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If you're a driver for a transportation network company (TNC) in California, you must have auto insurance at all times while your rideshare app is on. Some companies, such as Uber and Lyft, provide their own insurance. In these cases, drivers can meet California's requirement without purchasing their own rideshare insurance policies.
However, unless you purchase your own rideshare insurance, you won't receive all the benefits a personal policy might include, such as comprehensive and collision coverages, higher liability limits and a low deductible.
California insurance requirements for rideshare drivers
California requires TNC drivers to carry rideshare insurance as soon as they flip on the rideshare app. 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. These are:
- $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, you must have:
- $50,000 bodily injury liability coverage per person injured in an accident
- $100,000 of bodily injury liability coverage per accident
- $25,000 of property damage liability coverage per accident
Your personal rideshare insurance policy may cover you, or your TNC may offer enough coverage. We recommend confirming with your rideshare company whether you need to purchase this insurance for yourself, otherwise you may not be driving legally in California.
Periods 2 and 3: Once you've been paired with a passenger and 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.
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.
According to state law, you must 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.
Here are Lyft's vehicle requirements for most California cities:
- Cars must have four doors and five to eight passenger seats.
- The car must have California license plates. 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 2001 or newer in most cities — but you'll need to check your own city's requirements.
- 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.
Uber's vehicle requirements primarily change based on the programs offered in a given city. 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.
- 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. 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.
|Program||Car model year||Car body||Seats||Interior|
|uberX||Less than 15 years old||Any||5+ seats||Good condition|
|uberXL||Less than 15 years old||Any||7+ seats||Good condition|
|UberSELECT||2009 or newer||Luxury sedan (specific models)||5+ seats||Leather or vinyl, great condition|
|UberBLACK||2012 or newer||Black luxury sedan (specific models)||5+ seats||Black leather or vinyl, great condition|
|UberSUV||2012 or newer||Black SUV (specific models)||7+ seats||Black leather or vinyl, great condition|
|UberLUX||2012 or newer||Black sedan, crossover SUV, SUV (specific models)||5+ seats||Black 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. Your photo 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
You should 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 customer||Liberty Mutual|
|Period 1 coverage "gaps," meaning the policy makes up the difference between the TNC's policy and your personal auto insurance policy||Farmers 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's||Allstate, 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.