Can You Get Car Insurance With a Driver's Permit?

Can You Get Car Insurance With a Driver's Permit?

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Currently insured?

Yes, you can get car insurance with just a driver’s permit.

However, if you're still learning to drive, you may not need to be added to a policy yet. If you're behind the wheel of a family member's car while practicing driving, you're most likely covered by their policy and won't need your own.

The main situation in which you would need a policy before you're licensed is if you already own a car.

Car insurance for young and inexperienced drivers can be very expensive. Typically, drivers who are still learning get the best rates by sharing a policy with a family member who has more experience on the road. Additionally, not all insurers sell standalone policies to people under 18 years old.

If you’re trying to purchase a car without a driver’s license, you can do that, too, but you need an auto insurance policy in order to register and drive the vehicle.

How to get car insurance with a learner's permit

The most affordable way to get car insurance with a learner’s permit, also called a provisional driver's license, is to add yourself to a family member's existing car insurance policy. For example, car insurance for a 16-year-old is more than $3,000 cheaper per year if you share it with your family rather than buy your own policy.

You can do this whether you share a car with a parent or other family member, or if you have your own car that only you drive. The only potential hurdle is that you need to get your family member's permission to do so. They're taking on some of the risk by sharing their policy with you: if you get in a crash, the entire cost of the policy will likely go up.

The fastest way to get covered in this situation is to simply call your current insurer and ask them to add you to the existing policy. But we recommend calling a few insurers to find the cheapest car insurance policy when adding a new driver or vehicle, since a different company might offer discounts not available from your current insurer.

Getting your own policy

If you live alone, or no one you live with is able to add you to their policy, you'll need to buy your own car insurance. This will likely be very expensive, as younger, less experienced drivers are much more likely to be involved in a crash than other people. We found that insurance for a 16-year-old by themself can cost as much as $6,469 per year.

If you're in this situation, take extra time to get as many quotes as you can. It's the only way to ensure you're paying the best price available for your car insurance.

Do I need car insurance with a learner's permit?

People learning to drive generally don't need to buy their own insurance policies.

When you don't need car insurance with a learner's permit:

  • The owner of the car has their own policy.
  • You don't live with the car's owner (even after you've received your license).

When you do need car insurance:

  • If the car belongs to you and no one else.
  • Once you've received your license (and you live with the owner).

If you're learning to drive, you're most likely practicing in a car that belongs to a family member or friend, with an experienced driver in the passenger seat. In this case, the policy of the car's owner most likely covers you while you're learning.

However, it's a good idea to call the insurer to confirm that you're protected while driving. And keep in mind that if you live with the owner of that car, you'll need to be added to the policy once you've passed your license exam — regardless of whether it's a family member or just a roommate.

You need a policy if you own your own car

The main circumstance when you would need car insurance even before you have a license is if you own your own car, whether it was a gift from a parent or something you bought in advance of getting your license.

Car insurance is required in nearly every state, and in most cases you'll need to buy a policy before you can register a vehicle with your state and get license plates.

Unfortunately, car insurance is very expensive for young or inexperienced drivers. We found that car insurance for 16-year-olds costs much more than a 30-year-old for the same level of coverage.

Can you register a car without a driver’s license?

You can purchase a vehicle with just a driver’s permit since a license is not necessary to buy a car. However, proof of auto insurance or financial responsibility is a requirement for vehicle registration in most states. This means that if you are uninsured or have a learner’s permit, you could purchase a vehicle, but it would serve little purpose, as you couldn’t drive it on public roads.

If you have a suspended license and a car insurance policy, you may register but not operate a vehicle. In fact, driving with a suspended license would make you susceptible to fines and even jail time, depending on the state where the infraction occurred.

How parents can lower their car insurance costs

Adding a young driver to your auto insurance policy often results in a higher premium. If you are adding a provisional driver, especially a teen driver, to your existing insurance plan, the single most important thing you can do to save money is get quotes from several insurance companies — at least five. When you have a teen driver on your policy, auto insurance costs may vary in price by hundreds of dollars per year.

Car insurance companies often offer discounts for safe driving, bundling other insurance policies, adding vehicles to the insurance plan or having a vehicle that is deemed safe. While there are dozens of discounts available to you as a policyholder, here are the most commonly applied:

  • Good grades in high school or college
  • Driver safety classes in excess of minimum requirements
  • Maintaining a clean driving record
  • Good credit score
  • Automatic bill payment
  • Away-at-school discount
  • Anti-theft device
  • Insuring multiple cars
  • Bundling home and auto insurance
  • Early renewal discounts
Joe Resendiz

Joe Resendiz is a former investment banking analyst for Goldman Sachs, where he covered public sector and infrastructure financing. During his time on Wall Street, Joe worked closely with the debt capital markets team, which allowed him to gain unique insights into the credit market. Joe is currently a research analyst who covers credit cards and the payments industry. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin, where he majored in finance.

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