It's Not The Car - It's The Teen Driving It

My husband and I have bought a third car.  My car insurance company wants to make my teenage son the primary driver of that car. What does this mean?  Does that cost extra money?

Let's be clear: You will be paying more for car insurance mostly because there is a teenage driver on the policy at all, not because he is listed as a primary driver on one of your vehicles. (See “ Adding a teen to my insurance costs how much?”)

For example, we compared rates for married Washington state homeowners, both 44 with clean records, insuring a 2015 and a 2012 Ford Fusion. They have full coverage (100/300/50 plus comprehensive and collision with $500 deductibles, plus other state-mandated personal coverage). Using the cheapest rates we found in each case, here's the kind of change they saw when adding drivers and vehicles:
  • Parents alone: $1,638 annually
  • Adding son, 16, as secondary driver on both cars:  $3,846
  • Adding third car, a 2007 Ford Fusion with full coverage and son as primary: $4,808

Some companies returned rates twice as high.

Your teen will be cheaper to insure with each passing year if he keeps a clean record. And there are additional ways to slice your bill. (See “ Car insurance for teens.”) The couple above could:
  • Raise deductibles on all three cars to $1,000: $4,534
  • Change third car to liability only: $4,500

So why does an insurer assign primary drivers?

Insurance companies like to assign each car to one primary driver.  That person, the primary driver, is the one whose driving record and risk profile are used to calculate its rates.

Insurance companies also note secondary drivers who use the insured vehicle. There can be multiple secondary drivers, but only one primary driver per vehicle.

Before you bought your third vehicle, your insurance company assigned you to the vehicle you normally drive and your husband to his.  You and your son were then secondary drivers of your husband's car and your husband and son rated as secondary drivers of your vehicle.