Are you wondering if you can contact an insurance company or agent to insure a car that’s not in your name? The short answer is probably no.
However, you can be insured under certain circumstances when you drive that car. You may be covered by the car owner’s policy, through short-term insurance offered by a rental car company, or through a combination of the car owners’ insurance and a liability-only policy you can buy called “non-owner coverage.”
Vehicle ownership and insurance
In general, an insurance company won't sell you an insurance policy for a car not in your name — meaning you don’t own the vehicle, don’t hold its title, and aren’t listed on its registration. Many U.S. states prohibit insuring a car that doesn’t belong to you. And most insurance companies want the people they insure to have an “insurable interest” in the cars they drive.
Insurable interest means you have a financial stake in the car. Think of it this way: A car's owner has (presumably) paid money for the vehicle. If the car is damaged or stolen, they’ll have to pay to repair or replace it. So as the thinking goes, the car’s owner will act in a way that protects their financial stake.
As a non-owner, you don’t have that financial stake and thus have no insurable interest. Sure, your intentions may be fully above-board. But insurers are wary of providing coverage in this situation due to the higher overall risk, fraud concerns, and possible legal issues related to any claims.
How insurance works when driving a car you don’t own
The good news is that in the most common situations where you’re driving a car you don’t own, you’ll either be covered by other means or can buy short-term insurance to protect you financially.
Renting a car
If you rent a car, your car insurance for the vehicle you own should extend to the rental. Check with your insurance company to make sure you understand any exclusions (most policies, for example, don’t provide insurance for rentals outside of the U.S.)
According to the Insurance Information Institute, laws require rental companies to provide at least the state-minimum amount of liability coverage. So if you don't already have insurance, you'll have at least minimal coverage in a rental situation. Most rental companies also offer (at added cost to you) supplemental collision damage waivers that protect you financially if you damage the car.
Borrowing a car
Most insurance policies allow “permissive use” of a car by someone who does not own it. This means that the owner can temporarily loan the car to someone who’s not a named driver on their insurance policy. So if your friend lends you their car to run an errand, their insurance coverage will extend to you while you’re on the road.
There are some exceptions to permissive use. It may not apply if the car is borrowed for a business purpose. Another exception is if the vehicle is loaned to an unlicensed or inexperienced driver. In either case, the insurance company may deny any claims.
In any event, be sure to understand the policy contract’s rules regarding permissive use. Most companies limit how often or how long a vehicle can be borrowed.
If you’re planning to borrow a car for more than just a few trips, consider looking into being added to the owner’s policy as a named driver. The owner’s insurance company or agent should be able to help.
Driving a company car
If your job requires you to drive a car your employer owns — say you work in sales and drive a sedan or make deliveries in a company pickup truck — the employer’s commercial auto insurance policy should provide all the coverage you need. You’re behind the wheel as a company representative and don’t need to buy your own policy. This coverage usually includes authorized use of the vehicle for non-business purposes, such as your daily commute to work or personal errands.
Note that if you’re a business owner and own a car you use for business purposes, you’ll likely need to purchase a commercial auto policy. A personal auto insurance policy may not provide the coverage you need, meaning any claims you file for an incident that happens while driving for business would be denied. Contact your insurance company or agent for additional guidance.
Consider non-owner car insurance
If you frequently drive cars you don’t own, you might consider non-owner car insurance.
A non-owner car insurance policy provides bodily injury and property damage liability specifically when driving a car not in your name. Such a policy does not include comprehensive or collision coverage — which pays to repair or replace the vehicle if damaged or stolen — though it may consist of medical payments, personal injury protection, and uninsured motorist coverage.
The benefit of having a non-owner car insurance policy is that you always have a set amount of liability coverage when driving. So if you borrow a car from a friend (permissible use), you don’t have to worry if that friend’s policy only has state-minimum liability limits.
Non-owner car insurance is worth considering if you don’t have any other car insurance, and:
- You borrow or rent cars frequently.
- You use a company car for personal uses not covered by your employer’s policy.
- You don't own a car and won't drive for a long time, but you want to avoid a coverage lapse.
- You’re required to have an SR-22 or FR-44 filing to maintain your driver’s license.
You can be insured when driving a car you don’t own
While there are multiple reasons why you may drive a vehicle you don't own, it's typically not possible to get your own insurance policy for that vehicle. The good news is that there are ways to be covered in those instances.