Borrowing Cars: Yea or Nay?


Letting your friends borrow your wheels when they're in need seems harmless enough—but there may be more of a risk involved than you think.

friends at lake

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It’s a Friday night and your friend who got into a fender bender is out a ride while her wheels are in the shop. She calls you up asking if she can borrow your car to run some errands. Seems harmless enough, right? What are friends for?

Borrowing cars seems like a simple way you can lend a helping hand; however, it could quickly produce more harm than good in the end. So, should we borrow cars or let our friends borrow ours—or is it not even worth the risk?

THE REALITY

As harmless as car borrowing may seem, there are some things that you should consider before handing over the keys. When it comes to being insured, we hope you have coverage for yourself. But just having coverage doesn’t mean you’re off the hook if you’re not behind the wheel. There are liabilities that still rest on you regardless of who’s driving. For example, Owner’s Liability (which exists in many states like Michigan) pins damages the driver is responsible for to the owner of the car—no matter who was actually driving at the time. This amount is sometimes limited, depending on the state.

Obviously your consent is required to be charged with any damages. And no, I don’t mean you get to choose not to consent to accepting the fees—rather that you had to say ‘yes’ to that friend who asked to borrow your car in order to be in trouble for your friend’s bad driving. If someone took you car without asking and got into an accident, you wouldn’t be liable for any damage they caused.

Letting someone borrow your car? You could be pinned with the damages.

There is an interesting caveat to the consent aspect, however: in some states if a family member borrows without asking, consent is assumed. Therefore, if little sister decides to go for a joy ride without your permission, you could still be hung with her fender-bender fees.

THE HARD TRUTH

A season insurance adjuster explained, “If you let a friend use your car and they get in an accident and hurt someone, the law suit will be against you and your friend. They don’t just sue the guy driving. They sue the owner of the car—even if you are not in it.”

So, what about the insurance? If you want to avoid a legal hot mess, its best to talk to your insurance provider. If you want to cover additional drivers, it will drive your premiums up. This is a much safer option, however, than hoping for the best and potentially ending up with hundreds of dollars in damages. There are a couple options to cover someone short-term to drive your car, maybe if they want to borrow it for a weekend or some other temporary situation.

Esurance explains:

“Temporary car insurance (also known as short-term car insurance) is coverage that can be bought for a short period of time. For instance, if you get rental car insurance because you don’t have your own coverage, that’s considered temporary car insurance.”

Sometimes insurors won’t provide short-term insurance to folks under 21, and this temporary option is pricier for those up to 25, just like regular premiums. So, be sure to shop around even for your temporary insurance.

Next time your friend wants to borrow your car, consider telling them to catch a cab (or an Uber) or borrowing someone’s car whose insurance they’re already on.