Got a brand new driver in your house? Here’s how that will affect your insurance.
If your teenager has just come home with a brand new learner’s permit, they’re probably super excited about finally learning to drive. And if you’re the adult paying for car insurance, you’re probably nervous about what having a driver-in-training on your policy might do to your rates.
Don’t worry, having a driver with a learner’s permit in your home won’t necessarily raise your rates. You should check your policy to see if it covers everyone in your household, and you should let your carrier know if a teen in your home has just gotten their learner’s permit, but you may not see the same raise in rates that you might once you have a newly-licensed teen driver in your home.
Here’s everything you need to know about learner’s permits and auto insurance.
A learner’s permit is basically the training wheels of driving. It’s a document that allows a first-time driver, often a teen, to legally drive a car before they’re old enough, or before they’re ready, to get a license. The age at which you can first apply for a learner’s permit varies from state to state, but in many states in the U.S. it’s between 15 and 16 years old.
Some states have multiple levels of permits. In New Jersey, for example, teen drivers are eligible for a special learner’s permit, or “early bird” permit, at 16, or an examination permit at 17.
Different states also place different specific restrictions on drivers with permits, those restrictions can include:
Restricted driving hours. Many states limit drivers with permits to driving during daylight hours, or institute a curfew.
Mandatory adult accompaniment. Your state may stipulate that a driver with a learner’s permit must be accompanied in the front seat by a licensed driver who is at least 21 or 25.
Restrictions on passengers. drivers with permits may be restricted to one additional passenger, not counting the adult in the front seat. There are sometimes exceptions to this if you have dependents, or if a parent or guardian is also present in the car.
No electronics. Drivers with permits may be forbidden from using electronic devices while driving, including hands-free cellphones.
|State||Minimum age for a learner's permit||Minimum age for a full driver's license|
|Alabama||15||17 and a half|
|Arizona||15 and a half||16 and a half|
|California||15 and a half||16 and a half|
|Delaware||16||17 and half|
|District of Columbia||16||18|
|Hawaii||15 and a half||17|
|Idaho||14 and a half||16|
|Kansas||14||16 and a half|
|Maine||15||16 and 9 months|
|Maryland||15 and 9 months||18|
|Michigan||14 and 9 months||17|
|Mississippi||15||16 and a half|
|Montana||14 and a half||16|
|Nevada||15 and a half||18|
|New Hampshire||15 and a half||18|
|New Mexico||15||16 and a half|
|North Carolina||15||16 and a half|
|Ohio||15 and a half||18|
|Oklahoma||15 and a half||16 and a half|
|Pennsylvania||16||17 and a half|
|Rhode Island||16||17 and a half|
|South Carolina||15||16 and a half|
|Vermont||15||16 and a half|
|Virginia||15 and a half||18|
|Wisconsin||15 and a half||18|
|Wyoming||15||16 and a half|
Note: In Nebraska, teenagers who live in certain rural areas may be eligible for a “school learner’s permit” at the age of 14. The purpose is to allow a student to legally practice driving if they either reside or attend a school located outside of a city of at least 5,000 people.
Check with your state’s department of motor vehicles for more info on the specifics of applying for, and complying with, a learner’s permit where you live.
A learner’s permit gives you time to practice driving and learn to be a safe and competent driver before you’re officially licensed. Once you’ve met your state’s requirements for teen drivers with permits (this usually includes taking a driver’s ed course) and you’re old enough to apply for a full license, you can start that process.
Depending on where you live, getting a driver’s license may involve showing identification, paying a fee, passing a written exam, and passing a road test. You must apply for a license before your learner’s permit expires — check your permit to see how long it’s valid, this also varies by state.
Some carriers require all household residents of driving age to be listed on a policy, regardless of their license status, while others don’t. Generally, teen drivers who have permits but not licenses will be covered under your insurance policy if they’re a member of your household, and listing them on your policy won’t raise your rates like formally adding a newly licensed teen would.
But you should let your insurance carrier know when you have a new driver with a permit in your household, so you can discuss your specific coverage needs and plan for formally adding them as drivers once they (hopefully!) get their license.
There are some cases in which a teen with a permit needs to have car insurance before they have a license: If your teen has their own car, they’ll need their own insurance, likely with an adult on the policy too.
Once your teen officially has their license, they’ll definitely need to be covered by car insurance. You can either add them to your existing policy or they can pay for their own insurance if they’ll be driving their own car.
Because insurance premiums are calculated based on how much of a risk your carrier thinks you may pose as a driver, car insurance is pricey for young, inexperienced drivers.
Teen and young adults will generally pay more for car insurance than older drivers, whether they’re getting it themselves or they’re a driver on someone else’s policy. Insurance premiums tend to drop dramatically once young drivers pass their 25th birthday and they’re no longer considered part of a risky age group.
If you’re concerned about the added cost of insuring a newly-licensed teen or young adult, consider looking into the host of common discounts available for young drivers. Most major carriers offer at least some of the discounts below:
Good student discounts for students who maintain above a certain grade point average, make the Dean’s List or Honor Roll at their school, or scored in the top 20% of a standardized test
Driver’s ed discounts for new drivers who have successfully completed their driver’s education course
Affiliate discounts through a university, sorority, fraternity or other institution
Some auto insurance carriers offer special programs for teen drivers, like Allstate’s Drivewise program, which track teens’ driving behaviors, or American Family’s Teen Safe Driver app, which similarly gives feedback on teenager’s driving habits.
If you’re not sure what the best insurance carrier is for you and your newly minted teen driver, a Policygenius expert can help you shop for and compare affordable auto insurance options that fit all of your needs.
Anna Swartz is a Managing Editor at Policygenius, where she has been since 2018. An expert in home, auto and renters insurance, she loves making tough concepts easy to understand and helping readers feel confident about their insurance options. Before joining Policygenius, she was a senior staff writer at Mic. Her work has appeared in The Dodo, AOL, HuffPost, Salon and Heeb.