Learner’s permits and car insurance

Got a brand new driver in your house? Here’s how that will affect your insurance.

Anna Swartz 1600

Anna Swartz

Published February 21, 2019

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.

What is a learner’s permit?

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.

StateMinimum age for a learner's permitMinimum age for a full driver's license
Alabama1517
Alaska1416 and a half
Arizona15 and a half16 and a half
Arkansas1418
California15 and a half17
Colorado1517
Connecticut1618
Delaware1617
District of Columbia1618
Florida1518
Georgia1518
Hawaii15 and a half17
Idaho14 and a half16
Illinois1518
Indiana1518
Iowa1417
Kansas1416 and a half
Kentucky1617
Louisiana1517
Maine1516 and 9 months
Maryland15 and 9 months18
Massachusetts1618
Michigan14 and 8 months17
Minnesota1517
Mississippi1516 and a half
Missouri1517 and 11 months
Montana14 and a half16
Nebraska1517
Nevada15 and a half18
New Hampshire15 and a half18
New Jersey1618
New Mexico1516 and a half
New York1617
North Carolina1516 and a half
North Dakota1416
Ohio15 and a half18
Oklahoma15 and a half16 and a half
Oregon1518
Pennsylvania1617 and a half
Rhode Island1617 and a half
South Carolina1516 and a half
South Dakota1416
Tennessee1517
Texas1518
Utah1517
Vermont1516 and a half
Virginia15 and a half18
Washington1517
West Virginia1517
Wisconsin15 and a half16 and 9 months
Wyoming1516 and a half

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.

Transitioning from a learner’s permit to a full license

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.

Do you need car insurance for a learner’s permit?

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.

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Insurance options for teen drivers

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.

Discounts for teens and young drivers

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.

Policygenius’ editorial content is not written by an insurance agent. It’s intended for informational purposes and should not be considered legal or financial advice. Consult a professional to learn what financial products are right for you.