There are many reasons you might need to drive someone else’s car — whether it’s an emergency or you just need to run an errand. It’s a common misconception that car insurance is based on the driver and not the vehicle that is insured. In reality, if you are just borrowing someone else’s car here and there, you’re protected under their auto insurance policy, because car insurance generally follows the car, not the person.
However, if you borrow someone else’s car frequently, things can get a little more complicated. You might want to consider getting a non-owner policy to protect yourself, or asking to be added to someone else’s policy.
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Can I drive someone else’s car without insurance?
If you drive someone else’s car with their permission, you are covered under their auto insurance policy. When you borrow someone else’s car, in a way you are also borrowing their car insurance, too.
If the owner of the car allows you to drive their vehicle, then you are covered under what is called “permissive use.” Permissive use means that other drivers are covered by the vehicle owner’s car insurance, so their liability coverage will cover any damages or injury you cause to others while driving their vehicle. If the person whose car you are borrowing has collision insurance, their car would be protected from damage that happens to their car, no matter who is at fault.
If you get caught speeding while driving someone else’s car, as long as you have the car owner's permission, the police should accept the car owner’s proof of insurance. That said, a speeding ticket will go on your record, not the car owner’s.
What happens if I get into an accident in someone else’s car?
If you are uninsured and get into a car accident while driving someone else’s car, you would be covered by the owner’s auto insurance policy, up to their policy’s limit. Their insurance would cover the damage or any bodily injury that you caused to the other driver and their vehicle.
For example, if you borrow your friend's car to get groceries and get into an accident with another vehicle, your friend will be able to file a claim with their insurer to cover the damages. That said, accidents and claims can affect car insurance premiums, so you could potentially be costing your friend money, which is likely why some people are hesitant about allowing others to drive their cars.
When will someone else’s car insurance not cover me?
There are a few instances when someone else’s car insurance will not cover you while you are driving their car.
You didn’t get permission - If you borrowed someone’s car without their permission (and they can prove it) and you get into an accident, you will be on the hook for the damages.
You are an excluded driver on their policy - If you are specifically excluded from someone’s car insurance policy and you borrow their car, their car insurance isn’t going to cover you, and they might also raise the car owner’s rates for breaking a rule in their policy.
You are not a licensed driver - If you do not have a valid driver’s license and drive someone else’s car, their insurance will not cover you. You would both potentially face legal consequences as well.
You drove under the influence - If you are driving under the influence in someone else’s car, their insurance won’t cover damages you cause. You’d face legal consequences for that, too.
One important note, you may not be covered by someone else’s car insurance if you live with them and aren’t already listed on their policy. Many car insurance companies require that every driver in a household be listed on a car insurance policy.
If you get into an accident while driving a car that belongs to your spouse or roommate, your claim may be denied because, from the insurance company’s perspective, you should have been listed on their policy already.
When do I need my own insurance to drive someone else’s car?
Car insurance companies know that people borrow each other’s car, which is why permissive use is built into your car insurance coverage. If you don’t own a car but borrow other people’s frequently, you might want to think about buying non-owner car insurance or consider adding yourself to someone else’s car insurance policy if you frequently borrow their car (adding another driver to a car insurance policy is usually a simple change, and can be worth it if you’re borrowing the same car on a daily basis).
What is non-owner car insurance?
Unlike a standard car insurance policy, which usually contains coverage to protect the policyholder’s car, non-owner car insurance only protects a driver. Non-owner car insurance is generally only liability coverage, meaning it covers bodily injury (BI) and property damage (PD) that other people incur from an accident you caused. However, sometimes insurance companies offer personal injury protection and uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage as add-ons to non-owner policies.
There are a few circumstances under which you should consider buying non-owner car insurance.
You drive someone else’s car frequently: Although the other person’s auto insurance covers permissive drivers, if you get into an accident and the cost of damage exceeds their policy limits, your non-owner car insurance can cover the rest, since non-owner car insurance is extra liability coverage. Your non-owner car insurance will make sure you have enough coverage so you don’t pay out of pocket if the damage or injury you caused were very expensive.
You rent cars frequently: All but two states require drivers to have some sort of liability coverage to drive legally. Rental car companies sell liability insurance, but it may be cheaper to get a non-owner car insurance policy if you rent cars often. Buying a non-owner policy and declining liability coverage when you rent a car may be a more cost-effective way to protect yourself if you rent more than a week or so per year.
You’re in between cars: If you're in between cars, you shouldn’t cancel your auto insurance coverage, because lapsing in coverage usually results in higher rates in the future. If you buy non-owner car insurance while you’re in between cars, insurance companies will know you stayed covered and likely won’t raise your premiums or consider you to be “high risk.”
You are required to have auto insurance after a DUI: If you get convicted of a DUI and your license is suspended, you’ll likely need an SR-22, which is the name of the form your insurer must submit to prove to your state that you have car insurance, even if you aren’t allowed to drive. Most times, the law will accept you having even the most minimal non-owner car insurance policy until your license is reinstated.