Does my insurance cover me to drive an uninsured car?

Car insurance follows the vehicle, not the driver. If you’re borrowing a vehicle, it’s your responsibility to confirm that the owner has the proper insurance coverage for that vehicle. If not, your car insurance may not cover driving an uninsured car. Your liability insurance may apply to cover the other driver’s damages and injuries, but you may be responsible for your own out of pocket.

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Tonya Sisler has a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of South Carolina in Journalism and has worked for 15+ years in management. She has also completed a proofreading certification and is currently a professional writer.

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Brad Larson has been in the insurance industry for more than a dozen years. He started out as a claims adjuster for a national carrier. He has since switched to the agency side of the business. Brad is licensed in all P&C lines.

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Reviewed by Brad Larsen
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Oct 29, 2020

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Things to know...

  • When you buy a car, it’s your legal duty to insure the vehicle in case you damage or injure someone in another car
  • In many states, when you’re the legal owner of a car it’s illegal to let someone drive your car uninsured
  • Failing to buy insurance on a car that’s registered in your name can lead to suspensions and other serious fines
  • If you borrow a car, you need to ask if it’s insured before you take the risk of driving a car without coverage
  • If you drive an uninsured car, your own insurance may pay for third-party claims and possibly for damage claims

Whenever you borrow a car from a friend or family member the first thing that you should ask is whether or not the vehicle is insured.

It might sound like an awkward question to ask, but driving an uninsured vehicle can leave both you and the vehicle owner at risk of being fined or even worse sued.

Anyone who’s borrowed a car in the past without first verifying that the car was insured is lucky that they never had to exchange information with a driver or pedestrian for causing an accident.

If an accident were to happen, you would have to deal with claims and potential lawsuits without having a primary insurance policy to lean on.

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Here’s what you need to know about your insurance and how it works if you drive an uninsured vehicle:

Insuring Your Vehicle Is the Law


Whenever you buy a car, it’s your duty as the legal registered owner to buy at least some insurance on the vehicle to protect other people from the damage that you and other drivers could cause in your car.

Since virtually every state in America requires you to buy some type of insurance to drive your car in public areas, buying insurance is the law.

Anyone who decides that they don’t want to purchase insurance is in violation of the state’s insurance laws. If the vehicle owner doesn’t have proof of a valid insurance policy at all times, they will at some point face fines and other very serious penalties.

It’s common for drivers to lose their driving privilege and their tags when they’re caught driving without insurance.

In most states, if the vehicle owner allows a car to be operated without insurance, they can be charged with a misdemeanor.

Some states have gone so far as to crack down on the problem by convicting vehicle owners of a second charge for allowing people to borrow their cars when they know their car doesn’t have insurance.

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What happens if you lend your car out and you don’t have insurance?

Not only do you have to worry about facing charges for letting someone drive your car when it’s not covered by a policy, you also have to worry about paying for your own car damages and having to defend yourself against lawsuits when the injured party takes you to court.

This means you could be stuck paying for:

  • legal defense
  • repairs
  • lender assessments
  • more

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Can you be penalized for driving a car without insurance?

Whether or not you can be penalized when you’re driving a car that’s not insured depends on who owns the vehicle. If you, your spouse, or a dependent child living in the household are listed as the legal owner, you can be fined.

If, however, you’re driving a vehicle that you have no financial interest in, you don’t face the penalties and the charges that the vehicle owner will.

If you borrow a car that you don’t own and you don’t know is uninsured, there are some risks.

Even though it’s the owner’s responsibility to pay for damages that happen while the car is driven, it’s still possible that the other party could choose to come after you for compensation.

If another driver comes after you in civil court for compensation, you will have to answer in court and defend yourself. You may also be stuck with a judgment to pay thousands of dollars or an order to have your wages garnished.

The last thing you want to do is pay legal fees and judgments after an accident all because the car didn’t have a policy.

Will your insurance protect you if you drive a borrowed car without insurance?


If you have your own car and your own car insurance, there’s a good chance that you’ll have coverage while you’re driving most cars. Your car insurance contract is designed to protect you while you’re operating your own car and while you’re at risk of being sued in other vehicles.

There are still restrictions that you should know about.

For your coverage to extend to another car, you can’t have any insurable interest in that car.

If you’re a registered owner and a co-owner of the vehicle in question, your existing policy won’t cover you in the car when you have a claim unless the car is covered during the automatic coverage period.

If you’re driving a vehicle that you don’t own and you’re borrowing or renting it, your coverage will extend. Here are some of the restrictions that you should know about when it comes to your insurance following a car not listed on your declarations page:

  • Your liability coverage will extend to all borrowed private passenger vehicles while you’re driving them<F/li>
  • Your liability coverage will extend to all rented private passenger vehicles while you’re driving them
  • Liability coverage may not extend if the insurer can prove that you knowingly drove a car that didn’t have insurance at the time
  • If you’re borrowing a vehicle that’s temporarily replacing your vehicle while it’s being repaired or getting maintenance then your physical damage coverage will extend to the vehicle
  • Your uninsured motorist coverage, medical payments, and Personal Injury Protection will all extend if you’re injured while driving a borrowed or rented car

You should never drive a car when you know it’s not covered. If you do, there are some risks that you should always be aware of. Instead of getting caught fighting in court to defend yourself, buy your own standard or nonowner’s car insurance.

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