December 19, 2023


Car Insurance for Low-Income Drivers

There are so many hurdles to accessing car insurance when you are a low-income family - we know, that's why we created OCHO! Car insurance is essential. It protects you from theft, accidents, and mechanical problems. Yet, finding a policy you can afford can be challenging. Data shows that people earning between $10,000 and $19,000 yearly often pay almost the same amount as those earning over $200,000.

Although insurers don't base rates on income, the factors they do consider are affected by income. These include credit score, education, homeownership, insurance history, and ZIP code. It can feel like they are penalizing you just for having a low income.

The good news is that low-income families have options. A few states offer state-funded Low-Income Car Insurance Programs. These programs help people afford coverage. Some programs start at $40 monthly, assisting families to meet state auto insurance requirements.

For low-income people, car insurance can be challenging because insurance companies often need a large upfront payment, which can be as high as 40% of the total premium. This affects individuals with lower incomes. Those with higher incomes can afford to pay for their entire policy upfront, even enjoying a discount of up to 7%.

At OCHO, we do things differently by helping people with lower incomes. Everyone deserves access to the protection needed to keep their families safe. We reduce the down payment for everyone. You can compare prices from our range of carefully selected insurance providers and match your payments with your salary to help you budget.

This blog will guide you through alternative routes to get cheap auto insurance rates.

We aim to empower you by providing the knowledge to navigate affordable car insurance.

At a glance: 

Understanding Car Insurance Basics

Coverage Options

Let’s take a quick look at the coverage options. Every state in the US has its own State Minimum Requirements. Car insurance typically includes several types of coverage, each serving a specific purpose:

Legal Requirements

Car insurance requirements vary by region. Understanding the minimum coverage required in your area is crucial to avoiding legal penalties. This information is typically available through your local Department of Motor Vehicles or insurance regulatory body.

Finding the right price might seem the priority, but your coverage levels are so important to staying protected. Even on a budget, you must consider the financial risks of insufficient coverage.

A state-minimum car insurance policy is the cheapest auto policy for low-income drivers. Minimum coverage requirements are different in each state, but liability insurance is the most basic policy. It pays for damages and injuries to others if you're at fault in an auto accident.

Your state's requirements may mean you need to buy other types of car insurance coverage beyond liability insurance, such as uninsured motorist, personal injury protection, or medical payments coverage. 

Opting for only the state minimum coverage may leave you vulnerable in an accident with an uninsured driver. This could make it challenging to replace your car, and getting compensation from an uninsured driver can be difficult. Since many of our customers don't have health insurance or are enrolled in federal Medicaid, having MedPay is crucial as it covers emergency medical costs.

What Level of Coverage Do I Need If I Have a Low Income?

How Much Coverage Should I Get?

We get it - if you don't have much money, you might want to reduce your car insurance coverage to save. But this can be risky because it could lead to big financial burdens if accidents or damages do occur.

If you have a low-income, you need to find a balance between affordable plans and enough coverage. To save money, look into discounts and government programs that help with finances. We have more information about these below.

Most insurance professionals suggest liability limits of at least 50/100/50 in order to be well protected. We'll break down what this means below:

Bodily injury per person ($50,000): This is the maximum amount your policy will pay if you injure someone in an accident.

Bodily injury per accident ($100,000): This is the maximum amount your insurance will pay out for all of those harmed by you in the same accident.

Property damage coverage ($50,000): This is the total amount paid out for physical damage to property you cause in an accident.

In most cases, these limits are much higher than what states require. Some states have dramatically lower levels, so think twice before just accepting the lowest amount of coverage as it could have devastating financial consequences down the road.

Do I Need to Get Full Coverage?

Adding extra protections like comprehensive and collision insurance can make your insurance cost more. If you're thinking about not getting these coverages, ask yourself:

If you say yes to any of these, it might be a good idea to include these extra coverages in your insurance.

State-Sponsored Car Insurance Options for Low-Income Drivers

Some states address low-income people's challenges by offering government-sponsored programs to make car insurance costs easier to cover. These programs provide options for individuals who may not qualify for traditional car insurance or need help paying regular premiums. The government uses the Federal Poverty Level as a guideline to decide whether you are eligible for benefits.

Which States Offer Low Income Car Insurance Programs?

Only three states offer low income car insurance programs: California, New Jersey and Hawaii. Maryland also offers some assistance. 

California's Low-Cost Automobile Insurance Program (CLCA)

California's CLCA program offers low-income individuals an opportunity to obtain affordable car insurance. Eligibility requirements include having a valid California driver's license, meeting income eligibility criteria, and owning a vehicle valued at less than $25,000.

Under this program, policyholders receive liability coverage at reduced rates. While the coverage limits for liability insurance are lower than standard requirements, it provides a basic level of protection and ensures compliance with legal obligations.

New Jersey's Special Automobile Insurance Policy (SAIP)

New Jersey's SAIP, also known as the "dollar-a-day" program, offers medical coverage to low-income individuals enrolled in Medicaid with hospitalization coverage. It provides emergency medical treatment coverage up to $250,000 and a death benefit of $10,000.

SAIP is a limited coverage policy, focusing minimum coverage solely on medical expenses resulting from auto accidents. It does not provide liability coverage or cover non-medical expenses.

Hawaii's Program For Low-Income Drivers

Hawaii's AABD program assists low-income individuals who are aged, blind, disabled, or provide care for someone receiving AABD assistance. Eligible individuals can receive financial assistance for auto insurance, ensuring they have the necessary for insurance coverage and to drive legally.

To qualify for AABD, individuals must meet specific criteria related to age, disability, income, and caretaker status. The program aims to alleviate the financial burden of car insurance for those in need. Find out more information by calling the public assistance information line at (855) 645-1643 or contacting DHS.

Maryland Auto Insurance Program

Maryland's free auto insurance first initiative for low-income drivers, known as the Maryland Auto Insurance Program, operates independently from state subsidies. Instead, it offers assistance to Maryland drivers who encounter difficulties securing coverage through conventional insurance providers.

Previously named The Maryland Auto Insurance Fund, this program stands out by not factoring in credit, education, or lapses in coverage when evaluating eligibility. This can be particularly beneficial for low-income drivers facing challenges related to medical payments coverage due to these factors. To qualify for the Maryland Auto Insurance program, individuals must:

For those struggling to find car insurance in Maryland due to issues like poor credit history, lapses in coverage, or being an inexperienced driver, Maryland Auto offers a reliable option. Meeting the eligibility requirements ensures guaranteed access to car insurance through this program.

Cheapest Car Insurance Companies for Low-Income Drivers by State

Cheapest Car Insurance Companies for Low-Income Drivers by State

Ways Low Income Drivers Can Save on Car Insurance

1. Avoid letting Your Insurance lapse

If you're having trouble making ends meet, letting your insurance lapse or temporarily canceling your coverage may be tempting. This is a bad idea. Not having gaps in your insurance may be the most critical thing you can do to save money in the long run.

First, the penalties for driving without insurance are severe. You'll likely get your license suspended and pay hundreds of dollars in fines if caught. And the insurance rates for drivers previously caught without insurance are high — if you can get coverage.

Plus, you'll be directly responsible for any damage you cause if you're in an accident. Even if the other driver was at fault, many states have laws preventing you from collecting from the other driver's liability coverage if you don't have car insurance.

It's also not a good idea to cancel your insurance temporarily and keep the car in storage during that time. While it isn't against the law and will save you money in the short run, it's a big red flag for insurers.

Chances are high that your rates will increase for months when you reactivate your policy. And some insurers will deny you coverage altogether. Instead, consider minimizing the coverage level on vehicles you won't use — just don't forget to reactivate your policy before you get behind the wheel. Read more here.

2. Consider Buying Pay-per-mile Car Insurance

Pay-per-mile car insurance, telematics, or usage-based insurance is a type where you pay based on how much you drive. Instead of a fixed monthly premium, you're charged a rate for each mile you drive. This can be a cost-effective option for people who don't drive much, as they only pay for the actual miles they use. It's a way to tailor insurance costs to your driving habits, making it more flexible for those driving less frequently. It can be more expensive if you drive a lot.

Insurers will be able to see safe driving habits, which can lead to significant discounts and savings for low-income individuals who opt for usage-based insurance programs. Policyholders can lower their premiums and improve their overall financial well-being by demonstrating responsible driving behavior.

3. Explore Available Discounts

As a driver with a limited income, inquire about potential auto insurance discounts. Common discounts include:

Other possible discounts include those for good students, anti-theft measures, new cars, defensive driving courses, paperless transactions, senior drivers, and certain occupations.

4. Improve Your Driving History

Maintaining a clean driving record makes car insurance more affordable for responsible drivers. It's pretty clear, tickets for speeding and driving under the influence can greatly raise your yearly premiums. The increases can amount to hundreds of dollars or more.

5. Reduce the number of cars you own

The cost of auto insurance is often influenced by how many cars and drivers are on the private insurance policy. If you own and insure several cars, it can make the insurance cost go up.

To save money, consider selling or getting rid of a second car. This not only lowers insurance expenses but also cuts down on other costs like gas and maintenance for the extra car.

What Discounts and Savings are Available for Low Income Families?

In addition to government assistance programs, low-income families can explore various discounts and cost-saving strategies to make car insurance more affordable. Taking advantage of these opportunities can help reduce premiums without compromising coverage. You often need to ask your insurer for these.

Car insurance discounts for low-income drivers:

One way to save on car insurance is by bundling multiple policies or insuring multiple vehicles under the same insurer. Many insurance companies offer discounts for customers who have multiple policies or vehicles insured with them.

By consolidating insurance needs, low-income individuals can benefit from reduced premiums and simplify their insurance management.

Insurance providers often offer discounts for individuals with a clean driving record or those who complete a defensive driving course. Maintaining a good driving history, avoiding traffic violations and investing in driver education can lead to substantial savings on car insurance premiums.

Cars equipped with safety features such as anti-theft devices, anti-lock brakes, and airbags may qualify for discounts on insurance premiums. Low-income individuals can consider purchasing vehicles with these features to benefit from potential cost savings.

Explore Other Cost-Saving Measures

Other available discounts you can ask for:

Compare Car Insurance Quotes: How to find low-income car insurance

It's essential to comparison shop for low-cost insurance. When searching for auto insurance, prices vary widely among the best companies. It's crucial to note that the cheapest option may not always be the best. Rates depend on various factors, so make sure you get quotes from multiple companies. Compare offerings, considering that a lower rate from one insurance company alone may not necessarily mean better overall value. Review each quote carefully, considering the coverage limits, deductibles, and any additional features or discounts offered by the same insurance company. Always read the fine print to ensure the policy meets your specific needs.

By conducting thorough research and comparison, you can make informed decisions and secure the most cost-effective car insurance policy. Check out this blog for more details on how to shop for car insurance. 

a purple car

Where can you get affordable car insurance?

Shopping around to find car insurance for low-income drivers and reasonable auto insurance rates is vital. We are lucky to have the internet, but sometimes, we have so many options that it can be overwhelming. There are many good insurance comparison sites out there.

OCHO stands out from the rest. We're not just a comparison site; we provide a solution for handling car insurance expenses. As insurance agents, not a company, our focus is on assisting low-income drivers. We know our customers and their needs well. You can search from our wide selection of insurance providers using our app or website. They have competitive rates, robust coverage, and we help those with poor credit scores. We do this by financing your insurance policy; then, you can pay us back in more manageable payments every two weeks, synced to your salary cycle. This helps you make smarter personal finance decisions.

Factors That Impact Your Car Insurance Rates

Here are the top factors that influence your car insurance rates. Some of these you have control over, and some you don't!

  1. Age
  2. Driving history
  3. Credit score
  4. Years of driving experience
  5. Location
  6. Gender
  7. Insurance history
  8. Annual mileage
  9. Marital status
  10. Claims history
  11. Coverage level
  12. Vehicle
  13. Vehicle ownership status
  14. Discount options
  15. Insurance company

Average Annual Car Insurance Premiums by Credit Score

Average Annual Car Insurance Premiums by Credit Score

What's the cheapest type of car to insure?

One way to lower car insurance costs for people with limited income is to drive a cheaper car to insure. Consider the following categories:

  1. As cars age, their value decreases, resulting in lower insurance costs. Choosing older models can lower insurance costs due to depreciation.
  2. Compact cars are smaller vehicles and generally have a lower value for replacement. This leads to insurance premiums that are more affordable.
  3. Opt for cars with minimal accidents or theft claims. These vehicles have a good safety track record. They typically result in lower insurance costs.
  4. Choosing a car with a low theft rate can lower insurance rates.

Does Your Credit Score Impact Your Car Insurance Cost?

In short - yes. Most states, excluding Hawaii, Massachusetts, and California, factor in your credit score. They use it to determine your insurance rates. Boosting your credit score can lead to significant savings on insurance costs. Create a budget and focus on paying off debts to improve your credit score. You can read more about the impact of your credit score on your car insurance rate in our blog

Other Options for Low-Income Drivers

A hand holding dollar bills

Pay-In-Full Discount

We know it's not always possible. But it is worth mentioning that if you pay for your annual car insurance all at once, it can save you up to 15% per year on your auto insurance.


Q: How do I apply for government auto insurance?

California: Please visit California's Low Cost Automobile Insurance Program at or call 1-866-602-8861 to see if you qualify and locate a certified agent in your local area.

Hawaii: To be eligible for Hawaii’s no-fault auto insurance , you must meet the following conditions:

New Jersey: The SAIP can be obtained at most insurance agencies. If you're not sure how to get one, you can call the Personal Automobile Insurance Plan (PAIP) customer service number at 1-800-652-2471, or search for a PAIP producer. Effective 01/01/2011, National Continental Insurance Company is the carrier that writes SAIP policies.

Q: Can low-income individuals get discounts on car insurance?

A: Yes, many insurance companies offer discounts specifically for low-income drivers. These discounts can significantly reduce premiums and make car insurance more affordable.

Q: Is it worth comparing car insurance quotes?

A: Absolutely. Comparing car insurance quotes is essential for finding the most affordable coverage. Rates can vary significantly between providers, so taking the time to shop around can result in substantial savings.

Q: Can I get car insurance if I have a low income?

A: Yes, car insurance is available for individuals with low incomes. Through government programs, discounts, and cost-saving measures, low-income individuals can access affordable coverage tailored to their specific needs.

Q: How can I reduce my car insurance premium?

A: There are various ways to reduce car insurance premiums, including exploring discounts, increasing deductibles, choosing appropriate coverage levels, and maintaining a good driving record. Additionally, budgeting effectively and exploring cost-saving measures can help lower premiums.

Q: Are there resources available for legal assistance with insurance issues?

A: Yes, there are organizations that provide legal assistance and advocacy services for individuals facing insurance-related challenges. These organizations specialize in protecting the rights of policyholders and ensuring fair treatment in insurance matters.

Additional Resources