Background Comparative phylogeography of sympatric sibling species provides an opportunity to isolate the effects of geography and demographics on the evolutionary history of two lineages over the same, known time scale. In the current study, we investigated the phylogeographic structure of two zopherid beetle species, Phloeodes diabolicus and P. plicatus, where their ranges overlap in California's Transverse Ranges. Results Although P. diabolicus and P. plicatus share similar habitats with largely overlapping distributions, the results of this study revealed different evolutionary histories for each species since divergence from their most recent common ancestor. In general, P. plicatus had higher genetic diversity, and more among population isolation than P. diabolicus. The mismatch distributions indicated that one major difference between the two species was the timing of population expansion. This result was consistent with genetic patterns revealed by the Φst values and genetic diversity. Lastly, there were no parallel genetic breaks at similar geographic barriers between the species. Conclusions Our data revealed that differential demographics rather than geography were responsible for the genetic patterns of the two species.