Does Full-Coverage Auto Insurance Insure Any Car I Drive?

Auto policys are attached to cars, not drivers.

Auto policys are attached to cars, not drivers.

The phrase “full-coverage policy” has a nice ring to it, and a way of soothing your nerves. And why not? There’s something calming about that fact that no matter what sort of catastrophe befalls your car, you can count on your insurance company to make things right. While that’s great when you’re behind the wheel of your car, that super-sized amount of coverage doesn’t transfer when you’re driving someone else’s ride.

Coverage Attached to Car

Although your age, sex and motor vehicle record influences your insurance rates, the price you pay is to insure your car, no matter who drives it. Insurance companies just assume you’ll be the one in the driver’s seat -- or if it’s a shared vehicle, the other driver on the policy -- the lion’s share of the time. Unless you specifically exclude a driver from your coverage, your policy handles whatever happens to your car. So if you’ve had a few drinks too many and your boyfriend drives you home and crashes into a brand-new Jaguar in the process, it’s your policy that will shell out for repairs.

In Others' Cars

The good news? If you need to hop behind the wheel and drive someone else’s car, you’re covered by their insurance. The bad news? Your coverage level hinges upon what he pays for. So if you’re driving your boyfriend’s car home from the garage for him and plow into that expensive import roadster, your boyfriend’s cheap, minimum-liability policy might not cover all the work needed on the other car. Depending on your policy, your insurance may pick up the excess, including your beau’s deductible, or you may be stuck footing the bill yourself.

Vicitms of Accidents

If you’re a super careful driver, most of this may be academic. If you’re driving someone else’s car and are in a wreck that isn’t your fault, say a hot-rodding teenager runs a red light and T-bones your boyfriend’s car while you’re driving, rest easy. While you’ll have to handle the post-accident rigmarole of exchanging insurance information, your insurance company will get in touch with the at-fault driver’s company and make it cover the costs of any repair work on the car.

Permission to Drive

The owner’s auto policy only extends to people who have permission to drive the car. So, if you’re joyriding in a roommate’s new sports coupe while she’s at the office and wrap it around a telephone pole, your full-coverage policy may kick in. While it’s generally assumed most people who know the owner of the car have permission to drive it, if the car’s owner can make a claim that you helped yourself to the car without getting the A-OK from her, your insurance will step up. Expect a higher premium as well as a lot of apologies to your friend.

About the Author

Wilhelm Schnotz has worked as a freelance writer since 1998, covering arts and entertainment, culture and financial stories for a variety of consumer publications. His work has appeared in dozens of print titles, including "TV Guide" and "The Dallas Observer." Schnotz holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Colorado State University.

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