car insurance for students

Car Insurance for Students—What College Kids and Parents Should Know

Kids headed off to college? Congratulations! But before they go, be sure you understand what car insurance for students you need. This can prevent expensive surprises and take advantage of premium savings designed for mobile scholars.

“College campuses are kind of their own risk-management cram course,” says Lynne McChristian of the Insurance Information Institute. “You’ve got theft, drunken driving, drugs, and students who leave windows open and cars unlocked.”

Having car insurance for students away at school typically requires a reboot of their parents’ auto policies or applying for their own, often first-time, coverage. Keeping a set of wheels under your college student while away from home presents a few challenges. This also presents cost-cutting opportunities for both parents and child.

If you’re confused about getting car insurance for students, you are not alone. “Most people don’t know how it works,” McChristian admits.

SEE ALSO: 6 Tips to Make Auto Insurance for Teen Drivers Less Expensive

Tips for Getting Car Insurance for Students Going Away to College

Ready to cram? Here’s what college-bound kids and their parents should know about car insurance for students.

Continuing car insurance coverage for students away at school

Most college-bound freshmen who have had two or three years of auto coverage on their parents’ policy understandably wonder what happens when they ship off to school. For many, the answer is nothing; with most insurers, you can remain on Mom and Dad’s policy as long as their home remains your primary address, even if you plan to attend college out of state.

However, it’s a good idea to check with your insurer to verify that your existing family coverage meets the state minimum liability requirements of your college destination.

Family car insurance vs. student’s first policy

Will amending your existing auto insurance to include your offsite student save you money? It’s possible if you’re willing to cram in comparison shopping.

“Insurance follows the car,” explains McChristian. “One way for parents to lower the cost of insurance is to assign the young driver to the oldest car, not the most expensive car because that changes the rate.”

If your college-bound kid has a DUI or a car accident or two, you may save more by keeping them on the family policy rather than launching their own.

Although it may cost more to sign the car title over and have your student insure their ride in their own name, McChristian says it could ultimately prove to be a healthy introduction to auto insurance benefits that will make them a better student and driver down the road.

“Companies give kids policy breaks for a clean record, good grade average and completing a driver’s training course,” she says. “If they don’t need their car on campus, they can save money by being listed as an ‘occasional driver.’”

What if a student doesn’t take a car to college?

What should you do if your student will not be taking a vehicle to school? Tempting though it may seem to temporarily remove your college student from family coverage while they’re away at school, in many cases the gesture is not worth the savings because they won’t have coverage when they return home for breaks and summer vacations.

Many insurance companies don’t allow you to temporarily exclude a licensed driver in your household who is already listed on the policy. But others acknowledge the need and offer car insurance for students whose campus is less than a certain number of miles (often 100) from home.

Being a responsible driver at college

College life is an exciting change for most students. Active social life and, unfortunately, exposure to unforeseen dangers on the road.

Students should know that accidents or damage they cause while driving intoxicated or distracted could cause higher auto insurance rates. That’s the case for their car and for all vehicles insured on the family’s plan.

One way to reinforce responsible driving on and off campus is to have your student sign a parent-teen safe driving contract offered by your insurer. These documents allow parents and teens to help prevent unsafe behaviors, such as drinking or texting while driving.

TAKE THE QUIZ: What Factors Impact Your Auto Insurance Rate?

Car insurance for students when borrowing vehicles

One common college habit that holds the most potential for auto insurance chaos is the tendency to borrow cars. If your student is insured on the family policy and lends his or her car to a friend who gets into a wreck, your family policy must cover it. This also means the rate increases. Because insurance follows the car, make sure your college student keeps their keys to themselves.