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 19, 2021

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Key takeaways...

  • When you buy an auto insurance policy, you’re entering into a contract with an auto insurance company
  • The contract says that the carrier will indemnify you against auto-related loss in exchange for premiums
  • When your insurance policy is in your name, you’re classified as the named insured or the policyholder
  • The policyholder is the individual who has an insurable interest in the car and who is listed on the registration
  • Only the policyholder can make changes and get information on the policy when they call the insurance company

You can’t go to your local market or retail store to pick up an insurance policy when you need it. Auto insurance isn’t a tangible good that’s found on store shelves. It’s a personalized financial contract.

In order to buy an auto policy, you have to provide your personal information and then find a policy that you qualify for based on the underwriting guidelines that have been set. The price is different for everyone. The same policy can even be a different price when you go to a different carrier. It’s all about how their underwriters look at your risk profile.

Since insurance is a contract, you’re not just classified as a customer when you enter into the contract.

While you do fit the definition of a customer, insurance companies also classify their customers as policyholders.

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What does it mean when you’re a policyholder?


In the broadest sense, a policyholder is an individual, a group of individuals, or an organization who holds an insurance policy through a specific carrier. Some companies will say that the policy is written in the policyholder’s name.

Other carriers classify the policyholder and the named insured or insureds that are found on the declarations page of the policy. In order to collect on any insurance policy, you have to have an insurable interest on the property you’re insuring. In other words, you cannot insure your brother’s car, crash it, and then take the money. The liability coverage associated with auto insurance is a little different in that it’s covering the damage you might do to other parties who are driving near you. It’s typically the cheapest part of a policy an insurance agent sells you.

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How Can You Tell Who The Policyholder Is on An Insurance Policy?


All of the insurance documents printed up will have the policyholder’s name on them. These documents include the mailers, the declarations page, the invoices, the auto ID cards, and any other verification papers you receive.

All of the documents are in the policyholder’s name because it’s the policy holder who entered into the contract with the insurance provider.

When you shop for insurance, it might not seem like it, but you’re getting quotes to see how much it will cost you to enter into an indemnity contract. An indemnity contract means the company will protect you against financial loss as long as you’re paying your premiums that you’ve agreed to.

Since it’s the policyholder who must apply for the coverage, they are the owner of the policy.

If you have a life insurance policy, it’s a little different. The person being insured is not necessarily the beneficiary as you’d normally expect. The policyholder generally carries and pays for the policyholder which then pays out to designated beneficiaries upon their death.

How Do Insurance Carriers Know If You Have An Insurable Interest on Your Car?

The name on the policy has to match the name on the vehicle registration if you want to be sure that you’re complying with state law and protect your car. While you may initially sign up for a policy on a car that isn’t yours, you may have trouble actually collecting if you’re in an accident. Insurance is meant to restore the policy holder financially. It’s not meant to make you richer.

To prevent any issues, the carrier will require that you have an insurable interest in the car to be a policyholder. This is different than the insurance you might add to your rental car contract. It covers your liability, not your property.

Technically, having an insurable interest means that you stand to lose money if something were to happen in a vehicle. In other words, you could lose your assets if you damaged someone else’s property, or you could lose money if your own car is damaged.

When it comes to insuring a car, you must be the registered owner of the car.

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The Policyholder is Responsible for Making On-time Payments

The only way to keep your auto insurance policy active is to pay the premiums that are due on time.

In the main insuring agreement, it says that the insurer only agrees to pay for your losses when you pay your premiums. It’s no other person’s duty but the policyholder’s to make the payments agreed upon.

Policyholders Can File Claims for Benefits


It’s the policyholder who’s buying the policy so they can file a claim for benefits when an accident happens. Not just anyone can file a claim and expect the check to be cut to them, even if that person is a listed driver on the policy.

When you’re getting a payment for first-party benefits like comprehensive, collision, or medical payments, the settlement check will be in the names of the policyholders.

Is the policyholder the same thing as the driver?


The terms “policyholder” and “driver” refer to two different things in the insurance world. The policyholder owns the contract, owns the property insured, and has a duty to pay the premiums. The driver, on the other hand, is someone who is listed to drive on the policy.

The driver can affect the premiums, but they don’t have a say in how the car is covered.

Most of the time, high-risk drivers will have a dramatic effect on your insurance rates when you’re getting preferred rates. Policyholders are almost always drivers, but many rated drivers aren’t policyholders.

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Only the Policyholder is Authorized to Make Changes to the Policy

If you’re buying a new car, adding coverage to an existing car, deleting a car, or changing your address, you have to be a policyholder to make changes. If changes need to be made and you aren’t authorized to do so, the policyholder will have to request it.

As you can see, it’s important to understand what the term policyholder means when you’re buying auto insurance.

When you’re shopping around, you should always select sufficient coverage that you can afford to maintain.

Get instant quotes online, provide your personal information, and choose the most reputable insurance carrier!


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