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Does My Car Insurance Cover Other Drivers?

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  • Does My Car Insurance Cover Other Drivers?

Borrowing and lending cars is a common practice. Everyone has to run errands, and sometimes it’s just more convenient to borrow someone else’s car momentarily. Or, maybe your car is in the shop and your friend lets you use theirs for the afternoon.

You may hear a lot of differing opinions about auto insurance coverage when driving someone else’s car. Below, we break down how it works exactly and what you do (or don’t) need to worry about when letting someone use your car.

Does My Car Insurance Cover Other Drivers?

Your car insurance generally covers other drivers who drive your vehicle as long as you gave the person permission to use your car. If someone you authorized to use your car got in an accident while doing so, your liability coverage would likely be responsible for paying for the damages and injuries. People would file a claim against your coverage, not the driver’s. For repairs to your own car, though, you’d need to file a claim with your collision coverage.

Permissive Use

For your auto insurance to cover other drivers, that person will need to have your permission to use your vehicle. Insurers refer to this as permissive use.

When you get car insurance, the provider usually asks for every driver in your household to be listed on the policy, like a child on a parent’s plan. This is so they can more accurately understand the risk involved when insuring you. If you add a teen or a high-risk driver to your plan, for instance, your rate will likely go up.

But, carriers also recognize that people can lend their cars to others not in your household. Think of a friend, a neighbor, or a family member from out of town. This is where permissive use comes into play.

Permissive use in car insurance essentially means when you let someone borrow your car, you’re letting them borrow your auto insurance. Permissive use allows your carrier to cover someone who drives your car. But, this doesn’t mean you can let people drive your car every week and expect your insurance company to be ok with it.

Permissive User Limit of Liability

Permissive use has limits. The number of times you can let someone borrow your car and expect coverage varies by company. Generally, insurers will only cover other drivers infrequently. This can be anywhere between a handful of instances to over a dozen times.

Also, some policies that allow permissive use may offer a lesser form of coverage for the person borrowing your car. They may only offer the state-mandated minimum amount of liability coverage for a permissive user even though you pay for higher coverage for yourself. Check your plan to see if this applies to you.

Most well-known auto insurance providers allow for permissive use. But, double-check your policy just in case. Some smaller carriers may not include it in plans, in which case you’ll have no coverage for the people who you let borrow your car. 

When People Don’t Have Permission to Drive Your Car

Someone who takes your car without your consent is not covered under your insurance. For instance, if a friend borrows your car without asking and then gets in an accident, your insurance would not foot the bill as long as you can prove that person didn’t have your permission to drive your car.

Let’s say your friend or roommate took your car without your approval and crashed it. Their liability insurance would be on the line. You might still need to file a claim for collision coverage if your car is damaged, but your insurance company may pursue the actual driver’s insurance company to cover the costs behind the scenes. This is called subrogation, and you might not even know it’s going on until you receive a potential reimbursement check in the mail for your deductible or some of the damages.

If someone who took your car without your consent doesn’t have insurance, they’ll need to find out a way to cover the damage they caused personally (given that you can prove they didn’t have your permission). Needless to say, this is a bad spot to be in.

And, if a thief steals your car and then crashes it, you likely won’t need to cover the damages to others. For the damage your vehicle sustained, comprehensive coverage has your back.

In this case, if you don’t have comprehensive car insurance, you’ll likely need to sue the thief to recoup the money for repair expenses. This is why it’s so important to have a sufficient amount of auto insurance coverage.

Does Car Insurance Follow the Car or the Driver?

Car insurance covers other drivers due to the nature of car insurance to generally follow the car, not the driver. Even though you’re the policyholder of your insurance, your coverage is mainly designed to protect your car – not you personally. However, your insurance may follow you to rental cars and other vehicles.

When getting a car insurance quote, providers ask a lot of questions about your car. They want to know the make and model, how long you’ve had it, how much you drive it, and much more. This is because a major part of car insurance is the cost to replace your car in case it’s damaged. As you can imagine, this aspect of car coverage varies greatly by which vehicle is protected.

The part of car insurance that covers other people on the road – liability coverage – is mandated by the state. So, no matter what kind of car you’re driving, the same minimum amount applies to everyone. This aspect of car insurance doesn’t vary as much from vehicle to vehicle. So technically an uninsured driver driving an insured car could have coverage, but we don’t ever recommend going this route.

This is why car insurance tends to follow the car and not the driver – because the details of the car matter the most for coverage. Insurance companies need to calculate risk accurately. To do that, the information must be tailored to the risks involved in covering the policyholder, which vary the most based on the car you’re driving.

Do You Need Insurance to Drive Someone Else’s Car?

On a similar note, you don’t need insurance to drive someone else’s car as their policy likely has some form of permissive use. Even if their plan has no permissive use, then your car insurance could cover you if you cause an accident. But, if you don’t have a car (so you don’t have insurance) and you’re regularly borrowing someone else’s car, you may want to invest in non-owner car insurance.

Contrary to the general “insurance follows the car” rule, non-owner car insurance follows the driver – because there is no car to follow. Non-owner car insurance generally only offers liability coverage since there’s no vehicle to protect. You may be able to add personal injury protection (PIP) in some cases, though.

If you borrow your friend’s car every day to get to work, or you’re in between cars, you might want non-owner car insurance. Non-owner car insurance is designed for drivers who don’t have a car but still drive regularly.

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The editorial content on Clovered’s website is meant to be informational material and should not be considered legal advice.