Car Insurance: What Drivers and Vehicles are Covered?

If someone borrows your car, are they covered under your car insurance policy? What if you want to add a car to your existing coverage?

What Drivers Are Covered?

Named insured.The named insured is the person or people named in the policy. Liability policies cover named insureds no matter what car they are driving.

Spouse. Even if a spouse of the named insured is not named on a policy, auto liability insurance almost always covers the spouse as well, while driving any car. If the couple no longer live together, however, the policy will not cover accidents caused by a spouse not named on the policy unless that spouse was driving the covered vehicle with the permission of the named spouse. (See “What Vehicles Are Covered?” below.)

Other relative. Any licensed driver living in the household with the named insured who is related to the insured by blood, marriage, or adoption — usually including a legal ward or foster child — is typically covered regardless of what car he or she is driving.

Anyone driving the insured vehicle. Any person who is using, with permission, a vehicle speci­fi­cally named in the policy is covered. So, some­one who steals the car is not covered because the thief was not using it with permission. The ­permission ques­tion also comes up if, for ­example, a teenager lets another teen drive a car without the parent owner’s permission. In that case, an insurer might argue that the parent’s policy does not cover the unrelated teenager who was driving.

Some auto policies also exclude coverage for an employee using an employer’s personal car for business. In that case, though, a person injured in an accident could probably file a claim for compensation under the business’s liability insurance.

What Vehicles Are Covered?

Named vehicles. Any vehicle named in the liability coverage declaration is covered. An accident in a vehicle not named in the declaration is ­covered only if a named insured (see above) was driving.

Added vehicles. Any car, utility vehicle (see below), or other vehicle with which the named insured replaces the original named vehicle, and any additional vehicle the named insured owns during the policy period, is also covered. Some policies, however, cover replacement or additional vehicles only if the insured person notifies the company of the new or different vehicle within 30 days after it is acquired.

Temporary vehicles. Coverage extends to any car not owned by the named insured, or by ­another resident of the household, used as a temporary replacement—including rental cars — for any insured vehicle that is out of use because it needs repair or service, or has been destroyed.

Utility vehicles. Most policies cover an insured person driving a few types of vehicles somewhat larger than a normal passenger car, but only up to a limit. This usually means coverage is limited to a sport utility vehicle, pickup, flatbed, delivery, or panel truck to a certain rated load capacity stated in the policy. Larger vehicles might be covered if they are specifically listed in the owner’s individual policy. The same holds true for a motorcycle: To be covered, it must be specifically named in the policy. Most policies, however, do not cover utility vehicles while used for business.

As always, when questions arise, it is a good idea to talk to your insurance professional.

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