How Much Does it Cost to Own a Car in California?

Leonardo Castro
May 26, 2020

What would you do if you had to go food shopping without a car? How about getting to and from work? Public transportation exists but it’s time consuming and sometimes you have to change busses to get to your destination. Owning a car in California is considered a necessity by many because it eases our lives but it’s important to consider the cost of owning a car. How much does it cost to own a car in California?

Registration Fees

After buying a car your costs don't stop there. Registration fees are an extra cost imposed by the state. The average registration fee for a new car is around $244 which includes the title, registration and plate fees. Additionally, California has an emission testing fee (Smog Check) on every sold vehicle which adds up another $50.


The national average cost per gallon of gas is around $1.93 but the cost is relatively higher in California with an average cost $2.83 per gallon. These gas prices also differ within California. The average price in the San Francisco area is around $2.99 while in Los Angeles the average is $2.90.

The average Californian travels up to 14,435 miles per year. The average mileage for a car is around 24.9 miles per gallon of gas. So, a Californian spends around 11 cents (2.83/24.9) per mile, totalling around $1,587.85 per year in travel expenses.

Repairs and Maintenance

Like any other machine a car requires maintenance and repairs which are extra costs to owning a car. These costs include changing car parts, oil and other maintenance repairs. The average cost to maintain a car annually is between $500 and $700 a year. It is worth noting that maintenance of a car is variable and tends to increase as the car gets older and has more mileage.

Car Insurance

Auto Insurance is a contract between the insured and an insurance company. If the insured suffers a covered loss, the insurance company will help pay for expenses. Insurance payments for insurance coverage are paid in monthly premiums, in a lump sum for the year and semi-annual payments. If you get into an accident that is your fault, you first pay a deductible, or set amount of your choosing, before insurance covers most if not all that remains on the balance owed. Everyone pays a different rate to be insured. For a more detailed article on what auto insurance is, visit here.

There are many different factors that can determine the total cost of car insurance. Age is an important factor. Californians between the age 16-20 tend to have a higher cost of insurance than any other age group and can easily pay over $500 a month to be insured. Another factor that influences the cost of insurance is the driving record of the driver. For example a high-risk teenage driver in California has an average cost of insurance of roughly $375 while a safe driver has a monthly cost of less than $142. Car insurance is dependent on many variables but the average Califronian pays an average of roughly $155 per month.

California laws require drivers to carry 15/30/5 minimum liability coverage limits. However, liability coverage doesn’t pay for damages to your own car if you’re at fault. Many drivers carry collision and comprehensive insurance for added protection. If you’re leasing or financing a car, it’s usually required that you carry both collision and comprehensive coverage.

It is very easy to pay too much for coverage. That’s why it’s always important to compare rates before you choose an insurer. Everybody’s rates are different according to several factors, but it’s also important to shop car insurance rates with a trusted source to find out what different insurers are offering a driver like you. People who compare auto insurance quotes save hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars a year. Factors include but are not limited to marital status, garaging address and driving history. Some states rate you based on credit. In California, your credit doesn’t affect your rate.

How Much Car Insurance Do I Need?

How much car insurance you have depends on a few factors. First, if you’re leasing or financing a car you may be required to have full insurance. Each state has different insurance requirements so it’s important to check with your local DMV. However, nearly all states require liability insurance at the very lease, if your car is paid off. Also, you don’t want to over insure a car that is worth very little. For more on how much car insurance to buy, visit here.

Alternatives to Owning a Car

Owning a car can be expensive and not financially sustainable for everyone. However, there can be many alternatives to solve the problem if we cannot afford to have a car that can be just as efficient and less costly.

  1. The simplest and healthiest alternative is to walk.
  2. Another healthy alternative would be bike or skate to your destination.
  3. Recently a popular alternative to owning a car has been Uber and Lyft.
  4. If you live in a big city then there is a possibility that there is a well placed public transportation system.
  5. Carpool services, like Waze, are becoming more popular.
  6. Lastly, carsharing services such as Zipcar and Turo are another alternative to owning a car.

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