What Is Car Insurance for College Students?

What Is Car Insurance for College Students?
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Whether you commute to your college or live on campus, you'll need to obtain car insurance if you want the convenience of driving a vehicle. You might do this on your own or through your parents' policy. College students can find car insurance through the same companies as everybody else, but higher costs for younger students can make getting insured harder on one's budget. The good news is that college students can shop around for good rates as well as take advantage of several discounts and tips to get a better deal. Use this guide on car insurance for college students to determine the best types of coverage and add-ons and get the cheapest car insurance that will fit your needs.

Auto Insurance Function and Importance

As a driver, you usually don't have a choice regarding whether to obtain and pay for car insurance since the law demands it. Although you might have an old car with little value and not worry much about damage to your own vehicle, the main issue is liability where you need to prove you can afford to pay for damages you cause that harm other property and people. For example, if you have no car insurance, wreck into someone's car and cause property damage and injuries, the other driver will need you to pay for these damages, or else you can run into issues like getting sued.

With at least basic car insurance coverage, you'll have financial protection so that the insurance company will pay for the other person's damages and medical costs from the accident you caused. If you opt for more comprehensive types of coverage, you can also get reimbursements for your own medical and property damage expenses if you're the driver at fault in an accident or if your car incurs some type of loss or damage from other causes.

Note that some types of coverage require a flat-rate payment called a deductible, often up to ​$1,000​, before the insurer takes over the remaining costs. Usually, the person filing the insurance claim will be the one who pays the deductible.

Car Insurance Coverage and Add-Ons

Depending on the value of the vehicle you drive and your preferences for cost and protection level, you have a variety of options when it comes to selecting the best car insurance coverage. Which ones are mandatory or optional will depend on factors such as state laws and terms written into your loan or lease agreement. Here are the coverage types and add-ons you'll likely come across on your car insurance hunt:

  • Liability coverage​: Covering both property damage and bodily injury to others, this is the type of car insurance coverage you'll need at a minimum in most places. You won't get paid money for your own losses when you hit a car and have this coverage, so this works better if you're a student with a low-value vehicle and you want to save money on insurance. If you're financing or leasing a car, though, this usually won't suffice.
  • Uninsured motorist coverage​: This coverage protects you in case a driver who hits you doesn't have liability coverage or has a low dollar amount of coverage so that they can't pay for all the damages they've caused you. If you opt for collision coverage, that will take over the extra costs instead, so this is more popular for people with just liability coverage and may even be required.
  • Personal injury protection​: Some states may require this type of coverage that helps you out with costs stemming from inquiries. This goes beyond paying medical bills to also help out with lost earnings from your inability to work due to injury.
  • Comprehensive coverage​: If you're concerned about your car getting stolen or damaged from falling objects, vandalism, natural disasters and other non-accident-related causes, you can opt for comprehensive coverage.
  • Collision coverage​: This will cover your vehicle's damages when you're at fault, and this goes beyond hitting cars to include collisions with things like trees and potholes.
  • Roadside assistance​: Along with helping you tow your car in an accident, this add-on can take care of issues like dead batteries, flat tires and vehicle lockouts.
  • Rental car reimbursement​: You might get this optional coverage if you'd need a vehicle while yours gets repaired after an accident.

Insurance Considerations for College Students

Younger drivers often face the issue of expensive car insurance costs due to the criteria car insurance companies use to determine a driver's risk and thus their premiums. College students are often ​under 25​ and have less driving experience, both of which are characteristics that raise rates. Students who park their cars in urban areas, have a history of driving violations, haven't built much credit or own cars with a high value can run into further affordability issues. So, it's crucial that college students not only carefully purchase enough coverage for their needs but also seek ways to reduce costs.

One key consideration involves choosing how to go about getting a policy – either signing up alone or having your parents add you to their current one. The second option can save you money, but it's less flexible as you'll need to have your parent's house be the place where you primarily park the car, you'll need to use their specific insurer and your parents need to accept the risks involved. You can get the most flexibility moving forward alone as long as you're of legal age, but it means you'll likely need to budget for higher premiums and spend time researching your options.

Exploring College Student Insurance Discounts

While car insurance costs can be higher for those in the traditional college student age group, most car insurance companies usually offer at least one type of discount targeting students. Here are three common college student insurance discounts, examples of the criteria to qualify and some popular insurance companies offering them:

  • Student affiliation discount​: You can sometimes save money on your car insurance premiums by simply being enrolled in an affiliated school or participating in a specific organization that has an agreement with an insurance company. For example, GEICO not only has affiliations with specific schools and student organizations but also with honor societies, fraternities and sororities. This type of college student discount might extend even after you graduate. You can find out if you qualify either by researching insurers that offer it or by asking your college or a leader of an association or group you're in.
  • Good student discount​: If you study full time and are younger than ​25,​ you'll find that most major car insurance companies will offer you a good student discount if you can show proof of and keep a good academic record. While some insurers require higher achievement, usually a "B" average, ​3.0​ GPA or inclusion on the honor roll or dean's list will qualify you for this discount. The United Services Automobile Association (USAA), for example, also accepts students in the ​top 20 percent​ of their classes. You can expect the insurance company to request future grade reports or transcripts at least annually so they can make sure you don't let your grades slip. Progressive says this type of discount could save you ​10 percent​.
  • Distant student discount​: If your parents keep you on their insurance policy and you go away to college and don't bring the insured vehicle, then a distant student discount may apply due to the limited use of the car. Like with the good distant discount, this one usually requires that you're a full-time student, but it often has a lower age limit of ​22​. Further, the insurance company will set a minimum distance between the home and college; for example, Progressive will require that to be ​100 miles​ or more.

Finding More Savings Opportunities

While on your search for cheap car insurance, you can also check around for non-student discounts that insurers often offer. For example, State Farm will give you savings for being accident-free, taking driver training, having anti-theft and safety features on your car and combining different policies. Liberty Mutual offers discounts for renewing a policy early, signing up for a driver behavior tracking device, paying premiums online and receiving your billing statements electronically. Keep in mind you can often reduce your auto insurance rates by going for as high of a deductible as you can afford.

Investigating Potential Car Insurance Companies

Unless you've decided to go with being on your parents' car insurance policy, you have plenty of traditional and nontraditional options for where to get college student car insurance. You can start with major insurance companies like GEICO, Allstate, State Farm, Progressive and Liberty Mutual where you'll find a variety of coverage options and discounts. If you already pay for renter's insurance for a dorm or apartment, then consider bundling auto insurance coverage with the same insurer for both convenience and discounts.

While most insurance companies usually have flat-rate premiums you pay even if you end up not driving much, you might find alternatives like Metromile appealing as a student seeking lower rates. This type of insurer will only charge you based on your actual mileage and can work well for college students who mostly stay on campus.

Requesting Car Insurance Quotes

Now that you have discovered at least a few car insurance companies with the desired benefits to college students, you're ready to share some information with them and find out more about pricing. Going to the websites for each of the car insurance companies will unusually lead to seeing a "get quote" button that makes it easy to get started with car insurance quotes. However, you can find the insurer's customer service phone number if you'd rather talk to a live person and learn more about the insurance. If you want to submit a single request and hear from multiple insurers, tools like Insurify can help with easier comparison, but they might not have all the companies you're interested in.

To get accurate quotes, you'll need to share as much information about the car and its drivers as possible, even though some questions may be optional during the quote process. You should know what type of vehicle you have, how old it is, how many miles you drive, which safety and security features it has and what the vehicle identification number is. You should also have an idea of the coverage level and add-ons you want, the deductible amount, the specific drivers for the car and any issues on your driving record that could impact coverage. As a college student, look for or ask about the specific discount programs discussed to get the best price.

Once you have some prices, make sure that the coverage levels across the companies are equal for a better comparison. Along with the cost, weigh other important factors such as the car insurance company's reputation and customer service into the decision as well.

Proceeding With Getting Coverage

Before signing up for car insurance as a college student, you'll want to get the documents needed to verify your student status since the insurer will want these to apply your discounts. Be prepared with proof of your grades (such as a transcript or grade report) for the good student discount or proof of residency and student status for the distant student discount. You might use a document like a student ID card, membership letter or proof of student status for an affiliation discount.

If you're getting your own policy, you can either continue the signup process online after the quote or call an insurance agent to get signed up for your car insurance coverage. But if you're getting covered through a parent, they will have to handle getting you added to their policy. During the process, you or your parent may need to provide additional information about the car and drivers than what was needed for the quote, and this can include the student-related documents. The insurer will often have you or your parent sign all the necessary forms for coverage electronically once they have all the necessary information.

Expect to make a payment before the coverage start date to avoid any delays. You'll usually receive materials like your car insurance card and policy declaration soon after completing the signup process, and you'll get these again every time you renew your policy.