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Insuring Your Teen Driver

by Penny M. Hagerman

Teenagers love the sense of freedom and control they get from driving a car. With license and steering wheel in hand, the world is theirs—and they feel invincible.

But the rush a teen gets behind the wheel of a car often causes him or her to take risks that experienced drivers don't. This makes a teen a serious threat to everyone on the road, causes car insurance rates to skyrocket and results in higher insurance rates.

Saving Money on Teen Car Insurance

Many car insurance companies consider drivers under the age of 25 a higher-than-average risk for vehicle-related accidents. This high risk of teen accident and death can skyrocket your insurance rates 50 to 100 percent, says Jeanne Salvatore of the Insurance Information Institute (III), and often translates into high teen auto insurance premiums.

But wait—don't take away your teenager's car keys just yet. You can save money and afford the insurance you need to cover your teenager…if your teen expends some effort and follows these guidelines:

  • Keep a Clean Driving Record — Just one DWI conviction can raise teen insurance rates from a base premium of a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars annually for at least three years.
  • Earn Brownie Points — Many companies offer discounts to teens that attend high school or college full-time and maintain at least a 3.0 grade point average. Insurance agents also offer discounts to those taking a locally accredited driver safety course or other state-certified programs. (Ask your agent about these discounts, or get online information from the National Safety Council.)
  • Involve Yourself in Your Community — Young people who join certain civic or community organizations such as Eagle Scouts or Girl Scouts may receive discounts from their car insurance providers, says David Champion of Consumer Reports. These companies are trying to find the least risky teens, so they often reward time spent bettering your community with discounts, Champion adds.
  • Choose a Safer Car — Teen car insurance may cost up to 50 percent less if your teen drives a safer car such as a Honda Civic or a Volvo, according to Champion. Newer model cars with airbags are the least expensive to insure—and the safest for your teen to drive. Sports cars, expensive cars, high-performance cars and SUVs carry higher risk and higher insurance premiums.
  • Add Safety Features — Safety features such as anti-lock brakes, traction control, automatic seat belts and side-impact air bags can reduce teen car insurance rates considerably.

Teaching by Example

More young people between the ages of 15 and 20 die in car crashes than from anything else—causing risk for the car insurance company and higher quotes for teen drivers.

One of the best ways to offset this risk and keep teens safe is for adults to set a good example behind the wheel. Parents who actively model safe driving practices like these in front of their teen ultimately produce better adult drivers with lower car insurance quotes:

  • Brush up on state laws. Know state driving and insurance rules, as well as their effect on teen car insurance quotes, and practice them while driving.
  • Enforce safety and low quotes by making your teen participate in Graduated Driver Licensing, a three-step program that helps new drivers practice car driving under lower-risk conditions before becoming fully car licensed and requesting quotes.
  • Set and enforce rules for when, where, how and with whom the teen may drive the car—and practice the same guidelines in the car yourself—to help keep teen quotes low.
  • Ask your car insurance company about electronic tracking devices that monitor the way your teen drives the car—and their effect on quotes. Then use the information gathered to teach teen drivers safe habits and save money with low teen quotes.

Safe Driving Tips

Adding a young person to your car nsurance policy can raise rates 50 to 100 percent. But with a few simple steps, you can help keep auto insurance rates low by insisting your teen follows these rules:

  • Keep the number of car passengers to a minimum. The more people riding in the car, the greater the likelihood of accident—and high teen insurance quotes. In fact, with multiple car passengers, the risk of crashing is three to five times greater than when driving alone, which partially accounts for high teen insurance rates.
  • Slow down. 90 percent of teens admit to speeding—one of the main causes of teen car crashes—and higher insurance quotes.
  • Buckle up. About two-thirds of teens who die in car wrecks are not wearing seat belts. For more advice on the subject, talk to your insurance agent about the effect of accident on teen quotes.
  • Put the phone down. Driving while talking on the phone, dialing or texting distracts a teen, and increases the incidence of car accident and high insurance quotes.
  • Speak up. If a teen friend is driving recklessly, ask him or her to quit—or get out of the car as soon as it's safe to do so.
  • Stay home when under the influence. 25 percent of teen drivers killed are intoxicated, leading to increased teen insurance quotes.

Experts say the part of the teen brain that weighs risk, makes judgment calls and controls impulsive teen behavior doesn't mature until they're around 25. However, young drivers can overcome most immaturity issues—and keep car insurance rates low—simply by following these guidelines.

Driving is a privilege your teenager should respect, so lay down some ground rules before he or she gets ever gets into the driver's seat! By laying down a few ground rules, you can help your teen approach the wheel with a mature attitude—and save money when covering your young driver.

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