Renters insurance isn’t required by law in California, but it’s often worth buying — especially if you live in an area at risk for wildfires or earthquakes. While your landlord will insure the building you live in, it’s up to you to cover your own belongings.
Here’s how much you can expect to pay and which companies offer the cheapest renters insurance in California.
The average cost of renters insurance in California is $217 a year, or approximately $18 a month. That’s higher than the national average of $168 a year.
Here’s what renters insurance costs, on average, in California’s 25 largest cities:
NerdWallet analyzed rates from more than 20 insurers in California to find the ones with the cheapest rates. The following are companies with rates under the statewide average for renters insurance.
Auto Club of SoCal: Auto Club of SoCal offers insurance to AAA members in 13 California counties, including Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego and Riverside. You can save up to 10% on your renters policy and up to 3.7% on your auto policy if you buy them together. Keep in mind that you’ll want to weigh your savings against AAA’s annual membership fee, currently $53.
CSAA: If Auto Club of SoCal doesn’t offer coverage in your county, chances are you can get a policy through CSAA, another AAA insurer. It serves more than 40 California counties, including San Francisco, Alameda and Santa Clara. Membership fees currently start at $56 a year.
CIG: CIG’s renters insurance policies come with identity theft coverage. For an additional cost, you can also include extra coverage for earthquake damage, home office equipment or valuable jewelry.
State Farm: Replacement cost coverage comes standard with . That means if your belongings are stolen or destroyed, the company will pay for brand-new replacements rather than subtracting depreciation from the value of older items.
Allstate: comes with all the basic coverage you’d expect, but you can also add extra coverage for valuable items or identity theft recovery. The Digital Locker feature on the company’s app makes it easy to create an inventory of your belongings. This could come in handy if you ever need to make a claim.
Mercury: Mercury covers computers up to $5,000, with the option to raise the limit if you have a more expensive machine. Discounts are available to those with deadbolts, smoke alarms and other protective devices. You could also save if your rental is in a community that’s taken steps to protect itself against wildfires.
Grange Insurance Association: This Seattle-based insurer offers replacement cost coverage on most of your belongings and will pay up to $500 for refrigerated food lost in a covered claim. You can add extra coverage for jewelry or other expensive belongings.
Farmers: You can get a quote online or through the company’s network of agents. Additional options include identity theft coverage and replacement cost coverage.
Travelers: You may be able to save on if you insure your car through the company, you haven’t filed any recent claims or your home is equipped with safety devices such as a sprinkler system. If you’re looking for a well-established company, Travelers fits the bill: It’s been in business since 1864.
California Casualty: This company sells renters policies to nurses, firefighters, police officers, EMS workers and teachers. Discounts are available for bundling renters and auto policies, being a nonsmoker and having a home security system.
USAA: USAA’s renters policies are available only to active military, veterans and their families. If you’re eligible, though, these policies may offer a particularly good value to Californians because they include coverage for earthquake damage. (Most companies charge extra.) USAA also includes flood insurance in its standard renters policies.
If you’re looking for renters insurance from highly rated insurers, consider these carriers that made NerdWallet’s list of .
Renters insurance can serve as a financial safety net in a disaster — and unfortunately, California sees plenty of those.
in the state have grown larger and more frequent in recent years, causing billions of dollars’ worth in damage.
Standard renters policies cover destruction due to fire and smoke, but those who live in high-risk areas may have trouble finding coverage. The California FAIR Plan is the state’s insurer of last resort, offering renters insurance to those who’ve been turned down elsewhere.
FAIR Plan coverage is much more limited than a standard renters policy. It pays only for damage due to fire, lightning, smoke and internal explosions. If you want coverage for theft, wind damage or other disasters, you can buy a “difference in conditions” policy to fill the gap.
The state’s insurance commissioner recently announced that insurers must cover at least two weeks of additional living expenses for renters forced to evacuate due to wildfires. This could include costs such as hotel bills, restaurant meals and relocation costs.
Unlike fires, earthquakes are generally not on the list of disasters covered by renters insurance. That means you’ll need to buy extra coverage if you’re at risk. The California Earthquake Authority works with insurance companies to cover your belongings and pay additional living expenses if you’re displaced by an earthquake.
Floods are another disaster most renters policies won’t cover. Renters can buy backed by the federal government starting at $99 a year.
Insurers look at a variety of factors to determine the cost of your renters policy. In most states, one of those factors is your , which is similar to a traditional credit score. But that doesn’t apply in California — it’s one of a few states where insurance companies can’t use your credit history to set rates.
Below are a few of the factors that likely will influence what you pay for a California renters policy.
Insurers typically charge more if you live in an area they consider risky. For example, you’ll generally pay more for insurance if your neighborhood has a high crime rate or a heightened risk of wildfires.
The more stuff you have — or the more expensive stuff you have — the more you’ll have to pay to cover it fully.
A is the amount you’re responsible for when you file a claim. Say a fire causes $5,000 worth of damage to your belongings. If your deductible is $500, your insurance company would pay the remaining $4,500. Raising your deductible can lower your premium, but it’s only worth doing if you’re sure you can come up with the higher amount in a pinch.
Filing a renters insurance claim often causes your premium to go up, according to NerdWallet’s rate analysis. These are the five companies with the cheapest rates for renters with a recent theft claim on their records.
Burglar alarms, sprinkler systems and other protective devices may make you eligible for a renters insurance discount.
Many insurers offer a discount if you buy both renters and auto insurance together.
Because dog bites are a common source of claims, your insurer may charge you more if you have a breed it considers a higher risk, such as a pit bull or rottweiler. You may even be denied coverage altogether.
If you have questions about your policy or problems with your insurer, the California Department of Insurance is a good place to turn. You can get information and file complaints on the department’s , or call its consumer hotline at 800-927-4357 for assistance in English or Spanish.