Am I covered if I borrow someone's car?

Justin Stoltzfus

For some drivers, the idea of getting behind the wheel of someone else's car is inherently stressful. For one thing, a new car takes some getting used to. Then there's the thorny question of what happens if you crash it. Will the owner's auto insurance cover you? Turns out, it may or may not -- depending on a variety of factors.

Whether the accident is covered when you're borrowing someone's wheels hinges on how long you're borrowing the car, how much you drive it and what you're using it for, according to Progressive.

If you borrow a car for brief errands with the owner's permission, you'll generally be covered under the owner's auto insurance. But those who have long-term arrangements to borrow a car regularly should be added to the owner's policy, according to Progressive. If you live with your parents, they should add you as an additional driver on your family's policy.

Even though you can borrow friends' and family members' cars with permission, a claim could turn out quite differently if their insurance company finds out the car was being used for conducting any kind of business. If you use your parents' car to deliver pizzas, for example, accidents would not be covered because personal auto insurance policies do not cover business activities, according to Progressive.

Coverage for driving a borrowed vehicle also varies by state. Progressive recommends that drivers take a look at the "definitions" section of the paperwork and look for the definition of an "insured person" for additional details on coverage, or find a description of a "permissive driver" situation where a non-owning driver might be covered.

If you're taking your parents' car with you when you move away from home, there's an additional requirement. You would need to change your status on their policy from a "covered driver" to a "principal operator" to accurately represent yourself as the person driving that vehicle regularly. According to Allstate, an insurer will consider you a principal operator if you regularly drive the vehicle to work or school, or drive it more than anyone else in the household.

The next time you're borrowing a set of car keys from a family member, friend, neighbor or anyone else willing to part with his or her vehicle, look into the details of the owner's auto insurance policy to make sure you're prepared for the costs of an accident.

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