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Do I need car insurance?

How to figure out if you need to buy an auto insurance policy.

Not all drivers necessarily need a car insurance policy — though most do. Whether you occasionally drive your parents’ car, serve as a designated driver when you go out in your friend’s car, or are considering buying your first pair of wheels, we’ll give you the skinny on your car insurance needs — and requirements.

Read on to find out:

Do you need car insurance if you own a car?

If you own a car, you need car insurance.

But is car insurance mandatory? It is indeed. Most states have minimum car insurance requirements for several types of car insurance coverage, including bodily injury and property damage liability coverage (and in some states, underinsured and uninsured motorist coverage), so you need a least the coverage that is mandatory in your state. Other types of insurance coverage, including collision coverage and comprehensive coverage, are technically optional, but if you want to be fully covered in case of an accident, theft, or fire, you should have those coverages, too.

Policygenius can help you decide how much car insurance you needand help you compare and buy auto insurance to ensure you’re getting the best coverage — and the best deal.

Do you need car insurance if you own a car that you don’t drive?

If you own a car that you do not drive, you still need have the car insured, but what kind of insurance depends on the types of car and how you use it.

If the car is driven at all, for example by a caregiver or when family members visit, you need a car insurance policy with at least state minimums — it’s the law. Your policy will require that list a licensed driver as the primary driver on the car — if you’re not licensed, then you can use the name of the caregiver, friend or family member that drives the car most often. The most important thing is that, in case of an accident, you and your drivers are covered, so you may want to buy more liability coverage than required by the state.

If your car is simply in storage long-term, keeping a policy with comprehensive coverage is prudent, in case the car is stolen, vandalized, or damaged by flood or fire.

If it’s in storage and it’s a vintage or collectible car, you should look into classic and collectors car insurance to ensure that your car is protected from property damage — homeowners and renters policies don’t cover cars.

Do you need car insurance if you drive someone else’s car?

In general, car insurance follows the car and not the driver. So if you drive someone else’s car and they have car insurance, you should be covered. But if your friend’s insurance limits are too low, you could be held responsible for the difference.

If you have your own car insurance policy and are driving another person’s car, your liability coverage can act as secondary insurance. But if you don’t have your own car insurance policy, it’s worth doing a little digging to ensure you’re adequately covered.

One option available for non-car owners is non-owner car insurance.

Here are three instances where you may need a non-owner policy:

If you occasionally drive a friend’s car

If you drive a friend’s car (with permission of course) and you’re in an accident, their auto insurance applies no matter who is behind the wheel — it’s called permissive use. But even though their car insurance should cover you, it’s a good idea to ask them about the extent of their coverage — especially their liability coverage. If their liability insurance coverage isn’t high enough, you could get sued in the event of a big accident.

If the friend who’s car you’re driving lives with you or you otherwise regularly drive their vehicle, you may not be covered by their insurance in the event of an accident. In both cases, you’d need to be listed on their policy (and undergo underwriting) in order for their insurance to apply. (If the insurance company finds out that you were in fact the regular driver the car and weren’t on the policy, they could deny it outright.)

If you’re driving a roommate’s car or friend’s car regularly, it may be working getting on their policy or buying your own non-owner automobile policy to ensure that you’re covered.

If you occasionally drive your parents’ car

If you live with your parents and they own cars, then you need to be listed on their car insurance policy in order to be covered if you get in an accident. If your primary residence is elsewhere, then you’ll be covered by their insurance just as you would if you drive a friend’s car. But again, check on their liability limits. If they’re too low, you may decide the risk is too great and that you’d be better off in the passenger seat or buying a non-owner’s policy.

If you drive a spouse’s or live-in partner’s car

If you drive a car owned by a partner that you live with or your spouse, their car insurance company likely will require that you be listed as a secondary driver of that vehicle (or primary, if applicable) in order for the policy to cover you after an accident. Have them check before you get behind the wheel.

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Do you need car insurance if you drive rental cars?

If you occasionally rent cars for a long weekend but otherwise don’t have your own car, you probably don’t need your own car insurance.

But if you don’t have your own auto insurance policy, you do need to purchase the rental car coverage from the rental car company. That coverage can be expensive, though, so if you rent cars often, it may be worth purchasing a non-owner car insurance policy.

Do you need car insurance if you drive for a rideshare service?

If you drive your own car for Uber, Lyft, or another rideshare service, you will already have car insurance because you have to have car insurance if you own a car. But you may also need to purchase a commercial policy or rideshare insurance, depending on where you live.

Policygenius can help you find the best rideshare insurance for your situation.

Do you need car insurance if you drive company cars?

If you drive a delivery truck, for example, or another company-owned car, you don’t need your own insurance policy because you’ll be covered by your company’s commercial auto insurance policy. However: if you use the company car for personal use, you may not be covered. Ask your employer about the terms of their policy.

If you already have your own car insurance policy, your coverage would extend to if you drove the company vehicles on a personal errand. If you don’t have your own auto policy, you may not be covered at all, in which case, it may make sense to purchase a non-owner car insurance policy if you plan to drive the car for personal use.

Do you need car insurance if you plan on buying a new car?

You can’t buy a car insurance policy for a car you don’t own, but you can’t drive a car you own if you don’t have a car insurance policy. Tricky.

If you already own a car and you’re buying a new car, your new car should be covered for the first 30 days after you buy it under your current policy; within that period, you’ll need to add the car to your current policy in order for it to continue to be covered. (It’s important that you confirm your car insurance company’s policy, however — each insurer is different.)

If you don’t own a car already, you need to buy insurance on your new car before you drive it. The “ideal” timeline would be to decide on a car, get quotes using the make and model of the car you’re interested in from a number of insurance companies, then buy the car, sign the paperwork, and make it yours. After the papers are signed and before you drive it off the lot, choose one of the quotes and call to activate the insurance. (You’ll need the VIN number of the car.) If you’re buying from a dealer, they’ll need proof of insurance — and you’ll need it in case you get pulled over, too — so have the insurance company fax and email proof. You’re insured.

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Policygenius’ editorial content is not written by an insurance agent. It’s intended for informational purposes and should not be considered legal or financial advice. Consult a professional to learn what financial products are right for you.

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