Gianetta Palmer is a writer for CarInsurance101.com, copywriter, and essayist. Her work has appeared in EverydayHealth.com, Healthline, and The Dyrt Magazine. She is the author of Scrunchie-Fried and writes a lot about car insurance in her spare time.

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Melanie Musson is the fourth generation in her family to work in the insurance industry. She grew up with insurance talk as part of her everyday conversation and has studied to gain an in-depth knowledge of state-specific car insurance laws and dynamics as well as a broad understanding of how insurance fits into every person’s life, from budgets to coverage levels. She also specializes in automa...

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Reviewed by Melanie Musson
Published Insurance Expert

UPDATED: Mar 13, 2020

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When you purchase a new vehicle, you need to put insurance on that car. For the most part, car insurance follows the vehicle rather than the driver. This means that as long as a person has permission to drive the car, any accidents occurring in that vehicle will be covered regardless of if that person is listed on the car insurance policy. Nevertheless, it’s a good idea to add family members to your policy if they will have access to your vehicle.

Permissive Use Drivers

Most car insurance companies assume that anyone living in a home who has access to a vehicle also has permission to drive that vehicle. Therefore, the auto insurance company will consider any resident relative in the home to be included under the insurance. This means that not only will any damage to the vehicle be covered if the car is in an accident, it also means that the driver qualifies to receive medical benefits from the applicable insurance coverage. In these cases, a family member can live with you but not be listed on the policy and still be covered under the insurance.

In other cases, car insurance companies will only cover a claim if the driver is expressly listed on the policy. If the driver is not listed by name on the policy, she will be treated as an excluded driver and the accident claim will be denied.

In the case of stepchildren, it’s especially important to clarify with your insurance company whether the child would be considered a resident relative or not. If your stepdaughter is not your blood relation and has not been officially adopted by you, you may need to add her to the policy in order to have her be considered a permissive use driver. Because all insurance companies are different in this regard, you should ask your local agent or contact your insurance company’s customer service number to check.

Listed Drivers

The biggest reason to add a driver to your insurance policy is so that the driver can deal directly with your insurance without you needing to be involved. For example, if your stepdaughter is listed on the policy and gets into an accident, she can call the insurance company and file a claim; she can schedule an inspection appointment for the vehicle, establish a rental reservation or make other claim arrangements.

If she is not listed on the policy, the insurance company will not release any information to her or allow any appointments to be made. This can be extremely inconvenient, especially if your child goes to college in another city; you may not know what her schedule will be for an inspection, and you will constantly receive phone calls from the insurance company confirming information about your policy and the claim.

Of course, the opposite is also true. If your stepdaughter is listed as a driver on your policy, she can handle all aspects of the claim without needing to contact you. This means that she can be involved in an accident and have the damage paid for without notifying you that any accident occurred. If you are the registered owner of the vehicle, the check will be issued in your name, but the vehicle might be repaired at a body shop that can bill the insurance company directly, meaning that no check is ever issued to the insurance holder.

If the thought of your child filing a claim without notifying you makes you nervous, you may wish to reconsider how the policy is established. If she has her own vehicle, it may be time for her to get her own policy; if she’s still borrowing your vehicle, and the insurance would cover the damage without listing her on the policy, you might not want to list her on the policy.

Ultimately, it’s up to you whether to add your stepdaughter to your insurance policy or not. The insurance company will allow you to add anyone in your household to the policy as a driver, usually for a very affordable extra fee. You can discuss your family’s needs with the customer service department at your insurance company, or bring it up with your local agent, and see if you would be better off adding your stepdaughter to your policy or providing her with a separate policy. Whatever you decide to do, once you speak to your insurer you will know exactly how the policy will apply in the event of an accident; once you know that, you can make the best choice for your family.