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 effect 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 the 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 16-year-old female 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.

How to get cheaper car insurance for a teenage driver

Even if your teen is the primary driver of one of your cars, there are ways to get cheaper car insurance.

Insure your teen on a cheaper car. 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, 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).

Exclude your teen as a driver if possible. You can ask your insurance company about excluding the teen from some of your cars. Some allow this; others don’t. Remember that this means they can't drive that car at all; they won't be covered.

Have your teen work on good grades. The good student discount saves 10% or more on teen car insurance.

Review the basics of finding cheap car insurance. Generally, that means comparison shopping to find the best rates and 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.

Auto insurance FAQs

Primary driver vs secondary driver: how are they different?

A primary driver is the main person who regularly drives a car. On the other hand, a secondary driver, also known as an occasional driver, is someone who also drives the car but not as often. The primary driver's driving record and other factors usually have a bigger impact on insurance rates.

Does it matter who the primary driver is on insurance?

It matters who the primary driver is on insurance because the primary driver is the person who drives the car the most. Insurance companies use their driving record, age, location, and other factors to calculate premiums and coverage. So the primary driver can affect insurance rates.