Carrying auto insurance is required – at least if you want to drive – but insurers do give you discretion regarding who you want to cover under your policy. Although laws can vary from state to state, you're typically not required to add your wife when you get married. It might be to your advantage to do so, however.
Even if you don't add your wife to your policy, just the fact that you got married might help lower your premiums. Insurance companies base rates on a variety of risk factors, and only one of them is your actual driving record. Statistically, some drivers are more likely than others to have accidents. Stable, responsible people usually don't make many insurance claims, and many insurers believe that married individuals are more stable and responsible. You will have to let your insurer know you got married because there's now another licensed driver in your household. The notification might automatically bring your premiums down a little.
Although how you pay your bills might not seem to have any correlation with how you behave behind the wheel of a car, many insurers think it does. A driver's credit is another factor considered by insurers when setting rates. Therefore, adding your wife to your policy will either increase your premiums or bring them down, depending on her credit history. The company isn't insuring each of you individually – it's insuring you as a unit. If your credit is spotty but your wife's is excellent, a joint policy will combine her good score with yours, resulting in a better average and lower premiums. Conversely, if she has bad credit, adding her could result in higher premiums. According to Bankrate.com, a driver with poor credit pays from 20 to 50 percent more in auto insurance.
If you add your wife to your policy, her driving record will affect your premiums just as her credit history will. If she has a history of moving violations, this can result in higher insurance costs, so you might want to keep your policies separate. Separate policies might not help all that much, however, unless you take an additional step. Most companies require you to list every licensed driver in your household on the theory that they might occasionally drive your car. You can specifically exclude your wife from coverage, but this typically requires her written consent. If she drives your car anyway and has an accident, you'll have to deal with costs of repairs and liability out of pocket.
If both you and your wife have good credit and good driving histories, you'll probably gain a great deal by adding her to your insurance because there are other advantages to a joint policy as well. Insurers want your business and they often give discounts when you buy more coverage. Adding your wife's car to your policy could earn you a multi-car discount and a variety of other breaks if you also use the same company for, say, your homeowners insurance.
- Esurance Insurance Services: Marriage Doesn't Change Coverage Needs
- Allstate: Combining Car Insurance After Marriage, Cost-Saving or Costly?
- Ferrell Backlund Insurance Agency: Frequently Asked Questions – Should I Add My Spouse to My Auto Insurance Policy?
- Bankrate.com: How Credit Scores Affect Your Insurance Costs
Beverly Bird has been writing professionally for over 30 years. She is also a paralegal, specializing in areas of personal finance, bankruptcy and estate law. She writes as the tax expert for The Balance.