Do You Need Insurance to Drive Someone Else’s Car?

You’re not legally required to hold insurance to drive someone else’s car, but if you’re frequently borrowing a vehicle, non-owner car insurance could be a good idea.
Written by Jacqulyn Graber
Reviewed by Amy Bobinger
You do not need your own auto insurance policy to drive someone else’s vehicle occasionally. However, if you frequently drive a family member or friend’s car, it may be a good idea to invest in a non-owner policy.
In most U.S. states, it's illegal to drive your own car without insurance. However, if you have your driver’s license but no vehicle of your own, it’s absolutely legal to operate someone else’s vehicle uninsured—so long as said vehicle is protected by its own
car insurance
policy, of course.
Below, we discuss what standard insurance covers when you borrow a vehicle and if and when it’s a good idea to purchase
non-owner car insurance

Do you need car insurance to drive someone else’s car?

No—if you’re borrowing someone’s vehicle (perhaps in an emergency, or just to run a quick errand), you will be protected under the borrowed car’s regular auto insurance coverage.
It’s a common misconception that car insurance coverage is attached to the vehicle owner. In fact, car insurance covers the vehicle—and follows it regardless of who’s driving. Thus, the car owner’s insurance policy will protect you when you’re behind the wheel.
However, if you frequently borrow someone’s vehicle, you might want to consider getting non-owner insurance, or ask the car owner to add you to their car insurance policy. Both options offer extra liability insurance and peace of mind.
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What will their car insurance cover?

As long as the car owner gives you permission to drive their vehicle, you are covered under the driver’s insurance via something called “permissive use.”
In most U.S. states, car owners are required to purchase bodily injury and property
liability insurance
, which—in the event of an accident—will cover any damages or injury you cause to others while driving the vehicle.
Additionally, if the driver has chosen to invest in
collision coverage
, then the car will be protected from any damages that occur to it (after the deductible is paid out), no matter who is at fault for the accident.

When you cannot drive someone else’s vehicle

There are a few instances where you should not get behind the wheel of someone else’s vehicle as their liability coverage will not cover you as a driver:
  • You don’t have the driver’s permission. If the owner can prove that you took their vehicle without permission, you will be personally responsible for any damage you may cause.
  • You are listed as an excluded driver on their car insurance policy. Car insurance companies will sometimes enforce exclusions, and if you end up in an accident as an excluded driver, you won’t just be on the hook for the cost of damages—the other person’s car insurance rates will likely be raised for violating the rules, too. 
  • You do not have a valid driver’s license. This one should be obvious, but if you do not have a license (or the one you do have is suspended or expired), you are not legally allowed to drive any vehicle, regardless of the insurance coverage situation. 
  • You are under the influence. Another obvious one—never drive a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Not only are you risking your life and the lives of everyone else on the road, you’re also risking adding a
    to your driving record. Plus, if you get into a car accident, you’ll be treated as an uninsured driver.

When should you get a non-owners car insurance policy?

Non-owner car insurance—generally only liability coverage—serves as added protection for drivers who are operating someone else’s vehicles. It will supplement the car owner’s insurance policy. Note that some companies will offer
personal injury protection
uninsured motorist protection
, as well.
Here are a few circumstances when non-owner coverage might be a good idea:
  • You regularly borrow someone’s vehicle. Even though their car insurance will cover you as a permissive driver, there’s always a chance that you’ll get into an accident that exceeds their policy limits. Non-owner car insurance would kick in after to cover the supplementary costs. 
  • You frequently use rental cars. Rental car companies sell liability policies, but if you’re a frequent renter, it may be cheaper to get your own non-owner policy. 
  • You’re in between vehicles. A lapse in coverage can cause your rates to go up when you do get it back. Thus, if you’re in between vehicles, it’s a good idea to decrease your current coverage to a cheaper non-owner policy, just to maintain continuity. 
  • You are required to secure car insurance after a DUI. Often, one requirement after getting a DUI is submitting an SR-22 to the local DMV. If you don’t own a vehicle, opting for non-owner car insurance will satisfy these requirements, but at a much lower rate than standard auto coverage.
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In most U.S. states, every automobile out on the road must be covered by an adequate car insurance policy. However, you don’t personally need car insurance if you’re not a vehicle owner. If you’re simply borrowing an insured vehicle, you do not need your own coverage.
The main pros of purchasing non-owner car insurance is that it costs much less than a standard car insurance policy, plus it offers peace of mind should you get into an accident in a borrowed or rented vehicle.
The major negative, of course, is that it is an added expense—and if you never get into an accident while driving a borrowed vehicle, you may feel like you purchased this optional coverage for nothing.
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