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Insurance tips for young drivers
5 Tips: How to reduce the cost of car insurance on a young driver.
July 14, 2005: 10:01 AM EDT
By Gerri Willis, CNN/Money contributing columnist
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CNN's Gerri Willis shares tips on how to reduce car insurance costs for your young drivers.
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NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Cruising down the highway is more than just a summer ritual, it can be a hazard too. The National Highway Safety Administration says summer is one of the most dangerous times of the year for young drivers.

And insurance companies are well aware of the risks that young drivers pose. Adding a young driver to your insurance policy can increase your rates 50 to 100 percent says Jeanne Salvatore of the Insurance Information Institute.

But you don't have to take away those car keys just yet. In today's 5 tips we'll tell you how to keep your kid safe on the road and what young drivers can do to reduce their auto insurance.

1. Keep a clean record

Having DWI convictions on a driving record is extremely costly. The Municipal Alliance for the Prevention of Substance Abuse estimates that the total cost of one DWI for an underage drinker, in New Jersey for example, is almost $24,000. This includes insurance premium increases, legal fees and other fines.

If you are a young person with no prior convictions who is convicted of a DWI, your base insurance premium of $800 could be raised thousands of dollars for at least three years, according to David Snyder of the American Insurance Association.

2. Earn brownie points

Many auto companies offer students a discount on their auto insurance if they maintain a 3.0, or a B average and are enrolled full-time in high school, community college or a university.

You can also take a local accredited driver safety class to get a discount, or to remove points from your license. The National Safety Council (www.nsc.org) often has information about where you can take these courses and knows about state certified programs that offer courses for point reduction, auto insurance discounts, remedial driving, or retraining.

For teens who want a real crash course but who don't relish the idea of drivers ed, check out Masterdrive. This company has locations in Colorado and California.

In the first part of the program, new drivers are put on an enclosed course where their skills are tested by simulated crash scenarios and adverse weather conditions, according to Grant Dewey, the General Manager of Masterdrive in Colorado. The entire program is about 52 hours and costs $730 dollars. For more information, go to www.masterdrive.com.

3. Be a model citizen

Remember that summer you spent as a candy striper or an aide in a nursing home? It can pay off when you're shopping around for auto insurance. Some insurance companies offer discounts to young people who join civic or community organizations, like the Eagle Scouts, says David Champion of Consumer Reports.

"They're trying to find the least risky kids," he says. So if you've been spending time bettering your community, shop around to find those insurance companies that will reward your efforts.

4. Drive the right kind of car

While it may be cool to show off those hot wheels, think about the hole that could burn in your wallet. Did you know the type of car you drive is a large factor in your insurance costs?

You can save yourself 50 percent or more on auto insurance if you choose a safer car, according to Champion. Sports cars, expensive cars, high performance cars and SUVs are typically viewed as carrying a higher risk with insurance companies, and you'll pay more.

Synder says that young drivers may want to think about driving something more unglamorous. "Look for safe cars like the Honda Civic or a Volvo," he says. "And try to get newer models cars that have airbags."

Consumer Reports also has some recommendations for young drivers, including the Toyota Camry LE and the Mazda3.

And do you remember hearing that red and black cars typically carry higher insurance rates than a white or blue car? Most experts we talked to said this was an urban myth.

But Mike Hudson of Edmunds.com said, that while he couldn't substantiate such claims, insurance companies can determine risk on whatever factors they decide.

5. Add safety features

It's likely your insurance rates will be reduced if you have added safety features. This includes automatic seat belts or anti-lock breaks. Sometimes side-impact air bags can give you a discount too, says Snyder.

Cars that offer stability control help younger drivers behind the wheel. In the future, insurance companies may take this feature into account when accounting for risk, says Champion.

For more automotive news, click here.


Gerri Willis is a personal finance editor for CNN Business News and the host for Open House. E-mail comments to 5tips@cnn.com.  Top of page

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