Car insurance companies typically treat college students like any young driver, charging higher rates to cover extra risk that comes with inexperience. How starting college affects your car insurance depends on how much your life changes — from getting a new address or buying your own car to earning a better credit score. See which companies offer the best rates and perks while you’re a student.
What are the 5 best car insurance companies for college students?
Progressive offers a balance of wide coverage options like custom parts or rental reimbursement and perks like accident forgiveness or lowering deductibles. Plus, nearly 40,000 agents help support your specific college driving needs.
If you drive only a little while on campus, you can opt for the Snapshot program — it gives discounts based on your braking or accelerating, mileage and the times of day you drive.
Pricing tool helps you stay in budget
Pay-as-you-go policies for driving less on campus
Perks that save you money, like accident forgiveness
Allstate offers a solid list of car insurance coverage as well as nearly a dozen discounts including for students, safe drivers and accident forgiveness.
The company also offers some of the cheapest rates for young drivers under 25 that we’ve seen, along with its Allstate Rewards program that you can enroll in if you buy its telematics or pay-as-you-go policy.
Earn points through safe driving challenges
Redeem local deals, gift cards, travel, and brand-name shopping
USAA gets consistently high ratings for its customer satisfaction, and it offers assistance and discounts for members of the military in active duty. You also get flexible payment plans that cater to a military pay schedule.
You can qualify for USAA’s features and cheap rates if you’re a cadet in a US academy, in advanced ROTC, on ROTC scholarship or if you’re an officer candidate.
Some of the cheapest rates available
Known for its top customer service
Military cadets can qualify for coverage
Discounts if you're added to a family policy for three years
As the no. 1 brand that customers choose based on premiums written, State Farm is well known for local agent support with its many agents spread across the US.
The company gives one of the highest discounts if you make good grades, and it doesn’t age you out of that discount in your teens like some companies. You’ll also save big if you or your family insure more than one car, or if you bundle several types of insurance.
To find the best car insurance options for college students, we considered companies with top-notch customer support, wide coverage, payment flexibility and savings and rewards for young drivers.
Our top pick reflects a balance of all of these features, while the other companies offer strong features in one or more of these areas.
How much is car insurance for college students?
Car insurance rates vary based on your age, location, car and other factors. For example, college students in California pay an average of $1,314 for liability-only car insurance.
Cheapest car insurance rates for college students
To get these quotes, we compared rates for the same driver profile in a popular California zip code.
18-21 years old
2017 Toyota Camry LE
State minimum coverage: 15/30/5 liability
Compare car insurance for college students
As with any age, to get the best car insurance as a college student, you’ll need to compare quotes.
How to get car insurance as a college student
Follow a few steps when graduating to your own car insurance policy:
Get multiple quotes from insurance companies and consider coverage needs.
Choose a provider and, if needed, start an application.
Provide personal, vehicle and coverage information.
Finalize details, enter payment information and start your new policy.
If you already have a policy, you can call your insurer or use your online account to update your address or coverage.
7 ways college students can save on car insurance
You can’t magically age yourself out of the college student demographic. And it’s not a good idea to lie on your application.
So how can you play your cards right, stay honest and still get the best car insurance rate? Start by following these five tips:
Partner with your parents. A top way to save is by staying on your parents’ car insurance for as long as possible. You can establish an insurance history until it’s time to get your own policy, and your rates are more affordable in the meantime.
Keep up your grades. If you’re able to keep your GPA at 3.0 or better, your insurer might reward you with a good student discount.
Drive less frequently. The fewer miles you drive annually, the lower your rates could be. Consolidate grocery trips and other errands when possible, and carpool with others offering to drive. You can even try telematics insurance that bases your rates on how well and how much you drive.
Drive safely. A spotless driving record nearly always gets you more favorable insurance rates. But even if you’ve had accidents or tickets, completing safe driving courses might bring your rates down, and may even remove points from your driving record.
Shop around. By taking the time to compare providers and policies, you can find the best rates and insurance companies that cater to students.
Bundle policies. If you also need home or renters insurance, you could save by buying a packaged deal from one company.
Nix unnecessary coverage. Consider whether you need some coverage, like better car replacement, collision or comprehensive coverage if you drive an older car or medical payments if you have adequate healthcare insurance.
Should I buy temporary insurance?
If you’re a college student who plans to drive three or four months out of the year, temporary insurance could be the right choice for you. You could save over the cost of a traditional six-month or annual policy by getting temporary coverage during the periods when you’re home and are driving your vehicle.
You can buy temporary insurance for short time periods, but it isn’t available from standard insurance companies. As an alternative, you might save by letting a parent or sibling take over your car and insurance costs while you’re away at school.
Car insurance discounts for college students
Starting your higher education means that you could continue qualifying for student discounts and low-mileage rates. Plus, you could offset your driving risk with your parents’ experience by staying on their policy. But after graduation, you may lose some discounts.
Insurance discounts that cater to your current college situation:
How to qualify
Drive without getting in an accident or making a claim
Get at least a B average every semester
Your car is on campus or parked most of the time
Pass a driver safety course
Your car has an anti-theft device that makes it harder to steal
Drive a car with antilock brakes, airbags, etc.
Get a quote or sign up online
Is leaving my car back home worth the discount?
The short answer: probably not if you need to drive around. While you could save upward of 80% on your car insurance while away at school, the car might be parked and unused the entire time you’re away. And you’d rely on public transit at school, which is difficult in most US cities.
Not only is this impractical — for instance, a parent or sibling could make use of the car — but it’s also hard on a vehicle to go months at a time without driving, even in a climate-controlled garage.
Ask an expert: What’s the best way for students to save on car insurance?
Zaid Zato Signature Insurance agent
You don’t have to take a part-time job to afford car insurance; there are actually many ways for students to cut costs. Ask your parents if you can add them as another driver to your vehicle. Many car insurance companies offer bulk deals on multiple drivers.
Taking a defensive driving course in your free time will also slash high costs because insurance companies will see you as a safe and competent driver. Other things to consider are to drive smaller cars, improve your credit rating or search for companies that offer pay-as-you-go insurance.
What coverage do I need as a student?
The types of coverage you need will depend on whether you’re financing your car, your preferences and how much you drive. Coverage to consider while you’re hitting the books:
Bodily injury and property damage liability — States typically require this coverage so that you can pay for damage you cause to someone else. You’ll need this coverage at a minimum.
Underinsured motorist — Some states require it, and you might want it otherwise to recoup for your own damage when the at-fault driver doesn’t carry enough insurance.
Comprehensive — Consider if you park your car on campus, especially if it’s in a publicly accessible spot. Comprehensive could save you from sorority shenanigans involving your car, along with theft or weather damage.
Collision — Consider if you drive your car a lot on and off campus, like if you’re a town student or the chauffeur for all your friends. You might not need it if you’re parked most of the time, unless you like extra protection.
Roadside service — If you’re the go-to driver for your buddies, the main road trip driver on breaks or you drive a clunker, consider this for minor breakdowns.
Rental reimbursement — If you rely on your car and can’t go without it after an accident, this can pay for a rental car while your car’s in the shop.
Telematics — This type of policy tracks your driving skill and mileage to bring lower rates than traditional car insurance. Consider if you’re a safe driver who doesn’t drive much during the school season.
Factors that affect student car insurance, besides age
While age and driving experience definitely play a part, plenty of other factors can affect your rate.
Credit score. Your credit tells insurers what to expect with your financial and even accident risk. Only California, Hawaii and Massachusetts prohibit insurance companies from using your credit score to assess your risk.
College degree. You could get cheaper car insurance after graduating with a college degree, lowering costs while you pursue higher education or your career.
Driving record. The longer you go without an accident, the better your rates can be. If you have any recent accidents or tickets, consider a defensive driving course. Depending on your provider, completing a class might bring your rate down by as much as 10%.
Sharing vs. getting your own policy. Separating from your parents’ car insurance can raise the overall amount you pay. But if you still consider your parents’ address your home and use a family car, you could cut costs by staying on your parent’s policy.
Job. You might see cheaper rates based on your job during and after college. If you work at your college, you could get up to 15% off your premium, or get discounts from your parents’ careers if you stay on their policy.
Vehicle. Generally, the car you drive affects how much you’ll pay for car insurance. Older cars, convertibles, high-performance vehicles and luxury cars could encourage risky driving or offer less protection, leading to higher insurance rates.
Where you live. Rural drivers typically pay less for their car insurance than urban drivers. City driving comes with a higher risk of vandalism, theft and crashes. Climate can also play into how a provider assesses your rates — so consider the potential for natural disasters and inclimate weather where you’re driving.
Older drivers usually get better car insurance rates than college students, teenagers and other potentially inexperienced drivers. But you can make your car insurance more affordable with good grades, by driving less frequently or staying on your parents’ car insurance for as long as possible.
Questions about car insurance for college students
No. Most insurance companies consider it an act of independence if you move to a different address. Typically, insurers only allow children to stay on the policy if they’re dependents — using the parent’s home address and getting support for food and expenses.
You’ll need to check with your insurance company. Many insurers require any licensed drivers living at your home address to be listed on your policy. If you’re looking to save money, you could exclude them, but this means they won’t get any coverage if they drive your car and get into an accident.
Roslyn McKenna is an insurance expert who's driven to help people get a great deal on insurance to protect their families and finances. Roslyn earned a BA in writing and communications from Maryville College and has written professionally for more than a decade, showing up on Bankrate, MSN and Reader's Digest.
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