Plenty of questions arise when your teen hits legal driving age, and some of those questions may involve car insurance. How much will rates go up? Is it possible for a 16-year-old to secure insurance?

What age can teen get car insurance

An insurance policy is considered a legally binding agreement, requiring someone to be of legal age (age of majority) to enter. In most states, that age is 18.

Teens and car insurance can be difficult. Your premiums are likely to head up dramatically, and you now have to worry about your newly licensed teen out on the road. While it can be tempting to put your teen in their own car and on their own policy, this isn't always easy.

Some states allow teens to title a car in their name. Still, insurance policies are contracts, and most insurers don't enter into these agreements with minors.

Even when a teen can get auto insurance, either for themselves or through a parent's policy, it can be costly. So, that makes shopping around for the best coverage even more important.

Key Highlights
  • In most states, drivers who are minors cannot get their own car insurance policy.
  • Drivers must be the age of majority, usually, 18, to get their own auto insurance policy.
  • An insurance policy is considered a contract and a company cannot legally enter into a contract with a minor.
  • Emancipated minors are an exception and can buy their own car insurance.

Why is car insurance for teens usually expensive?

The answer is simple: Insurers base premiums on risk, and teen drivers are considered risky.

Expert Advice
Russell Henk Program Manager, Senior Research Engineer
Russell Henk
Program Manager, Senior Research Engineer
Youth Transportation Safety Program
Texas A&M Transportation Institute
College Station, TX

Russell Henk, explains "On a per-mile basis, early-stage teen drivers (typically 16 to 18 years old) are roughly four times as likely to be involved in a crash as drivers aged 25 or older."

Henk adds that "a dynamic particularly related to teens is having other young passengers in the car. For every non-adult passenger, it further doubles the risk the driver will be in an accident."

To mitigate this risk, Henk recommends having an adult in the car as often as possible when practicing driving, including at night. He also recommends safe-driving apps such as the "You in the Driver Seat" mobile app.

What state has the youngest driving age?

Idaho, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota have the youngest fully-licensed driving age of 16. Teens can begin getting their learner's permit as early as 14.5.

Graduated licensing laws are set at the state level so when your teen will start driving and need insurance will differ depending on where you live. Most states start the driver's license process around the age of 15, allowing teens to get a learner permit.

However, some states allow learner permits as early as 14 while other states make teens wait until 16 to get a learner permit. Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, North Dakota, and South Dakota all allow a 14-year-old to get behind the wheel with a learner permit.

Learner permits usually come with fairly strong restrictions.

Tip iconExample

In Alaska drivers must be supervised by a parent or guardian at all times and must accumulate 40 hours of supervised driving during the permit stage which includes 10 hours in "progressively challenging circumstances" such as inclement weather and nighttime conditions.

While the age limit for teens varies in regard to a license, there is very little leeway in the age limit to sign an insurance policy.

How old do you have to be to get car insurance?

In most cases, you need to be the "age of majority" as defined by your state, in order to get your own car insurance policy. That is typically age 18.

Age restrictions for buying car insurance depend on each state's insurance laws, but more importantly, it depends on an insurance company's policy about a minor signing a contract.

Unless there is a state law that imposes a minimum age there is not normally a minimum age at which to get car insurance coverage. If you have a driver's license you should be able to obtain car insurance.

However, if you are considered a minor in your state, you will most likely need a parent or guardian to sign or at least co-sign on the car insurance policy.

An insurance policy is considered a contract and that comes with legal ramifications. In order to legally sign an insurance policy or other contract, a person must have reached the "age of majority."

This is the age that the state you live in considers a child to have become an adult. Once a person reaches the age of majority they can consent to medical treatment, sign a contract and do everything else an adult can legally do.

The age of majority varies by state, but in all states, it is at least 18. A couple of states have made the age of majority even higher. Alabama and Nebraska put their age of majority at 19 so drivers in those states cannot legally enter into a contract until 19.

Can a teenager get their own car insurance policy?

In most states and situations, the answer is no. It can be difficult to put a car insurance policy in place for a minor without a parent or guardian being involved.

In most cases, if a teen lives at home and doesn't own their own car the simplest way to handle their insurance is to let them drive one of your cars and add them to your policy as a covered driver. If a teen wants to buy their own car and get their own insurance policy, it can be a bit more difficult.

State laws vary on the minimum age to own a car. In some states, a minor must have a parent's name on the title and registration. This means the parent will also have to be on the insurance policy as they are the technical owner of the vehicle.

Other states allow teens to be the sole owner of a car and leave it up to insurers to determine a minimum age to buy a policy.

Tip iconExample

In South Carolina, you can have sole ownership of a car at the age of 17. In Ohio, the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) states if you are under 18 and want to title a vehicle, your parent or legal guardian must complete a minor consent form.

A parent or legal guardian must also accompany you when you appear in front of the Clerk of Courts title office staff to have a vehicle titled in your name.

This means that while a teen can technically buy a car in most states and even title it in their own name, when it comes time to register and insure it, an adult will most likely have to be involved.

Read Our Parents' Guide: The best and cheapest way to insure teenage drivers

What is a vehicle title?

A motor vehicle title which often goes by the name "pink slip" is a form that establishes the legal owner of a vehicle. A title simply shows who legally owns a vehicle. Many states allow teens to technically own the vehicle by having their name on the title.

What is a vehicle registration?

The registration process is a bit different and is required by the state. A registration is basically documentation by the tax office in your state that validates that your vehicle has been entered into their system and that the car is considered roadworthy.

Registering your vehicle also indicates that you have paid all taxes and passed any inspections that are required by the state. The registration process also verifies that the vehicle is carrying the required amount of insurance.

Read Our Detail Guide On : What is the difference between title and registration?

Why teens often can't get their own auto insurance policy

This is where it gets difficult for teens to get their own insurance policy. Insurance companies don't like to write policies for minors on their own because legally they do not have to honor any contract they sign.

In general, a minor cannot enter into a contract or own property. In most cases, the teen's parents technically own the property until the child becomes an adult. In many states, a parent will have to co-sign on a loan for a car or any other contracts the juvenile enters into which means that while technically a juvenile can buy a car, the parent will be the legal owner.

Most car dealers will not sell a car to a minor because there are legal ramifications to letting a person who has not hit the age of majority. The same can be said for insurance companies.

Minors lack the capacity to legally sign a contract according to most state laws. While a minor can sign a contract, legally they have the right to void the contract before they reach the age of 18.

The fact that a minor can void a contract makes car dealers and insurance companies wary of doing business with someone who has not reached the age of majority.

All of this makes it difficult for a minor to get their own insurance policy which is required to register a vehicle. In the end, while a teen can title a car in their own name, registering it and getting it legal for the street will most likely require the help of an adult.

If you are a minor and want to own and insure a vehicle you should check with your state's Department of Motor Vehicles and insurance regulator to see if there is a minimum age set and what extra measures you may need to take to register and insure a car until you become 18 and are considered an adult.

Exception: Emancipated minors can sign a contract

The question of how old do you have to be to insure a car becomes moot when an emancipated minor is involved. Emancipated minors are legally able to buy, register and insure a vehicle in their own name.

Emancipation means that legally a minor is freed from the control of their parents or guardian and the parents are freed of the responsibility of the child.

There are various ways that a minor can be emancipated but the most common reasons are:

  • Minor enlists in the military - Enlisting as a minor requires parental consent
  • Getting married - In most states this requires parent consent
  • Court order from a judge - This doesn't require consent

Once a minor has been emancipated, they are legally able to enter into a contract so they can sign a purchase agreement for a car and as well as an insurance policy. Emancipation laws vary by state.

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