Can you drive a car if your name is not on the insurance?

Without properly researching how insurance works, borrowing your friend’s car can turn into a nightmare. If you have been tempted and thought, "the car is insured but not in my name", you need to make sure that you have an automatic coverage extension. Understanding your company's definition of an insured driver can help with determining if you can drive a car if your name is not on the insurance.

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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 insuranc...

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Dan Walker graduated with a BS in Administrative Management in 2005 and has been working in his family’s insurance agency, FCI Agency, for 15 years (BBB A+). He is licensed as an agent to write property and casualty insurance, including home, auto, umbrella, and dwelling fire insurance. He’s also been featured on sites like and Safeco. He reviews content, ensuring that ex...

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Reviewed by Daniel Walker
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Oct 20, 2021

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Things to remember...

  • Auto insurance usually follows the car, but in some cases, it follows the drivers listed on the policy
  • If you’re borrowing a friend’s car, there’s a good chance that you will be covered as a permissive user on the policy even if you’re not a listed driver
  • In order to be eligible for permissive user status, you need to have a valid driver license and you may need to exceed a stated age

If you don’t take the time to research how your insurance works, borrowing a friend’s car can result in disaster. If the car is insured but not in my name, or rather your name, it’s important that you verify that you have coverage in the form of an automatic coverage extension. Once you understand how your company defines an insured driver, you will have a better idea if you can drive a car if your name is not on the insurance.

Even though policyholders are encouraged to add all drivers who have access to their vehicles, it doesn’t mean that solely those listed drivers are covered.

Read on, and learn more about who’s covered to drive an insured car, which of the different types of auto insurance coverage will pay, and how the unlisted driver’s insurance will kick in in the event of a loss.

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Understanding What’s Written in the Personal Auto Policy Contract

A Personal Auto Policy also referred to as a PAP, is a contractual agreement that has loads of terms and conditions. Without a detailed and legally binding policy form, it’d be difficult for insurers to deny claims or for consumers to protect themselves.

This is why every customer will receive a PAP booklet that lays out who’s covered and the conditions they’re agreeing to.

Going over a PAP contract can be very helpful when you’re trying to understand how coverage extends and how it doesn’t. One area that can be especially helpful is the fine print section that defines terms like named insured, listed driver and covered auto.

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What is the company’s definition of an insured?

An insured is defined as the named insured, the additional named insurance, rated drivers, and also drivers who are given permission to drive the covered auto. They are the people that are eligible for the permissive use status.

This is why it’s possible to have listed drivers who don’t drive the covered auto and then also rated drivers that actively drive and are considered when insurers are determining rates.

If you’re unsure about your insurance carrier’s definition, it would be wise to make sure you’re following their guidelines.

Who’s eligible for permissive user status?

Standard auto insurance policies with liability coverage have provisions written into them that will cover permissive users for liability protection with some limitations.

It’s the limitations that you’ll need to learn about before you jump to conclusions and drive a non-owned car. Here are some of the different rules for permissive use:

  • The driver must be given express permission to drive the vehicle in question
  • The driver must have a valid driver license recognized in the United States
  • The driver can’t live in the household with the named insured
  • The driver can’t have regular access to the covered vehicle
  • The driver can’t be a child of the insured

Are there exceptions to the permissive use provision?

While a majority of standard PAP contracts have permissive use provisions written into them, there are always exceptions to every rule.

If the driver who’s borrowing the vehicle in question has already been excluded from the policy under a driver exclusion form, no coverage will extend under any circumstances until that exclusion is removed and the driver is rated.

Another exception to the permissive use rule is when you buy a special auto insurance policy called a named driver policy. Under this type of plan, coverage is only provided to individuals who are specifically named on the policy.

This policy has advantages because premiums tend to be a little lower.

Now that you know about the terms and definitions within insurance contracts, the next step is to learn just who/what insurance follows. There’s no steadfast rule that says insurance must follow the car or the driver on the policy.

Instead, there are different conditions and definitions that are used when a claim is filed to verify if coverage will extend. In most cases, liability insurance will follow the car and whoever has permission to drive it.

So if you’re driving a friend’s car and you’ve been given permission, as long as you meet the permissive user requirements, the coverage will extend to you. The story is a bit different for physical damage losses.

When it comes to comprehensive losses, it’s the car rather than the driver that insurance follows. For collision losses, adjusters will take a close look at the policy. In some instances, even permissive users won’t receive coverage for collision claims.

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How does your own car insurance cover you?

You don’t have to rely solely on the vehicle owner’s policy to cover you. If you have existing insurance, it’s possible that your policy will protect you even when the car isn’t in your name.

Here’s a breakdown of how some coverage options work:

Liability coverage will follow you as a driver when you’re borrowing another vehicle or renting. Your coverage will be primary and the vehicle’s coverage will be secondary as long as you’re driving.

If you carry physical damage and you’re driving the car as a temporary substitute, your physical damage coverage may actually extend to the borrowed car. The vehicle’s insurance should pay first.

Auto insurance can be very confusing, but it’s important that you understand how your coverage works. If you don’t have insurance and you drive often, consider buying a nonowner’s insurance policy.

To find affordable auto insurance, use an online rate comparison tool and then you can select the coverage limits you feel are adequate. Start comparing auto insurance quotes now by entering your ZIP code in our FREE tool below.


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