Driving

How to shop for car insurance as a teen

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You've taken the test. Your driver's license is in hand. Sweet freedom is so close! Perhaps you've saved up to buy a used car or your parents have generously offered to help you acquire one. There's only one thing standing in your way: You need car insurance. And as a teen driver, you'll be paying some of the highest possible rates. 

If your parents have deputized you to research car insurance options, you're in the right place. In this article, we're looking at everything you need to know as a teen driver getting car insurance.

Why do you need car insurance?

Car insurance is designed to protect you, your vehicle and other drivers in the event of an accident. It can cover damage to property, medical expenses and legal fees if you're found at fault. In almost all states, it's even required by law. If you're financing a vehicle, your lender will likely also require you to have car insurance.

There are different types of car insurance. Liability insurance protects other people from the damage you cause. So it’s the one that’s required by law. However, you can also add additional insurance protections that pay for damages that other people (or things) cause to you or your vehicle. Collision coverage protects your vehicle if it collides with something else, whether that’s another vehicle, a parking meter, etc. 

Comprehensive insurance covers not just damages from collisions but a number of other perils including theft, vandalism and weather. Having car insurance means you won’t have to pay to fix or replace your car out of your own pocket, should something happen to it.

Car insurance protects you when accidents happen. 

How much does car insurance cost for teens?

The cost of car insurance for teens varies depending on a number of factors, including the state you live in, your age, the make and model of your vehicle and your driving history. In general, however, you can expect to pay more for car insurance as a teen driver than an adult. 

According to The Zebra’s research, In 2022, the average annual cost for a 16-year-old for auto insurance was over $6,000! The reason, of course, is because even the most responsible 16-year-olds are still new drivers. The lack of experience means, in the eyes of insurance companies, as a teen you are still much more likely to get involved in an accident than a driver with more driving experience under their belt. Thus as you age, that number will go down quickly. In 2022, the average 17-year-old paid $5,133, and by 18 that number is down to $4,405. 

Of course, the amount varies significantly based on where you live. In North Carolina, the average cost of insurance for ages 16-19 was only $2,585. In Louisiana, the average for the same age group is over $10,000!

In 2022, the average annual cost for a 16-year-old for auto insurance was over $6,000!

Can you have your own auto insurance policy as a teen?

An insurance policy is a contract between you and the insurance company, so to legally enter into that contract, you need to be at least 18. If you are younger than 18, your parents will need to sign for you and will be responsible for the policy, unless there are special circumstances such as your being an emancipated minor.

Even if you are over 18, it likely makes more sense for you to be on your parents’ policy. This is particularly true if you live with them or if they are helping to finance your car. One of the reasons is because they will have an insurance history. Obtaining a car insurance policy when you have no previous history will mean you will likely pay even more for your rates.

Pro tip

If you are planning to join your parents’ policy and have them cover your insurance costs or reimburse them for the cost, you may want to encourage them to shop around. Adding a teen driver to their policy is a big change, and it’s a good time to consider options to make sure they’re getting the best rate.

How can you save on insurance as a teen driver?

If those big numbers above had you concerned (how are you going to pay that on top of car payments too??), there are some ways to lower your insurance costs even as a teen.

  • Student discounts: Are you a student? If so, do you get good grades? Some insurance providers have discounts for teens who maintain a GPA of 3.0 or higher. You will need to provide your transcript a couple of times a year to qualify for the discount. 
  • Telematics: Assuming you’re a good driver, you can install a device on your car that monitors how you drive. This can reduce the amount you pay because the insurance company will have data on how you actually drive, not just your age. 
  • Change your coverage if you aren’t driving: This seems like a no-brainer, but if you’re going away to college and won’t need your car, you can adjust your insurance to pay less while you’re away. 
  • Shop around: Some insurance companies are friendlier to teens than overs. Do your research to find the ones that will give you the best rates.

You can check out a few more ways to save money on car insurance as a teen driver here.

How do you get car insurance as a teen driver?

The process for getting car insurance as a teen driver is similar to the process for getting insurance as an adult. You'll need to provide some personal information, like your name, address and date of birth. You'll also need to have the vehicle's make, model and year on hand. If you're financing a vehicle, you'll need to provide your lender's information as well. 

Once you have all of this information, you can compare quotes from different insurers and choose the one that's right for you. Make sure it not only fits your budget, but also includes all of the coverage you want. If you will be driving frequently, in busy areas and plan to park your car outside overnight, consider springing for comprehensive coverage. You don’t want to save money on your monthly payment now only to have to pay out of pocket should something happen to your car later. 

If all of the above sounds like a lot of work, don’t worry! We can help make the research step a breeze. You can compare hundreds of insurance companies in minutes using The Zebra’s comparison engine.

Compare insurance rates quickly and easily.

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Susan MeyerSenior Editorial Manager

Susan is a licensed insurance agent and has worked as a writer and editor for over 10 years across a number of industries. She has worked at The Zebra a year. She currently specializes in producing research-focused content for The Zebra's Resource Center on topics related to auto and home insurance, personal finance and smarter living in the 21st century.

Susan's work has been cited by the Insurance Information Institute, State Farm, BuzzfeedCBS, Yahoo, Entrepreneur and Business Insider.