The price of car insurance fluctuates depending on a variety of factors -- but one of the biggest determinants of that price is your age. Since teens and young drivers are just getting started behind the wheel, they are typically the costliest age cohort to insure.
On average, parents can expect to see their annual insurance bill increase by $2,531 when adding a 16-year-old driver to their full coverage car insurance policy, according to Bankrate. To be clear, that's not the total cost but an added cost. In comparison, the average annual premium for full coverage of a 40-year-old driver with a clean driving record and good credit is $1,771. Plus, if a young driver has a car accident or gets a ticket, insurance prices can rise an additional 20% to 40%.
Given the astronomical pricing, we've compiled a list of carriers with stellar ratings that also offer robust discounts for young drivers to help bring down your premium. All of our picks include accident forgiveness features and operate in all 50 states plus DC, except for Amica, which doesn't include coverage in Hawaii.
Before we dive in, here are some things to keep in mind.
What to know about insuring teens and young drivers
Teen drivers are those in the 16-to-19 age range, while young adult drivers are between 20 and 25. The most expensive age group to insure are 16-year-olds. (Teen boys tend to be involved in more serious auto accidents than others, and are more costly to insure.) Premiums generally decrease each year a young driver gains experience behind the wheel.
If you're a parent, once your child reaches 18, you'll need to decide whether to purchase a separate car insurance policy for your teen or have them listed on your insurance.
"It is almost never less expensive to have teens listed under their own insurance," said Michael Giusti, an analyst at InsuranceQuotes.com. "Almost every metric used to rate insurance policies will favor the parents -- credit, age, driving history -- so the base cost of insurance would be set, with the teen as an add-on."
However, there are niche situations where it might be better for the teen to be on their own insurance plan -- like if they have a bad driving history.
"Putting the teen on a separate policy wouldn't be less expensive, but it would keep that history from dragging down the parents' rate," Giusti said.
How do you save money on auto insurance for teens?
There are ways to cut down on insurance premium policy costs. For instance, being a safe driver and using more efficient vehicles (such as Honda Civics, Toyota Priuses and Nissan Rogues) tends to cut costs, even for teen drivers, according to Giusti. There are also discounts based on how often you use your car: "Some companies offer discounts to motorists who drive less than the average number of miles per year," says Janet Ruiz, director of strategic communication at the Insurance Information Institute.
Teens may also qualify for "good student" graduated driver licensing programs., or discounts based on learning safe driving habits from a defensive driving course or
You may also be able to save money if the younger driver on your policy isn't using their car because they're away at college. "If there is a young driver on your policy who is ... away at college without a car you may also qualify for a lower rate," according to Ruiz. Every insurance carrier offers different discounts depending on your coverage option and other factors, so it pays to check which ones apply to you before signing up.
Best car insurance companies for teens and young adults
Geico made this list for the same reason it topped our other best lists. The carrier offers competitive rates nationwide for young drivers -- the average annual added premium for full coverage for a 16-year-old is $1,897, according to Bankrate. Moreover, Geico has a low number of complaints, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, or NAIC, in addition to high customer satisfaction scores according to J.D. Power Surveys.
Geico's robust discounts geared specifically to young drivers make it a great option if you need to bring your premium down. This includes a "good student" discount for B averages or higher (save up to 15%), a new vehicle discount (save up to 15%), a multicar discount (save up to 25%) and a good driver discount for young adults who have gone five years accident-free (save up to 22%).
These are hefty discounts and what we love about Geico is its transparency on how much you can save. Other insurers may tell you they offer discounts, but they don't reveal how much you can save.
Most of us aren't eligible for an insurance policy with the United Services Automobile Association, but if you've got a military member or veteran in the family, then your teen driver may be able to get coverage from this insurer.
USAA has made it onto our insurance best lists because of its great customer service, according to J.D. Power. The carrier received an overall score of 884 and 909 in overall customer satisfaction and auto claims satisfaction, respectively. In comparison, the national averages are clocked in at 834 and 909, also respectively.
To boot, USAA offers competitive pricing for those who qualify compared to other insurers -- and taking advantage of discounts makes the rates even more competitive. It offers the same discounts as many of its competitors, including for good students and for drivers who take driver training courses. Teens who transition from a family policy to their own auto insurance may qualify for up to a 10% legacy discount on their insurance.
State Farm is another carrier with wide availability across the US and a full spectrum of discounts for young drivers. State Farm's Drive Safe & Save app, which monitors your driving habits, could help you save up to 30%. State Farm also has a program available to teens and young adults called Steer Clear, which allows the opportunity to take advantage of discounts while teaching your child how to drive safely.
Moreover, drivers under 25 who've had no at-fault accidents or moving violations for three years could save up to 15%, which qualifies you for this discount much quicker than with Geico. And if you've got a student at college who only uses their car while at home on vacation or holidays, you qualify for a "student away at school" discount.
Compared to other insurers on this list, State Farm's discounts for young drivers are pretty beefy, which is great considering that the average annual added premium for full coverage for a 16-year-old is $2,077, according to Bankrate.
Everyone knows Flo from Progressive, but did you know she also has a Twitter account with more than 68,000 followers? That's larger than the Twitter following for Geico's unnamed gecko. Along with Flo's fame, Progressive touts a low number of complaints nationally. The NAIC's index scored Progressive at 1.26 out of 1.00 (above one means more complaints). Additionally, the average annual added premium for full coverage for a 16-year-old is $3,305, which is lower than the national average by more than $500.
Progressive has a series of discounts for families with multiple vehicles as well as for both teen motorists and college students. Teen drivers who are 18 years old or younger and have been insured for at least 12 months can qualify for a "teen driver discount." Also, in addition to the standard "good student" discount, Progressive cuts the price for students who leave their cars at home while attending school more than 100 miles away, and for those who rarely drive.
Amica made it on our best car insurance list because of its high customer satisfaction scores – and that's one of the reasons it also makes this list. As the oldest mutual car insurer in the US (meaning it's owned by its policyholders), Amica has over a century of industry know-how under its belt. This carrier also operates in all states except Hawaii.
Along with standard offerings for young drivers -- including "good student" discounts, "student away at school" discounts and defensive driver training course discounts -- Amica provides a unique way to save: a legacy discount. This discount will apply for young drivers under 30 whose parents have had a car policy with Amica for at least five years. Moreover, like State Farm, young drivers who've been accident-free for three years may also get a discount, which means they could qualify as early as 19 years old.
Best car insurance for teens and young drivers, compared
|Company||Discounts for young drivers*||A.M. Best Financial Strength Rating**|
|Geico||Good student, new vehicle, multi-car, good driver||A++|
|USAA||Good student, defensive driving training, legacy||A++|
|State Farm||Drive Safe & Save, Steer Clear, accident free, student away at school||A++|
|Progressive||Multi-vehicle, teen driver discount, good student, student away at school||A+|
|Amica||Good student, student away at school, defensive driver training, legacy||A+|
*Not an exhaustive list
**A.M. Best financial strength rating scale runs from D (lowest) to A++ (highest).
How do you pick the best coverage?
The best coverage for you will address your specific auto coverage needs while fitting into your budget. For young adult drivers, auto insurance tends to be more expensive, so finding a policy with accident forgiveness, low rates or multiple discounts is key.
What is accident forgiveness?
Accident forgiveness is a car insurance feature that prevents your insurance rates from increasing following your first at-fault accident. Each carrier handles accident forgiveness differently, and so while some carriers may give you this feature as a free bonus, others might make it an add-on to your policy you have to pay for. Moreover, accident forgiveness may not be available in all states, but that depends on the carrier, too.
All of the picks on this list include some type of accident forgiveness. Here's a breakdown of each:
- Geico: Accident forgiveness is available for drivers who have been accident-free for five years or more, or you can upgrade your policy by purchasing the feature. It is not available in California, Connecticut or Massachusetts.
- USAA: Like Geico, you can unlock USAA's accident forgiveness feature for free if your household has gone five years accident-free. Alternatively, you could purchase the option. It is not available in Connecticut, Delaware, North Caroline, California or New York.
- State Farm: To qualify for State Farm's accident forgiveness, you must have been at State Farm and have gone accident-free for nine years.
- Progressive: This carrier offers two accident forgiveness options. "Small Accident Forgiveness" comes with your policy, and it'll cover you if the total claim is less than or equal to $500. "Large Accident Forgiveness" is available to customers who have stayed with Progressive for at least five years and remain accident and moving-violation-free for at least three consecutive years.
- Amica: Amica has two options for accident forgiveness, one free and one you can buy. Accident forgiveness automatically comes with Amica's Platinum Choice Auto package, their premium tier coverage. Alternatively, you can earn accident forgiveness by earning "Advantage Points." Two ways to receive these points is by referring others to Amica or renewing an existing policy.
With such variety, it's important to read the fine print and, if you have one, ask your insurance agent about accident forgiveness before signing a policy.
Why is insurance so expensive for teenage boys?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the motor vehicle death rate for teen males aged 16 to 19 was over two times more likely compared to female drivers of the same age. This, combined with teens' general inexperience behind the wheel, is what drives up insurance premiums for teen males, the most expensive driving cohort to insure.
CNET reviews insurance carriers and products by exhaustively comparing them across set criteria developed for each category. For auto insurance, we examine average annual premium rates for full coverage, available discounts for teens and young drivers, consumer complaints, collision repair scores, the carrier's financial strength, auto claims satisfaction and overall customer satisfaction. Our data comes from a multitude of sources.
Auto insurance rates come from Bankrate, which gathers data using Quadrant Information Services. We also use both J.D. Power annual surveys that collect data on customer auto claims satisfaction and overall customer satisfaction.
Consumer complaints are taken from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, which collects consumer complaints across states, indexing complaints on a scale that takes into account the industry average. We collect the financial strength rating of each carrier from the A.M. Best Rating. Lastly, we collected collision repair scores from the Crash Network Insurer Report Card, which collects data from collision repair professionals, including mechanics, to gauge the quality of collision claims service from insurance carriers.
For this list, we also investigated available discounts for teens and young drivers. If a carrier was transparent about how much you can save from these discounts before needing to get a quote, we considered that a plus.
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