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 in...

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Written by Rachael Brennan
Licensed Insurance Agent Rachael Brennan

Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Reviewed by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer Jeffrey Johnson

UPDATED: Jun 29, 2022

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In a nutshell...

While you might think that one short trip to the store in someone else’s vehicle isn’t a big deal, it can be when you don’t do your homework.

One thing to focus on is whether or not you’re covered to drive under the car’s policy or under your own.

Understanding when your coverage extends and which type of coverage extends is crucial before you borrow a car or even rent a car.

If you’re not familiar with the terms and conditions of your policy, here’s what you need to know. Enter your zip code above for FREE car insurance quotes today!

Will you be covered by the insurance carried on the vehicle?


When a vehicle owner buys insurance on their car, they are asked to list the drivers in the household that have access to the car.

These are the individuals who will be rated as primary and occasional operators under the policy when the carrier is calculating rates.

If you don’t live in the household with the vehicle owner and you rarely drive the vehicle that you’re borrowing, there’s no need to be listed on the policy.

In fact, a standard insurance policy will extend coverage to other drivers who have permission to drive.

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What is a permissive user?


In the world of insurance, someone who’s covered under an insurance policy when they have permission to drive it is called a permissive user.

Permissive users are people who have been given permission to drive the vehicle even though they’re not listed on the insurance policy.

Here are the classification requirements:

  • The driver must have a valid U.S. driver’s license
  • The driver must be 25 or older
  • The driver can’t have multiple tickets and accidents that disqualify them from being eligible for coverage
  • The driver can’t have regular access to the vehicle
  • The driver can’t live in the same household
  • The driver can’t be specifically excluded from the policy

Unfortunately, the permissive user classification doesn’t always extend to everyone.

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Is the car’s policy considered primary when you file a claim?

If you’re classified as a permissive user, you have peace of mind in knowing that you have at least some coverage if you get into a crash.

The car’s liability insurance will pay for third-party property damage and for medical bills when the driver of the covered auto is at fault for the crash.

If someone sues the driver, the primary policy may or may not pay.

What happens if the primary insurance policy won’t pay?


If you live in the household, have regular access to the vehicle, or you’re excluded from the policy, the primary insurance isn’t obligated to pay.

In fact, it’s quite common for insurance companies to deny claims when a driver is supposed to be listed on the policy and isn’t.

While insurance does follow the car, it can also follow the driver when they are borrowing a non-owned car.

Since you can be sued regardless of the vehicle you’re driving, it’s nice to know that your coverage can protect you against litigation, both founded and unfounded.

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What happens when the primary policy limits run out?

If you are covered as a permissive user and you’re in a severe accident, it’s quite possible that the primary policy limits will be exhausted.

Some limits are exhausted in minor accidents when the owner carries minimum limits of liability.

If the limits do run out, you can file a claim for the remaining damages under your own liability coverage.

Is damage to the vehicle that you’re borrowing covered?


Damage to the vehicle can create even more issues.

Most of the time, damage to the borrowed car is covered under its primary policy as long as the vehicle owner carries comprehensive and collision coverage.

If the driver doesn’t carry comprehensive and collision on the vehicle, it’s possible that your own auto insurance policy could offer coverage for the repairs.

What is a temporary substitute vehicle?


A temporary substitute vehicle is a car that’s replacing your covered auto on your policy for a short period of time.

The following conditions must be met for your physical damage to extend to someone else’s car:

  • Your car is having maintenance done to it
  • Your car is being repaired after a loss
  • Your car has been stolen
  • Your car is inoperable

You can drive someone else’s car but you need to have adequate insurance. If you’re not happy with your coverage, it’s time to buy a policy from a new carrier.

Use an online rate comparison tool, compare rates with carriers, and purchase a policy that offers you protection.

Enter your zip below to get free car insurance quotes today!