Car insurance follows the car, not the driver, in most cases. There are a few situations where car insurance follows the driver, though, such as when the car’s insurance limits are exceeded, in which case the driver’s coverage can be used to fill in the gaps. There’s also some disparity from company to company – your policy might provide less coverage for other drivers, or even no coverage at all.
It’s advisable to review your insurance policy before letting someone else drive your car. It also helps to ask if the other driver has insurance before they get behind the wheel in your vehicle. And don’t forget to confirm coverage before you drive someone else’s car, too.
The driver’s insurance usually plays a (small) role
In most situations, the driver’s insurance plays a role regardless of whose car they are driving and who caused the accident. That is true regardless of whether a state has at-fault or no-fault laws because no-fault insurance only applies to medical payments. So fault still matters for property damage, at least, and the at-fault party needs to pay up.
However, the driver’s insurance can end up being negligible. If you are insured and you cause an accident in a friend's car, the primary coverage is their insurance, not yours. Instead, your car insurance is the secondary source of coverage. If your friend's coverage is exceeded by the collision, your insurance picks up the slack.
Uninsured drivers depend solely on the car's coverage
If you don’t have insurance and you drive your friend's car, your friend is on the hook for whatever damage you cause. But if the damage exceeds your friend’s insurance coverage, the other driver(s) could sue you and your friend, who also could sue you to cover his or her share!
This is assuming your friend gives you permission to drive. If you don't have permission to drive someone's car, insurance gets a little more complicated.
Permission matters - but it's hard to prove
If a friend with no insurance takes your car without permission and crashes it, you're liable for the damage they cause. That’s because it’s very difficult to prove you didn't give your friend permission to use your car. And in situations where you let your uninsured friend use your car, your insurance needs to cover any damage they cause.
However, the responsibility can fall on the friend who takes your car if they have their own car insurance. If they cause damage in that situation, their insurance policy would be the primary coverage, while yours would be secondary – again, as long as you can prove that you did not give them permission to use your car. In that case, your insurance would only need to kick in to cover gaps in their insurance policy, or if their insurance maxed out before the damage was covered fully.
If it’s not a friend who takes your car, things are different. Should someone steal your car, you're generally not liable for the damage they cause to others' property. But you need your own insurance for repairs to your vehicle if they vandalize it.
- Check your policy to see who and what is covered.
- Keep a copy of your car insurance information in your car, in case you're not there when an accident occurs.
- Make sure your friends have a valid driver's license and car insurance before you let them drive your vehicle.
- Add people you live with to your car insurance, as well as other people who use your car regularly.
- If you don’t own a car, you can get non-owner car insurance to make sure you’re covered when you drive someone else’s vehicle.