How to Get Non-Owner Car Insurance in California

A California non-owner auto insurance policy can provide liability protection and help you avoid a lapse in coverage if you don’t have a car.
Written by R.E. Fulton
Edited by Kathleen Flear
background
For
California
drivers who regularly rent or borrow cars, or high-risk drivers who need insurance to reinstate their California license,
non-owner car insurance
is an affordable option.
  • California drivers who don’t own a vehicle can get non-owner car insurance for less than $500 a year on average. 
  • Non-owner insurance is a basic liability policy that acts as secondary coverage to the vehicle owner’s car insurance coverage. 
  • If you have an SR-22 requirement but no vehicle, California non-owner insurance may be a good option.
  • To get non-owner insurance, you’ll need to call the insurance company or broker directly.
  • Compare at least three non-owner
    car insurance quotes
    before purchasing a policy. 

Do you need California non-owner car insurance?

Buying non-owner auto insurance in California is a good idea if: 
  • You regularly drive rental cars or use car-sharing services, especially in areas with high accident rates
  • You need an SR-22 to restore your driving privileges but don’t own a car
  • You frequently drive the car of someone outside your household 
  • You want to avoid a coverage lapse while temporarily without a vehicle
Not all Californians who don’t own a car need non-owner insurance. It’s probably not for you if: 
  • You frequently borrow a household member’s car: Insurers typically won’t allow you to purchase a non-owner policy if you drive a car owned by a household member. Instead, ask to be listed on their policy as a named driver. 
  • You sometimes drive a friend’s car: Most of the time, driving a car you don’t own is covered by what’s called “permissive use”: as long as you had the owner’s permission to drive the vehicle, their policy will cover you while you drive. 
  • You rent cars a few times a year for vacations and day trips: Unless you’re renting a car at least once a month, you’re better off sticking to the insurance offered by the rental company. 
  • You rely on public transportation, ridesharing services, or a carpool to get around: If you don’t drive regularly, you don’t need liability coverage. 
  • You do not plan to own a car in the future: Maintaining continuous coverage is only important for individuals who plan to insure a car again. 

8 of the top 10 biggest auto insurers in California offer non-owners insurance

When it comes to car insurance companies, bigger isn’t always better—but they can be a great place to start when you’re
comparing car insurance quotes
. Out of the 10 auto insurers with the biggest market share in California, we found 8 that offered non-owners policies:
  1. Allstate
  2. Mercury
  3. USAA
    (only available to veterans and current members of the military and their families)
Need to know: You typically can’t purchase non-owners car insurance from an insurer’s website—you’ll need to call the company or a car insurance broker to speak to an agent.
Note: In California, two of the top 10 largest insurance companies are subsidiaries of AAA, which we only included on the list once.

The average cost of non-owner car insurance in California is under $500

The cost of a non-owner car insurance policy varies depending on your ZIP code, driving record, age, and other factors—but it’s almost always significantly cheaper than a traditional auto policy. 
Most estimates put the cost of non-owner coverage in California between $350 and $500 per year—as much as a 75% decrease compared to standard liability-only coverage! 
Why non-owner car insurance costs less: 
  • Basic coverage only: Unlike
    full coverage
    , which costs California drivers an average of $2,439 per year, non-owner coverage sticks to the basics. The only types of coverage available for a non-owner policy are liability insurance, personal injury protection/medical payments coverage, and underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage. 
  • Low mileage: Even California drivers with a standard liability-only policy pay more than non-owner insurance holders—because car owners are expected to spend more time on the road, increasing the risk of accidents and claims. 
Remember: Car insurance rates are highly individualized. Some drivers will pay more for non-owner car insurance based on their driving history, location, or other factors. 

What non-owner car insurance covers

Non-owner insurance is a liability-only policy, meaning it will only cover damages and medical costs for the other party if you cause an accident. Since the policy isn’t attached to a specific vehicle, you can’t purchase options like collision coverage or comprehensive coverage.
Need to know: Non-owner car insurance will not pay for damage to the car you’re driving or medical costs for yourself or your passengers. If another driver was at fault, their liability insurance could cover those costs—or, if the car’s owner carries full coverage car insurance, their policy will deal with damage to their own vehicle. 

A supplemental policy pays out after the primary coverage limits are met

Whether you’re driving a rented car or a borrowed one, it should already be covered by a standard auto insurance policy—either the vehicle owner’s personal insurance policy or
rental car insurance
. If you get into an accident, that primary policy will pay out first. 
But if that coverage is exhausted, you could still be found responsible for the remaining damages. Even an accident with an older vehicle could leave you owing thousands of dollars in repair bills, not to mention medical bills if anyone in the accident was injured.
If you have non-owner insurance, it will pay up to your policy limits (usually the state minimum insurance requirements) for any vehicle damages or medical bills left over after the primary policy pays out. 
  • $15,000 in bodily injury liability per person
  • $30,000 in bodily injury liability per accident
  • $5,000 in property damage liability 
Let’s check out an example:
Say you borrowed your aunt’s car to pick up groceries. You accidentally rear-end another car at a stoplight, causing frame damage that leads to the other car being declared a total loss.
If your aunt only has California’s minimum liability insurance, her policy would pay $5,000 for the property damage to the other car and up to $15,000 in medical bills for each person in the other vehicle who was injured (with a cap of $30,000 in medical bills for the accident).
If you have a non-owner policy with California’s minimum liability limits, it would pay for the remaining property damage and medical bills up to the same amount.
Even as a supplemental policy, choosing the minimum coverage could leave you owing out of pocket. We recommend raising the coverage limits on your non-owner policy—it usually only costs a few dollars more a month but it could make a world of difference if you cause an accident.
Note: Like most liability-only policies, non-owner auto insurance doesn’t require a deductible.

Non-owner insurance could help you get your driver’s license back

If you’re required to file a
California SR-22 certificate
but don’t have your own car, you can purchase a non-owner policy and have your insurer file the SR-22 form on your behalf. But since not all insurance providers offer both non-owner policies and SR-22s, be sure to speak with an insurance agent before you buy a policy to make sure it will fit your needs.
The state of California requires an SR-22 for high-risk drivers whose license has been suspended for the following serious traffic violations: 
  • Wet reckless—a no-contest plea to a DUI in return for a lesser charge
  • Negligent operator—receiving too many points on your driving record in a certain period
You must be able to provide proof of insurance coverage if you have an SR-22 requirement—otherwise, you could face additional fines and penalties, and you’ll have to restart your SR-22 period. If you don’t have a vehicle, a non-owner SR-22 insurance policy can help you stay compliant.
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FAQs

Non-owned car insurance is a type of business insurance. It covers employees who occasionally drive their personal vehicles for work—their standard auto insurance may not cover them if they’re driving for business purposes.
Typically, you need to be listed on the vehicle’s title to take out an insurance policy on it. If you drive the vehicle frequently, ask the owner about adding you as a co-owner on the title.
You generally need to own a car to purchase an insurance policy. If someone else frequently drives your vehicle, you can add them as a named driver on your policy.
Usually, yes. As long as you have the vehicle owner’s permission, you should be covered when you borrow someone’s car—as long as you’re not listed as an excluded driver on their insurance policy.
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