It’s not uncommon for your friend to share your clothes, your skillet, or your favorite movie. And for those types of things, the only consequence is maybe that you don’t get your stuff back. But what about your car? Should you let your friend borrow your car? If you consider what’s at risk when you drive, it’s a heck of a lot more than the loss of an old copy of Love Actually. You could get in an accident, get a speeding ticket, injure another driver – or a bazillion other things. So should you let a friend take that risk in a car that you own?
Making this as simple as we possibly can, the main questions you should consider if you let someone borrow your vehicle are:
- Do you trust them? Are you willing to take on the risk of someone else potentially damaging your vehicle and/or causing damage or injury to someone else? Because insurance follows the vehicle, it would be your insurance which would apply first in the event of an accident, which might mean you have you pay your deductible and incur a rate increase following a claim. Even if the person driving your car has their own car insurance policy, their coverage wouldn’t kick in unless or until yours is first exhausted.
- Do they live with you? Insurance companies want you to list any other household members (of driving age) to your car insurance policy because they are likely to drive your vehicle.
- How often do they use your car? If someone you know drives your car more than once a month (12 times per year), your car insurance company would want you to add them to your policy.
Keeping those questions in mind, we’ll cover some of the instances of when you should – and should not – let someone borrow your car.
When Can You Let Someone Borrow Your Car?
Generally, if you give permission for someone to use your car and it’s not a regular occurrence (i.e., fewer than 12 times a year), there’s no need to worry.
Who should you allow to drive your car?
Friends or family members who borrow your car once in a while
- Most often, the valet company will have its own insurance policy that extends to the vehicles they drive.
- If you’re physically unable to drive yourself, you can ask someone to drive for you in your own vehicle.
Weekend road trips
- When you’re taking your car on a relatively short road trip and you’re planning to switch off driving with a friend or two, you can give them permission to drive your car. (See below if you’re planning a really long road trip – the rules are different.)
- Are you that friend with a pickup truck? It’s fine to lend it out on occasion.
In all of the above cases, the drivers are operating your vehicle under “permissive use.” You don’t need to provide written permission, but you should be confident that the person you’re lending your car to can drive it safely.
If someone else gets a speeding ticket or other moving violation while driving your car, it’s their driving record that’s affected – not yours.
But in the event of an accident, insurance coverage would follow the vehicle – not the driver. So, because your insurance (yes, we’re assuming you’re insured) would be the first to cover any damages in an accident, you need to carefully consider who uses your vehicle in order to avoid an unnecessary (and potentially very expensive!) claim.
When Shouldn’t You Let Someone Borrow Your Car?
The tricky thing is if/when you live with someone or spend a lot of time with them and they end up using your car more frequently. While you can still give permission for them to use your car, your insurance company might not be cool with it. Think of it like this: your insurance company knows your driving record and has priced your policy according to your risk. So if they were to find out that someone else was driving your car around, exposing them to risk they had not been able to assess, or potentially damaging the vehicle or hurting someone, you could find yourself a hairy situation with your insurance company.
Who shouldn’t you allow to drive your car?
Unlisted frequent users (typically someone who uses your vehicle more than 12 times per year)
- Perhaps a boyfriend or girlfriend borrows your car or drives you to work? If it happens on more than a monthly basis, you might want to reconsider. (For the record, our recommendation here is not necessarily to bar them from using your car, but rather to add them to your insurance policy.)
Long road trips
- If you’re taking a cross-country or similarly long-distance road trip with friends and you’ll be sharing the driving responsibilities, you should probably consider adding them to your insurance policy. If you’re traveling for several weeks, your guest driver is more than likely to operate the vehicle more than 12 times (the defined limit of an “infrequent driver”) and thus would need to be added.
People who live with you (unless they are listed on your policy)
Underage or unlicensed drivers
- Stating the obvious here, but don’t let underage or unlicensed drivers use your vehicle. It can pretty much only end badly. Because car insurance generally follows the car (as opposed to the driver), an accident caused by an underage or unlicensed driver would be covered by your insurance. Further, your insurance company might deny your claim altogether because an unlicensed driver was behind the wheel. The exact consequences vary by policy, your insurance company, and your state.
- If you want to avoid using the coverage you pay for because you have doubts about the ability of your friend to drive your car without causing damage, you might not want to let them take the wheel.
What are the consequences of someone else driving your car?
If you do let a friend drive your car and they get in an accident or otherwise cause damage, the consequences could mean:
- You end up paying your insurance deductible.
- Your car insurance rates increase because of your new claims.
- Your insurance company could deny your claim altogether (as previously mentioned, this shouldn’t happen if you give someone permission to drive your car infrequently, but you should make sure you’re not violating a part of your policy agreement).
Finally, if you’re still unsure about letting a friend drive your car, talk with your insurance agent. Better to be proactive than end up paying big money down the line.