how does insurance work when you're driving someone else's car?
August 12, 2018 10:33 AM   Subscribe

I'm going to be borrowing a car from a relative for a few days while they are out of town. They have ample insurance on it. I have none because I don't own a car. What happens if I hit someone/something or they hit me? Or it's stolen? Is there a way to get insurance for myself for only 4 days?

I have a valid license and a clean accident record for 20+ years. All of my driving will be short trips in very familiar areas; probably less than 100 miles total. I use Zipcar somewhat frequently but I buy insurance through them (the most they offer).

Last time I borrowed this car, it didn't cross my mind that I might need insurance, but since then I was in a wreck with a rental. Though it was ultimately not my fault, there was some panic involved because I mistakenly hadn't bought liability insurance, only collision.

If I should get insurance for myself, what kind? I'm on a very tight budget but the owner would cover a deductible in an emergency. I would absolutely prefer to use the owner's address (where I will be housesitting) rather than my own because the premium will be much lower based on zip code. The car itself is a base-level ugly 2013 Camry.
posted by AFABulous to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Your relative can call their car insurance provider and add you to the policy as an additional insured for the days you'll be using the car. I've had my dad do it for me when I've visited and needed to drive his car. There was no additional charge, but don't know if that's specific to his insurance company or generalizable.
posted by snaw at 10:55 AM on August 12, 2018 [4 favorites]

The answer likely depends on the location. Here in Oregon we insure vehicles, not specific drivers, so the coverage extends to any authorized driver of the vehicle.
posted by uncaken at 10:56 AM on August 12, 2018

But in California insurance follows the driver, not the car. Which is just to say you need to check how it works where you live.

The insured can get you added to the policy, or you could take out your own insurance. I think USAA offers auto insurance for situations like yours, they're a credit union that also offers insurance. I'm not sure who else might offer such a thing. But it really depends on how insurance works in your jurisdiction.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 11:17 AM on August 12, 2018

This is in Wisconsin.
posted by AFABulous at 11:23 AM on August 12, 2018

Some insurance companies will offer "name insured not owner" policies, which are insurance policies for the driver specifically, not the vehicle. Those are for people who need insurance while driving but aren't the registered owner. Since it's only 4 days that you need coverage, I would recommend your relative calling their insurance company and adding you as a driver (this may cause a premium increase or decrease, depending on a variety of factors like your driving history and how many drivers/vehicles are on the policy, etc. If your relative is worried about a premium increase, I think it's more likely their insurance premium will decrease because of your great accident record & their policy having a more favorable driver-vehicle ratio).
If you think this kind of situation will happen often, where you're driving someone else's vehicle, you can look into the name insured not owner type policies as well, which I believe should also cover you for Zipcar. (Of course, ask your insurance provider for specific details about your coverage). I know GEICO has these types of policies, and I'm sure other insurance companies have something similar.
posted by devrim at 11:42 AM on August 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

Non-owner car insurance is a thing in most places - not every insurance company offers it but a lot do. That said, it generally costs a few $100 a year (a little less than liability-only insurance for car owners). If you're renting and borrowing cars on a regular basis, it might be worth it.

That said, based on this document from the WI Office of the Commissioner of Insurance, it sounds like you will probably be OK in this particular car-borrowing case, assuming your relative has insurance with appropriate liability limits (emphases mine):
What is covered under bodily injury liability coverage?

This coverage does not protect you or your vehicle directly. If you cause an accident injuring other people, it protects you from their claims up to the stated amounts for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other losses. It will also usually pay if the accident was caused by a member of your family living with you or a person using your own automobile with your consent. ....

What is covered under property damage liability coverage?

Property damage liability coverage pays for any damage you cause to the property of others up to the stated amount provided by the policy (i.e., a crushed fender, broken glass, or a damaged wall or fence). Your insurance will pay for this damage if you were driving your automobile or if it was being driven by another person with your consent....
That "usually" in the bodily injury liability section is a little troubling, obviously.
posted by mskyle at 11:48 AM on August 12, 2018

But in California insurance follows the driver, not the car.

This is not true. In almost every state, including California, insurance follows the vehicle unless certain people are specifically excluded.

The term you are looking for is "permissive use." Most insurance policies cover permissive use, but there may be lower limits of coverage than for primary drivers. Your relative should just call their insurance company and find out the extent of "permissive use" coverage on their policy. If permissive use coverage is the same as for any household member, then you are good to go. If permissive use coverage is "stepped-down'' then you might consider having your name added to the policy.
posted by JackFlash at 11:54 AM on August 12, 2018 [11 favorites]

Coming back to note that the state minimums for liability in WI are pretty low (e.g. $10,000 for property damage) so make sure your relative's insurance covers more than the state minimum, and/or avoid getting into accidents with cars made after 2010 or so!
posted by mskyle at 11:54 AM on August 12, 2018

Data point:
Georgia. I was unable to drive for a couple weeks due to planned surgery. My older sister came here from out of state to care for me. I called my insurance co (state farm) ahead of time, they wanted her D/L # and DOB. They told me it could result in a premium charge. It didn't.
My sister thought I was over-reacting, she drives a Subaru, I drive a king cab full sized pickup.
The peace of mind was worth it even if it had cost a few sheckles.
posted by rudd135 at 6:52 PM on August 12, 2018

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