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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, you might want to get a non-owner policy. Non-owner policies are created specifically to insure vehicles not owned by the driver, offering extra liability insurance, so your insurance isn’t forced to cover everything.

 

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.

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RECENT QUESTIONS

How do I change insurance when buying a new car?

If you have an existing insurance policy and are buying a new car, all you need to do is contact your current carrier and swap your old vehicle for the new one. This is a fairly normal process for insurance companies since people buy new vehicles all the time.
Jul 31, 2016 Austin, TX

Minor fender bender when I wasn't at fault for car accident

Because you were the not-at-fault driver here, your car insurance premium would not go up. If you do decide to file a claim, which you are in the right to, you would be filing it through the other driver's car insurance.
May 7, 2018 Gainsville, FL

My liability only car was hit by a stolen vehicle

Unfortunately, the owner of the vehicle that was stolen isn't liable because the fact they didn't give permission to the driver negates any coverage. The individual who stole the vehicle and caused the damage is responsible.
Jun 18, 2018 Hutchinson, KS

I want to get my own car insurance, but my mom won't let me.

Because your mother has an umbrella policy through AAA, she is likely required to have you rated as a driver on her policy. This is a common requirement with insurance carriers who offer umbrella insurance.
Jul 21, 2022 Danville, CA

About The Zebra

The Zebra is not an insurance company. We publish data-backed, expert-reviewed resources to help consumers make more informed insurance decisions.

  • The Zebra’s insurance content is written and reviewed for accuracy by licensed insurance agents.
  • The Zebra’s insurance content is not subject to review or alteration by insurance companies or partners.
  • The Zebra’s editorial team operates independently of the company’s partnerships and commercialization interests, publishing unbiased information for consumer benefit.
  • The auto insurance rates published on The Zebra’s pages are based on a comprehensive analysis of car insurance pricing data, evaluating more than 83 million insurance rates from across the United States.
Ava Lynch photo
Ava LynchSenior Analyst

Ava joined The Zebra as a writer and licensed insurance agent in 2016. She now works as a senior analyst, providing insights and data analysis as one of The Zebra's property and casualty insurance experts.

Ava’s insurance career began as an agent with Farmers Insurance. Over the years, she has become an authority in all things property and casualty insurance, helping her to write informative guides for shoppers.

Ava’s work has been cited in publications such as InvestopediaThe BalanceMoney.comLiberty Mutual, U.S. News & World Report, GasBuddy, Car and Driver and Yahoo! Finance.