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Our 21-year-old daughter needs a car for her last year in college. We live in Virginia, and she attends school in Ohio. What would be better -- adding the car to our current family policy, or having her obtain her own insurance. We would pay the bill either way.

The answer depends on who will own the car. If the car is titled to your daughter, she will need to have her own insurance policy. But if the car is yours, you can list her on your car insurance policy.

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Your daughter is still in a higher-risk category because of her age, and generally it's less expensive for parents to add teens and young adults to their policies than for the offspring to have their own policies. Get car insurance quotes for both alternatives, though, to confirm.

Meanwhile, notify your car insurance agent or company about the car and where your daughter will use it. Car insurance rates are based in part on where a car is garaged. You'll also want to make sure to purchase at least the minimum insurance requirements for both her home state and the state where she attends school.

Finally, think safety first when choosing a car for your daughter. Generally, larger cars are safer than smaller cars because they can absorb more energy in a crash. But the safety of small cars has improved, with a variety of compact and subcompact makes and models earning the prestigious "Top Safety Pick" award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Check the IIHS vehicle ratings for vehicles you consider purchasing.

To narrow it down further, get insurance quotes for the finalists. Car insurance rates vary considerably by make and model -- with the cheapest rates for practical, family-style vehicles and the most expensive premiums for fancy sports cars and high-end luxury SUVs and sedans.

Finally, many car insurance companies offer a good student discount for college students who earn decent grades, usually a B average or above. See if your daughter qualifies.

For more, see Proper insurance coverage for college-bound children.

Last updated: Apr. 2, 2012
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