Buying a car insurance policy typically comes with age restrictions. In most states, you must be 18 or older to purchase a policy as it’s the age of majority in most states. The age of majority is the age at which you can legally enter into contracts.
Restrictions can vary by state, but if you are an emancipated minor, you can purchase a policy before you turn 18.
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 it depends on an insurance company’s policy about a minor signing a contract. In most cases, you must be the age of majority as defined by your state to buy a car insurance policy. That is typically age 18.
Unless there is a state law that imposes a minimum age, there is not usually a minimum age at which to get car insurance coverage. However, if you are considered a minor in your state, you will need a parent or guardian to sign or co-sign on the car insurance policy.
What is the “age of majority?”
An insurance policy is considered a legally binding contract with legal ramifications. 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 vote.
The age of majority varies by state, but in all states and Washington, D.C., 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. And in Mississippi, the age of majority is 21.
Which state has the youngest driving age?
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.
Graduated licensing laws are set at the state level, so when your teen starts driving and needs insurance will differ depending on where you live. Most states start the driver’s license process around 15, allowing teens to get a learner’s permit.
However, some states allow learner’s permits as early as age 14, while others make teens wait until 16 to get a permit. Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, North Dakota and South Dakota allow a 14-year-old to get behind the wheel with a learner’s permit.
Learner permits usually come with stringent restrictions. For example, in Alaska, drivers must always be supervised by a parent or guardian. They 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 regarding a license, there is minimal leeway in the age limit to sign an insurance policy.
Can a teenager get their own car insurance policy?
In most states and situations, minors can’t get their own car insurance policies without a parent or guardian.
In most cases, if a teen lives at home and doesn’t own their own car, the simplest solution is to let them drive one of your cars and add them to your policy as a covered driver.
Be prepared for a significant rate increase – adding a teen driver increases car insurance rates drastically. This is especially true for 16-year-olds – adding a 16-year-old female driver to a parent’s policy costs $4,144 per year, on average. But it’s still cheaper to insure a teen driver under a parent’s policy than on their own.
It can be a bit more complicated if a teen wants to buy their own car and get their own insurance policy. State laws vary on the minimum age to own a car. A minor must have a parent’s name on the title and registration in some states. This means the parent must also be on the insurance policy as they own 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:
- In South Carolina, you can own a car at 17.
- Ohio’s Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) requires those younger than 18 to have a parent’s minor consent form on file to title a vehicle. A parent or legal guardian must accompany a minor when they appear in front of the Clerk of Courts title office staff to have a car titled.
So, 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.
Parents’ guide on the best and cheapest way to insure teenage drivers
Why can’t teens get their own auto insurance policies?
Insurance companies don’t write policies for minors on their own because they legally do not have to honor any contract they sign.
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 cosign 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.
Minors cannot 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.
So while technically, there isn’t a minimum age for car insurance, all of this makes it difficult for a minor to get their own insurance policy required to register a vehicle. So, while a teen can title a car in their own name, registering it will require the help of an adult.
If you are a minor and want to own and insure a vehicle on your own, 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 turn 18.
Emancipated minors can sign contracts
The question of how old you must be to insure a car becomes moot when an emancipated minor is involved. Emancipated minors can legally buy, register and insure a vehicle in their own names.
Emancipation means that legally a minor is freed from the control of their parents or guardian and the parents are freed of the child’s responsibility.
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 parental consent.
- A court order from a judge: This doesn’t require parental consent.
Once a minor has been emancipated, they can legally enter into a contract, so the question of what age you can get car insurance is no longer an issue. Emancipated minors can sign a purchase agreement for a car and an insurance policy. Emancipation laws vary by state.
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World Population Review. “Age of Majority by State 2022.” Accessed August 2022.