Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Laura Walker graduated college with a BS in Criminal Justice with a minor in Political Science. She married her husband and began working in the family insurance business in 2005. She became a licensed agent and wrote P&C business focusing on personal lines insurance. Laura serviced existing business and wrote new business. She now uses her insurance background to help educate drivers about...

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Reviewed by Laura Walker
Licensed Agent for 10 Years

UPDATED: Jan 19, 2022

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Have you ever borrowed a car for a quick run to the grocery store or a casual errand? We all have but how much time did you spend thinking about whether or not car insurance covers you when driving someone else’s car?

The answer is most people assume they are automatically insured driving any vehicle however that is far from the reality. There are many questions to ask before taking your friends car for a ride since you may be exposing yourself (and your friend) to a lot of personal risk.

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Does your friend have car insurance?

This is the most basic question of all but our guess is 90% of people do not even ask if the owner of the vehicle has auto insurance before they take the keys. Its imperative you always ask any vehicle owner about whether or not they have auto insurance well before pulling out of the driveway.

Does car insurance extend automatically to other drivers?

This depends on a number of factors including state laws, your policy details and the type of coverage the owner has. Although most car insurance policies automatically extend coverage to drivers operating a vehicle with the owner’s consent this does not mean you have (a) enough insurance or (b) insured the same as the policyholder.

Some car insurance policies only extend the minimum state requirements to drivers not listed on the auto insurance policy. This means even though the owner may have $100,000 in liability insurance any unnamed drivers who operate your vehicle may only be covered up to the state minimum (which is far less – $10,000 in Florida for example).

How do I check how much car insurance the owner has?

The only way to do this is to have the vehicle owner call his/her auto insurance company direct. Since every policy is different and the laws about un-named drivers can vary by state the best thing to do is contact their auto insurance company and ask how policy coverage extends to un-named drivers.

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What if I use someone else’s car frequently?

Casual use is defined much differently than having a roommate who is always taking your vehicle for a ride. If a driver has full time access to your vehicle and operates it on a consistent basis then its not really a random one time incident is it?

Any driver operating a vehicle on a consistent basis should always opt to become a named driver on the policy since car insurance companies can deny a claim should they find out the person driving is a primary driver.

Should I buy car insurance even if I don’t own a car?

Its always a good idea to have a car insurance policy and if you don’t own a vehicle you can still purchase a non-owner auto insurance policy. The cost of non-owner car insurance is very cheap but provides coverage whenever you operate a vehicle.

Since you are purchasing this type of car insurance you always know how much insurance you have whenever you drive a car.

Can I still be liable for damages if the vehicle I was driving was not mine?

Liability in a car accident is with the driver and vehicle. While car insurance coverage is attached to the vehicle there are no laws preventing injured parties from suing for damages which exceed the vehicle’s car insurance policy limits.

Even in no-fault auto insurance states anyone can file suit for damages that exceed policy coverage. Just because the vehicle is not in your name does not mean you are waived from liability – especially in a car accident which you were at-fault.

Whenever you borrow a vehicle its important to know how much car insurance the owner has. Never assume you are automatically covered under their insurance policy and always remember that just being covered is not blanket protection from all liability.

There have been many friendships ruined over car accident damage so always do the research before taking the keys.

Use our FREE quote tool to compare auto insurance rates today!

Related posts:

  1. Can a person get auto insurance without owning a vehicle?
  2. How do I get auto insurance if my car insurance policy lapses?