Before you get your driver’s license, you must learn to drive. But even those who merely have a learner’s permit still must make sure the car they drive has auto insurance coverage.

In most cases, a driver with a learner’s permit will be covered by the insurance policy associated with the car he or she is driving. But in some cases, a driver with a learner’s permit may want his or her own coverage.

So, can you get car insurance with a permit?

The answer is “yes.”

But it’s important to understand the details of how this works. We’ve done the research to equip you with everything you need to know about making sure you're covered as a permit driver.

Key Highlights
  • As soon as you get your driver’s license and purchase your own car, you will need to insure it.
  • Joining your parents' policy is the cheapest way to get car insurance as a teen.
  • If you need to insure a car but only have a driver’s permit, your options will be limited and the policy likely will be expensive.

What is a learner's permit?

A learner's permit is a restricted license that allows first-time drivers to get behind the wheel and practice before earning an official driver's license. Typically, you are required to obtain a driver's permit before you can legally drive a car. Such permits go by many names, including driver's permit, learner's license, provisional license or minor permit.

With a permit, you are allowed to drive under restricted circumstances as long as you are accompanied by a fully licensed adult driver. Once you have passed your driving test, you typically will be eligible for an intermediate driver's license.

Eventually, you will graduate to a full driver’s license. In most states, you can apply for a learner's permit once you are 15, although this varies from state to state.

How does a learner’s permit work?

Student drivers can earn a driver’s permit once they fulfill their state’s requirements for a permit, such as a written test, ID, birth certificate and residency verification, etc.

Typically, those who have a learner’s permit are only allowed to drive with a licensed driver who is 21 or older in the front seat. There are strict requirements for moving violations and renewals, so familiarize yourself with your state’s requirements.

Do you need car insurance with a learner's permit?

Yes, you need to be covered by an auto insurance policy if you are driving with a learner's permit. But car insurance for a learner driver doesn’t necessarily equate to purchasing your own policy.

If you are learning to drive, and are operating a car insured by the owner, that person's coverage usually extends to you. If you’re younger than 18, you can’t insure a car with a learner’s permit.

“Most young drivers with a learner’s permit are likely covered under their parent's policy, and premiums shouldn’t increase until they are legally licensed,” says Carole Walker, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association.

Indeed, teens living at home and driving a parent's insured car are typically covered by the parental policy. However, it's recommended that you confirm this with your car insurance company.

If you are a newly licensed minor and your parents already have a policy, you should see if you can be added to their policy for coverage. This will not only be easier but can save you money, as car insurance for young drivers is very expensive.

Being listed on your parent’s policy is still costly, but it's usually more affordable than getting a policy of your own.

Learn more about average car insurance rates for 16-year-olds.

How do you get car insurance with a learner's permit?

Drivers who want to get car insurance with a learner’s permit can shop for car insurance just like any other driver. As long as you’re driving with a licensed adult in the car of a family member, the family member’s insurance policy should cover you.

The most important thing to do anytime you’re shopping for car insurance is to get several quotes to make sure you’re getting the best price.

However, it gets tricky – and expensive – if you own your own vehicle. Auto insurance companies typically won’t insure teens younger than the state’s age of maturity because an auto policy is a legally binding contract, which you can’t enter into until you’re an adult. And if you do get your own policy, you’ll be paying high rates – the average price for a 16-year-old driver with a full-coverage policy is $7,625 per year.

Car insurance rates for 16 and 17-year-olds
Gender/ageTeen policyParent’s policy with a teen
16-year-old female$6,782$4,144
16-year-old male$7,625$4,462
17-year-old female$5,576$3,861
17-year-old male$6,272$4,156

What are the requirements for car insurance with a learner’s permit?

If you are driving a car – even if you don't have a driver's license – the vehicle must be insured. The amount of insurance needed does not change simply because the driver does not have a license. So, at the very least, the vehicle must be insured for the minimum amount required by your state's laws.

Also, remember that if you have a learner’s permit and damage a vehicle, you’ll face the same consequences as a fully licensed driver. So, drivers with learner’s permits still must carry enough coverage to be fully reimbursed for any losses they incur.

What types of insurance are offered to those with a learner's permit?

With some car insurance companies, it’s possible to get a policy with only a learner's permit. But this varies from company to company. So, make sure to check with auto insurance providers so you understand their rules.

Your age may also be a factor in whether you can start your own auto insurance policy with just a learner’s permit. If you are under 18, many car insurance companies will require that you have a parent or guardian sign on the policy with you, since you are still a minor and a car insurance policy is a legal contract.

Most states require someone 18 years old or older to sign the documents to make them binding. Also, most car insurance companies have underwriting restrictions saying that the named insured cannot be under the age of 18.

Walker says insurers don’t typically insure drivers with a learner’s permit on their own policies. 

“But it will likely be harder to find and much more expensive,” she says. In some cases, the car insurance company might require you to start the policy with a driver who has a valid license until you have your own license. So, you’ll need to shop around for a higher-risk or non-standard company. An independent agent will likely be your best bet.”

How can you save money on car insurance with a learner's permit?

What is the cheapest way to insure a learner driver? If you have a learner’s permit, the best way to save money on car insurance is to be added to the policy that covers your household. For most new drivers, this will be their parents’ auto insurance policy.

Car insurance is expensive for new drivers, particularly if they are young. It will be much more expensive to purchase a policy in your own name than to add yourself to another car insurance policy. However, it is crucial to note that if you are added as a new driver to your parents’ policy, their rates will jump.

Fortunately, these car insurance rates should drop over time as new drivers age and gain more driving experience. New drivers also can help their parents save money on auto insurance by qualifying for certain discounts.

Your insurer may offer price breaks for new drivers who:

  • Maintain good grades in school
  • Take a recognized driving education course
  • Attend school at least 100 miles from home and don’t bring a car with them.

Can you buy and register a car with a learner's permit?

Yes. As long as you have the cash, there is nothing to prevent you from purchasing a car, even if you don’t have a driver’s license.

However, you may not be able to register the car until you get a license. Rules differ from state to state. So, it is important to contact your state’s department of motor vehicles to determine the requirements for registering a vehicle.

In many states, you can register a vehicle as long as you have official identification. For example, in Massachusetts, you can register a vehicle without a driver's license as long as you have a Massachusetts ID or a Social Security Number.

In Colorado, you must provide proof of insurance and proof of vehicle emissions, but a driver’s license is not mentioned on the state’s DMV site.

Alternately, states like Delaware and Rhode Island state that you need a valid driver’s license to complete the registration process. You must contact the local police department for a VIN inspection and possess a current Rhode Island driver's license or current out-of-state license with proof of residency and proof of insurance. Within five business days of registering, a safety inspection must be performed.

It's important to remember that registering a car and driving it are two different things. To legally drive a car, you will be required to obtain a driver's license.

Final thoughts: Car insurance for drivers with a learner’s permit

When you learn to drive a car, it opens a new world of possibilities. Do you need car insurance with a learner’s permit? Yes. You should never get behind the wheel without the proper insurance.

So, as you learn to drive, you will need insurance. Fortunately, car insurance is tied to the vehicle, not the individual driver. So, if you are driving someone else’s car, that person’s insurance will cover you.

Insurance companies may require you to be added to your parents’ insurance policy if you are going to drive their car with a permit.

FAQ: Car insurance for drivers with a learner’s permit

All vehicles in the state of California must be insured before they take to the state's roads, according to the state government. It is illegal for anyone to drive a car that is not insured. The Golden State requires you to purchase liability insurance before you can register your car.

Guide: How much does car insurance in California cost?

There are many restrictions on those with a driving permit. For example, wondering who can be in the car with permit drivers? Laws vary from state to state. But in many places, a driver with a learner's permit must be accompanied by a fully licensed adult.

Can you drive alone with your driver's permit in New York?

Minors typically are not allowed to ride in cars driven by those who only have a learner's permit.

Can 16-year-olds drive alone on a learner's permit in Florida?

Resources & Methodology

Sources:

California Department of Insurance. “Automobile Insurance Information Guide.” Accessed July 2022.
Colorado Department of Revenue. "Registration Requirements.” Accessed July 2022.
Delaware Division of Motor Vehicles. "Vehicle Services Titling.” Accessed July 2022.
Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles. "Identity Requirements for Vehicle Registration.”  Accessed July 2022.
Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles. "Frequently Asked Questions.” Accessed July 2022.

Methodology:

CarInsurance.com commissioned Quadrant Information Services in 2022 to field rates for auto coverage data by ZIP code for 16-year-old and 17-year-old drivers.