Last updated: August 2022
Does car insurance follow the car or the driver? Car insurance usually follows the car, not the driver. That means if you let a licensed friend or family member drive your car and they get into an accident, your auto insurance would likely cover the damage up to your policy’s coverage limits.
But, as with so many car insurance-related questions, the answer isn't always so clear-cut. Keep reading to learn about what happens if someone else gets in an accident in your car, primary and secondary auto insurance, non-owner auto insurance, and more.
What Happens if Someone Gets in an Accident in My Car?
When someone borrows your car, they're essentially borrowing your car insurance, too – so long as they're using your car with your permission. If someone gets in an accident in your car, what happens next depends on whether they are a permissive or non-permissive driver.
A permissive driver is someone who is driving your car with your permission. When a permissive driver is driving your vehicle, your insurance is the primary auto insurance. That means if your friend, roommate, or someone else not listed on your policy is driving your car and causes an accident, your auto liability insurance will cover the damage – as long as they had your permission to drive the vehicle.
There are exceptions to permissive use, however. For instance, if you lend your car to an unlicensed driver, or a person who you should have listed on your policy but didn’t, or to someone who drives it while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, your auto insurance policy will probably not cover damage from an accident they caused.
Non-permissive drivers and excluded drivers
A non-permissive driver is someone who borrows your car without your consent. When a non-permissive driver is driving your vehicle, their insurance is the primary auto insurance. If they cause an accident, they may be held entirely responsible for the damage.
Non-permissive drivers also include car thieves. So, if someone takes your car for a joyride and causes an accident, you probably won’t be responsible for the damage and repairs to the other vehicle. However, you may have to file a claim with your insurance provider to pay for your vehicle’s repairs.
You have the option to list someone as an excluded driver on your policy, meaning they are explicitly excluded from your auto insurance coverage. In this case, if an excluded driver causes an accident in your car, your car insurance would not cover any resulting damage. But if the excluded driver has an auto insurance policy of their own, their coverage might.
Car Insurance Can Follow the Driver
We know car insurance typically follows the car, not the driver. However, there are instances where certain auto insurance coverages do follow the driver, such as personal injury protection.
When a driver borrows a car and causes an accident, the car owner's auto insurance is the primary insurance. If the driver has an auto insurance policy of their own, it will be secondary insurance. That means if the damage caused exceeds the car owner's liability coverage limits, the driver's own liability coverage may kick in to pay for the rest of the damage. This is why it's risky to lend your car to someone who doesn't have car insurance.
Can You Get Car Insurance if You Don't Own a Car?
You can still protect yourself as a driver if you don't own a car. If you regularly borrow cars that do not belong to you and you are not listed as a driver on the vehicle owner's policy, consider non-owner auto insurance.
Non-owner auto insurance basically gives you your own liability coverage if you were to cause an accident while driving someone else's vehicle. A typical non-owner car insurance policy includes bodily injury liability and property damage liability coverage, which can pay for the injuries and damages you cause while driving a borrowed or rented car. It does not include certain coverages like comprehensive, collision, or towing since the policy is not attached to a specific vehicle.
With this coverage, if you're driving someone else's car and cause an accident where damages exceed the car owner's policy limits, non-owner auto insurance can provide liability coverage to cover the difference.
Whether you're a car borrower or someone who lends your car, Direct Auto can help you figure out what kind of auto insurance coverage is best for you. Learn more about our affordable car insurance options or get a free quote by calling 1-877-GO-DIRECT (1-877-463-4732), visiting us online, or stopping by one of our local stores. We're always a quick call, click, or drive away!