One of the most exciting times in your child’s life will be when they learn to drive and start going out on their own. Having a car means freedom, independence, and an important step toward self-reliant adulthood. But even beyond the everyday expenses of fuel and maintenance, there’s another major expense to think about car insurance.

Teenagers pay a lot more for car insurance than adults and will continue to do so until they’re in their twenties. Driving teenagers will have to be on their parent’s insurance policy for a while — but how long? And how can parents bring those auto insurance expenses down in the meantime?

When Can Teenagers (Legally) Get Their Own Insurance?

 Own Car Insurance

While the exact age at which a teenager can purchase their own auto insurance varies by state, one thing is constant: a minor — anyone under 18 — cannot enter into a binding legal contract and so cannot have their own insurance policy.

In many states, the minimum age to buy auto insurance for teenagers is 18; in others, it’s 19. Some states have graduated licensing programs that loosen restrictions as the teen driver gets older and may only provide coverage once the program is completed.

How Many Teens Pay for Auto Insurance (and Why)

If you’re a parent with a teenager who drives, you likely already know all too well the expense of having a teen driver in the family. Per numbers from Kristine Lee at The Zebra, teens typically cost 83% more than the average for auto insurance — a figure that could send you looking for cheap car insurance companies. (The Zebra also helpfully provides a list of the best cheap car insurance companies for families with teen drivers.)

Why does it cost so much more to insure a teen driver? Simply put, their accident record is much higher. Teen drivers are by nature inexperienced and can be reckless. They present the risk of a much higher claim to insurance companies, which is passed right back to the policyholder in the form of higher premiums.

When Should They Get Their Own Car Insurance?

Own Car Insurance

Putting aside the legal details, when is the best time for your child to get off their parents’ policy and start buying their own auto insurance? The answer is “It depends”. Just as every child is different, the time when they’ll be ready to pay for their own insurance will also vary.

There are a few factors to consider when deciding whether or not to move your child off your auto insurance policy:
  • Age. As already stated, your auto insurance will go down as your child ages. In most cases, it’s cheaper and more financially sound to keep your teenager on your policy until they’re out of the house.
  • Maturity. Is your child ready for the responsibilities of keeping up with their own vehicle and insurance costs? A lapse in auto insurance can be a major risk.
  • Status. Is your child living at home or moving out? Are they going to school in another state? Are they regularly using your vehicle, or do they have their own? These are all factors to consider.

Keeping Your Car Insurance Affordable

If, for whatever reason, it’s not feasible for your child to get their own car insurance, all is not lost. There are some ways to bring costs down and keep your auto insurance affordable.

For one thing, you could make a compromise with your teen driver by keeping them on your policy and simply have them pay some portion of the premium. This may take some of the financial burden off parents while introducing some financial responsibility to the teen driver.

Another common (and financially prudent) way to bring down costs is to ask about discounts. Teens are often eligible for good student discounts, as well as discounts for keeping a clean driving record. And finding discounts isn’t just for teenagers, either — adults can bring their insurance premiums down by qualifying for things like veterans’ discounts, discounts for certain occupations, and more.

So when should your child be required to get their own car insurance? Again, that’s a decision only you can make. There are a couple of things to consider, however. First, your child doesn’t have to get their own insurance policy immediately on reaching the legal age, or even moving out of the house or going to college.

Parents can legally keep their children on their auto insurance policy without penalty until the child reaches the age of 24. Keep in mind that from 18 onwards, the premiums for insuring them will go down steadily until they’re on the same level as an adult driver.

Getting their own vehicle is a huge milestone in any teenager’s life, and auto insurance is not only required but a great opportunity to show responsibility and good judgment.

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