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Car insurance generally follows the car and not the driver. If you let a friend, family member, or other person borrow your car, your insurance coverage may kick in if they get into an accident.
However, this isn’t true in all cases. For example, if someone drives your car without your permission or if the driver is unlicensed, your car insurance might not apply. The exact rules and requirements depend on various factors such as your state’s laws, your insurance company, and your specific policy.
Here’s what you need to know.
If you let another person drive your car regularly, you should consider adding them to your auto insurance policy.
Some states require you to add all household members of driving age to your car insurance policy.
Your car insurance generally won’t provide coverage if you let someone borrow your car for business purposes.
When car insurance covers the car
Generally, your car insurance policy will cover the drivers listed on your policy, household members, and people you permit to drive your car. However, this varies by state and insurance company.
For example: Let’s say you give your friend permission to borrow your car while their vehicle is in the shop. If your friend causes an accident while driving your car, your insurance policy will likely pay the resulting claims, such as medical bills and vehicle repair costs.
Here’s an overview of the coverage that might apply if someone gets into a car accident while driving your vehicle.
If someone causes an accident while driving your vehicle, liability-only coverage might help pay for the injuries and property damage sustained by the other driver and vehicle. It doesn’t cover the injuries of the person driving your car or the costs to fix or replace your vehicle.
Full-coverage car insurance refers to a combination of coverages, such as liability, comprehensive, and collision coverage. Collision and comprehensive help protect yourself and your vehicle in the event of an accident.
Collision coverage helps cover the repair or replacement costs if your vehicle is damaged in a collision with another car or object, like a fence or building. Comprehensive coverage pays to repair your vehicle if it’s stolen or damaged by animals, vandalism, or other non-collision events.
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When car insurance covers the driver
Car insurance may cover the driver in the following instances:
When someone else drives your car
Let’s say your friend is moving, and you let them borrow your truck to transport their furniture. Suppose they’re involved in an at-fault accident while driving your car. Your insurance should cover the expenses resulting from the accident, such as medical paymentsand vehicle repairs, depending on your specific coverage.
When you drive someone else’s car
If you get into an accident while driving someone else’s car, you might be covered under the car owner’s insurance policy in the following situations.
You’re specifically listed as a driver on the policyholder’s auto insurance policy.
The vehicle owner gave you permission to drive their car.
For example, if you get into an accident in a friend’s car (assuming you got their permission to borrow the vehicle), their insurance may apply instead of yours. If the accident was your fault, it may go on their driving record and raise their insurance premium.
What to know about permissive use
If someone is a “permissive user” of your vehicle, it means you gave them permission to use your car.
Permissive use is important because if you give someone permission to drive your car, your insurance will generally cover them if they get into an accident. Some policies may only provide limited coverage or require larger deductibles for permissive-use-related claims, according to Nolo.
Even if you give someone permission to drive your vehicle, your insurance might not apply if they use your car for commercial purposes, such as driving for Uber or Lyft.
When to add a driver to your car insurance policy
In some circumstances, it might be worthwhile to add a driver to your car insurance policy. For example, if you allow someone to borrow your car regularly, such as your child’s babysitter, it may be a good idea to add them to your insurance policy to ensure protection in case of an accident.
Some states require you to add all household members of driving age to your car insurance policy. If your teenage daughter isn’t listed on your policy and gets into an accident while driving your car, your insurance might not apply.
You can typically add a driver to your policy at any time, such as a family member, roommate, or other person who borrows your car regularly. You should be able to make this change by calling your insurance agent or logging into your online account. Insurance companies will ask for the name, date of birth, and license information of the driver you wish to add to your policy.
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How to add drivers to your policy
Below are the steps to add a driver — such as a spouse, child, or other person who has regular access to your vehicle — to your car insurance policy.
Log in to your online account or call your insurance company or agent.
Provide the driver’s details, such as their name, age, driving record, and driver’s license number.
If you live in New York state, you may face extra difficulties adding a driver to your car insurance policy, as the state requires the name on a car’s registration to match the name on the vehicle’s insurance policy.
Who car insurance follows FAQs
Below are answers to some commonly asked questions about who’s covered under your car insurance policy.
Can you exclude other drivers from your policy?
In some states, yes, you can exclude specific people from your car insurance policy. For example, you might want to exclude a family member from your policy if they have accidents on their driving record that affect your rate.
Keep in mind some states don’t let you exclude driving-age household members from your policy. If you let an excluded driver borrow your car, your insurance generally won’t apply if they get into an accident.
What is non-owner car insurance?
Non-owner car insurance provides liability coverage if you’re in a car accident in someone else’s car. It might make sense to purchase if you borrow cars from other people regularly but don’t own a vehicle.
Does car insurance cover anyone who drives your car?
Typically, yes. Car insurance generally covers anyone who drives your car as long as they have your permission to use your vehicle. However, exact requirements and coverages will vary by your state, insurance company, and policy.
What is a primary driver, and why does it matter?
The primary driver on an insurance policy is the person who uses a car the most and is usually the vehicle’s owner. It’s important because insurers use the primary driver’s risk profile and driving record to set rates.
Theresa Stevens is a personal finance writer based in Boston, Massachusetts. Her work has been featured in Forbes Advisor, Bankrate, and more. As a former financial advisor, she has first-hand experience helping people solve their money challenges. When she's not writing, you'll find her trying out new karaoke spots or planning her next trip abroad.