Does My Car Insurance Stay With My Car or With Me?

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Car insurance primarily follows the car rather than the driver, providing coverage to drivers listed on the auto policy, as well as to others who drive the car with the owner’s permission. However, there are a few instances when coverage would follow the driver, such as when the policyholder is driving a rental car or a brand new car.

Keep reading to find out more about how and when car insurance follows the car or the driver.

Key Takeaways

  • Car insurance generally covers the car and not the driver.
  • In general, an insurance company will cover the vehicle’s owner, licensed drivers in their household and others who drive their car with their permission.
  • Two exceptions for when auto insurance would follow the driver include: The driver recently purchased a new vehicle and has yet to add it to their auto policy or if they’re renting a car.
  • Your insurance won't cover drivers specifically excluded from your policy.
  • Commercial use and unlicensed drivers are generally not covered under personal auto insurance policies either.

When Would Car Insurance Follow the Car?

Generally, your car insurance policy would follow the car by default. It offers protection while you are driving your vehicle and extends this coverage to other licensed household members and those who drive your car with your permission even if you’re not inside the car. This is called permissive use coverage.

Since car insurance follows the car, that means that if a friend borrowing your car gets into a car accident and is liable, your auto policy would be first to cover the damages.

You'll need to check with your insurance company to find out how many times someone can borrow your vehicle before permissive use coverage no longer applies. For example, your car insurance carrier may extend coverage if your friend borrows your truck to pick up a piece of furniture but will likely refuse coverage if they’re using it as their daily commuter for a month.

When Does Car Insuran ce Follow the Driver?

There are two common situations when car insurance would follow the driver: if you’ve rented a rental car and after you’ve purchased a new vehicle. While you're driving a rental car, you auto insurance insurance policy will usually cover you for the same coverage, limits and deductible. The same goes for when you buy a new car, although you will be required to add the new car to your policy within your company’s grace period.

In addition, your insurance may be accessed as secondary coverage if you’ve borrowed somebody else’s vehicle with their permission. For example, say your friend has $15,000 in liability coverage and you’re responsible for a car accident that incurred $20,000 in damages. In this case, your friend’s policy would pay first up to its maximum limits of $15,000 and your policy would pay second, covering the remaining $5,000.

When Doesn’t Car Insurance Follow Your Car?

There are several instances when your car insurance wouldn't apply to a covered vehicle, including when someone drives your car without permission and certain excluded drivers considered high-risk by your carrier.

Excluded Drivers

If there is somebody listed as an excluded driver in your auto policy, that means that your insurance carrier will not cover them if they get into a car accident, even if they drove the car with your permission. Excluded drivers are usually listed because they have a high-risk driving background, such as a history of multiple DUIs and motor vehicle accidents. In this case, the excluded driver would need to buy their own auto policy, usually by purchasing high-risk car insurance from a specialized insurer.

Commercial Use

In general, any commercial use of your car is excluded from coverage. So if you’re driving your vehicle for Uber, Lyft or some other ridesharing service, you’re delivering packages or groceries or you’re transporting inventory for your business, then your insurance carrier will likely deny coverage during these commercial activities. Instead, you’ll need to look into commercial auto insurance if you want coverage.

Unlicensed Drivers

Drivers who are unlicensed and shouldn’t be behind the wheel in the first place will not be covered by your auto insurance.[1] One exception to this rule is if your child recently got a driver’s permit and they’re driving their car with your permission. In this case, you should notify your insurance company about the permit driver and they should be covered if they get into an accident.

Driving Under the Influence

Generally, your car insurance should still cover you in a car accident even if you were driving while under the influence of a substance. That said, you may see cases when an insurance company may try to refuse coverage because the car accident was a result of an illegal activity: driving while impaired. If your insurance claim was denied because you committed a DUI, you may want to consult an attorney to explore your options.[2]

Does My Car Insurance Cover Other Drivers?

If you gave a person express permission and they are not excluded on your car insurance policy, then they should be covered if there is an accident. The person must be licensed, sober, not using the car for commercial use and not listed as an excluded driver in your auto policy. Keep in mind, however, that someone who drives your vehicle regularly even with your permission, may not be covered.

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Do I need insurance if I don’t own a car?

Yes, most states require auto insurance in order to drive. You may need non-owner car insurance if you rent vehicles, use car-sharing services or are required to maintain coverage after a DUI or other serious traffic violation.

Does insurance cover me when I drive someone else's car?

The vehicle owner’s insurance will be primary coverage if you get into a car accident while driving their car with their permission. If your liability costs exceed the limits of their auto policy, then your own auto policy may step in as secondary coverage to cover the remaining costs.

What happens if someone gets into an accident while driving my car?

If someone gets into an accident while driving your car with your permission, your car insurance policy usually serves as the primary coverage for damages. If the losses exceed your policy’s limits, you may be able to have the permitted driver’s auto policy contribute to covering the remaining damages.

Is there secondary and primary coverage for car insurance?

When your friend crashes your car and damages exceed your policy limits, your insurance serves as the primary coverage, while your friend’s insurance acts as secondary, covering additional costs. Conversely, your carrier may pay for the damages upfront and then seek reimbursement from your friend's carrier afterward.

What types of auto insurance should I have?

Liability insurance is the most commonly required type of auto insurance but depending on your state, you may also need medical payments coverage, personal injury protection and/or uninsured motorist insurance. If you’re financing or leasing your car, then comprehensive and collision insurance will be required.


  1. Liberty Mutual. “9 Scenarios Where Your Car Insurance May Not Provide Coverage.” Accessed Feb. 5, 2024.
  2. John Foy & Associates. “Do Insurance Companies Pay For Drunk Driving Accidents?” Accessed Feb. 2, 2024.

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