There are a few things that should be on your must-have list when you get a car: an air freshener, a "Calvin peeing" sticker, car insurance, and a driver’s license.
The first two are easy enough. The second two are actually legally mandated (in most states – New Hampshire and Virginia don’t require car insurance)...if you want to drive. But what if you don’t have a license but still want to buy car insurance? Maybe you’re the breadwinner in your family but someone else – like a spouse – needs auto coverage.
Is it possible to buy car insurance if you don’t have a driver’s license?
Do I need a driver’s license to get auto insurance?
No, you don’t!
But it’s not really that simple. While you can get insurance if you don’t have a valid driver’s license, it’ll take a little more work.
You’ll typically need to include a valid driver’s license number when you’re applying for auto insurance. Obviously, you can see where you run into a problem here: if you don’t have a driver’s license, how do you provide that number?
Many insurers (although not all) will let you include what is called the principal or primary driver. That’s where you’ll come across a "loophole" – you can include someone else as the primary driver, even if it’s your name (and money) on the insurance policy. The primary driver isn’t necessarily the policyholder.
Insurers use driving records as one of many factors to determine rates. That’s why a driver’s license number is required, and also why it’s okay if it isn’t yours – as long as it’s the primary driver’s. The insurer wants to set the rates based on likely activity with the car; if someone else is going to be driving a vehicle the most, having their driving record be a factor makes sense.
Depending on the insurer, you may also need to name yourself as an excluded driver, which is exactly what it sounds like. Here’s how it’s defined in USAA’s New Jersey auto insurance buyer’s guide:
Prevents certain drivers on your policy from being covered by collision and/or comprehensive coverage on a specific automobile. This can lower your premium, but if the excluded driver operates the automobile and is involved in an auto accident, you are not insured for collision and/or comprehensive coverage; which means you could be personally responsible.
You’re excluded from coverage, so even if the policy is in your name you won’t be protected.
Driving without a license is illegal
Which brings us to an important point in this conversation: if you don’t have a driver’s license, don’t drive. It’s a simple rule of thumb. Plus, it makes being an excluded driver even easier, because guess what? It doesn’t matter if you aren’t covered because you’re not driving.
There are bigger concerns than just insurance if you decide to drive without a license – legal concerns – so it’s best to not do it. And if you’re paying the insurance premiums for the primary driver anyway, make them earn it and have them chauffeur you around every now and then.
If you’re shopping around for auto insurance, see if they’ll allow you to buy coverage even if you don’t have a license, and see what other stipulations there are regarding primary drivers, excluded drivers, and so on. Each insurer will be different, so you may have to shop around for one who’s willing to sell insurance to an unlicensed customer. There also may be different rules regarding insured drivers depending on your state.
When looking at auto insurance companies, be wary of insurers who don’t require any sort of license information. These are typically small companies, not major players, and you may not be getting the best price or coverage with them since driving record plays a role in terms of what rates and coverage you’ll be offered. Anyone who isn’t concerned with that information should be avoided.
There are also some unique situations where you can still get insurance without a license. For example, you may be able to use alternate forms of identification to get insurance. You can also usually get car insurance if you have health issues that prevent you from driving. Even if your license is revoked, you can often still have car insurance, allowing caretakers or other people use your vehicle even if you aren’t able to drive yourself.
Buying car insurance without a license is a very specific scenario, since most of us who are going to bother paying for auto insurance will also be using it. Still, it’s nice to know that it’s an option. So if you need to get car insurance but you don’t have a driver’s license, look around – you might still find a plan that works for you.
Image: State Farm