Zaneta Wood, Ed.S. has over 15 years of experience in research and technical writing bringing a keen understanding of data analysis and information synthesis to reach a wide variety of audiences. She studied adult education and instructional technology at Appalachian State University as well as technical and professional communication at East Carolina University. Zaneta has prepared technical p...

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Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products including home, life, auto, and commercial and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs. She has since used that knowledge in her more than ten years as a writer, largely in the insurance...

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Reviewed by Leslie Kasperowicz
Farmers Insurance CSR 4 Years

UPDATED: Jan 3, 2016

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Here's what you need to know...

  • Personal auto insurance policies may provide coverage to unlisted drivers when they’re driving the vehicle for a short period of time
  • Unlisted drivers who are afforded coverage are referred to as permissive users
  • When someone who fits this definition is driving the vehicle, both physical damage and liability coverage will extend if there is a claim
  • In order to be eligible for permissive user status, the driver can’t live in the household or have regular access to the vehicle
  • Since most companies will not classify a child of the policyholder as a permissive user, you’ll need your own insurance or to be listed on the policy to have coverage driving your parent’s car

Before you ever get behind the wheel of a vehicle, you need to be sure that you’re insured to drive it. This is true when you’re driving cars registered in your own name and cars that you’re borrowing registered to someone else. Unfortunately, when you’re getting behind the wheel of a vehicle that’s owned and insured by your parents, the last thing that might come to mind is whether or not you’re covered. Start comparing car insurance rates now by using our FREE tool above!

Many people don’t even learn that there could be coverage issues until it’s time to file a claim and have it investigated. If you want to avoid making expensive mistakes, read on and find out why it’s risky to drive your parent’s car when you don’t have insurance.

Vehicle Owners Are Required By Law to Carry Insurance

If you’re licensed to drive, you need to know that every state requires vehicle owners to be financially responsible for the damages that they cause while they’re operating a vehicle that they own. This is why almost all states have some sort of legislature that makes auto insurance mandatory. The most common minimum coverage requirements set by the state include:

  • Bodily Injury:

Covers the cost to treat third-party injuries. Will also pay if someone is killed in an accident caused by the insured.

  • Property Damage:

Covers the cost to repair property that’s owned by a third party. Property may include vehicles, fences, homes, sheds, light posts, trees and more.

As far as mandatory auto insurance laws are concerned, it’s the vehicle owner’s job to comply.

Owners are the ones who are responsible for any damage that happens behind the wheel of the vehicle registered in their name. Even when other licensed drivers are operating the car, it’s the owner who will be penalized or fined if it’s discovered that their car isn’t insured.

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Does car insurance follow the car or the driver?

You now know that it’s the owner’s responsibility to carry insurance, but there’s also a widespread debate concerning whether car insurance follows the car or the driver. It might sound like a straightforward question, but in the insurance industry, it’s a question posed that gets anything but a straightforward answer. Who or what car insurance follows depends on the situation, the coverage type and who’s driving.

Does liability insurance follow the car or driver?

In most cases, liability coverage will follow the driver rather than the vehicle. This means that anyone listed on the policy will have liability protection when they’re driving their own cars or when they’re borrowing another vehicle that fits the ‘temporary substitute’ definition of a covered auto.

How Liability Coverage Works for Unlisted Drivers

While liability insurance covers the driver, it’s possible for liability coverage to kick in when other drivers that aren’t listed on the policy are driving the insured vehicle. This happens when a permissive user is driving the vehicle who doesn’t necessarily need to be listed.

The purpose for extending liability when permissive users are driving is to protect the named insured’s assets if victims from the accident decided to pursue litigation. Unfortunately, children of the policyholder typically don’t fit the permissive user classification.

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What is a permissive user and who fits the definition?

You’ll need to learn exactly who can be given a permissive user status after a claim before you drive your parent’s car. This is because there are several restrictions to prevent people from purposely hiding drivers that live in their home.

A permissive user is someone who’s been given express permission to drive the vehicle by the vehicle owner but who’s not listed as a driver on the policy.

While this is a broad definition, there are very specific restrictions so that people don’t take advantage of insurers. You should ask your insurer directly what limitations exist. Some of the restrictions that you should know about include:

  • Permissive users can’t be household members
  • All users must have a valid license to drive
  • Permissive users can’t have regular access to the vehicle
  • Users under the age of 25 may not receive physical damage coverage
  • Some insurers will exclude immediate family members even when they live elsewhere

How does physical damage insurance extend to an unlisted driver?

Comprehensive and collision coverage, if it’s carried on a vehicle, will follow the vehicle that it’s covered on. These coverage options specifically pay to repair damage to the covered vehicle when a loss occurs. Comprehensive claims aren’t so much an issue when an unlisted driver is borrowing a car, but collision claims are.

For collision claims to be paid, the operator must have permission to drive.

Unfortunately, the lines get very blurred as to who’s insured under the policy and who’s not. Many times, the definition of an ‘insured’ is a spouse or child, but some companies won’t extend coverage unless these individuals are listed. If a claims adjuster feels like you purposely didn’t add your adult child to the policy, a claim for damages could be immediately denied.

How will your insurance cover you when you borrow your parent’s car?

The solution to avoid problems is to carry your own insurance. If you own your own car, you’ll be happy to learn that your liability coverage will follow and protect you as you drive your parent’s vehicle. In fact, your policy will pay first and then your parent’s insurance may pay off the excess if you cause damages. If you carry physical damage and you’re borrowing the car for a valid reason, it’s even possible that your policy will pay for the damage to the borrowed car.

If you don’t have insurance, it’s important to buy insurance before visiting your parents. Be sure to compare prices first. Use an online rate comparison tool so that you can find the best premiums and bind coverage to avoid claims issues. Start comparing car insurance rates now by entering your zip code in our FREE tool below!