If I wreck someone else’s car, does my insurance cover it?

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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: Mar 13, 2020

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Things to know...

  • In most situations, car insurance follows the vehicle rather than the driver, so if you happen to get in an accident when driving someone else’s car, their car insurance will cover the damage
  • Typically, anyone living in the same household with the policyholder is covered by their auto insurance policy, whether they are friends or family
  • If you drive someone else’s car on occasion but don’t live in the same household with them, their auto insurance policy will still pay for the damages via the concept of permissive use
  • As the party borrowing another person’s vehicle, your car insurance will only pay for the damages if the policyholder’s limits are exceeded

Every once in a while, you’ll find yourself borrowing someone else’s car for one reason or another.

Maybe you have taken your vehicle to the repair shop and you need a means of transport in the meantime, or you are going for a family road trip and need a bigger car.

Whatever it is, the reason doesn’t really matter. What matters is what would happen if you were to cause a wreck when driving someone else’s car.

The first question that pops into many people’s mind on the thought of causing an accident when driving someone else’s car is the question of whose policy pays for the damage.

Assuming that both of you are insured, the vehicle is typically covered under the owner’s policy. If damages exceed the owner’s coverage limits, your policy can cover the difference.

It’s always important to make sure that you have sufficient coverage on your auto insurance policy for such situations. When shopping for car insurance, compare quotes from various providers before you commit.

Comparison shopping helps auto insurance shoppers obtain sufficient coverage at competitive rates. Enter your zip code above to compare today.

Driving a Non-Owned Vehicle and Car Insurance

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It’s not ideal, but sometimes you have to drive a non-owned car. It could be:

  • your friend’s car
  • your neighbor’s truck
  • your relative’s van

Car accidents happen all the time, and you could easily get in a car crash while driving a non-owned vehicle. What happens then? Who pays for the damage?

Well, in most cases, car insurance tends to follow the vehicle rather than the driver — contrary to what most people believe.

For instance, if you borrow your roommate’s car to go to the mall and happen to hit another car as you get out of the mall’s parking lot, your roommate’s auto liability coverage pays for the damages. That’s the general rule (the primary coverage pays for the damage).

Your roommate would have to file a claim with his/her auto insurance provider, pay the deductible, and accept any premium increments. If the damages exceed your roommate’s auto liability coverage limits, your policy kick in and pay for the remainder.

Of course, that’s only if you are at fault. If it’s the other way round, the other driver’s policy pays for the damages to your roommate’s car.

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What are the conditions for payment of the policy?

If auto insurance companies operated their businesses without any restrictions or ground rules, they would be paying out a lot in claims. That would leave their profit levels seriously dented, and that’s unacceptable for any business.

Therefore, every auto insurance policy has limits to make sure that the carrier doesn’t end up dishing money even when it’s not supposed to, all year round.

When it comes to the question of who is or not covered when driving a vehicle, auto insurance policies vary widely. 

However, people living in the same household with the policyholder are typically covered, so there is no need to worry if you cause a wreck when driving a car belonging to your close relative or friend as long as you live under the same roof.

The situation can get a little difficult for people who don’t live in the same household.

Permissive Use

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If you use someone else’s vehicle every once in a while but don’t live with them, you can get access to the vehicle without the owner worrying about car insurance just as long as there is permissive use in your policy.

Permissive use means that if you loan out your car to someone else, your auto insurance coverage will protect them for the number of days the individual will be using the car.

So even if you don’t live in the same household, you can drive someone else’s car and still be covered by their auto insurance policy.

Excluded Drivers and Non-Permissive Use

Policyholders have the option to exclude certain people from their auto insurance, perhaps due to a poor driving record or anything else that may increase rates.

If you get in an accident driving a non-owned vehicle and you are excluded from the policy, the auto insurance provider will not pay for the resulting damages.

In some states, the policyholder may not even be allowed to give you permission to drive the car if you are excluded from the auto insurance policy.

Also, if you take someone’s car without permission (non-permissive use) and cause a wreck, the policyholder’s auto insurance provider will not pay for the damages unless they can prove that permission was given.

The car owner will most likely end up covering the costs if it’s difficult to prove that permission to use the vehicle was not granted. When it comes to auto insurance, the only exception to non-permissive use is theft.

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Anyone Can Be Held Liable

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Before you borrow someone else’s car, ask about their auto insurance situation first. Accidents can happen anytime, even when you are driving a non-owned car.

Anyone — you or the car owner — may be held liable for damages. In most cases, the car owner’s policy will pay for damages while your coverage is left to fill the gaps if any.

Both auto insurance providers may deny coverage if rules are broken. On your part, ensure that you have enough coverage to protect yourself from losses in such cases.

When looking to buy car insurance, compare quotes from as many providers as you can to ensure that you are getting proper coverage at a good price. Get started right now by entering your zip code below.

References:

  1. https://www.statefarm.com/simple-insights/auto-and-vehicles/ever-lend-your-car-to-a-friend-read-this-first
  2. http://www.iii.org/article/what-auto-insurance
  3. https://www.geico.com/more/driving/auto/car-safety-insurance/hey-can-i-borrow-your-car/
  4. https://www.thebalance.com/personal-liability-insurance-coverage-3957084
  5. http://thegarage.jalopnik.com/why-you-should-think-twice-before-lending-your-car-to-s-1684911505
  6. https://www.thebalance.com/someone-borrowed-my-car-and-got-in-an-accident-527137
  7. https://www.thebalance.com/additional-liability-insurance-ali-527171

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