Car insurance at college

By Barbara Marquand on September 1st, 2013

Car insurance probably isn't top of mind when you say a bittersweet goodbye to your freshman on the college quad or you pay the first heart-stopping tuition bill.

But it's one financial detail that shouldn't fall through the cracks when your son or daughter goes off to college. The way to handle insurance coverage depends on the situation. Here's what to do in four different scenarios:

1. Your kid takes your car to college.

Call your insurance company or agent to let them know your student will take a family car to school. The premium might be raised or lowered, depending on the school's location. Big cities tend to be pricier than small towns.

2. Your kid owns a car.

Students who have their own cars need their own car insurance policies, and they should talk to their insurers before school starts. If taking the car to school, the premium may be adjusted based on the college's location. If the car is left at home unused, then your child might qualify for a discount. If others will have access to the car while it's home, then they should be added as listed drivers to your child's auto insurance policy.

3. You send your student off to school without a car.

Even if your kids don't have cars with them at college you should still keep them as listed drivers on your car insurance policy at home. That way they're covered when they come home and drive the family car on school breaks. Many insurance companies offer discounts for students who attend college at least 100 miles from home. Let your insurer or agent know the situation and see if you qualify for the discount. If your kid is a good student -- earns a B average or better -- you can also earn a good student discount.

4. Your student borrows cars at school.

Zipcar provides short-term rental vehicles at many universities. For Zipcar users age 21 or older, the rental fee includes a combined limit of $300,000 of insurance coverage per accident. For users under 21, the coverage equals the minimum required by the state or jurisdiction where the accident occurs. Those state-mandated minimum limits are very low. Talk to your insurer about whether your coverage for your student would apply to Zipcars.

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