What Parents Need to Know about Teen Drivers and Car Insurance

Parents want their kids to be happy and productive. Today’s parents appreciate that when they were young, they wanted to get their licenses to drive as soon as they could. In Arizona, having a car means greater freedom for the teen and parents. But with a car comes responsibility, and with responsibility comes purchasing insurance.

Our clients have asked us about insurance for their teen drivers: what they need, whether they have to name their kids on their policies, what kind of liability they’ll face if their teen crashes the car, and so forth. We wanted to take a quick look at that today, so you would have the information at your fingertips. If you’re still struggling, you can always give us a call with your questions.

The basics: getting the driver’s license

First things first: your child has to get a license. (You can insure an unlicensed driver.) Teens in Arizona get their learner’s permit at 15 and ½ years-of-age. They need to have an adult with them when they drive. They also need to pass a written test first.

Teenagers between 16 years and 18 years of age (or older in some cases) can get a graduated driver’s license – provided they had a learner’s permit for at least six months. The teen applicant must also show they passed a driver’s ed course or obtained a written statement from a parent that they’ve had “at least 30 hours of supervised driving practice, including at least 10 hours at night.”

Drivers who turn 18 can seek a Class D adult driver’s license which will still show that they are under 21.

Getting the right insurance

There are a few factors parents should consider in order to reduce their insurance rates and the risk of liability:

  • The parent needs to add all teenage drivers to his/her liability insurance policy. This means informing the insurance company and getting a written addendum or endorsement. We cannot stress this enough. Your policy may say it covers all licensed drivers, but it is important that you put your kids on the policy one they start driving.
  • Title to the car. Parents should generally title their car in just the name of one parent so only that parent can be found liable. If a teenager is old enough to own a car, the teen must have liability insurance to drive the vehicle.
  • Have at least the minimum liability insurance. If you are in a position to purchase more coverage, you really should. Car accidents are expensive, and it is better to be prepared. Liability insurance covers medical bills, lost income, and pain and suffering. Just one night in a hospital can run over $50,000. Many new cars cost more than $20.000. So, more really is better, if you can afford it. Arizona recently updated its insurance minimums, so you have to carry at least this amount:
    • Bodily injury or death insurance for one victim: $25,000
    • Bodily injury or death insurance for multiple victims: $50,000
    • Property damage insurance: $15,000
  • Parents should also keep UM/UIM insurance. This protects their teen and any occupants in the car if another driver is the one at fault for the accident. Your agent may suggest waiving this coverage in order to lower your bills, but we’d strongly advice you keep it. If your kid gets hurt in a hit-and-run, or suffers a life-altering injury from another driver who was underinsured, your UM/UIM insurance will protect him or her.
  • Collision insurance. If your teen runs a red light, speeds, or is responsible for the accident for any reason – collision insurance pays for the damage to your vehicle.

Information to review with your agent

According to the Arizona Department of Transportation, “The adult will be responsible for any negligence or willful misconduct when the teen is driving.” At least one parent must sign the application for a learner’s permit or a graduated license. Parents are also generally liable for the negligence acts of the children just by giving them permission to use their vehicle.

So what does this mean?

If your teen driver causes a car crash in Phoenix, in Tempe, in Scottsdale – literally anywhere in Arizona – you could be held liable.

It’s a good idea to schedule a policy review with your agent before your teen driver gets his or her permit or license. Some of the items the parents need to discuss include:

  • What happens if the student turns 18 or turns 21?
  • What happens if the student uses the car for work?
  • What happens if the student goes to college?
  • What’s required if you have multiple cars?
  • Is there a difference for a new car versus a used car?
  • Does my homeowner’s policy provide any protection?
  • Are good grade discounts available for my child?
  • Will taking a driver safety course reduce my premiums?

Keeping your teen driver safe

You can’t control the actions of others, but you can instill good habits – and a healthy sense of respect for the road – in your own teen drivers. Parents should explain and monitor their child’s driving to reduce the risk of accidents including:

  • Limiting the number of passengers in the vehicle
  • Limiting the time of day when the teen drives
  • Explaining that drinking and driving is forbidden
  • Explaining the dangers of texting and driving

Remember that actions speak louder than words: if you model good behavior behind the wheel, your teen driver will pick up on that. So make sure you obey traffic laws and follow the rules of the road, to show your kids that you mean business.

At Plattner Verderame, P.C., our Phoenix injury lawyers have been fighting for car accident victims since 1991. If you have questions about car insurance for a teen driver, we can help. To speak with a respected Phoenix car accident lawyer about your needs, call us today at 602-266-2002 or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment.


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