Last spring, when my 16-year-old nephew told his father he was excited to get his learner’s permit, my brother cringed. He had dreaded this day. Driving lessons and driving permits would help his son get the necessary practice to be a confident driver, but my brother knew that the number one threat to his son’s safety was driving or riding in a car with a teen driver.
However, it wasn’t just safety issues that had my brother worried about his son driving. There was also the financial impact to consider. Young, inexperienced drivers cost more money to insure. In fact, according to a study by InsuranceQuotes.com, adding a teenage driver to a married couple’s car insurance policy leads to an average 79 percent increase in annual premiums.
So what makes it so expensive to insure a teenage child?
Immaturity and lack of driving experience are two main factors that lead to a high crash rate among teens—and, therefore, higher insurance rates. Teens’ lack of experience affects their recognition of, and response to, hazardous situations, and it results in dangerous practices, such as speeding and tailgating. Teens are also more likely to engage in risky behaviors when they have peer passengers in the car with them.
Despite all the risks, there are a few things you can do to keep your costs down as your teen prepares to take the wheel:
1.Research different insurance companies. Every company prices policies for young drivers differently, so investigate what the costs are for you and for your teen.
2.Delay driving altogether. Most American teenagers are delaying getting their driver’s license, according to an August 2013 study conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety (the most recent available). The study notes that approximately 44 percentof teens get their license within 12 months of the minimum age for licensing in their state. Having teens put off driving until they turn 18 gives them a chance to mature—and it could also give parents lower auto insurance rates.
3.Add your teen to your own auto insurance policy. Once your teen starts to drive, he or she needs to be added as a primary driver on one of the family vehicles, which will result in a significant increase in your premiums. That said, this can be a less expensive strategy than for your teen to get his or her own insurance policy. If your teen is going to drive his or her own car, you still might want to insure it with your current auto insurance company so that you can get a multi-policy discount.
4.Designate your teen to the least valuable car. If possible, ask your insurer to exclude your teen from certain cars in your household. Some insurers will allow you to do this if the number of automobiles equals or exceeds the number of insured drivers on a policy. Bear in mind that if your teen is involved in an accident with an unassigned car, there could be stiff penalties, including increases in your premiums.
5.Up your deductible. Going from a $250 to a $500 or $1,000 deductible can save you 10 to 20 percent on your annual premium. You may want to use those savings to increase your liability insurance.
6.Make sure your teen gets good grades and driver training. Most insurance companies will give a discount on auto insurance to students who maintain at least a B average or better in school. Another way to earn a discount is by having your teen take a recognized driver-training course.
7.Keep the car at home if your teen is college bound. You may be eligible for lower premiums if your teen goes away to school and doesn’t take a car. Many insurers will reduce rates for a student when his or her status changes from a primary driver to an occasional driver.
Keeping insurance costs down is important, but there are other things to consider when insuring your teen as a new driver.
Additional considerations when your teen starts driving
When choosing a car, consider important factors such as side-impact protection, stability control, and rollover risk. Teenagers should drive vehicles that offer state-of-the-art protection in case they do crash. Sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks can be less stable than cars (their height can cause a rollover risk), but small vehicles offer much less protection in crashes than larger ones. Fortunately, many mid- and full-size cars offer adequate crash protection and stability. Check out the safety ratings for mid-size and larger cars before you head to the dealership.
Before your teen gets behind the wheel, make sure to give him or her “the talk.” Explain the effects of driving while impaired as well as the dangers of texting, taking selfies, or socializing with friends while driving. Even something as simple as changing the radio could result in an accident.
When your teen is ready to get a learner’s permit, have a conversation with your insurance professional about more ways to save money. The good news is that as your teen gets older, insurance rates will drop—providing he or she has a good driving record.
Loretta L. Worters is vice president of the Insurance Information Institute, whose mission is to improve public understanding of insurance – what it does and how it works. Ms. Worters is an author and woman’s advocate frequently quoted in leading publications including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today, Business Week, Forbes, U.S. News & World Report, and appears regularly on television networks including ABC, CNBC, CNN and Fox. Follow her on twitter at @LWorters.