If you’re the parent of a student driver, finding affordable car insurance is likely a top priority. Adding a college student to your insurance policy can drive up the cost of premiums, since they’re generally considered high-risk drivers. And students who purchase their own policies usually pay much more to get covered than when they’re added to a family policy. But there are ways to lower car insurance costs, from choosing a higher deductible to insuring your student based on mileage.
As you shop around, it’s important not to focus only on premiums. In case of an accident, coverage levels and deductibles can make an “affordable” policy suddenly seem quite pricey. We’ll walk you through the process so you can get the most for your money.
Recommended: How to Lower Car Insurance
What Is the Most Affordable Car Insurance?
There’s no one answer that applies to all drivers in all states, because insurers set different prices based on proprietary risk profiles and algorithms. But generally speaking, the cheapest affordable car insurance will be a policy with minimal coverage.
Finding affordable car insurance for college students can be especially challenging, since insurers tend to view them as being higher risk. A student doesn’t need to have accidents or tickets on their driving record to land in the high-risk category. They simply have a short driving history, which works against them.
A comprehensive policy will be more expensive than one that carries the minimum coverage required by the state. Although it can be cheaper to skip full coverage for a college student, keep in mind that they might incur higher out-of-pocket costs for repairs if they’re involved in an accident.
Recommended: How to Get Car Insurance
Does a College Student Need Their Own Car Insurance Policy?
One of the most important questions to ask for personal insurance planning with kids is whether your student will stay on your policy or get their own. The answer depends on their living arrangements while they’re in school. If you have a student listed on your policy and your home is their permanent residence, they should be able to remain on your policy — even if they’re temporarily living in a dorm or off-campus apartment.
Parents’ coverage can still apply to a student’s vehicle if they’re taking it with them to school, even in another state. The insurance company may, however, adjust the premiums for the vehicle based on where it’s located and being used, not where it’s registered.
If a student moves out of their parents’ home and sets up their own permanent residence somewhere else, then they need to purchase their own car insurance policy. Car insurance is typically priced based on the vehicle the student drives, so if they have an older car they may still be able to find affordable car insurance on their own.
Recommended: 10 Tips for the Cheapest Way to Rent a Car
How To Find Affordable Car Insurance for College Students
The best place to start is often with your current car insurance company. Your insurer can walk you through how much it might cost to keep your student on your policy versus having them purchase their own policy. They can also advise you on how much coverage is appropriate to have, based on your student’s driving history and habits, and the condition of their vehicle.
Next, you can shop online to compare car insurance options for students. Getting quotes from multiple insurers is helpful, since you can compare that to what you’re paying currently to see whether any cheaper options exist. You may find that it’s more cost-efficient to move your policy elsewhere so that your child can benefit from cheaper rates.
When weighing insurance carriers, don’t focus solely on the premiums. While that number is important, since it determines what you’ll pay monthly or annually for insurance, it’s not the only cost to consider. You’ll also need to weigh the deductible, which is an amount you or your student must pay before your coverage kicks in.
There are two basic types of deductibles: high or low. Choosing a higher deductible can reduce premiums but means you’ll pay more out-of-pocket if you need to file a claim. A lower deductible can be more manageable for a college student who doesn’t have much savings, but the trade-off is a higher monthly premium.
Even if you’re adding your student to an existing family policy, review the policy and costs with them in some detail. It’s a good opportunity for students to learn about car insurance terms, financial decision-making, and the price of living independently.
Ways To Save Money on Car Insurance
Car insurance costs aren’t necessarily set in stone. There are several ways parents and students can make it more affordable. Here are some practical tips on how to lower car insurance:
• Ask about discounts. Many car insurance companies offer discounts for students who earn good grades or complete driver education training. Safe driving discounts may also be an option for students with a good driving record.
• Keep up with maintenance. Keeping your student’s car in good shape can help reduce the risk of an accident caused by a malfunction. You can try saving on car maintenance costs by doing basic things like oil changes or fluid top-ups yourself.
• Get insured by mileage. Some car insurance companies base their policies on how many miles you drive. If your student is staying close to home and has a fairly short commute to school and work, then you can potentially find affordable car insurance that prices policies based on mileage.
• Look for group discounts. If you belong to a professional or business association, or an alumni group, for example, you may be able to get a discount on insurance just for being a member. Warehouse clubs can also offer car insurance discounts to members as well.
• Encourage safe driving. Accidents can make your premiums skyrocket, so it’s a good idea to go over the basics of safe driving with your student. You may also want to enroll them in a defensive driving class to help them feel more comfortable on the road.
• Look online. You might start your search for good affordable car insurance with your brick-and-mortar insurer, but it’s also helpful to consider what online insurance companies have to offer. You may be able to find cheaper rates on car insurance for students online versus traditional insurance companies.
Recommended: How Much Does Insurance Go Up After an Accident?
Consider Bundling Insurance for College Students
Here’s one more thing to add to your list of insurance tips for first-time drivers: Try bundling. Bundling car insurance with other types of insurance is another opportunity for college students to save money. If your student is getting their own car insurance, they can help keep costs down by bundling it with renters insurance or life insurance.
Renters insurance covers personal belongings when you live in rental housing. It can also provide personal liability protection and pay your day-to-day living expenses if you have to seek temporary housing because your rental unit is damaged.
Life insurance can pay out a death benefit to beneficiaries after the insured dies. A young, healthy college student may not see an immediate need for life insurance, but it can come in handy if they’ve taken out student loans. Students who cosigned loans with a parent, for example, can take out a policy and name their cosigner as beneficiary. That way, parents aren’t left having to pay back the loans themselves.
Students who purchase their own policy usually pay much more than when they’re added to a family policy. Either way, you can offset higher premiums by considering less liability coverage, a higher deductible, or a policy based on your student’s mileage. And make sure to ask your insurer about discounts for good grades, defensive driving classes, and company affiliations.
You can simplify your search by getting a quote for auto insurance online with SoFi. We’ve teamed up with Experian to provide free car insurance quotes online so you can find a great deal. You can match up your current coverage to compare rates, pick the option that looks right, and buy coverage all in one sitting.
Photo credit: iStock/pepifoto
Insurance not available in all states.
Experian is a registered service mark of Experian Personal Insurance Agency, Inc.
Social Finance, Inc. ("SoFi") is compensated by Experian for each customer who purchases a policy through Experian from the site.
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.