When your teen finally hits the legal age to drive there will be plenty of questions that come up and some of those will deal with insurance. How much will my insurance rates go up? Can a 16-year-old get car insurance?

Teens and Car insurance can be difficult, your premiums are about to head up pretty 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, on their own policy, this can be difficult. While many states allow teens to title a car in their own name, insurance policies are contracts and most insurers don't do business with minors.

What state has the youngest driving age?

Driving 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. As an example, 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.

When it comes to a full license though, North Dakota and Montana have the youngest driving ages in the country. Teens can get a full license at the age of 16 in these states.

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?

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 a minor, under the age of 18, 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?

While the answer is technically yes, it can be difficult to put a policy in place 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.

As an example, in South Carolina, you can have sole ownership of a car at the age of 17. In Ohio, their 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.

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.

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.

This is where it gets difficult for teens to register a car in their own name. 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.

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.