Your Kid’s at College – Do You Keep Insuring the Car?

She had that Honda loaded down
With Abercrombie clothes and 15 pairs of shoes
And his American Express
He checked the oil and slammed the hood
Said you’re good to go
She hugged them both and headed off to the West Coast

You may or may not know this final verse from the Kenny Chesney hit “There Goes My Life.” It’s about a dad sending his daughter off to college for the first time. It’s the end of a touching story, but nowhere does it mention insurance for that Honda.

One thing is certain: Anyone age 16-25 is going to pay higher auto insurance rates than any other age group. However, for college students, premiums can vary widely due to such factors as vehicle type and age, the miles a student drives in a year, where the vehicle is “garaged,” the grades he or she gets in school and, of course, driving record.

All of which raises the question, should you keep your college student on your auto policy or have them take out their own policy? What if they don’t even take the vehicle they drove through high school with them to college?

As you might expect, there is no single answer. But there are some basic guidelines for making the right decision.

Reasons to Keep Your College Kid on Your Car Insurance

Generally speaking, if your child has a vehicle at college and uses it regularly, keep them on your family auto insurance policy, will usually cost less than if a student tries to insure the vehicle on their own. Even if they don’t bring a car to college, yet they’re home from school often (more than just summers and winter breaks), also keep them on your policy.

This way, they’ll be covered anytime they get behind the wheel – in someone else’s car, in an emergency and whenever they come home. They’ll also have coverage as a passenger; same goes if they’re in an accident while walking or biking.

Another reason to keep them on your auto policy is to avoid lapses in their personal insurance history. “Uninterrupted coverage” is sort of like a credit rating for insurance carriers. The longer, the better. Some carriers will even refuse to issue policies to young customers without a history of continuous coverage.  

Reasons to Remove Your College-Age Child from Your Car Insurance

If your child is at school halfway across the country, doesn’t have a vehicle there and only comes home for summers and holidays, why pay a full year of an expensive insurance premium? You shouldn’t, assuming it’s possible to remove a licensed driver from your auto policy and add them back later.

If your carrier allows what’s called an “exclusion,” it could mean slashing that annual premium of nearly $4,000 in half. Notify your agent or carrier whenever your college student is back home and needs coverage. And, whether or not it falls on deaf ears, encourage your child to not borrow or drive a friend’s vehicle. If an accident occurs and your child is at fault, the friend’s policy likely won’t provide sufficient coverage.

In some cases, it may make sense to remove a college student from your family auto policy even if they have a vehicle at school. Say you live downtown in a large metropolitan area, and your child lives virtually full-time at a small school in the middle of nowhere. If they own the car, they might see lower rates in that ZIP code – even at their age.

Before You Decide

No matter where your child attends college or how often they come home, certain factors will always come into play when carriers give you an auto insurance quote:

  • Driving Record: The numbers don’t lie. College-age drivers get into more accidents than people their parents’ age. The cleaner the record—not just accidents, but any moving violation—the lower the risk, and the better the rate.
  • Make/Model/Year: An older minivan is cheaper to insure than a new two-seat turbo convertible sports coupe. Always has been, always will be, regardless of who’s driving it. Also, larger vehicles tend to cost less to insure than smaller ones.
  • Credit Rating: Can the reliability of a person to pay their debts on time determine their risk of getting into an accident? Insurance companies believe so. The lower the credit score (yours or your student’s), the higher the insurance rate.

With so many variables in the equation, it’s easy to default to the easiest decision, whether it’s keeping your college student on your policy, excluding them or having them take out their own individual auto policy. However, evaluating all the factors at play could mean saving or overspending thousands of dollars per year.

With one or more children in college, who couldn’t use that kind money?

Turn to your licensed SelectQuote agent to help you work through the options for your college-age driver.


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