6 Ways to Trim the Cost of Car Insurance for a Teen Driver

Your teen may qualify for discounts, but first shop around for less-pricey coverage

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Question: My son is about to get his drivers’ license, and I know our insurance is going to go through the roof! What can I do to make it less painful?


No matter what you do, your premiums are going to jump when your teenager starts driving. But a few strategies can help reduce the hit.

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1. Shop around for coverage before your teen gets his license. Some insurers have much better rates for young drivers than others, and the company with the lowest price for you now may not offer the best deal when you add a teenage driver. “If you know your child will be getting his or her license soon, maybe within six months, contact your insurance agent to give a heads up,” says Sarah Brown, an independent insurance agent in Shrewsbury, Pa. You may qualify for a better rate category if you switch before adding your son rather than shopping around after he’s already on the policy. You may qualify for a preferred policy, says Brown. When you add a young driver to such a policy, rates don’t spike as much.

2. Get credit for good grades. Most insurers offer a discount for students under age 25 who maintain a B average or better in high school or college – and the breaks can be significant. Specifics vary by insurer and state, but the discount can be worth as much as 20% to 25%. You usually need to provide the insurer with a copy of his report card. “Be prepared to send evidence periodically to maintain the discount,” says Brown.

3. Take extra steps to get more breaks. Many insurers offer discounts for drivers under age 21 who completed a drivers’ education course; find out what courses qualify before signing up. Some insurers also offer their own safe-driver programs for young drivers. Participating in State Farm’s Steer Clear program in most states, for example, can cut rates by as much as 15% for drivers under age 25 who have had no at-fault accidents or violations for the past three years (or for as long as they’ve been driving) and who complete the safe driving course either online or through State Farm’s mobile app and trip log.

4. Buy a safe car. Ask your insurer or agent about insurance costs when choosing a car for your teenager. Some insurers list relative insurance costs by type of car – see State Farm’s vehicle insurance ratings, for example. Be careful before buying an old beater that may be inexpensive to replace but may not have the safety features of a newer car. Take a look at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s list of of “best choices” for teenage drivers starting at less than $20,000, and “good choices” starting at less than $10,000.

5. Boost deductibles. Collision coverage for teenage drivers is pricey, so this can be a good time to boost deductibles to $500 or $1,000 and keep extra money in your emergency fund to pay for any damages. Compare premiums at different deductible levels to find your insurer’s sweet spot. If you have an older car, you could drop comprehensive and collision coverage entirely – but first compare the premiums for keeping the coverage with the cost to replace the car. You can go to Edmunds.com or KBB.com to estimate your car’s replacement cost.

6. Benefit from your driving record. If you have the option of keeping an older teenager on your policy or having him get his own policy (the rules vary by state), it usually costs less to keep the teenager on the parents’ policy, says Jana Schellin Foster, an independent insurance agent in Carson City, Nev. That way, he’ll benefit from the same discounts as the parents, such as a multicar discount or multipolicy discount if you also have home insurance with the same company. You may also be getting a discount for owning a home or going for several years without a claim.

Staying on your policy could also help your child benefit from your “insurance score,” says Brown. Your insurance score, which is based primarily on your credit record, can affect your premiums in many states, and parents usually have a better insurance score than their child, says Brown.

When you add your teen to your policy, boost your liability coverage, too – and consider a $1 million umbrella policy on top of your auto and home insurance liability limits. You are bringing more risk to your household by having an inexperienced driver on the road, says Brown. It can cost a few hundred dollars to add a $1 million umbrella policy, which can protect your assets and future earnings if your child causes an accident that injures someone or damages his or her property.

Kimberly Lankford
Contributing Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

As the "Ask Kim" columnist for Kiplinger's Personal Finance, Lankford receives hundreds of personal finance questions from readers every month. She is the author of Rescue Your Financial Life (McGraw-Hill, 2003), The Insurance Maze: How You Can Save Money on Insurance -- and Still Get the Coverage You Need (Kaplan, 2006), Kiplinger's Ask Kim for Money Smart Solutions (Kaplan, 2007) and The Kiplinger/BBB Personal Finance Guide for Military Families. She is frequently featured as a financial expert on television and radio, including NBC's Today Show, CNN, CNBC and National Public Radio.