Teen Driver Insurance: Q&A with Attorney Ted Kennett

tedAs a parent and a lawyer, Ted Kennett is often asked about teen driver insurance – from whose policy the teen should be placed on to when the teen should be added to a policy. Currently, he is hosting workshops to help individuals better understand purchasing auto insurance. Below, he shares essential information for parents of teenagers.

1. Is it best to put my teen’s car and coverage on my policy?

It is often cheaper to include your teen’s car and coverage on your policy because you might have reached certain life milestones benefitting your car insurance that your teen has not – multiple insured cars, being married, having a low-risk job. Keep in mind, though, your teen’s driving record will affect your rate if you are on the same policy. If you decide to add your teen to your policy, be sure to specify which car he plans to drive. Otherwise, the insurer may add the teen to every vehicle on your policy, which will significantly increase your premium.

While it is tempting to help your teen pay for insurance, I would encourage everyone to have their teen either pay their premium in full or at least a portion of the premium. Doing so will help your children appreciate the responsibilities of driving and hopefully will encourage them to drive carefully knowing that poor choices will increase their out-of-pocket costs for insurance.

2. When do I need to purchase teen driver insurance?

Pennsylvania law does not require a teenager with a learner’s permit to be added to an insurance policy, but Pennsylvania law does require that teens must be insured the day they obtain a driver’s license regardless of whether they have their own car. Some companies require teens be added to insurance policies when they obtain their learner’s permit. Although added to the policy, insurers may not charge a premium until the teenager obtains his driver’s license. It’s best to check with your company to determine its requirements.

3. How much teen driver insurance should I carry?

All Pennsylvania drivers, regardless of age, are required to have insurance to protect others at the minimum levels of $15,000 per person for bodily injury, $30,000 per accident for bodily injury and $5,000 for property damage. All Pennsylvania drivers must also purchase $5,000 medical benefits to protect themselves.

Even though these are the minimum coverages required, purchasing only the minimum coverages is unwise. Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverages (UM/UIM) protect your teen and anyone traveling with him or her. No one should just buy the minimum levels of insurance required by law. Medical benefits under an auto policy can be the most affordable health insurance available for your teen. Also, make sure you and your teen understand what different coverages are for and how to best protect you and your friends and family. Whatever amount of insurance is purchased, do not waive UM/UIM coverages and do not choose a limited tort policy. Doing so is a foolish way to try to save money on premiums.

The free workshops I’m presenting are focused on helping people make informed purchases of auto insurance so they know what they are purchasing, understand the options and save money without jeopardizing their rights if they are a victim of a reckless driver. I am tired of telling people after the accident that they made poor choices, which limit their right to be fully compensated. It is too late then.

4. What if my teen heads off to college without a car – does she still need to be insured?

It depends – technically if your teen is not driving, she does not need to be insured. But anytime she comes home and decides to drive, she needs to pick up insurance again. Also keep in mind any lapse in coverage often results in higher rates when coverage is needed again. The best plan of action is to keep your teen insured, but call the insurance company to explain she is heading off to college and will not have the car with her. Be sure to note how far the school is from where the car will be kept. Generally, schools 100 miles away or farther receive greater savings.

Be aware, though, that your teen may drive a friend’s car and will likely still be a passenger in another’s car sometimes. Having insurance with good medical benefits and UM/UIM coverage can be critically important if an accident occurs while she’s an occupant of another person’s vehicle.

5. What type of car is best for my teen, and for my insurance premium?

In most cases, mid-sized sedans are the best choices for teens. Small cars do not offer much protection in accidents. Sporty cars often encourage speeding and reckless driving. SUV and pick-up trucks are difficult to maneuver and are often less stable in accidents or with sudden movements. Used vehicles are often less expensive to insure than new cars since the book value of the vehicle is less.

6. Are there any other mistakes I should avoid as a parent?

One of the top mistakes of parents purchasing teen driver insurance is not shopping for the best insurance premiums. Check into multiple companies and compare quotes before your teen brings home her license. Also be sure to ask about available discounts for teens’ good grades, completion of driver safety classes and the possibility of bundling your auto and home insurance.

Ted Kennett is an accomplished attorney as a member of the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum and the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, a fellow of the Academy of Advocacy, and a fellow of the Litigation Counsel of America, an invitation-only honorary society made up of less than half of 1 percent of all lawyers in the U.S. If you or someone you know is involved in an auto accident, contact Ted Kennett or another one of our skilled attorneys 24/7 for the Results You Deserve®.