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Paying the Price: The Cost to Insure Teen Drivers

Recently our president, Trevor Campbell, wrote an article for a community magazine talking about the challenges families and insurance companies face when it comes to insuring teen drivers. It's a topic we thought more people might benefit from, so we decided to share it here as well.

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EDMONDS, Wash. - Can I drive? These three little words take on a whole new meaning when you’re the parent of a teen.

When anyone gets behind the wheel of a car risks are involved. You might be a great driver but you can’t control what’s happening around you. Those risks only increase when we talk about teen drivers. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), with each mile, teen drivers are 3-times more likely to crash than someone 20-years and older.

As a dad these statistics are frightening. As someone with more than 20-years in the insurance industry these statistics make insuring teens one of the most costly challenges for both parents and insurance carriers.

Insurance companies look at a number of things when calculating insurance rates, including age. In 2013, car crashes remained the leading cause of death for 13 to 19-year olds in the U.S. That kind of information is hard for carriers to ignore as they consider the risk involved with insuring young drivers.

We often hear from parents unsure how best to handle protecting their teens. Whether you’re a parent who currently has a young driver or one who might in a few years – it’s good to know what to expect when your teen is ready to hit the road.

Teen Drivers: Common Questions

Q. If my teen has a permit, do I need to notify my insurance company?

A. It’s a good idea to contact your agent once your teen gets his/her permit but it will not change your auto policy. Teen drivers with learner’s permits are still covered under the parent. That changes once your teen gets his/her driver’s license.

Q. Would it be cheaper to have my licensed teen get his/her own insurance policy?

A. In order to get a separate policy your teen must be the registered owner of the vehicle they’re driving. In Washington, teens are not allowed to be registered car owners until they are 18-years-old. If your teen gets their license at 16 they are not eligible for their own auto insurance policy until they turn 18 and are the registered owner of a car.Talk with your agent about the ins and outs of this as the legal system in Washington creates a problem for this option.

Q. My son has his license but we don’t let him drive due to grades. So we don’t have to add him to our policy, right?

A. Wrong! Even if you have placed restrictions on your son/daughter’s ability to drive, once they get their license they need to be listed as a driver on your current policy.

Reducing Rates, Raising the Bar

In the mid-90s, states across the country begin adopting graduated licensing systems to help reduce deaths and collisions caused by teen drivers. In Washington, teens under 18 are first issued an intermediate driver license and are required to follow a set of laws in order to drive. Some of these regulations include, nighttime driving restrictions, cell phone use, and passenger restrictions. According to the IIHS, the number of fatal crashes and insurance collision claims involving teen drivers have decreased among states with these kinds of driving restrictions.

Insurance carriers are also working to find ways to reduce the cost of adding young drivers to parent’s policies, including offering good student discounts. By tying scholastic achievement with the opportunity to be licensed, many carriers have found these discounts helpful for parents from a pricing standpoint. The type of car your teen drives could also make a difference. Fast, high-powered car models will cost more to insure with teen drivers than those cars with moderate power and better safety equipment.

Yes, your car insurance rates will go up, in some cases by a lot, once you have a licensed teen driver. Working with an independent agent who has access to multiple carriers can help you find the best protection option without breaking the bank.