What to expect when you add a teen driver to your insurance
As a parent, step-parent or grandparent, you eventually come face-to-face with that exhilarating time when a teen in your home starts driving. In crossing this milestone, your teen also will need car insurance.
In this article, we’ll explain car insurance for teenagers, the best types of car insurance for teen drivers, plus how to save money on car insurance.
In Washington state and Idaho, teen drivers must by law have liability coverage after they get a license and start driving. Parents or guardians will normally add their teen to their existing car insurance policy. (There is one exception to this rule. If no one in the home owns a car, the teen won’t be added to an existing policy.)
The good news is that getting car insurance for teenagers isn’t hard to do. AAA Washington agents add teens to existing policies all the time, and you will have some choices. The downside is that your premiums will go up. The premium can more than double when adding a teen driver, particular a male teen.
Tip: Need advice on car insurance for teenagers? Call a AAA Washington agent today to discuss your options.
What kind of car insurance do teens need?
All licensed teen drivers in Washington and Idaho need to be insured to drive once they obtain a license. The three major categories are:
- Liability insurance will pay claims if you cause an accident that injures other people or damages another person’s car or property. A minimum level of liability insurance is mandatory in Washington and Idaho.
- Collision insurance will cover damage to your car in an accident regardless of who is at fault, including another vehicle, an object (like a guardrail, pole) or a rollover. Collision insurance is optional, unless required by a car loan.
- Comprehensive insurance will cover damage to your car in random acts that are out of your control, such as theft, vandalism, certain natural disasters or if you hit a deer or other large animal. Comprehensive insurance is optional, unless required by a car loan.
Additionally, everyone should ask an insurance agent about these two optional types of insurance.
- Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage protects you if you’re involved in an accident with an at-fault driver who is uninsured or underinsured. If the teen is injured, for example, this insurance can be used to pay for medical expenses and damage to your car.
- Personal injury protection to cover additional medical payments and hospital expenses. This is particularly useful for working adults because it also includes coverage for lost wages; however, the medical benefit adds more coverage if a teen is injured in an accident.
Tip: Don’t forget to add your teen driver to your AAA Washington membership for peace-of-mind on the road.
When do I get insurance for my teen driver?
Helping a teen learn to drive, and then obtaining a license and insurance can be a little confusing. In Washington state, here is the most common route:
- Obtain a WDL number. You need a unique WDL number for a teen to enroll in a driver’s ed class and obtain a permit. You can obtain this number by registering at the Washington State Department of Licenses. This is a quick online process.
- Enroll the teen in an approved driver training course. Teens can register for driver’s ed at age 15. All teens under the age of 18 must complete driver’s ed.
- Get a permit. A teen must be 15 to obtain a learner’s permit. You can obtain the permit 10 days or less before the teen’s driver’s ed class begins.
- Practice driving. The teen needs to hold a permit for a minimum of six months before qualifying for a license. They can practice driving on public roads with a licensed driver in the front seat. That supervising licensed driver must have held a valid driver’s license for at least five years.
- Get a license. A teen can obtain a driver’s license at age 16 after passing a written test and a driving test. Teens under the age of 18 will receive an intermediate license with restrictions.
- Add the teen to an existing household auto policy. Your teen must be insured once the license is issued.
Tip: Looking for savings on insurance? AAA members receive a discount from several insurance companies that partner with AAA Insurance Agency. This discount can be as much as 8% on car insurance. Click here to find an agent.
How much does car insurance for teenagers cost?
Washington residents pay some of the highest auto insurance rates in the country. The average cost for one driver can range from $400-$800 annually to purchase the state minimum in liability insurance, and $1,400-$2,000 per year for full coverage (liability, collision and comprehensive). A policy that includes a teen will pay at the top of this range, or much more. The cost depends on the company and the individual. Adding a young driver to an existing policy can more than double the cost of a premium, particularly if you are adding a male teenager.
One way to save money on car insurance for teenagers is to delay the teen’s driving test. A teen can qualify to take the test and get a license after holding a permit for six months; however, there is no rule that says the teen has to take the test at six months. The permit is valid for one year. You can often gain some insurance savings by waiting, and the teen will gain an extra six months of supervised driving experience.
Plus, as a general rule, it’s more expensive to add a 16-year-old than a person over the age of 18 to car insurance. So, if the teen isn’t planning to drive much, you talk about about taking extra time to learn and delaying the road test.
Tip: New drivers can be any age, from young professionals to older adults. If you’re a new driver, click here to learn more about car insurance for new drivers of all ages.
Why do teens pay more for car insurance?
Teen drivers are charged much higher rates than their parents and grandparents because they are statistically more likely to get into an accident, drive recklessly and speed.
Can I get a discount on car insurance for teenagers?
The answer is yes. You can save on car insurance for teenagers in a number of ways:
- Getting good grades. Several companies give discounts to teen drivers for maintaining good grades, typically a “B” average or higher. Progressive, for example, gives a 10% good student discount.
- Taking a driver safety course. Some insurance companies offer a generous discount for new drivers if you complete an approved defensive driving course. Not all insurers will offer this discount for youthful drivers; however, AAA partners Mutual of Enumclaw and Foremost Signature both do. Note, it’s not the same as taking driver education classes. It must be an approved safety course that typically takes four to 12 hours to complete.
- Agree to mobile tracking. Some insurance companies give discounts after evaluating your driving habits and usage using apps. For example, Safeco will monitor the person’s driving for 90 days. The driver can qualify for up to 5% to 30% discount after completing the program. Don’t forget to ask about these programs.
- Bundling your car insurance with other policies. This is when you buy all your insurance policies from the same company. A car policy can be combined with several different policies, such as home or renters insurance. Bundling, or combining insurance, is a great option for anyone with more than one type of insurance.
In Washington state, teen drivers under the age of 18 must enroll in a teen new driving education course prior to obtaining a learner’s permit. You can’t learn to drive unless you enroll in the course. AAA Washington is currently exploring opportunities to provide affordable driver’s education in Washington. Stay tuned for announcements.
Tip: Don’t forget to add family members to your AAA Washington membership as associates. Click here to learn more about membership.
4 mistakes to avoid when insuring a teen driver
There are a few mistakes families will want to avoid when shopping for car insurance for teenagers, including:
- Purchasing the minimum level of insurance. Many drivers are tempted to buy only the minimum liability required by law. When adding a teen, your first reaction may be to take the cheapest policy available. Don’t forget that you are adding a risky driver — one who is more likely to cause an accident. So, when you add a teenager to your policy, it makes sense to increase your liability limits. You also might consider adding an umbrella policy that can provide $1 million or more in extra liability coverage for accidents that occur on the road or at home.
- Excluding a teen or a young driver from coverage on certain vehicles owned by family members who live in the same home. If you are adding a dependent child to your policy, you may be tempted to limit the teen to the use of one car and exclude other vehicles. Don’t do it, however. If the teen does borrow one of the other vehicles and gets into an accident, it won’t be covered. You could be found entirely liable for the damage and any injuries to other parties. (Plus, many insurance carriers won’t exclude a licensed household member from a policy.)
- Setting a lower coverage limit on the teen driver’s car. This mistake is related to the last two mentioned: Some people not only exclude a teen from certain vehicles, but also lower the coverage limits on the included vehicle to the minimum. For example, say a household has three cars. You may have the maximum amount of liability coverage on your SUV and your spouse’s sports car but have only bought the minimum amount of liability on the old Honda that you have given your teenage son to drive. Yet, your teenager is statistically much more likely to get into an accident.
- Buying too-much car for the teen’s experience level. Inexperienced drivers should choose their first car carefully. It’s not a good idea to start a teen on a large truck or a high-horsepower car. Certain cars and trucks can also cost significantly more to insure than others. AAA recommends starting teens out in a mid-sized sedan. These models tend to be easier to drive and are safer than compacts, sports cars, SUVs and trucks.
As you can see, there are some things to consider when shopping around for car insurance for teenagers. Call AAA Washington today to discuss the options for adding a teen to your policy — and congratulations on welcoming a new driver into your family.
—Written by AAA Washington staff
—Top photo: AdobeStock