California Rideshare Insurance & Requirements for Uber and Lyft Drivers

California Rideshare Insurance & Requirements for Uber and Lyft Drivers

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California law requires drivers of transportation network companies (TNCs) to be covered by auto insurance at all times when a rideshare app is on, although minimum requirements vary depending on whether you've been paired with a passenger. Some companies, such as Uber and Lyft, provide their own insurance. In these cases, drivers can meet California's requirement without needing to purchase their own rideshare insurance policies. However, unless you purchase your own rideshare insurance, you won't consistently receive all the benefits your personal policy might include, such as comprehensive and collision coverages, higher liability limits and a low deductible.

California Auto Insurance Requirements for Rideshare Drivers

California requires drivers of transportation network companies (TNCs), such as Uber and Lyft, to be covered by rideshare insurance at all times when a rideshare app is on. The minimum auto insurance requirements vary according to which "period" you are in.

Period 0: When the rideshare app is off, the driver's personal insurance is active, which should meet California's minimum auto insurance requirements.

  • $15,000 bodily injury coverage per person injured in an accident
  • $30,000 of bodily injury coverage per accident
  • $5,000 of property damage coverage per accident.

Period 1: If the rideshare app is on but you haven't been paired with a passenger, California law has the following minimum requirements.

  • $50,000 bodily injury liability coverage per person injured in an accident
  • $100,000 of bodily injury liability coverage per accident
  • $30,000 of property damage liability coverage per accident

These requirements can be met by your personal rideshare insurance policy or one provided by your TNC if it offers this coverage. We recommend that you confirm with your rideshare company whether you need to purchase this insurance for yourself, otherwise you may not be driving legally in California. Uber, for example, provides this liability insurance for drivers during Period 1 if they don't have their own rideshare policy. Your TNC is also required to provide at least $200,000 of excess liability insurance coverage.

Periods 2 and 3: Once you've been paired with a passenger and after they've entered your vehicle, the rideshare company is required to carry a $1 million liability insurance policy in California. This covers you and your passengers during Periods 2 and 3. Depending on your TNC, it may offer additional coverage during these periods as well.

  • Uber provides drivers with $1 million of uninsured and underinsured motorist bodily injury coverage. It also provides comprehensive and collision coverage with a $1,000 deductible so long as the driver has collision coverage on their personal auto insurance policy.
  • Lyft also provides comprehensive and collision coverage in California, so long as you have collision coverage on your personal auto insurance policy. Lyft's deductible is $2,500, which is what you'd have to pay out of pocket before it covers any damages.

The law requires you to be covered by an auto insurance policy at all times. But because the TNC can help meet that requirement, not all rideshare drivers in California need to purchase rideshare insurance in order to drive legally. However, you may want to purchase an individual rideshare policy that allows you to maintain certain coverages, such as comprehensive, collision and medical payments, during Period 1. Otherwise, you would have to pay the costs out of pocket if you were injured or your vehicle was damaged during that period.

The laws above only apply to rideshare drivers, not limousine or livery drivers, as they have their own commercial auto insurance requirements.

Uber and Lyft Car Requirements in California

Car requirements for rideshare drivers vary depending on your TNC and city. And if you drive for Uber, the program you've chosen will also affect requirements. The one commonality is that California law requires all rideshare drivers to display their company's decal in the vehicle's windows at all times when the app is on. In addition, if you intend to pick up or drop off passengers from an airport, you'll also need airport-specific decals.

Lyft's vehicle requirements are consistent in every California city.

  • Cars must have four doors and between four to six passenger seats.
  • The car must be registered in California and have a license plate from the state. It also must be insured by an auto insurance policy issued in California.
  • Cars cannot be classified as salvage or rebuilt.
  • The vehicle model year should be 2002 or newer in most cities. However, the vehicle needs to be 2004 or newer in: Bakersfield, Fresno, Inland Empire, Lake Tahoe, Los Angeles, Modesto, Monterey, Napa, Sonoma, Orange County, Santa Barbara, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, Santa Cruz, Stockton and Ventura.
  • Cars must pass an annual inspection, and you'll need to visit a licensed mechanic to have the inspection form completed. You should keep the inspection form in your car at all times, along with your proof of insurance. Drivers will need to pay for the inspection themselves, which costs around $30. For free annual reinspections, drivers can visit one of Lyft's hub locations near San Francisco, Sacramento, San Jose, Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego.

Uber's vehicle requirements have small differences between cities, but they primarily change based on the programs offered in a given city. An uberX driver in San Francisco, for example, will typically have the same car requirements as an uberX driver in Los Angeles. But certain programs like UberLUX aren't available in all cities.

No matter which Uber service you drive for in California, there are some common requirements.

  • Cars must have four doors and be in good condition. Cosmetic damages or add-ons, such as significant window tinting or displayed ads, may cause your vehicle to be rejected.
  • Your vehicle can't be classified as salvage, rebuilt, a taxi cab, a government vehicle, a van or a box truck.
  • The car must have working air conditioning and windows.
  • Aftermarket seat modifications, including installed seat belts, are not allowed.
  • The car must be registered and insured in California. To drive for UberBLACK, UberSUV or UberLUX, you need to have commercial auto insurance and a TCP number.
  • The vehicle will need an annual vehicle inspection, and the inspection form must be completed at an Uber Greenlight Spot. The inspection is free if it's completed by one of Uber's partners. In Los Angeles, for example, you can get a free inspection at Jiffy Lube or Sprint. Otherwise, you'll have to pay the cost of the inspection yourself.

Depending on the program you choose, Uber's car requirements in California typically include the following.

ProgramCar Model YearCar BodySeatsInterior
uberXLess than 15 years oldAny5+ seatsGood condition
uberXLLess than 15 years oldAny7+ seatsGood condition
UberSELECT2009 or newerLuxury sedan (specific models)5+ seatsLeather or vinyl, great condition
UberBLACK2012 or newerBlack luxury sedan (specific models)5+ seatsBlack leather or vinyl, great condition
UberSUV2012 or newerBlack SUV (specific models)7+ seatsBlack leather or vinyl, great condition
UberLUX2012 or newerBlack sedan, crossover SUV, SUV (specific models)5+ seatsBlack leather or vinyl, great condition

Uber and Lyft Driver Requirements in California

The requirements for Uber and Lyft drivers in California are quite similar. As a driver, you'll need a California driver's license and a photo, which will be displayed to passengers before you pick them up. Certain cities in the state also require you to have a business license if you have driven at least 30 days with a rideshare company in the past year. Check your local regulations to determine if you need to register.

In addition, California law requires all Uber and Lyft drivers to undergo an annual background check, which the company will run on your behalf. The background check reviews your information for the past several years, such as whether you've been convicted of a violent crime, drug offense, sexual offense or theft. Rideshare companies also typically review your motor vehicle record for recent violations including DUIs, driving without insurance and reckless driving.

UberLUX drivers must also have a commercial driver's license, but this requirement doesn't apply to drivers in other programs.

Rideshare Insurance Companies in California

We recommend that you first decide how much coverage you need before comparing rates and selecting the best rideshare insurance company for yourself. Each insurer offers different levels of protection. So, for example, if you wanted to extend your comprehensive coverage during all periods, you would have that capability with State Farm but not GEICO.

We've compiled a list of the rideshare insurance companies in California by their level of coverage.

None, but you won't be dropped as a customerLiberty Mutual
Period 1 coverage "gaps," meaning the policy makes up the difference between the TNC's policy and your personal auto insurance policyFarmers Insurance, Mercury Insurance and USAA (only for military and families)
Any coverage "gaps" during Periods 1, 2 or 3, plus your personal policy's deductible applies if it's lower than your TNC'sAllstate, Esurance, GEICO (not for full-time drivers, restricted number of miles covered), MetLife (only for Lyft drivers), State Farm

Several insurers offer rideshare insurance policies in California, so you shouldn't have any trouble comparing quotes to find the cheapest rates for yourself once you've decided how much coverage you need. Comparing rates is an important step, as every rideshare insurance company in California will only extend coverage if you have a personal auto insurance policy with them as well. For instance, if you're taking advantage of a bundling discount with your current insurer, you'll have to compare the new total cost of all your policies across each insurer. If you just compared the cost of auto and rideshare insurance, you may end up overpaying if you have other policies that would be affected.

Mark is a Senior Research Analyst for ValuePenguin focusing on the insurance industry, primarily auto insurance. He previously worked in financial risk management at State Street Corporation.

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