure you have your vehicle information on hand since, as you may have guessed, different vehicles have different insurance prices. 

Requirements to Drive 

Just because you have insurance doesn’t mean you can hit the road just yet! You’ll still have to meet certain licensing requirements to drive in California.

If you have never been issued a license before, you’ll have to pass a test in order to get your California driver’s license. This typically includes a written test that determines your knowledge of road rules and a driving test that assesses your actual driving skills.

muslim woman driving a vehicle

For the written portion, you must pass an exam with multiple-choice questions within a limited period of time; and for the practice, you will be placed in a vehicle with a representative from the California DMV who will determine whether or not you are able to complete basic driving functions such as parking, passing lanes, three-point turns, and more. 

You will only need a basic Class C driver’s license to drive most automobiles in California. For individuals who are younger than the age of 18, their license may come with certain conditions such as curfews. And for those with a learner’s permit, having a licensed adult in the car is mandatory. 

In addition to the requirements that you’ll be expected to meet, your vehicle must comply with certain safety standards in order for it to be considered street legal. This may include having features like seatbelts and airbags, and will be particularly important for anyone looking to make modifications to their car in California.

Moreover, there are some best practices you should take into account when driving. For instance, you’ll want to make sure your car is being regularly serviced so that it can run properly, and you’ll also want to ensure that you are prepared to drive throughout the different California seasons. Even though these tips aren’t necessarily required by law, they’re still important to follow in order to ensure safe and effective driving. 

License Privileges 

Certain driving behaviors can jeopardize your insurance rates, and even worse, your driving privileges altogether. 

Your driving record is the most obvious thing that can impact those privileges, and having too many tickets or accumulating too many points on your license can lead to a suspension or revocation.

Other factors may also prohibit you from driving, such as: 

  • Failure to pay child support, 
  • Failure to pay a driving ticket, 
  • Failure to appear in court after a driving infraction, 
  • Driving without insurance, 
  • Driving under the influence,
  • Refusing to take a drug or alcohol test, 
  • And having a physical or mental condition that impairs your ability to drive. 

If you have a concern or question about your driving privileges, contact the California DMV for further information. 

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