Key takeaways

  • The best renters insurance companies in California are American Family, Mercury, Nationwide, Lemonade and USAA, according to our research.
  • The average cost of renters insurance in California is $171 per year, according to the Insurance Information Institute (Triple-I).
  • Californians may want to consider optional earthquake insurance and valuables coverage for high-value items for more robust coverage.

Although many homeowners have insurance on their property, insurance for those who rent is less well-known. Although it’s not required by law, a renters insurance policy offers significant benefits to those who lease their space—whether it’s a whole house or an apartment. It’s important to note that your landlord’s insurance will not cover damage to your personal belongings, so you will need a renters policy to be protected in the event of a covered disaster. Bankrate’s insurance editorial team took a close look at the California insurance market to help renters make the best choices for their policy. We found five companies—American Family, Lemonade, Mercury, Nationwide and USAA—we believe are worth looking into during your search for renters insurance policies in CA.


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Best renters insurance companies in California

To help you find the best renters insurance companies in California, we analyzed customers’ satisfaction with their renters insurance companies using the most recent J.D. Power U.S. Home Insurance Study, coverage offerings and available discounts. We also compared each company’s financial strength rating, which shows its history of paying claims. Lastly, we reviewed how many discounts each company lists on its website, which may help California renters save on coverage. It is important to note that discounts may vary by state, and each company may not provide a complete discount list on its website. Talking with a licensed agent or getting a quote is the best way to understand what discounts are available.

If you are searching for the best renters insurance in California, these are the top companies, based on our research:

American Family 856 / 1,000 A 7
Lemonade 854 / 1,000 N/A 2
Mercury Not rated A 5
Nationwide 852 / 1,000 A 3
USAA** 894 / 1,000 A++ 6

*This is an estimate based on information available on the carrier’s website. Check with a licensed agent for exact discount availability.
**Not officially ranked by J.D. Power due to eligibility restrictions.

American Family

Best for optional coverages

American Family came in second place in the J.D. Power Home Insurance study, indicating that it takes its relationships with its policyholders seriously. Besides the standard coverage types, AmFam has optional coverage for pets hurt in a covered loss, home-based businesses, travel protection and identity theft coverage. It also offers a diminishing deductible, which may drop your deductible each renewal after remaining claim-free for the previous policy period.

Pros

  • Large number of potential discounts
  • Valuable optional coverages

Cons

  • Overall complaint index from National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) is higher than average
  • No military discount

Learn more: American Family Insurance review

Lemonade

Best for fast claims process

Earning a high score in the J.D. Power study, Lemonade is another option for renters in California. It offers a separate earthquake policy for Californians and a Giveback program, which donates unused premiums to a charity of your choice at the end of each year. Lemonade also features AI-supported claims, which allows claims to be paid in seconds. For those wanting a fast and easy claims process completely online or on their phone, Lemonade might be one of the best renters insurance companies in California.

Pros

  • Fast and easy claims process
  • Offers separate earthquake policy

Cons

  • No AM Best rating
  • Minimal discounts listed

Learn more: Lemonade Insurance review

Mercury

Best for high-value item owners

Mercury is another option for California renters. This carrier has several discounts that could help keep renters insurance premiums low. Mercury also allows renters to customize their policy with coverage options like workers’ compensation coverage for part-time personal employees, service line, home systems, home cyber and identity theft protection. If you have high-value items, you can also schedule them on your Mercury renters insurance policy so they are covered for what they’re worth.

Pros

  • Large number of potential discounts
  • Multiple ways to customize policy

Cons

  • Not ranked by J.D. Power for renters insurance
  • No online option to file claims

Learn more: Mercury Insurance review

Nationwide

Best for customer satisfaction

Nationwide scores above average for customer satisfaction with J.D. Power. Although it only lists a few discounts on its website, it offers the option to purchase replacement costs on personal property and add credit card or water backup coverage. For those who can make changes to their rental, like upgrading fixtures or adding improvements or making alterations, Nationwide also offers building additions and alterations coverage.

Pros

  • Above average ranking with J.D. Power
  • Long list of optional coverage types

Cons

  • Few discounts listed
  • Cannot file claims online

Learn more: Nationwide Insurance review

USAA

Best for military-focused coverage

USAA has a reputation for offering affordable insurance for active-duty military, veterans and qualifying relatives, including its renters insurance policies. You may be eligible for several discounts to lower your premiums even more. One major benefit is that policyholders get flood and earthquake coverage included as standard, whereas most insurance providers only offer these as separate protections for an additional fee. And if you move abroad or get deployed, overseas renters insurance is available to protect your belongings.

Pros

  • Includes flood and earthquake coverage
  • Exceptional J.D. Power rating

Cons

  • Limited availability
  • Pet damage coverage not available

Learn more: USAA Insurance review

Average renters insurance cost in California

The average California renters insurance policy costs $171 per year, according to Triple-I. Your premium is determined by several factors, including your deductible and coverage limits.

Your credit-based insurance score, however, is not a rating factor in California. California’s average cost for renters insurance is just $2 below the national average, which may be because of the number of claims filed in the state and the average payout per claim.

Renters in California pay about the same for renters insurance compared to the surrounding states:

Average premium $171 $179 $154 $164

Source: (Triple-I)

Renters insurance coverage options in California

Renters insurance policies typically provide a few basic coverage types, including:

  • Personal liability: This type of insurance protects you from the financial implications of lawsuits if someone is injured while on your property and you are found to be negligent. Liability may also pay for medical costs incurred after an accident in your living space. Many insurers offer liability coverage starting at $100,000.
  • Personal property: This coverage is central to your policy. It protects your personal belongings from damage or destruction following a covered disaster. Common causes of damage that are included are fire, windstorm, theft, vandalism and the weight of ice, snow or sleet. If you have expensive personal items, such as electronics, artwork or jewelry, you may need an optional rider called a scheduled personal property endorsement to be adequately covered.
  • Additional living expenses: If you are unable to live in your home because it has been damaged or destroyed in a covered disaster, this portion of your policy will help pay for your living expenses up to certain limits. This may include hotel costs, meals, pet boarding or moving costs.

Before purchasing a policy, you may want to understand what is covered under your policy. For example, luxury or high-value items like fine jewelry, art and expensive electronics may have predetermined limits. Unless you add additional coverage, you could be underinsured for those items.

Also, keep in mind that most renters insurance policies do not cover your belongings if they get damaged in an earthquake or flood. For example, if a bookshelf falls on your laptop during an earthquake, you would likely be responsible for paying to repair the laptop. To avoid that, California residents may be able to purchase separate earthquake insurance.

Frequently asked questions

    • Renters insurance is not required in California, but your landlord may require you to carry coverage as part of the leasing agreement so that you have the liability insurance coverage that your renters policy offers. Since you cannot purchase liability coverage separately, you would likely need to buy a renters insurance policy to satisfy your landlord’s requirements.

    • Many natural disasters are covered by standard policies—including damage from wind, storms, ice and fire. You’re also covered for other named perils such as vandalism and theft. There are a couple of exclusions that California residents may want to be aware of, however, most notably earthquakes and floods. Neither is part of standard rental policies, and you will need to purchase an endorsement, or possibly a second policy, to be covered for each of these perils. California currently has a 99 percent chance of one or more major earthquakes in the next 30 years, so coverage for earthquake damage may be a good idea no matter where in the state you live. Flooding may be a side effect of earthquakes, or could happen from something as minor as an overflowing sewer drain, so it may also be worth considering.
    • Like the cheapest home insurance, the cheapest renters insurance in California will depend on several factors, including your coverage needs, the company you choose for insurance and any past property claims history. Getting quotes to compare coverage and pricing from several carriers can help you determine which companies offer the cheapest rates for renters insurance in your area.
    • You can get renters insurance in California from many insurance companies online, over the phone or in person. You will need to provide your name, date of birth and address, and discuss what coverage and limits you want. Every company is different, but getting a renters insurance quote is typically an easy and fast process. An independent agent can get you several quotes at the same time, which may make the process faster.
    • Although renters insurance is generally cheaper than homeowners insurance, there are still ways you can save money on your policy. Similar to home insurance, one key factor that plays a role in determining your rate is location. So you are likely to pay more for renters insurance in San Diego, for example, than in a smaller town away from the coast. Even in California’s large cities, though, you may be able to save money by bundling your renters insurance with another type of coverage, such as car or life insurance. If you can afford to raise your deductible, you are also likely to see a lower premium. Many insurance experts recommend doing an annual review of your policy to see if there are any new discounts or savings options available that you weren’t able to access the previous year.

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