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: Aug 11, 2021

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Key takeaways...

  • Some policies will cover occasional drivers
  • Adult children living in the house may already be listed drivers on the policy
  • You can be held liable for accidents caused by someone else who is driving your car with your permission

As the owner of a car, you’re able to make decisions regarding your car’s maintenance, how it’s used, and if it will be loaned out to other people.

You may be more than happy to loan your car to your adult child, but you should be aware of how you’ll be affected if your child is involved in an accident while driving your car.

Enter your zip code into our comparison tool above to find the insurance that’s right for you.

Vicarious Liability and How it Applies to Owners


“Vicarious liability” means that the owner of a car is responsible for the ways that the car is used even when someone else is driving.

Simply put, you can be held responsible for the accident caused by anyone you loan your car to, including adult children. The liability risks can increase in certain situations. These situations include:

  • When an employee uses an employer’s car for business purposes
  • If you loan the car to someone whom you know is incompetent, reckless, or unlicensed
  • If you agree to loan out your car knowing that it is defective or unsafe to drive

If you believe your child to be competent and a safe driver, then you may be able to confidently loan your car to your adult child. However, you should still check the fine print on your auto policy to be sure that it will cover the occasional driver.

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Check the Policy for Coverage on Occasional Drivers

Many policies cover two different types of drivers. They provide protection to the listed drivers, and they also cover people who get behind the wheel of your car occasionally.

In general, the people who live in the household will be specifically named on the policy. Occasional drivers are those who do not have regular access to the car but may drive it once in a while.

This would include adult children who live across the state and come to visit once in a while. These people who are given your permission to drive the car on occasion should be covered by your policy.

One of the keys is that you must give permission for the person to drive your vehicle.

This permission can be written, verbal, or just implied. The temporary driver is only covered up to your policy limits, but your policy would provide him or her with the same protections that are granted to the listed drivers.

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Auto Insurance May Go With Car or Driver

There are many confusing aspects of auto insurance that can leave you unsure about coverage. Some people believe that a policy follows the driver, and others will say that it only applies to the car. The truth is actually a little of both.

Liability insurance stays with the driver. This means that your insurance will cover your liabilities if you get in an accident while driving your mother’s car. However, your liability insurance may not extend to a commercial vehicle that you borrow.

Comprehensive and collision insurance, however, are specific to the car and stay with the car. If you loan out your car and the temporary driver gets into an accident, then the damage to your car will still be covered.

However, any coverages for personal injuries may not be extended to the occasional driver.

If you occasionally loan your car out to friends and family, then you may want to ask your agent how an accident would be handled if your car is driven by someone else.

A general rule of thumb is that immediate family members are covered by the policy.

Friends who borrow the car with permission may or may not be covered depending on the policy limitations.

Parents who routinely loan their car out to adult children should make sure that they have the right coverages in place. If the insurance company states that coverage will not extend out to occasional drivers, then it may be necessary to shop around for a different plan.

It may be possible to save on rates while finding an insurance company that will extend protection to anyone who has permission to drive your car.

How the Law Views Owners and Liability Issues


In the eyes of the law, you may be responsible for damages caused by your car, regardless of whom is behind the wheel.

If you loan your car out to an adult child who no longer shares your address, there are a couple of different things that can happen if they cause an accident.

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Two Insurance Systems are in Play and in Effect

In the first scenario, your daughter has her own liability insurance and you also have liability insurance. Your insurance plan will cover the damages up to the stated policy limits. If the damage exceeds those limits, then the drivers’ policy may kick in to cover the difference.

The Other Driver Covers the Liability Portion

Some insurance plans won’t cover occasional drivers, but liability insurance typically follows the driver. In this case, the damage to another car would be covered by your child’s insurance plan.

However, damage to your own car may not be covered under collision and comprehensive depending on how your plan is written. This is why it’s a good idea to have an open conversation with your agent before you agree to loan out your car to anyone not living in the household.

The Occasional Driver is Uninsured

If the occasional driver does not have any insurance, then the full liability will be yours. In some cases, the policy will cover damages up to the plan limits, but you’ll have to take caution of any shortfalls between what is owed and what your limits are.

If your policy does not allow for occasional drivers, then you’ll have to pay for the damages entirely out of your own pocket. This is because the courts may extend any liabilities to you since you are the owner of the car.

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Non-Owner Insurance: A Smart Option


You don’t have to own a car to get insured. Companies are now offering coverage specifically for licensed drivers who borrow cars from their parents, friends, and other family members. It’s an economical solution to a serious problem.

This type of coverage will cover damage to other cars and injuries to other people in the event that you cause an accident. What it won’t cover is the damage to the car you’re driving and your own injuries.

However, it can provide your mother with peace of mind if you tend to use her car for quick errands. It’s the top choice for:

  • People who frequently rent cars and want to save money on car rental insurance fees
  • Drivers who are part of a car-sharing service
  • Anyone who borrows cars on a regular basis

As with most insurance plans, you can save by shopping around with different companies. It’s possible to save on premiums by using a comparison site.

You can also search for better premiums if you have a clean driving record. In general, you can expect the premiums to be about 50 percent of traditional insurance.

Before you loan out your car again, make a call to your insurance company for an open conversation. You may not have thought to ask about occasional driver coverage before, but your representative can check the policy and tell you where you stand.

If you’re not pleased with your current options, then you can shop around for a plan that will better suit your needs. Start shopping right now by entering your zip code below.