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Most Popular Cars in San Diego, California

If you’re a San Diegan, you’re already popular, and you’re living in one of the most enviable areas of the United States. Want to take it a step further, and drive a popular vehicle in a popular place? If you’re in the market for a new car, we’ll tell you what the top-selling vehicles in San Diego are.

That’s the easy part, though. We’ll also tell you the price of that popularity. Keep reading to get an idea of what you should expect to pay for your dream vehicle, for its maintenance, and for its insurance. We’ll even answer the question ”Can auto insurance be transferred to a new auto?

San Diego as a Tourist Destination

San Diegans are lucky to live in a world-class destination. Incredibly, there are lists of more than 500 things to do in San Diego and the surrounding area. And even if you’re a local, don’t let just the tourists take advantage of the top ten attractions!

There are many different places to visit and experience, including the San Diego Zoo, SeaWorld San Diego, Coronado Island, USS Midway Museum, and Balboa Park. Don’t forget to visit the Gaslamp Quarter, Old Town San Diego, and the gorgeous La Jolla Shores.
Of course, it’s understandable if you can’t resist going off-land thanks to the incredible diversity of waterways, shores, and harbors. San Diego’s most popular on-water “vehicles” include:

  • Jet skis and standup paddle boards (most popular spot is Coronado Island)
  • Kayaks (most popular spot is La Jolla Shores beach)
  • Boats (top spots are Mission Bay, Oceanside, Point Loma Peninsula, Coronado, Downtown Waterfront and Chula Vista top spots and Catalina Island for sailing)

But what about the top on-road choices for those enjoying those gorgeous coastal drives around San Diego?

Top-Selling Vehicles
Let’s start at the top and see what’s popular across the entire county, then compare it to the state of California, and then to San Diego County.
Top Sellers in the United States
Overall in the country, there are some big wins for Chevrolet, Honda, and Toyota:

  • Ford F-Series
  • Chevrolet Silverado
  • Ram Pickup
  • Toyota RAV4
  • Honda CR-V
  • Honda Civic
  • Toyota Camry
  • Chevrolet Equinox
  • Toyota Corolla
  • Nissan Rogue

Top Sellers in California

Seven out of 10 are the same in California as in the whole country...So much for the popular notion that California is wildly different from the rest of the country.

However, they have a little more love for Toyota, as well as Honda:

  • Honda Civic
  • Honda Accord
  • Toyota Camry
  • Toyota Corolla
  • Ford F Series
  • Toyota RAV4 Series
  • Chevy Silverado
  • Honda CRV
  • Toyota Prius
  • Toyota Tacoma

Top Sellers in San Diego County

Looks like San Diegans feel the Toyota love, and they want to keep on truckin’ in luxury.
The Big Three here are:

  • Toyota Tacoma
  • Audi Q5
  • Lexus RX350

Vehicle Cost and Insurance in San Diego

Now for the nitty gritty — the practicalities of popularity. In California, the minimum liability insurance requirements are $15,000 bodily injury per person/$30,000 bodily injury per accident/$5,000 property damage.

Average Cost of Auto Insurance in California
The typical San Diego driver will spend $636 annually if they only get the minimum required insurance, and $1,614 for full coverage, meaning the addition of collision and comprehensive insurance.

There are many variables to affect those average rates, including your age, marital status, gender, driving record, and address. Premiums rise by 32 percent, or $397, for example, from ZIP code 92131 to 92136. This is due to how much crime, theft, and uninsured motorists are in different areas.
The most expensive San Diego ZIP codes are 92105, 92145, 92155, 92135, and 92136. The most affordable San Diego ZIP codes are 92131, 92128, 92130, 92119, and 92129.

Luckily, by living in California you have a couple fewer factors. Using credit scoring and gender to determine auto insurance rates is banned in the Golden State.

When you’re ready to transfer your auto insurance to a new vehicle, just contact your insurance company to get the ball rolling. They will take care of the paperwork and state filings. Just be sure to coordinate the dates so there is no lapse in your coverage.

Remember that your premium will be adjusted if your new vehicle is markedly different from the vehicle you were insuring previously. And if you don’t already carry collision and comprehensive insurance and you are financing your new vehicle, your lender will require it to be added to your policy.

Let’s break down the cost of owning the top three vehicles in San Diego county, including the reasons why they’re popular as well what it costs for maintenance

Affording a Toyota Tacoma
For a 2020 base model, the price is $26,880. Dominating the midsize pickup truck segment, a Toyota Tacoma has high reliability scores and a high resale value. Tacomas last for up to 400,000 miles with proper maintenance.

And beyond the standard backup camera, safety features also include rear parking sensors, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert. The annual cost for maintenance, service, and repair is estimated at $254, and the average cost for insurance is $1,338 per year.

Affording an Audi Q5
For a 2020 base model, an Audi Q5 costs $43,300. The luxury compact SUV is fast, safe, reliable, and offers good fuel economy. Mechanical problems are rare, and it also has an easily operated infotainment system.

Annual cost is estimated at $305 for maintenance, service, and repair while insurance runs about $1,656 per year.

Affording a Lexus RX350
The price for a Lexus RX350 is $44,150 for a 2020 base model. Lexus’ best-selling vehicle, the luxury utility vehicle (LUX) has a high reliability rating and the severity of repairs is low. It can be driven for almost 300,000 miles with proper maintenance and also has a good resale value.

The maintenance, service, and repair annual cost is estimated at $550, and the insurance average cost is $1,664 per year.

Insurance Budget Tips
Yes, San Diego is an expensive place to live. The cost of living is six percent higher than California’s average cost of living, and 49 percent more than the entire country. But there is hope.

There are several ways you can keep your auto insurance as low as possible. Three big factors to watch are driving carefully to keep your record clear of accidents, speeding tickets, and other violations so you don’t add surcharges to the base rate of your insurance.

Also consider a higher deductible, especially if you have the funds to absorb more out-of-pocket in case of an accident or other repairs.

And don’t forget to check for discounts. They are only anywhere from two to ten percent each, but there are many discounts available, and they add up. A partial list includes bundling, multi-vehicle, loyalty, anti-lock brakes, anti-theft, new vehicle, low mileage, auto-pay, pay-in-full, paperless billing, good student, senior and occupation. 

Most of all, be sure to compare before you shop. Every auto insurance company will quote you a different rate, and you do yourself a disservice if you don’t see what all is out there.

To give you a good place to start, here are the top 10 insurance companies in San Diego:

  • State Farm
  • Farmers Insurance
  • Allstate
  • Mercury General
  • Auto Club
  • Geico
  • CSAA
  • USAA
  • Progressive
  • Liberty Mutual

State Farm has the biggest presence in California, and Farmers Insurance is a close second. For drivers with a military affiliation — of which there’s a good amount with San Diego’s large naval presence — you can take advantage of USAA, which has the best overall auto insurance prices in San Diego.

Remember, that if you can do San Diego fashion on a budget, you can do the same with a popular vehicle’s insurance, and no one will be the wiser! Just do a little research before your next auto purchase, and you’ll be able to stay cool and have the best car for your needs.

Karen Condor is a travel and insurance expert who writes and researches for the auto insurance comparison site, AutoInsurance.org.