For a teenager, a set of car keys can be life changing. There's nothing like the freedom of jumping into the driver's seat and heading wherever the road might take you.
But freedom comes with responsibility. (Welcome to adulting!) It's important for teen drivers—and all drivers, for that matter—to have auto insurance, just in case of any mishaps. Coverage and rates for 16- to 18-year-old drivers depend on various factors like where the teen lives and what type of car they drive. Here are some pointers for getting teen auto coverage at the best price.
What is the cost of car insurance for a 16-18 year old?
Young drivers have more accidents than older, more seasoned drivers, so teens (or their parents) inevitably pay more for auto insurance. In fact, teens generally pay about three times as much as drivers in their 30s, and four times as much as drivers in their 50s.
A 16 year old's insurance premium is about $6,700 per year, on average. But there is an upside: with each birthday, rates drop a bit. The average premium for a 17 year old is around $6,200 a year, and car insurance for an 18 year old is about $5,500 annually.
While teens certainly have special skills—like being able to fix that glitch on your cell phone—they don't have the best experience as drivers. Younger people have limited driving experience and are more likely to speed, text while driving, and engage in other risky behavior than older drivers. As a result, drivers between age 16 and 19 have more vehicle crashes than drivers in any other age group.
That's especially true for teenage boys. Until they turn 21, males generally pay 20% more than females for auto coverage—unless they live in a state like California which prohibits gender-based insurance rates.
Can an 18 year old get their own insurance policy?
Teens can get their own auto insurance policy when they reach the age of majority, which is 18 in nearly all states (except in Alabama, where teens are considered minors until age 19).
Minors (or drivers 16-17 years old) need a parent or guardian's signature to get insurance. By signing, that parent or guardian is accepting responsibility for any damage the teen might cause while driving.
How much cheaper is it to add an 18 year old to a parent’s policy vs getting their own policy?
If a teen is simply added to a parent or guardian's policy, the teen's premium roughly averages $3,000 a year. But a teen can only join a parent or guardian's policy if they drive a family car—one that they don’t own themselves—and live at home.
If a teen gets their own policy, the premium could jump to around $5,000 a year, but ask your agent about discounts.
What are ways to keep car insurance costs down for 16-18 year olds?
Younger drivers might pay higher auto insurance rates than their elders, but there are several ways to save. If you’re a teen—or are buying coverage for a teen—take these steps to reduce coverage costs.
- Choose a car wisely. A pricey sports car comes with pricey insurance. On the flip side, driving an inexpensive vehicle will generally bring your premiums down. And if your car is equipped with cool safety features like advanced airbags or early crash detection, you may also get a price break on auto coverage.
- Increase the deductible. A policy’s deductible is the amount you pay out of pocket for any damage to your vehicle before your insurance company pays the remainder of a claim. The higher your deductible, the lower your monthly insurance premium.
- Boost safety skills. If you’re a new driver, take a safe driving course. You’ll develop skills to stay safer on the road and could also earn a safe driver discount of 5 to 20%. Ask your agent about safe driver programs in your area.
- Get good grades. Teens who earn good grades are often rewarded with lower auto insurance rates. Ask your agent if you’re eligible for a good student discount.
- Take advantage of on-campus discounts. If you attend school far from home—and don’t have a car at school, only at home—you might be eligible for a distant student discount.
AAA offers a variety of discounts for young drivers including through the teenSMART driving program, good student discount, and distant student discount. While these savvy moves can add up to some sweet savings, keep in mind that the total insurance discount that a driver qualifies for may be capped.