Low cost auto insurance from state to be advertised

July 18, 2011 5:15:27 PM PDT
An estimated four million people in California are driving without car insurance and that really puts everyone at risk of having an accident involving an uninsured driver, but now there's a lower cost option for drivers with no other choice.

Bare bones coverage from the state of California is available, but only a fraction of those who qualify take advantage of it and now, a big campaign is about to get underway to hopefully change that.

Nancy Lee of San Francisco wouldn't risk driving without auto insurance. Then she lost her job when an injury forced her onto disability.

"So your income goes down. You have to find some alternate way of affording insurance because it's the law that you have to drive with insurance," said Nancy.

Fortunately for Nancy she found out about the state's Low Cost Auto Insurance Program.

"It's affordable for me and it gives me the legal amount of coverage I need which is liability," said Nancy.

You must be at least 19 years old and be a good driver with three years of driving experience to qualify. Your car can not be worth more than $20,000 and you have to meet income guidelines. An eligible income for a family of four would be just over $55,000 a year. The program is administered by the California Department of Insurance; the department's goal is get the state's uninsured insured.

"If we get in an auto accident, it's going to be a problem if you are hit by somebody without insurance or you hit someone without insurance. So it's definitely a win-win for everybody in this state," said Pat McConahay from the California Department of Insurance.

Participating insurance agents sell the coverage. The Department of Insurance will send you a list once you are qualified.

"I think low cost is a good program, but I think it's really not fit for everyone's needs," said Ruth Lee, a State Farm Agent.

Basic coverage is less than $400 per year and is the minimum amount needed under the law: $10,000 per person for bodily injury, $20,000 per incident, and $3,000 for property damage.

"We feel this is an option for people who have to make that choice particularly about putting food on the table or getting auto insurance," said McConahay.

Currently there are only 11,000 Californians enrolled in the program.

"We suspect there are really hundreds of thousands that are either paying too much for their liability when they could qualify for this program or perhaps are not aware that the program exists. But it's really a wonderful program that can help low income Californians get insurance when they're driving without insurance or save money that they could use for other purposes," said Joe Ridout from Consumer Action.

The Department of Insurance is planning a major promotional campaign later this year.

"We have to have billboards. We hope to have some advertising. We have been doing some outreach on campuses," said McConahay.

You can go to the website and download an application.


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