Rachael Brennan has been working in the insurance industry since 2006 when she began working as a licensed insurance representative for 21st Century Insurance, during which time she earned her Property and Casualty license in all 50 states. After several years she expanded her insurance expertise, earning her license in Health and AD&D insurance as well. She has worked for small health insuran...

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Chris Harrigan has an economic degree from Limestone College and an MBA from Clemson University. He previously managed auto insurance claims for Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Currently, he is using his business and insurance expertise to provide insurance data analysis and visualizations to enhance the user experience.

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Reviewed by Chris Harrigan
Former Auto Insurance Claims Manager Chris Harrigan

UPDATED: Nov 3, 2020

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Key takeaways...

  • If you volunteer for a non-profit agency and you’re driving your vehicle, make sure you have sufficient insurance
  • Even when you’re volunteering, your car insurance on your car will be considered primary if you have a claim
  • If you exhaust your liability limits, it’s possible that the claimant could go after the non-profit agency to collect
  • The agency will have its own auto and general liability policies that protect the agency and not its volunteers
  • Don’t be confused by volunteer immunity laws when there are available liability limits; these laws may not apply

It takes a special and kind-hearted person to spend their time giving back to populations that are in need. If you believe that being charitable is the way that you can make a difference, you should take the time to find the right agency, the right cause, and the right project.

Then, after you’ve settled on a charitable organization, you can’t forget to ask how your auto insurance will work.

The last thing you want to do as a volunteer is to make yourself vulnerable to financial loss. That’s exactly what you could be doing if you’re driving your personal vehicle and you don’t have enough auto insurance.

Compare car insurance options today to find the best rate for the coverage you desire.

Before you ever assume that the organization has coverage that protects you as a volunteer, here’s what you need to know:

What is vehicle usage and why does it matter?

Insurance companies might not monitor your usage day in and day out but you’re still expected to disclose your driving habits. When you’re first applying for a policy, you’re going to have to choose a vehicle usage classification.

The three usage classes that are used for personal auto insurance are:

  • Pleasure use a vehicle used for recreation or to run errands
  • Commute use a vehicle used to drive to and from work or school
  • Business use a vehicle used to drive to multiple locations for business endeavors that aren’t excluded

You might not think it’s relevant that you frequently commute or that you drive around town strictly to run errands, but the insurance company has found that some driving habits are riskier than others.

If you’re a commuter or you drive around for business, you’re exposed to more potential loss as you drive in more hectic environments. Since more exposure equates to more risk, these drivers pay more for coverage.

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Can you drive your personal vehicle as a volunteer?

If you look at the basic descriptions of usage classifications, it might be difficult to place your usage into the right class. After all, you’re not getting paid to volunteer but volunteering also isn’t classified as recreation.

That’s when you have to dig a little deeper to determine how you’ll have to classify your usage.

If you occasionally volunteer and you’re driving to a non-profit office or a shelter, you probably won’t be considered a commuter because you’re not getting paid.

For volunteers who commit 30 to 40 hours a week to giving back, it works a bit differently. Frequent trips may then be classified as a commute.

It’s also possible that an insurance carrier could charge you a business rate just for volunteering your time to seniors, children, and students.

It might not seem fair since you’re not earning any type of salary, but when you transport clients that the charitable organization works with, in your car, you could fall into a business rate class because of how risky transporting clients can be.

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What happens if you don’t classify your vehicle right?

You could simply say that you run errands in your car and receive the lowest risk rate, but if you’re intentionally misleading the carrier, the carrier could drop you or even deny your claims.

You need to be upfront with your agent when you apply for insurance or when your lifestyle changes. One way to avoid having to pay increased rates for usage is to choose a project where you only drive to one location to volunteer.

Does the agency cover you while you’re driving your car?

You shouldn’t just assume that doing a good act for the agency means that the agency is prepared to cover your losses if you get into an accident while you’re volunteering.

Before you take on your first project, sit down with someone who represents the organization to discuss insurance and risks.

It’s possible that the organization will ask you to provide proof of insurance before you’ll be assigned any work. You might even be asked to show you have a minimum amount of insurance to better protect the organization from claims.

Even if proof is required, the carrier should have some form of non-owner auto liability insurance.

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Is your auto insurance primary or secondary while you’re on a project?

When you’re driving your personal car and you have it classified correctly, your personal car insurance will act as the primary policy if you have an accident.

You’ll always make claims against your own policy for physical damage coverage to your car, but it gets a little sticky when it comes to third-party liability coverage.

What is non-owned auto coverage?

Non-owned auto liability coverage is a business type of coverage that’ll protect the charitable organization.

If you exhaust all of your limits of liability, it’s possible that the claimant could try and hold the organization responsible for the rest of the damages so most agencies that need volunteers have special coverage.

What are immunity laws and do they apply to you?

There are special acts and laws that help to protect volunteer organizations and Good Samaritans. The Volunteer Protect Act is a federal act that grants immunity to non-compensated volunteers who are negligent and harm someone in the scope of their duties.

Good Samaritan laws are applied differently state by state.

These protections can get very complicated because it can be applied in several different ways. You’ll have to research the laws and get familiar but you should be aware that most of the time the protections don’t apply until after your liability limits are exhausted.

Don’t let your charitable nature put you at risk financially. Make sure to spot the gaps that are present in your existing auto insurance policy.

Once you decide how much coverage is reasonable, start to shop around for an affordable plan. Use our online rate quote tool to do comparisons and you can get the best value.