Your baby is finally spreading their wings, leaving the nest, and heading to college. Congratulations! Your support and guidance means they're well on their way to being a responsible adult. One topic that won't be covered this fall semester? Insurance. With your child in college, there are new rewards, new risks, and potentially changes to be made to their auto insurance. Here are some frequent questions and things to consider in order to safely and affordably keep your young adult safe.
Frequently asked questions about insuring your college student:
1. My child isn't bringing a car to campus and will only drive mine on vacations. Can I take them off of my policy? MA law states that anyone who is a resident of your household needs to be on your auto insurance policy. For NH residents, this is not the case, but we still recommend keeping your child on the policy. Most insurance agencies actually require this, even if they only drive the car once in a while. Some agencies will give you a discount if your child is at school a certain distance away from home. Additionally, some companies require continuous coverage, so removing your child from your policy now may make it harder for them to get insurance in the future.
It's best to be honest with your insurance agent about who's using the car and when to avoid problems down the road. If you remove your child from the policy, claiming your child never drives the car, and your child gets into an accident while home for summer break, the insurance agency can deny your claim if they determine your child regularly drives when home.
Keeping your child on the policy may also be wise even if your child honestly never drives your car. Why? Because you'll still be covered if your child is hurt as a pedestrian or cyclist by another car. If your child drives another car for an emergency, they're still covered. If your child is hurt in an accident and someone else was driving, you guessed it: still covered.
2. My child and their car are heading to college in another state. What does this mean for my insurance? If your child still lists your home as their primary residence, they can remain on your policy. This will almost always save you money. You should let us know where the car will primarily be garaged, and this may affect your rates (see question below). If your child's primary residence is not the same as yours and they regularly live at another address, whether it is right next door or across the country, your child should have their own policy. You need to check the insurance requirements for the new state though, whether or not your child remains on your policy.
3. Will my rates increase or decrease now that my college student and the car are somewhere else? Your rates depend on a number of factors, including where the car is garaged. If the car moves from a high-crime city to a low-crime rural area, your rates may decrease because of these lower crime rates. Alternatively, if the car moves from a rural area to a busy city, your rates will likely increase.
4. Are there any discounts available? Yes! If your student lives far enough away from home, you may qualify for a distance discount with some policies. Another option is a good student discount. The discount amount and the requirements needed differ by policy. For example, Arbella offers a discount of up to 5% for full-time students who maintain a "B" or higher average or who make the honor roll. With Progressive, your college student needs to be under the age of 22 and over 100 miles away from home to qualify for their distant college student discount.
5. When would it make sense for my child to come off my policy and start their own? If your child lives year-round at another address, then your child should have their own policy. If your child owns the vehicle and the title and registration are in their name, your child needs their own policy. That said, even if your child doesn't need to have their own policy, there are instances when this can save you money. If your child is a less than stellar driver and has numerous speeding tickets and/or accidents, those count against all cars on the policy. If you're a large family with multiple cars on the policy, it may make sense to move the child to their own policy so that those incidents only raise rates for one vehicle.
Talking points for your child now that they're in college:
- Who is allowed to drive the car. If the car is going to campus, who's driving it? It may not just be your child. Can your son's best friend borrow the car when his is in the shop? Can your daughter's roommate use the car when grabbing groceries? Who's allowed to drive? Make sure you have these discussions beforehand and make the rules and limits clear. Go over multiple scenarios of when it would and wouldn't be okay for someone else to drive and make sure you're both on the same page.
- Make sure your college student understands how insurance, liability, and accidents work. If an uninsured friend drives the car and gets into an accident, the responsibility is on you. Any accident where your car is considered at fault will impact your rates, regardless of who was driving. This may make your child think twice before allowing their New York City friend, who barely has their license and always took the subway, run out to the gas station when everyone has the late night munchies. No matter what rules you set for your child, teach them the consequences so that they can make informed decisions when new situations arise.
- Substances and driving. College exposes young adults to new people, new ideas, and new circumstances. Marijuana/weed/pot/cannabis is now legal for recreational use in Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine, and other states. Whether your child is attending a small liberal arts college in New Hampshire or a large university in Boston, you should remind them of the dangers of driving under the influence or getting into a car with a driver under the influence. Over half of full-time college students ages 18-22 answered yes when asked if they had consumed alcohol in the past month. You may think your child is immune from poor decisions, but it never hurts to remind them of the laws (it may be legal for them to smoke weed at a friend's off-campus apartment, but it is not legal for them to then get in a car and drive back to the dorm) and encourage them to do the right thing, even when it's hard (taking away a friend's car keys if they've been drinking).