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Learning how to drive and saving up for your first car are major steps toward independence. But that taste of freedom may become less sweet when you start looking at car insurance costs. While young drivers may be able to get their own car insurance policy at age 18, it can be expensive. Instead, getting on a parent's or relative's policy could be a more affordable way to get coverage for your vehicle.
How Old You Need to Be to Get Car Insurance
The minimum age you can be to sign up for your own car insurance policy depends on the age at which you're considered an adult in the state you call home. In most states, you must be 18 to be able to legally enter contracts, including car insurance policy agreements, but this can vary. For example, in Mississippi, you must be 21, and in Nebraska and Delaware, you must be 19.
What if you're a driver under the age of 18? Most states require that all drivers have some form of car insurance to protect themselves and others on the road, including minors. Young drivers who can't sign up for insurance on their own could get coverage by being added to an adult's policy.
Should You Buy Your Own Car Insurance?
Even if you're old enough to get your own car insurance, it may not be your best option if you have a parent or relative willing to include you on their policy. Car insurance typically costs more for young drivers because they lack driving experience and are statistically riskier drivers. Teens ages 16 to 19 are also more likely to get into accidents than other drivers. By default, these factors could put you into a "high-risk" driver category, which can raise your insurance premium.
When you join an insurance policy with a parent or relative, you're essentially piggybacking off of their driving record and history, which can lower your insurance cost. You may even be able to stay on your parents' policy as long as you're living at home or attending college. For college students and teens, this could result in big savings during a life stage when cash is often tight. But this may not last forever—when you leave the nest and buy your own car, you'll likely need to shop around for your own car insurance.
How to Save on Auto Insurance
Whether you're signing up for your own policy or being added to your parents' insurance, taking these steps could help lower your insurance costs:
- Shop around. Compare rates with multiple insurance companies to see where you may be able to get the best deal for the coverage you want.
- Put fewer miles on your car. Driving less could help you secure a lower premium. That's because less time on the road means there is less of a chance that you'll get into an accident. If you can bike to school or live near public transportation, this could help lower your insurance costs.
- Keep a clean driving record. Establishing driving history with no at-fault accidents or violations can help reduce your insurance over time.
- Reduce your coverage. Making policy changes like increasing your deductible could decrease your premium. You might also find out what extras your policy includes, such as rental coverage or roadside assistance, and eliminate the ones you don't need.
- Take advantage of discounts. Insurance companies may offer insurance discounts if you get good grades or take a defensive driving course. Ask for discount opportunities to see what savings you can find.
- Maintain good credit. Many auto insurance companies use a credit-based insurance score when calculating your premium because they consider customers who have good credit to be less likely to file insurance claims.
The Bottom Line
Building positive credit and a strong driving history to get better insurance rates may not happen overnight—but there are steps you can take now to get started on the right foot.
When you're behind the wheel, drive safely by keeping distractions to a minimum, maintaining a reasonable distance behind other cars and watching your speed. To keep your credit score trending upward, make on-time debt payments and keep balances low.
Until you can qualify for competitive insurance rates on your own, asking a parent or relative if you can be added to their policy (and agreeing to cover your share of the bill if necessary) could be a viable solution. If you are considering going solo and buying your own insurance, Experian can help you shop for insurance quotes and compare coverage to weigh your options.