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Do I have to add my teen to my car insurance policy if he barely drives?

Question: My 16-year-old son just got his license.  We have full coverage on our two vehicles. I have heard from others that I don’t need to add him to the car policy, because the cars are already insured.  He wouldn’t be driving either of them, full-time or even part-time, just maybe a few days out of the month (for errands and things like that).  If he is not on the policy, would he be covered if something happened while he was driving?

Answer:  If your son is licensed, you need to add him to your car insurance policy as a driver even if your car already has full coverage on it. If you don’t, then it’s possible you’ll be paying out of your pocket if he is in an accident.

Your question comes up all the time from parents, and it’s usually due to getting bad advice from friends. Parents hope that there is a way around adding their teen to the car insurance policy, since it’s a well-known fact that car insurance for teenagers is expensive. Unfortunately, if you have a teen driver, you have to pay for him to be insured. (See, “A parent’s guide to insuring a teen driver.”)

While it’s true that some car insurance policies say they will include "any resident family member” as an insured under your policy and extend them coverage, the insurer can (and does) mandate that you inform them of all licensed household members.

Each driver in a household poses a different risk, so the insurance company is allowed to take into account all drivers when calculating your car insurance rates.

Perhaps you were told that your child should be covered like other permissive users, such as friends that you borrow your car on occasion. This, too, is inaccurate.

Your child lives at home with daily access to your cars and keys, so car insurance companies rules say he needs to be added to the policy to be covered. Your teen’s situation is different from loaning your car to a friend for a couple of hours.

Though your son may barely drive your vehicle, your car insurance company has the right to know that he is licensed. They then can require you to add him to the policy, and that means your car insurance premiums will reflect his added risk as a driver. (See “What a teenager does to your car insurance rates.”)

If your son isn't going to drive at all, then it may be possible (if state laws and your insurer allows) to exclude him as a driver from the policy. Only exclude him though if he won’t ever drive. If he does drive your car while excluded as a driver, then there won’t be any coverage extended to him if he is in an accident.

If you fail to inform your auto insurance provider about you son obtaining his license and he is in an accident, you may find he’s not covered (due to you misrepresenting who was licensed in your household).

Or your insurer may cover his accident, but in return, you’ll have to place him on your car insurance policy and pay the premiums that should have been paid since the time that he obtained his license.

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