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Teen backing car

If you have a teen driver in your household, your insurance company will likely ask you if they're the primary driver of one of your cars. What does it mean to be a primary driver, and will assigning a teen driver as the primary driver of a car increase your rates? 

The primary driver is the person who most frequently uses that car. It may also be called the assigned driver or the rated driver. If you have two cars, one car for yourself and one for your spouse, your teen may not be the primary driver of either. However, if you purchase a third car, it's likely the insurance company will assign your teen as the primary driver.

You will be paying more for adding a teen to your car insurance regardless, because car insurance for teens is expensive. Your premium increases because of your teen's risk profile. Your rates will be higher even if your teen is not listed as a primary driver on one of your vehicles.

Read on to learn more what it means to be a primary driver and get advice on assigning your teen to one of your cars.

Key takeaways

  • Insurance companies assign a primary driver to each car in the household; the primary driver's driving record and risk profile is used to calculate the rate for that car.
  • If your teenager is a primary driver of a car, insurance will cost more due to the increased risk.
  • To save on your car insurance, assign your teenager to the car that has the lowest insurance rate, ask about discounts and consider buying liability-only coverage.

Should a teenager be listed as a primary driver?

In some cases, you may have to list your teen as a primary driver, although it's more expensive.

Insurance companies assign each car to one primary driver. That person, the primary driver, is the one whose driving record and risk profile are used to calculate its rates, because they are the person who drives the car the most.

Insurance companies also note secondary drivers who use the insured vehicle. There can be multiple secondary drivers, but only one primary driver per vehicle.

If there are two adults in the household and two cars, the primary driver on those cars is likely one adult to each. Any additional drivers in the household are considered secondary, including a teen. They still have an affect on the rates, but since they're not considered to have as much access to the car, the increase might not be as much.

When you add a third car to a household of three drivers, your insurance company automatically assigns the third driver to the new vehicle.

A teenager as primary driver will mean more expensive rates for that car. Teenagers pose a lot more risk, and as a primary driver they are assumed to drive more than they would as a secondary driver.

How much do rates increase with a teen as a primary driver?

Here's what it looks like to add a teen to a parent's policy as a secondary driver, vs. the teen having an individual policy:

At age 16, added to a parent's policy, the average annual rate for a female 16-year-old is $4,294, and for a male it's $4,606.

On an individual policy where the teen is the primary driver, average rates are $6,285 for a 16-year-old female driver and $7,096 for a 16-year-old male driver.

If you have the option, ask your insurance company to assign your teen driver to the least expensive car you own. If you haven't yet bought that third vehicle, make sure to shop for something less expensive to insure, but that still offers the safety features for which car insurance companies offer discounts (and keep your teen driver safer).

You can ask your insurance company about excluding the teen from some of your cars. Some allow this; others don’t.

Hammer home the need for good grades. When car insurance bills are this high, a 10% discount on the teen’s coverage can be substantial.

Review the basics on finding cheap car insurance. Generally, that means comparison shopping to find the best rates, then looking for discounts such as bundling your home and auto coverage. Discounts are nice, but they’re typically capped at no more than 25% of your premium. The difference between insurance companies can easily be more than that amount, especially when you’re insuring a teen driver.

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