Car Insurance Guide for New Drivers

By Jamie Cattanach · June 13, 2023 · 7 minute read

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Car Insurance Guide for New Drivers

Congrats, new driver: Hitting the open road on your own can mean freedom and just plain fun. But remember that safety comes first — and part of driving safely is having sufficient car insurance coverage.

The world of auto insurance can be confusing, especially for new drivers, who also often face the challenge of higher insurance premiums. Still, there are ways to save money on insurance, both right off the bat and as you spend more time behind the wheel.

Here’s what new drivers need to know about auto insurance.

Car Insurance: The Basics

First things first: What is auto insurance, how does it work and why do you need it?

Car insurance pays out money for car repairs, medical bills, and other expenses in the event you get in an accident. Liability insurance, which pays out money to the other driver when you’re found at fault, is legally required in most states.

The amount of auto insurance you need depends on the law in the state where you live as well as your own risk tolerance level. But keep in mind that even minor auto accidents can be very costly, which makes auto insurance a necessity.

Unfortunately, auto insurance can be more expensive for new drivers — but again, take heart. There are still ways to ensure you get the best possible rate.

Factors That Affect Car Insurance Price

Car insurance prices are affected by far more than just a driver’s experience level, though that’s certainly an important part of the equation. Here are some other factors that insurers will take into account when drawing up your quote:

•  Driver’s age

•  Driver’s gender

•  Driver’s marital status

•  Driver’s history of accidents and damage

•  Driver’s credit score

•  The primary location the vehicle is kept and driven in

•  The vehicle’s make, model, and age

Although there are some general rules that hold true — for instance, that people with lower credit scores or worse driving records end up with higher premiums — the way some of these factors are used is less than transparent.

For example, a 2023 study by QuoteWizard found that women actually pay higher insurance costs than men on average in many parts of America. This is despite the Insurance Information Institute’s claim that women tend to have fewer accidents than men and therefore pay less for insurance.

While there’s no easy way to predict what your rates will look like without getting a custom quote, new drivers will likely need to prepare for higher insurance premiums. This makes sense. After all, the insurance company is trying to hedge its bets that you won’t get in an accident (and therefore need an expensive claim paid out), and they don’t have a driving record to rely on while they make their best guesses.

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Recommended: Auto Insurance Terms, Explained

Who’s Considered a New Driver?

Although the classic image of a new driver might be an eager teenager with their brand-new license and the family’s hand-me-down car, there are other people who fit the description, too. Drivers considered “new” include:

•  Teenagers with new driver’s licenses

•  Adults without a driving record

•  People with a gap in their driving history or car insurance coverage

•  Immigrants to the United States, whose driving records might not transfer over from their country of origin

Being a new driver doesn’t change how much insurance you’re required to purchase by state law. But as mentioned, it can affect your price — so let’s take a closer look into solutions for each type of driver.

Car Insurance for Teens

Teens — or, in many cases, teens’ parents — face some of the highest insurance costs out there because, let’s face it: youthful abandon and lack of experience can lead to accidents. There are some moves you can make to minimize the costs, including:

•  Staying on a parent’s policy: Staying on a parent’s policy as long as they’re living under the same roof can keep costs relatively low for teenage drivers. However, parents should still expect their policy cost to double.

•  Looking for discounts for good grades or defensive driving classes: Teens may also be able to score good student discounts by maintaining above-average grades in school, or get a discount if they attend and complete an approved defensive driving class.

•  Maintaining a good driving record: For all drivers, an accident-free driving history goes a long way toward lowering insurance costs over time. Of course, practicing care and vigilance on the road is always of paramount importance. But given how high the cost of teenagers’ insurance policies can be, there’s even more incentive.

Recommended: What Is the Average Monthly Cost of Car Insurance by Age in the U.S.?

Car Insurance for People Who Moved to the U.S.

Even if you have a robust driving history in your home country, if you immigrate to the United States, it’s unlikely to transfer over. This means you could face elevated insurance prices for the first few years you’re a U.S. driver.

The first step to attaining U.S. car insurance in most states is to acquire a U.S. driver’s license, which on its own can be difficult without the proper paperwork. However, certain states do offer driving privileges to unauthorized immigrants. You may need to provide documentation, such as a foreign passport or birth certificate, and the resultant license is not valid as federal identification.

Once you’re ready to shop for car insurance, consider obtaining several quotes to see which company can offer the basic auto insurance coverage you need for the least amount of money.

Car Insurance for Adults Without a Driving Record

Maybe it’s been a long time since you’ve driven — or you’ve never driven at all.

Without a solid, recent driving history, car insurance companies will still consider you a new driver, which can push costs up. Same goes for having a gap in car insurance coverage. (There may be exceptions to this rule if your driving gap was due to military deployment status, so be sure to check with your prospective insurer.)

Shopping around for the best quote and maintaining as clean a driving record as possible going forward will help your case considerably. If you’re confident in your driving ability and you’ve built up the savings to afford it if an accident does occur, choosing a higher deductible could also help you save money on monthly premiums.

3 Ways to Save on Car Insurance for New Drivers

Along with the tips we’ve included in the sections above, there are some universal suggestions that can help most new drivers — and, in fact, most drivers, period — lower their car insurance costs.

Choose Your Car Wisely

Certain cars are more expensive to insure than others, including flashy models that are likely to get stolen (or tempt their drivers into three-digit speeds). You can find lists of the cheapest cars to insure online, but generally speaking, slightly older, more modest vehicles are the least expensive to keep insured.

Improve Your Credit History

It’s incredible how many parts of our lives credit history touches — and car insurance is no exception. While your quote is drawn up based on many factors, as mentioned above, your credit history is definitely part of it. Besides, maintaining good credit behavior is highly likely to help you elsewhere, too.

Bundle Up

Many insurance companies offer discounts to people who “bundle” coverage or purchase more than one type of insurance from the same company. So if you’re required to have renter’s insurance or have home insurance, see if buying them all from the same provider might save you some dough.

The Takeaway

The price of car insurance is impacted by several factors, including the driver’s age, gender, marital status, credit score, and history of accidents and damage. Just as important is their experience level. Newer drivers and drivers with large gaps in car insurance coverage often end up paying higher premiums — at least at first. However, there are ways to potentially lower costs, including driving a more modest vehicle, bundling coverage, and improving your credit score.

Whether you’re a first-time driver or a seasoned pro, shopping around for insurance in your area can help you figure out how much coverage you really need and what your premium might be. SoFi’s online auto insurance comparison tool lets you see quotes from a network of insurance providers within minutes, saving you time and hassle.

Compare quotes from top car insurance carriers.

Photo credit: iStock/SolStock

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Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.


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