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Blog category: Driving

Borrowing a Car — Navigating the Maze of Insurance Coverage

4 min read

If you find yourself in a situation where you need to drive a vehicle that you don't own, it's important to understand how insurance coverage works.

Generally, in California, car insurance typically follows the car, not the driver. This means that the insurance policy attached to a specific vehicle is the primary coverage that provides protection when that vehicle is involved in an accident, regardless of who is driving.

Always Get Permission

This primary insurance covers damages caused by the vehicle when someone other than the owner is driving — as long as the driver has permission to use the car from the vehicle owner prior to the accident. The key word here is “permission,” which occurs when the vehicle's owner has explicitly or implicitly given permission to another individual to operate the car.

Under such circumstances, the vehicle's insurance generally covers the accident. Please note, it's never a good idea to operate a vehicle without obtaining permission from the vehicle owner first since coverage under your policy would likely not be applicable and you would potentially be liable if anything untoward happened.

Regular Borrowing

If you tend to borrow a certain car more frequently, the potential for coverage gets more complicated. Depending upon who owns the vehicle and/or the frequency of your use, coverage may not apply.

If the vehicle belongs to a relative or roommate in your household, but the vehicle is not a listed vehicle on your policy, you need to get added to their auto insurance policy. This is because your use of their vehicle is not covered by your policy.

Below, we answer some of the questions that come up a lot around insurance coverage when you're driving someone else's car.

What Happens If I Get in an Accident?

If you get into an accident while driving someone else's car, the owner's car insurance will be the primary coverage. However, if the damages exceed the car owner's policy limits, your auto insurance (if you have a policy) may provide coverage, up to the policy limits, for those additional liability damages.

If the car owner doesn't have auto insurance, your insurance could provide coverage, but that depends on why you're using the vehicle.

Can I Borrow a Car if I Have a Permit?

If you've just gotten your learner's permit, it's highly recommended that your parents add you to their insurance policy immediately. If you're involved in an accident before that happens, they may not be able to add you to the policy due to the accident and associated underwriting criteria.

Am I Covered if I Drive a Rental Car?

If you carry an auto insurance policy, it will cover you while you're driving a rental car as long as you're an authorized driver on the rental agreement and are using the vehicle within the terms and conditions of the rental contract. You don't need to purchase the rental company's insurance, but it can provide peace of mind if you don't want to file a claim through your policy as it provides another level of insurance coverage through the rental car company.

The same principles apply when renting a car through a car-sharing service like Turo. Your insurance will cover you as the renter for damage to the rental, as well as any potential liability claims by a third party. However, the policy does not provide coverage for you or the driver if you put your own vehicle on the car-sharing platform for others to rent.

What if Someone Else Drives My Rental Car?

Your personal car insurance generally extends coverage to rental cars when you're the one renting and driving the vehicle. However, if someone else drives the car you rented and they're not listed as a driver on the rental agreement, neither of you may be covered in the event of an accident.

In that situation, the rental car company may hold you, the renter, liable for damage to the rental vehicle, to include "loss of use" if the car needs repairs and cannot be rented out during that time. Your car insurance likely won't cover this.

What Does It Mean if I'm an Excluded Driver?

If you're an "excluded driver" on someone's car insurance policy, it means you have been specifically excluded from coverage while operating any of their vehicles. Whether you have permission or not, you won't have any insurance coverage if you drive any of their cars. Getting into an accident as an excluded driver means there will be no insurance coverage whatsoever and you will be responsible for all the damage caused.

Key Takeaways:

  • You must have permission to drive someone else's car, or you'll likely be responsible for any accidents and resultant damage.
  • Always ensure your friend has valid car insurance before driving their vehicle.
  • Avoid borrowing someone else's car whenever possible to be on the safe side.
  • Communicate clearly with your insurance provider about your specific situation to fully understand your coverage.

Hopefully, this has cleared up any confusion. However, if you're ever in doubt, get in touch with your helpful Wawanesa agent who will be happy to discuss how it all works! By understanding the ins and outs of insurance coverage and how it applies to borrowed or rented cars, you can make informed decisions, avoid potential insurance gaps or liabilities, and rest assured you're protected financially.

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The above content is for informational purposes only and is not a direct representation of coverages offered by Wawanesa or its policies. The information does not refer to any specific contract of insurance and does not modify any definitions, provisions, exclusions or limitations expressly stated in any contracts of insurance. All references within the above content are illustrative and may not apply to your situation. The terms and conditions of the actual insurance policy or policies involved in a claim are determinative as to whether an accident or other loss is covered. To understand the coverage under your current policy, please log into the account management platform to review your policy or contact an agent directly.

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