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You let your friend borrow your pickup truck to move some furniture to his new apartment. He got into an accident on the way. Your car sustained major damage, and the driver in the other car was injured. Will your insurance cover the costs of the accident? Your auto insurance may cover someone else driving your car, but it can depend on several factors, such as your specific policy, the state you live in and more.
Does Car Insurance Cover Additional Drivers?
In most states, auto insurance will cover damage to a vehicle regardless of who is driving it.
Liability insurance covers the medical costs of injuries, as well as damages to the other driver's vehicle or property. In general, liability coverage covers you if the car you're driving belongs to someone else, and your liability coverage may also cover others who drive your car with your permission.
Comprehensive and collision coverage cover damage to your car. Typically, comprehensive and collision insurance cover your car even when someone else is driving. However, that's not true in all cases, and your policy may include exclusions or limitations of coverage.
If the person driving your car is involved in an accident they didn't cause, the other driver's insurance is typically called on to cover the costs of damages and injuries. However, if the person driving your car is determined to be at fault, your insurance company is usually the one tapped to cover the costs. If the costs of the accident exceed the limits of your insurance coverage, your insurer may ask the other driver's insurance to cover the remaining expenses. However, if the other driver doesn't have enough coverage to make up the difference, you could be responsible for any additional costs.
Car repairs and medical bills aren't the only potential costs you face when someone driving your car has an accident. Even if your insurance covers these costs, making a claim means the accident will go on your driving record and your insurance premiums may rise.
Why Does Permission Matter With Insurance Coverage?
As noted above, whether the person driving your vehicle is permitted to do so makes a difference in the event of an accident. Your car insurance policy outlines who has permission to drive your car and who doesn't, and some policies may even explicitly state that no one besides you is covered when driving your car. Whether your insurance will cover the person driving your car often comes down to whether they are a permissive or non-permissive user. What's the difference?
A permissive user has your permission to use your car. This can be explicit permission, such as when a friend asks to borrow your car and you say, "Sure," or the tacit permission your teenager has to use the family car whenever she needs it, without asking each time.
Typically, you'll be asked about the other people in your household when you apply for car insurance. Some insurance companies consider all members of your household to permissive users with tacit permission to drive your car at any time. Other insurers require drivers to be listed by name on your policy in order for them to be counted as a permissive user.
The definition of "household members" is usually limited to family members related to you by blood or marriage. If a roommate, housekeeper or other person in your household who's not related to you regularly uses your car, you can usually list them on your insurance policy by name to ensure they are considered permissive users.
In general, permissive users are covered by your insurance. However, even when your policy covers permissive users, the coverage limits may be lower than they would if you were driving, or you may have to pay a higher-than-normal deductible in case of a claim.
A non-permissive user is anyone who drives your car without tacit or explicit permission. Your auto insurance generally won't cover a non-permissive user in a crash; instead, the non-permissive driver's insurance will be called on to cover any damages or injuries they cause.
In some states, you can exclude a member of your household from your insurance policy. If someone in your household has a history of reckless driving, multiple DUIs or a suspended license, but insurers consider them a permissive driver, their poor driving record could cause your premiums to rise. If you exclude them from your policy, they cannot be considered a permissive driver.
You might exclude a driver to reduce your insurance premiums. For instance, if your young adult son lives with you and keeps racking up speeding tickets, you could exclude him from your policy and ask him to get his own in order to keep your premiums low. Some insurers may require you to exclude high-risk drivers before they'll insure you.
Excluded drivers should purchase their own insurance so that they're not driving uninsured. (Some states require you to show proof that the other driver is insured before you can exclude them.) Don't change your mind and give an excluded driver permission to drive your car, or you could be liable for any damages they cause.
Things to Consider Before Letting Someone Drive Your Car
What should you do if someone wants to borrow your car? Before you hand over your car keys, here are some questions to answer.
- Does your insurance policy cover this situation? Read your insurance policy carefully to make sure you understand the details of your insurance and how it works. Your policy should list what is covered as well as any exclusions or exceptions. Insurance policies can be confusing, so if you still aren't clear on what your policy covers after reading it, contact your insurance agent for answers.
- Does the driver have their own insurance? Letting an uninsured driver use your car is risky. If the person who borrows your car has their own insurance, that insurance may cover the costs if they have an accident. Even if your policy kicks in due to a crash, your insurance company may ask your friend's insurer to reimburse some of the expenses. If your friend doesn't have insurance, however, your options in case of an accident will be limited. If your friend causes damage that exceeds your policy's limits, you may have to pay the rest of the costs yourself, and could even be sued.
- Does the person driving your car live in a different state? Auto insurance laws tend to vary from state to state. For instance, some states may not require minimum liability coverage, which means the other driver could be uninsured. Even states that set minimum coverage levels may have lower minimums than your state, meaning the other driver may not have enough coverage for a major accident. You should also make sure an out-of-state driver's insurance policy covers them in your state and that your policy covers out-of-state drivers using your vehicle.
- How often will the person be using your car? Consider listing a driver on your insurance if they're not a family member in your household but will be using your car often. For example, if you have a roommate or a nanny who will frequently drive your car, listing them on your policy will provide peace of mind if they're involved in an accident while driving your car.
- Is the person fit to drive? If you let an incompetent or unfit driver use your car, you could be liable for any injuries or damage if they get into an accident. Never lend your car to someone if they're intoxicated, an unlicensed or inexperienced driver, or have a history of reckless driving.
Don't Be Afraid to Say No
Letting a friend or family member borrow your car may seem like an easy decision, but in reality, there's a lot to consider. Take some time to review what your insurance policy does and doesn't cover, and don't be shy about asking the other driver a few key questions. If letting someone borrow your car puts you in a tough or uncomfortable position, don't hesitate to say no. It may seem like you're doing someone a favor at the time, but a crash could easily sever a friendship and set both of you back financially. On the other hand, knowing your car is covered even when you lend it out will save you from unnecessary worries—and save you money if an accident does occur.