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Are you properly insured for a teen behind the wheel?

Jul 30, 2009 | | Comments Comments Off

Creative Commons License photo credit: sterno74

We’re right in the thick of summertime driving, especially for teens, who spend 44 percent more hours driving each week now than during the school year.

If you haven’t looked at the financial and safety implications of adding a young driver to your household, here are some tips to consider from the Insurance Information Institute, a nonprofit group sponsored by the insurance industry:

Talk to your teen about costs. Explain how a driving infraction or accident can drive up insurance costs.

Insure your son or daughter on your own policy. It is generally cheaper to add your teens to your own policy than it is for them to purchase their own. If they are going to be driving their own car, insure it with your company so you can get a multi-vehicle discount.

Find out how your insurer assigns drivers to cars. Some insurers assign the driver who is the most expensive to insure (typically the teen) to the car that is the most expensive to insure. If you can, try to have your teen assigned to the least valuable car. Some insurers will allow policyholders to do this if the number of autos equals or exceeds the number of insured drivers on a policy. However, with this kind of deal, your teen can only use the car he or she has been assigned – even in an emergency.  You face penalties and your premiums might rise if your teen is involved in an accident in a car he/she was not assigned to drive.

Increase your liability insurance. State minimums for liability insurance will not be enough to fully protect you from lawsuits if your teen gets into an accident. If your teen is found negligent in an accident and the damages exceed your insurance limits, you will be held financially responsible and could be sued for those amounts not covered by your insurance. Consider an umbrella liability policy, which kicks in when you reach the limit on the underlying liability coverage in a homeowners, renters, condo or auto policy. For about $150 to $300 per year, you can buy a $1 million personal umbrella policy.

Let your insurer know when you teen is at school. You may be eligible for lower premiums once your teen is at college, providing he or she leaves the car behind.

Tell ‘em to get good grades. Most companies will give discounts for getting at least a “B” average in school and for taking a recognized driver training course.

Here’s a tip that the III didn’t offer, but I will: don’t let your teen drive an SUV or a sports car, which are tricky for inexperienced drivers to handle.

Above all – make sure you talk to your teen and get them into a good driving program. And set a good example. Their lives are at stake.

Need more information on insurance? Check out my columns for more advice:

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