IN PLAIN ENGLISH

Maybe you’re house-sitting for a friend and need to make a quick run to the grocery store. Maybe you’ve recently hired a new nanny and they don't have a car of their own.

These are the situations in which you need to know — definitively — whether car insurance covers the driver or the vehicle listed on the policy. In the event of an accident that occurs when someone else is driving your car, who pays? And more importantly, whose insurance rates will be affected moving forward?

 

Do car insurance policies cover the driver or car?

Standard auto insurance policies cover the car. By adding complementary policies, you can guarantee you, the driver, and the vehicle will be protected in the event of an accident. If you have a named driver policy, any driver you want to be covered to drive the vehicle needs to be added to the insurance policy. If you have someone driving your car, but not living with you, consult them and suggest they get a “non-owner policy."

 

Does my auto insurance policy cover another driver if they get into an accident?

If your policy includes permissive use, any infrequent driver (i.e., drives the vehicle less than 12 times a year) is able to drive your vehicle. In the event the permissive driver causes damage that exceeds the policy limits of your vehicle, their personal coverage can act as secondary coverage. Let’s say your friend was driving and they were involved in an at-fault car accident with property damages of $10,000. If your policy limits maxed out at $5,000, your friend’s insurance could cover the remaining $5,000.

*Not every car insurance policy accommodates permissive use claims. Check your auto insurance coverage prior to letting an unlisted driver borrow your vehicle.

 

Types of auto insurance policies and coverage options

In most cases, car insurance covers the vehicle. Let’s discuss the specific policies that can determine exactly what — and who — insurance covers.

  • Named driver policy: A named driver car insurance policy covers only those specifically listed on the policy. For a driver to use your vehicle and have coverage in the event of a collision, they would need to be listed on the policy.
  • Liability: Liability insurance is primarily for at-fault accidents. Bodily injury liability coverage pays for the physical damages done to other drivers (bodily injury) and their vehicles (property damage) in an at-fault accident.
  • Comprehensive and collision: Sometimes referred to as “full” coverage, comprehensive and collision insurance coverages insure your car against physical damage. Whether that damage occurs as a result of colliding with an animal or a stationary object, comprehensive and collision coverage is specifically for your vehicle. Most policies involving comprehensive and collision require family members to be listed on the policy, particularly if they reside together and share a vehicle.

 

Adding a young driver to your policy

If you have a teenage driver in your household, they might drive the family car. If your young driver is involved in an at-fault accident, your insurance will pay for the damages. While it might seem risky, it’s better to have your teen on your policy, as opposed to having them get their own policy or allowing them to drive without an auto insurance policy. Add your teenage child to your auto policy as a named driver and be sure to ask your insurance company about discounts.

If your kids are too young to drive and rely on a nanny to get them around, consider a non-owners insurance policy. Non-owner policies are created specifically for people who don’t own the car they drive, offering extra liability insurance, so your insurance isn’t forced to cover everything.

Find the correct car insurance coverage so you can drive with peace of mind.

Ava Lynch LinkedIn

Ava worked in the insurance industry as an agent for four-plus years. Currently providing insights and analysis as one of The Zebra’s resident property insurance experts, Ava has been featured in publications such as U.S. News & World Report, GasBuddy, and Yahoo! Finance.

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Recent Questions:

I borrowed my friend's car and caused $1,000 of damage

Typically, car insurance follows the vehicle (not the driver) so if you were to file a claim, it would be under your friend's insurance. However, I would exercise caution when considering filing claim.

In Alabama, does the car insurance follow the driver or the car?

In my experience, it's always the rule that car insurance follows the vehicle, not the driver. So, although the person who hit your daughter wasn't the owner of the vehicle, their car insurance would still apply in this situation.

Do adult children have to be added to a policy when occasionally driving a parent's car if they have their own policy?

They would only need to be listed as drivers if they live in your household and/or drive the truck on a "regular" basis. Most companies consider "regular" use as 12 times or more per year.

Whose insurance pays out if a borrowed vehicle is damaged?

I'm very sorry to hear about your crash and these situations can be extremely confusing so I'm glad you came here for your answer. The insurance coverage that is already on the vehicle should act as primary in this situation assuming that the vehicle is insured with comprehensive and collision coverage or possibly uninsured motorist property damage.