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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UPDATED: Sep 24, 2021

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Important facts to know...

  • Insurance requirements are set by state officials and not by a national body so every state has different rules
  • In almost all states, it’s the vehicle owner’s responsibility to buy insurance on a vehicle registered in their name
  • When you drive a car that has insurance and you’re not on the policy, it’s possible that the coverage will extend
  • Coverage extends to someone who’s borrowing a car as long as they’re licensed and don’t drive the car regularly
  • If you don’t have a car or you don’t have insurance, you can file a claim under the primary policy after a loss

All cars need to be insured. Whether or not they are insured depends on the vehicle owner and if they comply with mandatory state laws.

Typically, states require vehicle owners to buy insurance when they acquire a vehicle, show proof of insurance when they register the vehicle, and maintain the coverage on the vehicle for as long as it’s licensed.

Mandatory insurance laws aren’t laws that can easily be dodged.

What can get confusing is that licensed cars need to have insurance not licensed drivers.

If a driver doesn’t own a vehicle, they can legally get behind the wheel without carrying insurance in their own name.

If you’d like to know if you can drive an insured car without your own insurance, here’s a guide to help.

If you’d also like to know the best insurance rates out there, start comparison shopping today by entering your ZIP code above!

What type of insurance is required?

Auto insurance laws are written into the state’s vehicle code.

Being in the state’s vehicle code is why the actual coverage requirements, the mandatory coverage minimums, and the penalties for driving without insurance all vary by state.

Unlike some other laws that are passed and enforced at a Federal level, it’s the state department’s job to settle on limits and requirements.

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Where do you find out what’s required in your state?

You can easily look up the state’s auto insurance requirements by visiting your motor vehicle agency’s website or by visiting the state’s site. Either one directs you to the Department of Insurance.

In most states, when insurance is mandatory, all drivers must have Bodily Injury Liability and Property Damage Liability at a minimum.

Look up the state-by-state requirements so you’re familiar with the law.

Who is required to have insurance?

The mandatory coverage requirements won’t change from household to household. The laws need to be followed in the state that the vehicle is registered in and not the state that the vehicle might be currently parked in.

Following the state laws in which you are registered is a fact all vehicle owners should know when they’re shopping for coverage.

If a vehicle is registered, that means that the car has been licensed and tagged to be operated on public roads.

The vehicle owner is paying the taxes to use public roads and maintain them. They are also agreeing that they will keep their cars well maintained so that they aren’t a hazard to others.

All private passenger motor vehicles must be licensed to be driven, parked, or even towed on a public street. Since these cars can pose a safety hazard to others, they have to be insured for the registration to remain valid.

Licensed drivers can maintain their licensing status without having their own insurance but vehicle owners must carry insurance on a vehicle to avoid having their registration suspended.

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Who is penalized when a car doesn’t have insurance?

It’s always the vehicle owner’s job to insure the vehicle.

If an accident were to happen, no matter who was driving the car, the person or people who were injured in the accident could file suit against the car owner who’s liable for damages.

The injured party may also seek compensation for damages from the driver if the owner didn’t have insurance.

Since it’s the registered owner who’s held liable for damages, it’s the owner who’s penalized whenever the car isn’t insured. The owner could be cited for failing to carry insurance, but that’s not the only penalty to worry about.

Here are some of the other common penalties that vehicle owners face:

  • Mandatory court appears and fines
  • Mandatory community service
  • Vehicle impoundment for 30, 60, or 90 days
  • Registration suspension
  • Reinstatement fees
  • Loss of license for multiple offenses
  • SR-22 requirements
  • High insurance premiums

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What happens if you borrow a car that’s insured?

If you’re borrowing a vehicle from a friend or a relative that you’re visiting, you need to know how their insurance will work. Whenever you’re driving a car, even if you’re not a driver on the car’s policy, the owner’s insurance is considered primary.

You should always be rated as a driver on a policy when you drive the car often.

If you just happen to be borrowing the car for a week or you use it once every other month, however, rating you as a driver isn’t necessary.

In this scenario, you’ll be covered as a permissive user. To be covered as a permissive user, the following criteria must be met:

  • The driver has to be licensed
  • The driver must be 25 or older and experienced
  • The driver can’t have serious convictions on their record
  • The driver can’t live in the same household as the insured
  • The driver can’t be excluded from the insured’s policy
  • The driver can’t own the vehicle that’s being driven

Can you be sued if you’re in an accident without your own insurance?

If your friend lends you their car, it’s nice to know that you’ll be covered just like you’re a rated driver on the policy.

Even though most insurers will extend coverage to pay for claims that you’re responsible for, there’s always a chance that the claim could be denied.

If the primary insurer denies the claim, the next step for the victim is to try to collect from you, the driver.

If you don’t own a car and you don’t have non-owner’s car insurance, you’ll be left fighting in court on your own without a company to help you. It’s not common, but it could happen.

You need to have insurance whenever you’re going to drive a car. If you don’t have a policy in place, try to get quotes for standard or specialty coverage right now.

Compare the quotes instantly in a matter of minutes and you can secure coverage that will turn you into a responsible, insured driver.

Start comparison shopping today with our FREE online quote tool! Enter your ZIP code below to get started!