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UPDATED: May 15, 2017
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Anyone of legal driving age can get car insurance. In fact, almost all 50 states require you to have car insurance to drive legally. Only New Hampshire and Virginia allow driving without car insurance in certain situations.
But if you’re under a certain age, your parent or legal guardian might have to co-sign the policy. The exact rules vary state by state.
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Driving Age Minimums
You have to be a legal driver to get auto insurance. And really, there’s no point in having car insurance anyway if you don’t drive.
Every state has age minimums in place to drive legally.
In most states, the minimum age to drive without an adult in the car is 16. But a few states have different rules.
Learner’s Permit vs. Restricted License vs. Unrestricted License
In nearly all states, obtaining your full driver’s license happens in three steps.
First, you receive your learner’s permit. It permits you to drive, but only when a licensed adult is in the car with you.
The minimum age to get a learner’s permit varies by state. North Dakota and South Dakota issue them to 14-year-olds but in states such as Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, you cannot apply for one until you’re 16.
The next license you obtain is a restricted license. It allows you to drive without an adult in the car but you have to follow certain rules.
These rules may include restricted driving hours (such as no driving between midnight and 6:00 a.m.) and limitations on the number of passengers. Again, the age to receive a restricted license depends on your state.
You can get one at 14 1/2 years old in South Dakota. In New Jersey, you have to wait until you’re 17.
Finally, you can apply for your unrestricted license. It gives you unlimited driving privileges (though you must, of course, follow traffic laws). No state issues this license to anyone younger than 16.
In certain states, such as Connecticut and New Jersey, the age to receive an unrestricted license is as high as 18.
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Even though you can drive at 16 in most states, that doesn’t mean you can own a car. All states have a minimum age for a person to hold title to a car.
If you’re under this age, a parent or guardian must be on the car title and registration with you. Typically, the age you can own a car is the legal age of adulthood, or 18 years old.
A few states have different laws. South Carolina, for instance, lets you hold a car title on your own at age 17. In Ohio, you can own a car by yourself when you’re under 18, but your parent or legal guardian must sign their consent.
Some states do not allow minors who cannot own cars legally to buy auto insurance on their own. Other states allow private insurance companies to make their own rules about selling insurance to minors.
If you live in one of the latter states, you might be able to shop around and find an insurance company to sell you your own policy as a minor.
How to Get Auto Insurance as a Minor
If you need car insurance but are under 18 (or the legal age to buy a policy on your own in your state), you have a few ways to get it.
Your Parents’ Policy
The easiest way to get auto insurance as a minor is for your parents to add you to their policy. As long as you’re a licensed driver, they can do this in every state. They still own the policy, but you’re listed as an eligible driver.
Having you, a young, inexperienced driver, on the policy will almost certainly make their premiums jump substantially. Insurance companies calculate premiums by estimating risk.
The more likely you are to have an accident, the more risk you present to the insurance company because accidents result in claims, and claims cause insurance companies to incur expenses.
Unfortunately, young drivers are statistically the most likely to be involved in accidents. Consequently, car insurance premiums are the highest for drivers between the ages of 16 and 24.
Because your parents have to pay more to insure you, they might be reticent to add you to their policy. There are a few ways you can ease their burden.
Many insurance companies offer good student discounts. Keep at least a “B” average, and your premiums will decrease. You could also offer to take on a part-time job to help pay your share of the policy cost.
But what if you’re underage and your parents flat refuse to put you on their insurance policy? Is there a way to get it on your own?
One option to get auto insurance on your own is to emancipate from your parents. An emancipated minor is one who is recognized as a legal adult.
When you’re emancipated, you have the rights of an adult even though you aren’t 18 or the legal age of adulthood in your state. These rights include owning a car and buying auto insurance on your own.
Before you get too excited, understand it’s difficult to emancipate. The courts want to hear a good reason. “I want to drive without my parents telling me what to do” probably won’t qualify.
Minors who are granted emancipation usually come from homes where they were abused or neglected.
Another Adult Relative
In some states, it’s possible to circumvent going on your parents’ car insurance by enlisting another adult relative. This could be any of the following:
- a grandparent
- an aunt
- an uncle
- an older cousin
The way it works is this: the relative purchases the vehicle you wish to drive and buys insurance for it.
If you or your parents currently own the vehicle, you’ll have to transfer the title to the other relative then the relative has to include you as an eligible driver on their insurance policy.
Again, since you’re a young driver, this will cause a premium jump. That’s something you’ll need to work out with your relative. Moreover, some states don’t allow this arrangement to work unless you move in with the relative.
As you can see, certain logistical complexities and financial issues make it difficult to get insurance through a non-parent adult relative. But it’s an option to explore if you need car insurance as a minor and your parents are unwilling to work with you.
Shopping Around for Coverage
Regardless if you’re 16 or 86, all car insurance isn’t equal. Some policies and companies are better than others for your unique needs. You should always shop around before buying auto insurance.
Compare three or four policies side by side before making your choice.
The first offer you receive might sound great but unless you explore other options, you’ll never know if you’re leaving a better deal on the table.
The minimum age to get car insurance is equal to the minimum age to drive in your state. But for minors, buying car insurance isn’t always as simple as forking over the money for a policy.
It’s important to understand the laws in your state. That way, you can obtain coverage in the easiest way possible.
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