When purchasing auto insurance it is important to understand the difference between the primary driver and the secondary driver. The primary driver is usually the owner of the vehicle, or the person in the household who drives the car the most. There cannot be more principal drivers than there are licensed drivers in the household. Any licensed driver in the household can be considered a primary driver.
Insurance companies look at several criteria when writing the policy. Who drives the car the most? Who has the best credit rating? Who has the best driving record? Any secondary drivers should be listed on the insurance even if they only drive the vehicle occasionally. The secondary driver has the same benefits as the principal driver. It is important to list anyone on the insurance whom you have given driving privileges. In case of an accident, the insurance will only cover the drivers listed on the policy.
If there is more than one vehicle, the same person cannot be named as the primary driver on all the vehicles. For example, John owns a pickup and his wife Jane owns a car. John cannot be named as the principal driver on both the car and the pickup even if his name is on the loans for both vehicles.
Since the credit rating and driving record are important considerations most people with teenage drivers list the child as a secondary driver even if he/she owns his/her own car. In this example John can be listed on the pickup and the car their teenager drives as the primary driver. However, he will have to be listed on Jane's insurance as a secondary driver. Listing the teenager or someone with bad credit as a principal driver will cause a significant increase in the premium amounts that the insurance company will charge for coverage.
If the teenage driver does not own a vehicle and only drives occasionally it would be a good idea to list him/her as a non-owner driver. The principal driver with the greatest credit rating should be able to obtain the best rate for the non-owner driver coverage.
Be aware some insurance companies will insist on listing your teenage child as the primary driver on the newest vehicle in order to increase your premium to the maximum even if you provide proof that the child never drives that vehicle. While this is not as common in the US as it is in the UK, you need to be sure your insurance company does not try this tactic. In the US insurance rates tend to drop when the driver reaches the age of 25 and has a good driving record and credit score.