The day all parents dread is finally upon you; your teenage child is old enough to drive. But before they pop in a mix-tape (those are still a thing, right?) and step on the gas, they need to learn the rules of the road. ConsumerAffairs asked dozens of driving schools across the country for advice to make the process more enjoyable and educational for you and your student driver.
It’s not easy to be a good judge of our own driving skills, but how good a driver you are will certainly affect how likely you are to have an accident—and that’s something to consider when choosing your car insurance policy limits. If you’ve been driving for 20 years and never had an accident, you’re probably a pretty good driver (or at least a cautious one) and may be able to get along with somewhat lower limits on your car insurance. On the other hand, if you get in an accident every year, you’ll definitely want to get plenty of coverage—although you’ll likely pay top-dollar for it with such a high-risk driving history.
If you have a healthy balance in your savings account, you may be able to get away with a higher deductible and save significant money on your premiums—but don’t try this if you have little or no money saved. In that case, if you have a high deductible and get in a serious accident, you’ll either end up buried in debt or unable to pay your car repair bills. Stick to a deductible that’s equal to, or preferably less, than the amount you have tucked away in savings.
If you have poor credit and don’t live in one of the three exempt states, consider requesting an extraordinary life circumstances exemption. This exemption allows you to request insurance carriers not to use your credit score when calculating your rate. This is particularly helpful if you can show that your poor credit was caused by specific circumstances beyond your control, such as serious illness, divorce, unemployment, and similar life catastrophes. The insurance company will likely ask you to provide documentary proof, so make sure you can back up your claim.
If you have poor credit and don’t live in one of the three exempt states, consider requesting an extraordinary life circumstances exemption. This exemption allows you to request insurance carriers not to use your credit score when calculating your rate. This is particularly helpful if you can show that your poor credit was caused by specific circumstances beyond your control, such as serious illness, divorce, unemployment, and similar life catastrophes. The insurance company will likely ask you to provide documentary proof, so make sure you can back up your claim.
It’s nearly impossible to predict the cost of insurance for anyone other than yourself. Premiums are based on factors specific to the driver, including age, vehicle, driving history, credit score, and even where you’ll be doing most of your driving. Every insurer weighs these factors differently, which means the only way to find the best price for your policy is to get quotes from multiple auto insurance companies.
But according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, newly licensed drivers are about eight times more likely to be involved in fatal crashes in their first six months than more experienced drivers. The takeaway? Experience counts. The Center for Disease Control suggests that increased education programs and parental involvement in instruction are associated with reductions of as many as 40% of fatal and injury crashes among 16-year-olds.
Comprehensive coverage: This covers things that could happen to your car not related to an accident that might not be covered by standard insurance, such as weather damage, running into an animal or other factors. It’s a good idea to opt for comprehensive coverage if you can afford it, but it can get costly and might not be worth it if you drive an old or inexpensive car.

Unfortunately, some older drivers might be disqualified from standard insurance policies simply because of their age. If you are unable to get a standard insurance policy, Dairyland insurance might be a good option. The company also has pay-as-you-go plans, perfect for elders on a tight budget who could not otherwise afford to drive under a high-risk plan. Of all the nonstandard car insurance companies, Dairyland consistently has the fewest number of customer complaints, making it a good option if you need this type of coverage.


You worked hard for decades, you retired, and you purchased the luxury car of your dreams. Why should you have to drive around extremely cautiously just because you made an investment in a classic car and your insurance company does not understand its true value? If you purchase Chubb insurance, you and the insurer can agree on how much your car is worth to you rather than having to settle for the market value of the vehicle if it is stolen or totaled.


The single most effective way to fix credit problems, however, is to make all your payments on time, starting immediately. If you can’t afford to make at least the minimum payments on all your debts, get in touch with some of your creditors to see if you can negotiate a deal. Many creditors will accept a somewhat smaller repayment if the alternative is forcing you into bankruptcy.
Some, like deductions for paperless billing, are widely available and don’t have special eligibility requirements. Others will be determined based on conditions beyond your control, like the city you live in or the technology built into your vehicle. While not everyone will be eligible for every discount, the companies that offer more discounts give you more chances to save.
Customers aren’t very impressed by Liberty Mutual’s claims process or payouts. It’s ranked among “the rest” in J.D. Power’s survey, which falls at the bottom of the scale. It also earned a relatively low Consumer Reports score of 88 (or 23rd place out of 27 companies scored). Finally, Liberty Mutual didn’t quite meet the bar we set for financial stability. Its “A” from S&P Global and “A2” from Moody’s come up a little short of our requirements. These scores are still respectable — indicating an ability to pay out on claims — but mean that Liberty Mutual has a slightly poorer credit outlook in the event of a financial downturn.

State legislators set limits on how much a company can increase your rates after a crash. Our hypothetical accident resulted in only $2,000 worth of damage. That caused average annual rates to spike by $1,000 or more in some states, while others jumped by far less. One thing’s for sure: Your rates will definitely increase after an at-fault accident, so be sure to compare car insurance rates if you have one on record.
If you’re drawn to The General because of a poor driving record or credit score, we recommend looking at Progressive first. While Progressive scores lower in financial strength and claims satisfaction than the top insurers in the industry, it offers unique discounts and supplemental coverage options specifically tailored for high-risk drivers, including a rare discount for drivers under 18. Because of its rare coverage options and financial strength ratings, Progressive is likely a better option than The General for most drivers.
How it works: Once I launched the quoting tool for auto insurance, I was greeted by a large-print brag that “Drivers Pay As Low As $29.32/Month for Car Insurance.” When I began filling in my vehicle information, the site offered to save me time by looking up the information for me—a frightening reminder of how much of our personal information is available online. The contact information fields were accompanied by text stating that “we respect your privacy” and “NO SPAM, privacy guaranteed.”
If you have a healthy balance in your savings account, you may be able to get away with a higher deductible and save significant money on your premiums—but don’t try this if you have little or no money saved. In that case, if you have a high deductible and get in a serious accident, you’ll either end up buried in debt or unable to pay your car repair bills. Stick to a deductible that’s equal to, or preferably less, than the amount you have tucked away in savings.
If you can’t imagine the idea of driving a less-than-luxury vehicle while your car is in the shop, Chubb also offers rental coverage of up to $15,000, anywhere in the world. Like many things in life, you get what you pay for: Chubb has above average customer satisfaction ratings and fewer than average complaints, as well as “superior” financial backing for their white glove service.
Of our top auto insurers, State Farm has the fewest discounts. You won’t find any price breaks for young or elderly drivers, for being a loyal customer, nor for having a new car. Most of its discounts are safety related, like if you have airbags, anti-lock brakes, or enroll in a safe driving program. However, State Farm’s lack of discounts doesn’t mean your quote will be more expensive — just that you’ll have fewer opportunities to lower it.
The company also offers plenty of other discounts that seniors can take advantage of to lower their car insurance rate. Get a discounted rate when you pay your full premium in one lump sum or when you enrolled in automatic electronic funds transfer payments. If you’re planning to switch from another insurer, you can qualify for a discount if you switch with no lapse in coverage.
Progressive offers a unique discount through a program called Snapshot, a usage-based insurance plan that transmits real driving data to the company. Using a telematic device installed in your vehicle, Snapshot monitors your driving behaviors — such as how rapidly you accelerate or how often you stop abruptly — as well as the miles and times you drive, which can increase your risk of an accident.

The General offers fewer supplemental coverage options than our other picks for the best auto insurance companies, but it does include roadside assistance, a service which keeps you from being stranded on the side of the road after an accident or vehicle failure. If you’re not a member of AAA or another auto service provider which offers roadside assistance coverage, opting for supplemental coverage on your policy will provide greater peace of mind while you’re on the road.
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