If you're lucky, your car insurance premiums will only double
when your teenage son hits the streets.
The impact of a teen on
car insurance rates
is one of the most common questions we receive at CarInsurance.com.
And the answer is almost always, "It depends." No two households
are alike, and so many factors go into rates that any answer is
really a guess.
To get some clarity, we ran comparative insurance quotes in 25
states for otherwise identical families: a father, 49, and a
mother, 48, driving a financed 2009 Toyota Camry and a paid-off
2004 Ford Expedition, both with full collision, comprehensive and
liability coverage, and no violations or accidents. They live in
middle-class suburbs and commute to white-collar jobs.
Then we added a teenage boy to the mix.
Fix yourself a drink: Your car insurance is going
In Scottsdale, Ariz., Culver City, Calif., Black Forest, Colo.,
Hartford, Conn., and Alexandria, Va., our family's car insurance
premiums tripled or worse. The average increase across our 25
cities was 156 percent.
In dollar terms, that meant an increase in six-month premiums of
$505 in Des Moines, Iowa, and $2,854 in Culver City. The average
dollar increase was $1,014 every six-month rating period.
And that's making the very favorable assumption that you shopped
around and got the lowest possible premium when your teenager
joined the policy. When rates rise this much, the penalty for
failing to shop around grows exponentially: If our family had
settled for the second-lowest rate as they added their teenage
driver, their six-month premiums would have averaged $480 more.
|Boise City, Idaho
|Apple Valley, Minn.
|Black Forest, Colo.
|Des Moines, Iowa
|Vestavia Hills, Ala.
|Briarcliff Manor, N.Y.
|College Park, Md.
|Orange Park, Fla.
|Culver City, Calif.
But wait, there's more!
Remember the whole "it depends" part? Your actual rate increase
even after a teenage meteor strikes your policy could be less. You
might drive a car that insurers like more, or live in a city with
fewer thefts, or drive fewer miles. But you could pay more -- much
more -- as well.
A teen with a clean record is very different from a teen with a
black mark like an at-fault accident.
A 16-year-old gets traffic tickets at a rate 1.8 times that of
the average driver, the National Highway Transportation Safety
Administration (NHTSA) says. He's 3.7 times more likely to be
involved in an accident. Once he has had one accident, NHTSA data
show, he's 50 percent more likely than even other 16-year-olds to
That makes insurance companies cringe.
We sampled five cities by adding a rear-ender with $3,500
damage, courtesy of our 16-year-old. Rates on the cheapest policies
rose about 25 percent, but those on the more expensive policies
rose much, much more -- in some cases doubling. That's an insurer
who does not want to insure your teenager.
How can a parent lower car insurance rates?
First, shop around. The more you pay for insurance, the more
likely it is that you can save money. Every insurer prices its
coverage differently, and what might be cheaper for your neighbor
might not be cheaper for you. You can compare
auto insurance quotes
online or by calling several agents.
It's simply your best shot at saving money, and the payoff for a
few minutes of work could be hundreds or even thousands of
Why concentrate on comparison shopping? Because the next best
way to save money is hoping that your teenager gets grades good
enough to qualify for a discount. (A few minutes on the Internet
seems almost painless now, right?) In general you can expect to
save 10 percent to 15 percent if your insurer offers a good student
discount at all.
Third, buy the right car. The cheapest vehicles to insure are
typically minivans. Good luck! But with that as your opening
gambit, a rental-grade sedan will seem like a Ferrari to your teen.
If it's old enough to get by with only liability insurance, so much
Lastly, there are no real tricks. State laws vary, but in
- All licensed drivers in a household need to be added to a
policy. If you don't, your insurer may not cover an accident or
other claim, or it may cover the claim only if you pay the
additional premium it would have charged you.
- Some states allow a licensed teen to be excluded from your
policy. Others don't.
- Most states will not allow a teen to title a car in his own
- Even if your state has no age restrictions on titling a car,
he is unlikely to find insurance by himself. It's a contract, and
he's not old enough to sign one yet.