Car insurance for college students: 3 things to know

College student sitting in the driver's seat of her car, looking out of the window and smilingImage: College student sitting in the driver's seat of her car, looking out of the window and smiling

In a Nutshell

Car insurance for college students can be expensive. But you may be able to reduce your costs by staying on a parent’s policy, working with an insurance company that offers insurance discounts to younger drivers or limiting how much you drive.
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Car insurance typically costs more for younger drivers, including younger college students, than for more-experienced drivers. But shopping around to compare rates and looking for discounts may help you pay less.

One of the reasons car insurance companies tend to charge young drivers more is because they’re considered more likely to be in a car crash. Drivers ages 16 to 19 are almost three times more likely than drivers ages 20 and older to get into a fatal accident, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But even if you’re a student, you may be able to lower your car insurance premium. So before you head off to school, here are three things to know as you consider your insurance options and potential ways to save on coverage.

  1. College students may be able to stay on a parent’s policy
  2. College students, as younger drivers, typically pay more for car insurance
  3. College students may be able to get discounts on car insurance

1. College students may be able to stay on a parent’s policy

One way to keep your auto insurance rates down is to stay on a parent’s policy. This may be possible even if you go to school out of state — as long one of your parents is listed on the title of the car you drive. But if you have your own car and you’re the only person listed on the title, you’ll probably have to get a separate policy, which typically costs more.

If you plan to live at home while attending college, you may be able to stay on a parent’s policy if you don’t own the vehicle you’ll be driving. But if you’ll be living on campus or renting an apartment during the school year, check with your insurance company to find out if you need to buy your own coverage.

Even if you’re not taking a car to college, it’s generally a good idea to stay on a parent’s insurance policy so that you’re covered if you ever need to drive at home for breaks. Your parent might even get a discount on their policy if you plan to keep your car at home while you’re away at school — as long as that parent owns the car. Remaining on a parent’s auto policy can also help you avoid coverage lapses, which can drive up your rates when you buy your own insurance policy down the road.

2. College students, as younger drivers, typically pay more for car insurance

While insurance providers typically charge younger drivers, like college students, higher car insurance rates, the amount you’ll pay depends on many factors. But remember: If you can stay on a parent’s policy, you’ll typically pay less.

If you need to have a car at school and staying on a parent’s policy isn’t an option, buying your own policy can be expensive. Here are a few of the factors that can influence your rates.

  • Location Auto insurance companies establish rates based on where the car is located. If your vehicle is in an urban area, rates may be higher than if it were in the suburbs or a rural area.
  • Age Typically, the younger you are, the higher your rates will be. Insurance premiums tend to drop significantly after you turn 25 if you have a decent driving record.
  • How much you drive — In general, the more you drive, the higher your insurance premium will be because you’re more likely to get into an accident. If you don’t plan to drive much while you’re at school, a pay-per-mile policy might save you money.

3. College students may be able to get discounts on car insurance

Although some factors that affect rates — such as your age — are out of your control, there are things you can do to reduce your cost. Many companies offer a variety of car insurance discounts you may be able to take advantage of. Here are some examples, though these can vary by insurance provider and state.

  • Resident student discount — If you’re going away to school but plan to keep your car at home and remain on a parent’s policy, your parent may be able to get a discount since you won’t be driving much.
  • Good-student discount — If you hit the books and maintain a certain GPA (this can vary by insurance company), you could qualify for a good-grade discount.
  • Multiple policy discount — Insurance companies often offer discounts to people who purchase more than one policy, such as an auto policy and renters insurance.
  • Anti-theft device discount — If you take extra steps to protect your car from being stolen, like installing a car alarm, you may qualify for a reduced rate.
  • Driver training discount — If you’re under 21 and take a course in safe driving or driver education, you may qualify for a discount.
  • Organization member discount — Some car insurance companies offer discounts to members of certain fraternities, sororities, honor societies or other student organizations.

Be sure to ask any insurance companies you’re considering about discounts they might offer, such as those listed above or any other relevant discounts. For example, Erie Insurance offers a youthful-driver discount to unmarried students under age 21 who live with their parents. If you’re going to school in state and don’t plan to live on campus, it may be worth checking out.

What’s next?

If you’re heading off to college, check with your parent’s insurance company or agent to find out whether you’ll be covered by their policy while you’re at school and if the rate to maintain coverage will change.

If you don’t qualify for coverage under your parent’s policy, shop around to find a good, affordable car insurance policy that meets your needs. Ask about all available discounts and compare quotes from multiple providers to help ensure you get the best car insurance for your situation.

About the author: Jennifer Brozic is a freelance financial services writer with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland and a master’s degree in communication management from Towson University. She’s committed… Read more.