Ask LH: Can I Avoid Getting Rorted For Insurance As A Learner Driver?

Dear Lifehacker, I'm a 24 year old learner driver, who recently purchased her own car. Finally! I migrated to Australia several years ago, but since I was without family and lived in student accommodation, I had a hard time finding supervising drivers. Fast forward four years and I am still learning to drive, but at least I have my own car and a whole bunch of friends that are able to supervise me.

However, when I wanted to insure my shiny new toy with comprehensive car insurance, I learnt that no insurer was willing to offer me anything and now I have to rely on my partner to drive with me, as the insurance is in his name. This seriously limits my usage of the car, which is disappointing! What's the deal with insuring learner drivers that have their own car? And what happens when I finally get my license? Will I really have to pay thousands of dollars for comprehensive insurance? Help me out in this jungle of confusion.

Thanks Eager To Drive!

Dear Eager,

Congratulations on getting this far -- as regular readers will know, I don't drive, so I'm always admiring of anyone who gets around to learning, especially without the support of family. Unfortunately, I don't think there's much good news to deliver on the insurance front.

The situation of a learner driver actually owning their own car is a relatively unusual one, and the reality is that insurers don't like unusual events -- they like predictability and they work with averages. As such, your non-average situation isn't easily resolved.

Many insurers waive extra charges for learner drivers in someone else's car, figuring that nervous parents will ensure that their offspring won't do anything too extreme while driving. However, it's a different story once those drivers graduate to their P-plates -- they need to be a named driver in their own car or others, and they normally attract a hefty premium for doing so.

Indeed, anyone under 25 ends up paying more for insurance, simply because, statistically, they represent the biggest risk. So even if you'd qualified as a driver at the first possible opportunity, you'd be facing an unpleasantly large bill for a couple of years yet. As an over-25 learner, you might not cop the youth penalty, but you'd be such a comparative rarity that many insurers still wouldn't have anything to offer. It sucks, but there don't seem to be a lot of obvious alternatives.

That said, if any readers can recommend an insurer with a friendly policy towards learner owners (and under 25 drivers in general), we'd love to hear about it in the comments.

Cheers Lifehacker

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    I just got third party (property), and there was no 'tick here if you are a learner', and I called them up and they said it was fine.

      My personal experience was that there was no option to declare learner drivers on your insurance policy - you just pay the ridiculous excess for younger drivers if an accident occurs. But then I was learning to drive with my mum's car, with the insurance policy under her name.

      When you apply for insurance, don't they usually ask you how many years you've held your FULL licence for? Would a learner driver just put "0" and get charged higher excess/premiums?

        I too am wondering similar thoughts. I'm not generally experienced with comprehensive insurance (it worked out too costly considering the age and value of the car being insured, and TPP Theft and Fire has me covered for anything that isn't my own doing); but I don't recall having been asked at any point to indicate any regular drivers holding a learners permit. I do recall the age of the "youngest regular driver" being asked, and "how long each regular driver has held their licence" but I've always interpreted the latter has having held any form of licence (learners permit or otherwise.

    Your only options really are to either pay through the nose, or simply deal with 3rd party until you can get your rating up.

    The real problem here is that you're (relatively) young, and have no rating (rating 6). Under those conditions, no one is willing to take on the risk of that profile. After a couple of years of driving without incident you'll move up the rating scale and be able to obtain some more reasonably priced comprehensive insurance.

    Either just get third-party vehicle, fire and theft insurance or get your car insured under someone else's name and yourself named as an additional driver.

    QBE has a specific checkbox for "used to instruct learner driver" on their online quote tool. Didn't seem to be an issue that the learner was the registered owner, as long as there was also a fully licensed nominated driver, too.

    I can't help with advise on your L's, but once you get your P's I found GIO to be very reasonable. I lost my license dui after 6 months on my P's, so when I got it back insurance was looking like costing me a mint, but I found GIOs prices were pretty good.

    I'm also a 24 year old L-plater, so it looks like this article hit its target market.

    If only I had as good an excuse for it as that guy..

    First and foremost - READ YOUR PREMIUM DOCUMENTATION. Don't assume you're covered for everything if you have comprehensive insurance. If the conditions an accident occurs are outside of whats stated in your premium, you aren't covered. Trying to find a way to dodge the system so that you can get insurance cover, can result in a void premium if they feel you haven't been honest about the premiums intended use.

    For example, most insurers will not honour a claim if they identify that you are a regular driver of the insured vehicle and you are not listed on the premium. To my understanding, this is case regardless of whether your are on a learner's permit, or whether the premium is in your name or someone else's.

    As I responded to Elly's comment above, I don't recall ever having been asked whether any regular drivers hold a learner's permit (my wife is currently on her L's, so I would have observed this if asked). Age of the youngest driver was asked; as was how long each regular driver has held their licence. I interpreted the latter as being held *any* licence class, as a learner's permit is still a form of licence.

    Obviously the above is based on my own experience and speculation - I'd imagine it could vary a lot based on insurer, what state you're in, and what insurance level you're seeking.

      Be careful - I'm pretty sure when they ask about duration of licence held they mean full unrestricted licence. Don't wanna give the insurer any reason to void your policy. I was told that a learner's permit is exactly that - a permit - not a licence.

        You may be right, but the alternative for her right now is to be uninsured - so there's not really anything to loose anyway.

    er... I just got the car and insurance put under dad's name, and changed it back to me when I turned 25.

    Do you know anyone over 25?

    Put the policy in your name but with someone else with a full license as the primary driver.. Ideally, make it a believeable person (ie boyfriend, girlfriend or housemate).
    Put yourself on as a secondary driver, so that way you're still covered (albeit probably with a higher excess). The policy should calculate based on the risk of the Primary driver.

    Marry someone with a 'rating 1'.

    Apparently it is viral.

    I come across the similar rorting when I went to insure my car, 2003 Supercharged Calais, I'm 24, have never claimed on insurance, I haven't lost any points, and insurance guys still wanted me to pay $2800 p/y for full comp, compare that to if I was 25, where I would be paying $800 or less! Apparently the supercharger in the Calais means its a high performance vehicle, which it most definitely is not, but that is enough for them to charge me around $2000 more p/y till I'm 25! Ridiculous!

      Dude, if a 3.8 litre V6 with a supercharger bolted on the top of it isn't your idea of a high powered car, I'd hate to behind the wheel of a Dihatsu Serion...

    I have just insured a vehicle for my learner driver son. Vehicle is insured in my name and according to NRMA he is completely covered by this insurance. Down the track he doesn't need to be named on the policy as he is covered under the "permitted driver" clause, same as if a friend uses your car. He only needs to be named on the policy if he is a "regular" driver, but you can get around this by just saying he borrowed the car. As far as No Claim bonuses etc, it is on years of driving, not years of holding insurance.

    My 27 year old girlfriend was in a similar situation, but got her insurance through Bingle. Might be worth looking into?

    Most policies will ask how long have you been driving, this refers to how many years you have been off of probationary license - don't be fooled, if you don't answer correctly you'll be paying insurance that will be void if you need to make a claim.
    I have found QBE to be the most learner friendly, for both motorbike and car - their full comp prices were cheaper than 3rd party for most others.

    Mate Mate Mate... Realistically you don't need insurance for your car. Just tape mattresses and sofas and pillows to the outside of your car so if you crash neither car will be damaged unless your such a bad driver that you crash at such a high speed even the duck feathers in your $1000 Versace pillow cant stop the impact. From your trusty old friend benson...... lol

    Interesting that QBE are now offering a GPS/accelerometer device called "InsuranceBox" to monitor your driving, with the pitch that young drivers can demonstrate moderate driving and justify a lower premium rather than waiting through years of no-claim bonuses to work up the rating scale.

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