College Students and Car Insurance

Owning a car is a sought-after convenience for many college students, especially those living off-campus. A personal vehicle provides fast and reliable transportation to classes, jobs, the grocery store, and other off-campus escapades.

When your child goes off to college with a car, you'll want to strike a balance between making sure their auto insurance needs are met without breaking the bank.

Required Car Insurance for College Students

You may need to purchase following types of auto coverage for your college student:

  • Liability insurance, which is required in almost every state (except Virginia and New Hampshire) and provides coverage for:
    • Bodily injury following an accident.
    • Damages your driver causes to another person's car or property.
  • Personal injury protection (PIP), required in some states, pays for medical bills, physical therapy, and lost wages for your driver and their passengers after a car crash.
  • Uninsured motorist coverage is also required in many states, and covers the cost to repair damages if somebody without insurance crashes into your car.

The car insurance your college student is required to have can vary depending on the state where your child will be attending school. Some coverages may even carry over from state to state, so be sure to speak with your insurance agent about your options.  

Optional Insurance Coverage for College Students

The following types of auto coverage are typically optional when it comes to insuring your college student's vehicle:

  • Collision insurance: This type of coverage pays to repair or replace your car after an accident.
    • If your college student is driving an older car with little value, you may not elect to pay for collision insurance—you could end up paying more in premiums than what your student's car is worth.
  • Comprehensive coverage: This policy addendum pays for theft and damage to your vehicle.
    • For example, if your student parks on campus and someone breaks a window and steals their car radio, comprehensive covers the theft and vandalism costs.

Though collision and comprehensive coverage are usually optional, it's important to evaluate the cost of paying for these types of insurance against the items they'll cover. In an unpredictable world, opting for additional coverage could save you money in the long run.

Premium Adjustments for Other Cities and States

When your child attends an out-of-state college, report the change of address to your insurance carrier. Your agent may need to adjust your premium based on the city and state where the college is located.

There might be other student-related circumstances that could affect your premium, such as:

  • Living on-campus versus off-campus.
  • Parking on the street versus a parking garage.
  • The crime rate in the college's area.
  • The number of miles your student drives each week.

Working with your agent to sort out these finer details is an important step to take when preparing to send your child off to college.

Out-of-State Financial Responsibility Laws

It is your responsibility to check the financial responsibility laws when your child is moving out of your insurance agent's jurisdiction. Another state could require a different level of liability insurance or mandate that you purchase a type of coverage not required in your home state of residence. Insurance requirements may also be implemented by the college or university, so make sure you speak with the student life office before school starts.

Your child could have to provide proof of having the correct auto insurance; if they can't, he or she could face legal consequences such as a fine or suspension of their driver's license and vehicle registration.

College Students Who Are Not Taking a Car

If you added your child to your family car insurance policy while they were in high school, you should contact your auto insurance agent if they won't be taking a car to college.

You might even be eligible for a discount if your student moves 100 miles away or more. This is because your student is not likely to drive the insured car(s), except for when home on breaks. Double check with your agent to ensure your child can legally continue to drive when visiting home.

Auto Insurance Discounts for Drivers in College

Ask your auto insurance agent about the following discounts when drawing up a policy for your college driver:

  • Good grade discount: The good grades earned by your child are strong evidence of personal responsibility, which presumably carries over to your child's driving practices.
    • Usually requires a "B" average or better.
    • You can provide a copy of your student's grades each semester in exchange for a discount on your policy's premium.
  • Bundling discount: You could save money on insurance by combining different types of coverage under one policy (e.g. renter's insurance for your child's off-campus apartment with their car insurance).
  • Defensive driver discount: Get a jump start on savings and have your college-bound child complete a defensive driving course. Doing so will not only make them a better driver, but could also save you money on auto insurance.

Doing your due diligence by researching the car insurance requirements specific to the city and state where your child will attend college can prevent a lot of stress and confusion in the future. With the necessary information in hand, you can help to protect the assets and finances of your student now and into the future.