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What college students should know about auto insurance

If your son or daughter plans on having a car at college, it’s critical that you make sure the auto insurance ducks are in a row.

One thing to remember: Potential discounts.

Many auto insurance companies offer a discount if your son or daughter will be driving the family car and attending college more than 100 miles from home, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Allstate, for instance, provides a discount of up to 30 percent.

If your son or daughter owns a car but won’t be taking it to school, let the insurance company know, since the cost of auto insurance varies according to geography. A car parked at home could cost less to insure than a car parked at school.

Ron Moore, senior product consultant for MetLife Auto & Home, says that if your son or daughter plans to have a car on campus, it’s important to know where it will be parked.

“Vehicles parked in college parking lots can suffer scratches and dents,” Moore says. “Having a low comprehensive deductible is a good idea, since it will help cover some of the cost of repairing those scratches and dents.”

Comprehensive coverage is optional. It protects your car in cases not involving a crash, such as storms, fire and theft.

Given the financial pressures of college, many parents and students make the mistake of getting the cheapest auto coverage possible, Moore says. Therefore, they decide against buying optional comprehensive coverage, collision coverage and uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage that could save them money in the long run.

“Definitely don't purchase insurance based on price alone,” Moore says.

Charlie Schein, a Connecticut independent agent who specializes in insuring young adults, says that if your son or daughter plans to use his or her car for a job while away at college -- delivering pizza, for instance -- you should make it's properly insured for such activities. Some insurance companies limit or exclude coverage for cars that are used for work.

Schein adds that if you let your child take a car to campus, no one else should be allowed to drive the car. "If your kid lets someone else drive the car, you and your policy are automatically assuming the risk," he says.

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