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Will my car insurance cover another driver?

Fact-checked with HomeInsurance.com

Car insurance can be a tricky product to understand when you are not familiar with its quirks. A common question you might ask is, “can someone drive my car and be covered on my insurance policy?” In this article, we will explore who exactly is covered by insurance.

Although it may feel like a hassle, making sure that your insurance will cover another driver is a key part of protecting your vehicle and your finances. It’s quite common for a car insurance policy to cover more than one driver, but there are some nuances involved in who is named at the time the policy is acquired.

Can someone drive my car and be covered under my insurance?

The short answer is yes, but the details are fairly complex. It is possible to have your policy cover other drivers, within certain limits, which can depend on the policy and the insurance company that issues it, as well as the state where the accident occurs. Alternatively, if the driver in question has non-owner car insurance, you will be protected.

Even within policies that cover other drivers, there can be differences between applicable types of coverage, such as liability, collision, and comprehensive. Each of these coverage types plays out differently in a situation where someone else is driving your car.

What liability covers

In many cases, your liability insurance will still cover your vehicle when another person drives it. However, this coverage is only going to pay out for repairs to the other vehicle(s) involved in the accident — provided the driver of your car is determined to be at fault. If the other driver is at fault, then the liability coverage on the other vehicle will have to pay towards repairing your car.

Your liability coverage typically does not pay towards any medical expenses that the driver of your car ends up with as a result of the accident. In general, the liability coverage of the at-fault driver may help with the medical expenses of the other driver.

What collision and comprehensive cover

If you have collision coverage on your vehicle, it can help pay for repairs to your car even if the driver of your vehicle is at fault. If the other driver is at fault, your insurance may not need to help as the bill will be sent to the other driver’s insurer. However, if the driver of your vehicle is at fault, you’ll have to meet your deductible before the payout kicks in.

Collision coverage specifically deals with damages the covered vehicle sustains due to a collision, and comprehensive insurance covers a wide range of other damages. Everything from hail damage to theft can fall under comprehensive insurance. 

Like collision coverage, comprehensive follows the vehicle more often than the driver. It’s best to check with your policy and state laws. However, your comprehensive insurance will usually still cover your vehicle if another person is driving it with your permission.

Permissive vs non-permissive use

As you consider insurance implications, you may wonder, “can a friend drive my car?” Whether or not your vehicle is being driven with your permission can make a big difference in how insurance plays out after an accident. In general, drivers you give your permission will be covered under your insurance, while drivers who take your vehicle without permission will not. 

Keep in mind that the limits on your policy are also the limits that are provided for those permissive use drivers; therefore, if you only opted for the minimum amount of liability on your policy, that is all you have to cover them as well.

For a permissive use driver to be covered, they still may need to be named in the policy. Some states and insurers require that all eligible drivers within a household be named within auto policies.

For example, if Bob tells his brother John that he may take Bob’s car to the store, then John is a permissive use driver. Across town, Sara borrows her sister Molly’s car without permission. Coincidentally, Sara and John are going to the same store at the same time.

In the intersection before the store, Sara and John have a collision. John is covered under his brother’s insurance policy, as he had permission from the policyholder to drive the vehicle. Sara, however, is not covered under her sister’s policy as she did not have the policyholder’s permission. 

In this situation, Sara will likely have to pay out of pocket if she is at fault for the accident. In contrast, John will probably get some aid from his brother’s insurance company if he is at fault.

When is someone not covered by my car insurance?

To answer the question, “can someone drive my car if they are not on my insurance?”, it’s important to know that there are situations where someone can drive your car with your permission and still not be covered by your insurance. 

This can be because they are expressly excluded, not licensed to drive, or are driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. 

Driver exclusions are most often established to avoid insuring a high-risk driver that would significantly raise the cost of premiums. Maybe your son has had numerous accidents and is too expensive to insure for a few years. This would be a situation where you might exclude them from your auto insurance policy.

When someone who is not covered by your insurance gets into an accident while driving your car, you may end up being liable for everything without reimbursement from your insurance provider. 

That could include health bills for people in any or all vehicles involved in the accident, as well as repairs to any cars damaged in the accident. However, this is generally a worst-case scenario, wherein the driver of your vehicle is determined to be entirely at fault for the accident.

In other situations, such as a no-fault accident, you are still going to be liable for some out of pocket expenses. In this case, though, those expenses will be limited to the medical bills of anyone in your vehicle and any damage done to your car. 

While you may choose what and how to pay for your auto repairs, in this situation, the driver of your vehicle may be able to sue you for their resulting medical expenses.

Household Residents

If you have household residents who hold a driver’s license, there are different rules in different states for how that is handled. You will have to check with your insurance company as to what you need to do.

In general, anyone who has access to your vehicles, is of driving age, and/or holds a driver’s license must be disclosed to the insurance company. This is part of the risk you pose to the company and they must rate you correctly for the risk you expose them to.

If your household residents own their own vehicle and have their own insurance coverage, often you will be allowed to exclude them from coverage or not list them on your policy. Otherwise, you would be wise to list them as a driver.

If you are discovered to have a household resident who is not disclosed, your insurance company has a right to refuse to pay claims and cancel your insurance. In addition, you could be sued for insurance fraud.

If you are always honest and direct with your insurance company, you’ll be better protected for loss and you’ll never have to wonder whether a claim will be covered or not. If you’re not honest about who’s driving or your car or who may drive it, you’re taking a considerable gamble every time you pay premium. It is not worth trying to save a few dollars on your insurance to lie about who has access to your car. Being properly insured will save you hardship and worry later.

Considerations before you let a friend drive your car

  • Do they have a valid license?
  • Do they have a history of accidents or tickets?
  • Are they sober and safe to drive?
  • Will your insurance cover them?
  • What kind of coverage do you have?

The takeaway: 

  • Permissive use drivers are often covered, but not always
  • Laws regarding insurance coverage vary by state
  • When someone drives your car, you may be liable for their actions
  • In general, auto insurance follows the car more than the driver

It may be an afterthought to let your sibling or neighbor borrow your car, but that decision can cost you in the long run if you don’t gather your facts first. 

Auto insurance will often allow you to name other drivers who may then drive your vehicle and be covered, provided they are legal to drive and have your permission. 

However, this isn’t always the case. If they aren’t covered, you may end up personally responsible for any costs they cause due to an accident. So, when wondering can someone drive your car if they are not on your insurance, remember always to check your policy first.

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