Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products including home, life, auto, and commercial and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs. She has since used that knowledge in her more than ten years as a writer, largely in the insuranc...

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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 insurance laws and dynamics as well as a broad understanding of how insurance fits into every person’s life, from budgets to coverage levels. Through her years working in th...

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Reviewed by Melanie Musson
Published Insurance Expert Melanie Musson

UPDATED: Mar 31, 2022

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If someone else drives your car, you could be in for an unpleasant surprise if that person is not covered by your auto insurance policy. For example, are you certain that your girlfriend is covered if she operates your vehicle? If she is not and causes an accident, you could be personally responsible for the damages caused. Is it true that anyone who operates your vehicle is covered by your insurance, or are there important exceptions to this rule?

The answer to the question depends on the relationship you have with the person in question and whether you have listed the person on your auto policy. When you take out your car insurance, you are required to list any additional drivers that live in your household who are licensed to drive your car. The assumption is that anyone who lives in your home will have access to your vehicle, even if that person is not a regular driver. If your girlfriend lives in your home and you fail to list her on your insurance policy, the car insurance company may refuse to pay any claims on her behalf, stating that she should have been listed as a “covered driver.” Listing your girlfriend as a covered driver will avoid this problem.

What if my girlfriend does not live with me?

On the other hand, if your girlfriend does not live with you and is not listed as a covered driver, she may be covered under your policy if she drives your car. This may seem illogical until you consider that your car is covered for occasional use by others, especially in emergency or temporary circumstances. The test most companies use for coverage in these cases is whether the driver had express permission to use the vehicle from the covered owner. If that is the case, the company generally covers any damages caused by the temporary driver.

What if my girlfriend has her own car insurance policy?

There is another way that your girlfriend may also be covered for accidents caused while she is operating your vehicle. If she has her own car and is covered by liability insurance for that vehicle, her own liability insurance may cover her for any damages she causes while driving your car. Most liability insurance covers the driver for any car he or she operates, and if this is the case with your girlfriend’s insurance, her liability coverage must be exhausted before your company will be called on to pay any damages.

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Why should you check with your agent about any possible exceptions? 

The above scenarios are true for liability insurance in most cases, although you need to be sure that these facts apply to your insurance policy. However, liability coverage may not be the only type of insurance you have on your car, and the terms of your collision and comprehensive insurance may be very different than those of your liability policy. It is possible that your liability policy would pay for damages your girlfriend caused while driving your car, but that your collision or comprehensive policies would not.

For the most part, liability and uninsured motorist coverage are far more likely to cover various types of accidents than comprehensive and collision policies. This is because liability covers other people’s damages, and uninsured motorist coverage pays for damages caused by uninsured drivers. However, comprehensive and collision are optional auto insurance coverages that only pay to fix or replace your vehicle. Because of this, car insurance companies tend to have stricter limits on what they will pay for a comprehensive claim or a collision repair.

This is not to say that your insurance will not pay for these types of damages if your girlfriend is driving your car. It is simply to say that you need to be aware that there can be differences in an insurance company’s approach to different types of coverage, and you should be sure to discuss these terms with your agent before allowing anyone else to drive your vehicle.

A wise course of action is to discuss all possible scenarios with your insurance agent before you give your keys to anyone else. If you are in doubt and cannot reach your agent with the questions in mind, do not let anyone else drive your car until you can resolve the question. Of course, you obviously should never allow anyone to drive your vehicle who is not a licensed driver, or who has had a serious driving infraction such as a DUI in the recent past. You may, in many states, exclude drivers from your auto insurance policy who have serious convictions which would cause your rates to increase tremendously; however, by excluding a driver from your policy, you agree not to allow that person to operate your vehicle.