Car insurance for learner drivers: 11 common questions answered
Sarah Rigney
Staff Writer

Learning to drive can provide you with a sense of freedom and fulfilment, however, passing your driving test can prove challenging. There are many obstacles along the way, such as completing mandatory driving lessons, and of course, taking out car insurance.

To help you on your driving journey, we’ve compiled a list of 11 common car insurance-related questions for learner drivers. Understanding the basics of motor insurance will put your mind at ease and help you make more informed decisions.

1. What insurance do you need as a learner driver?

When taking out a car insurance policy there are three types of cover you can get: 

  • Third-party (minimum required by law)
  • Third-party, fire and theft (TPFT)
  • Fully comprehensive

Which cover you decide to opt for will largely depend on your budget and the age of the car. TPFT will generally work out a lot cheaper than fully comprehensive, as there are fewer benefits. 

In many cases, it’s possible to take out a TPFT policy and add on some additional extras should there be a benefit you desire, e.g. breakdown assistance. This will increase the price of your policy, but will likely still be cheaper than fully comprehensive. 

You can learn about each type of cover in our guide on 12 things to consider when taking out car insurance

Before offering you insurance, insurers will generally require you to have completed the mandatory 12 Essential Driving Training (EDT) lessons. Taking these lessons is necessary to sit the Irish driving test.

Another option for learners is to be added as a named driver on someone else’s policy, which is discussed in more detail in question 7.

2. Does learner driver insurance get cheaper as you get older?

If you are between 17 and 24 years old, you are considered a young driver. As such, you will be charged a higher premium than those above this age bracket. 

This is because younger drivers are seen as being riskier to insure and studies have shown they’re more prone to crashing.

Once you hit 25, you’ll find that it’s easier to find cheaper car insurance as a learner as insurers regard you as less risky. 

3. Can you still build up a no-claims bonus if you’re insured as a learner on your own car?

Yes, once the policy on the car is in your own name, you will build up your no-claims bonus and your driving experience. It doesn't matter if you’re a learner or a full-licenced driver.

To build up a no-claims bonus, you must complete a year full of claims-free insurance to earn a year’s worth of no-claims bonus. 

It’s also possible to earn named driver experience if you have been a named driver on somebody else's policy, regardless of your licence type.

4. Is it possible to rent a car as a learner driver in Ireland?

No, learner drivers are not able to drive rental cars, even if a full licensed driver rented one on their behalf. 

All insurance policies are for a minimum term of 12 months, so this wouldn’t apply to rented cars. You also must be the registered owner of the vehicle you insure, so this rules out any rental vehicles.

Even if you have a full licence, in many countries you cannot rent a car unless you’re over a certain age, e.g. 21. 

5. Is it possible to drive on your own as a learner?

As a learner driver, it’s against the law to go out driving on your own. 

Under the Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) system in Ireland, a learner driver must be accompanied at all times by someone who has held a full, valid driving licence in the same category for a minimum of two years. This person may be known as their driving sponsor.

If you are stopped by Gardaí and convicted of driving unaccompanied or if you allow your vehicle to be driven by an unaccompanied learner driver, the following penalties apply:

  • If you own the vehicle you’re driving, you could have the vehicle impounded by the Gardaí.
  • If you are an unaccompanied learner driver but not the vehicle owner, the owner faces their vehicle being impounded and being fined up to €1,000.

This is in addition to the penalty points and fines which can be applied to unaccompanied learner drivers:

  • Up to four penalty points
  • A fine up to €120

These penalties are in place to deter dangerous driving and to ensure only experienced drivers are on the roads. 

According to the Road Safety Authority of Ireland (RSA), 74% of fatal crashes involving learner drivers in a four-year period involved unaccompanied learner drivers.

6. Can a learner drive with someone who has had their licence for less than 2 years?

As mentioned in question 5, your driving sponsor must have had their full licence for at least 2 years. 

This means that drivers with novice plates (N drivers) are not permitted to accompany you while driving.

7. How can you get cheaper insurance as a learner?

There are a few ways that young drivers can lower the cost of their premiums:

  • Get driving experience: Building up your driving experience will help lower the cost of your car insurance. Being added to someone else’s policy is much cheaper than taking out a policy of your own. Check if you can be added to a parent, grandparent, spouse, or friend’s policy to gain driving experience. 
  • Add an experienced driver to your policy: Adding an experienced named driver to your policy will help lower your insurance costs as it means you won’t be the only one driving the car.
  • Drive a car with a small engine: Typically, smaller cars with a small engine size will be cheaper to insure. This is due to the fact they’re easier to control on the road, and usually cheaper to repair. With this in mind, consider getting a 1.0 or 1.2-litre car.
  • Install a black box: A black box, also known as a tracker or telematics box, is a small device installed by an insurance company to monitor your driving. It can monitor your speed, how sharply you turn, how suddenly you brake, and how far you drive. Installing one of these devices can help to reduce your premium as you’re providing the insurer with insights and data on your driving.

8. Can a learner drive on a motorway?

As a learner driver, you are not permitted to drive on motorways. Aside from this, you can drive on all other public roads once you are accompanied by a suitable fully licensed driver.

9. Will you get a refund on your insurance when you pass your test?

Many insurers will offer a pro-rata refund if a person passes their driving test during the term of their policy.

We’d recommend researching this before taking out a policy. Before you sign up to a policy, you should always ask what the insurer's refund process is in the case of a learner driver.

10. What do you need to have on hand when looking for a learner insurance quote?

When looking around for car insurance quotes you’ll need a few things on hand

Licence details

You’ll need to have your learner permit on hand to input information on:

  • Your licence type
  • The period of validity
  • Your licence number

Personal information

You’ll also need to submit information on:

  • Where you live and where the car will be parked overnight
  • Whether you have any penalty points 
  • Your occupation
  • Any medical conditions you have
  • Any convictions or claims you have
  • What you use the car for

Licence details and personal information are required for any named drivers you’d like on your policy as well.

Your vehicle details

You’ll need to submit information on:

  • The make and model of the car
  • The registration plate
  • The value of the vehicle
  • Any modifications to the vehicle
  • The mileage on the vehicle

Named driver experience

If you have had named driver experience on someone else’s policy, this will need to be noted. 

11. Are you able to drive unsupervised as soon as you pass your test?

While you’ll be insured once you pass your test, technically you cannot drive unsupervised until you have received your full licence. 

You can apply for this online if you have a Public Services Card (PSC), or in person at a National Driving Licence Service (NDLS) centre.

Check out our other car insurance articles

You can keep up-to-date with all our car insurance-related news by taking a look at our guide and blog pages.

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