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Insuring a teen driver in single-parent households

Last updated March 7, 2009

Insuring a teenage driver can be expensive. Even if your children are away at college, live part-time with an ex-spouse or spend a significant amount of time away from home, you may still be required to buy car insurance for them if they plan to drive.

It depends on your circumstances and the practices of your car insurance company. For example, some companies won't sell policies to drivers under 18, first-time buyers or young drivers with a tarnished driving record, according to Progressive Insurance.

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When parents are divorced

If there is joint custody, the teen should be listed on the policy of the parent with whom he or she resides.

When teens split time between divorced parents, many insurers suggest the parent with full custody should add the child to his or her policy. In some cases, insurers suggest it should be the parent that has custody where the teen attends school.

In the event of joint custody, the teen is covered by both parents' policies, regardless of whether the teen is listed as a driver on either policy. That's because some insurance policies define "an insured" as "a person related to you by blood, marriage, or adoption who is a resident of your household."

Check your policy language or contact your insurance agent for clarification of your own policy.

Honesty is the best policy

If you don't list your teen on your policy, be prepared to face the possibility of cancellation of your policy, nonrenewal or surcharges.

Some insurers require that all drivers be named on both policies.

Some insurance companies will cancel your policy for misrepresentation if you fail to list your teen driver during the application process — or when the teen secures a driver's license. That's because insurers have a right to charge for the increased risk.

Some insurers require that all drivers be named on a policy, no matter how much time they spend in a household. If your teen has access to your car and drives it even occasionally, you may be required to list the teen on your auto policy.

The absolute worst case

In a state that allows insurers to void policies for misrepresentation, failing to list your teen on your policy can be a costly mistake. If your teen has an accident and you file a claim, your insurer could void your policy because you failed to tell them.

If you're unsure whether your child is adequately covered, contact your agent or insurance company.

Why auto insurers are so concerned about teens

Research shows that young drivers are especially vulnerable to death and injury on the roadways. This is due to inexperience, immaturity, speeding, driving while intoxicated, susceptibility to distractions and failure to wear seatbelts — to name a few. Here are some statistics about young drivers, ages 15 to 20, from a 2008 report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

  • 3,490 drivers in this age group were killed in traffic accidents and an additional 272,000 were injured in 2006. They accounted for almost 13 percent of the drivers involved in motor-vehicle fatalities.
  • Motor-vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for this age group.

As a result, the cost of auto insurance for teenagers is always higher than for other drivers because they pose a higher risk of accidents than more experienced drivers. According to Insurance Information Institute, if you have a teen daughter, your insurance may go up by as much as 50 percent when she gets her license. A teen son can increase your car insurance by as much as 100 percent.

Discounts offered by most insurance companies can help reduce the cost of insuring teen drivers. "Good-student discounts" are often available to teens who have a grade average of a B or higher. Also, some insurance companies will offer discounts to parents who install a GPS unit inside a teen's car to allow driver tracking.

 

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