What's covered when someone else drives your car? Understanding permissive use

Cheap Insurance explains permissive use of your car and how it can impact your automobile coverage.

John Davey
Posted 5/10/24

Cheap Insurance explains permissive use of your car and how it can impact your automobile coverage.

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What's covered when someone else drives your car? Understanding permissive use

Cheap Insurance explains permissive use of your car and how it can impact your automobile coverage.


An interior of a modern car showing the dashboard and black leather seats.


Ever lend your car to a friend or family member? Great! But have you considered how your insurance handles that situation? This is where the concept of "car insurance permissive use" comes in.

In this article, Cheap Insurance will answer your questions about permissive use and your car insurance policy.

What is Permissive Use in Car Insurance?

Permissive use refers to a provision in most car insurance policies that extends coverage to someone other than the named insured or listed drivers on the policy. In simpler terms, if you give someone permission to drive your car, and they have an accident, permissive use kicks in and your insurance may cover the damages – depending on the specifics of your policy.

This permission can be explicit, like verbally handing over the keys and saying, "Go for it!"  Permissive use can also be implied, such as letting your spouse borrow the car for errands without explicitly mentioning it.

It's important to note that permissive use is intended for occasional or short-term driving. If someone will be using your car regularly, they should be added as a driver to your policy for proper coverage.

How Does Permissive Use Work?

Imagine you lend your car to a friend for a quick trip to the store. They accidentally bump into a parked car while backing out. Thankfully, nobody is hurt, but there's some damage. Here's how permissive use might work in this scenario:

  1. Accident and Coverage Trigger: Since your friend had your permission to drive, permissive use could apply. Your insurance company would be notified of the accident.
  2. Policy Review: The insurance company will review your policy details and the specifics of the situation. They'll confirm your friend was a permissive user and that the use fell within the policy's guidelines, for example, occasional driving.
  3. Coverage Limits: Assuming everything checks out, your insurance would typically cover the damages in an accident, up to your policy limits. There might be a deductible you'd be responsible for paying as well.
  4. Potential Impact on You: While your insurance should cover the accident, it's important to understand that filing a claim could still impact your auto insurance premiums in the future.
  5. The Driver Needs Permission: This seems obvious, but it's crucial. Permissive use only applies if the driver has your consent to operate your vehicle. If someone takes your car without permission – which is considered theft – your insurance won't cover the damages they cause.
  6. Coverage Extends, Not Transfers: While your insurance may cover the accident, it doesn't necessarily mean your coverage limits are automatically transferred to the permissive driver. Your policy dictates the extent of coverage for permissive users, which could be the same, reduced, or even come with a higher deductible.
  7. Frequency Matters: Permissive use is typically intended for occasional use. Many policies have limitations on how often someone can drive your car under permissive use (often around 12 times a year). If someone will be using your car more frequently, adding them as a named driver on your policy is the best course of action.
  8. The Permissive Driver's Record Matters: Insurance companies consider the driving history of anyone operating the insured vehicle. If the permissive driver has a poor driving record, it could impact your coverage or even lead to a premium increase.

Permissive use is not a guarantee of coverage.  There can be exclusions depending on your policy and the situation.

Is Permissive Use Included in Every Car Insurance Policy?

Permissive use is a common feature, but it's not guaranteed  in every single auto insurance policy.  Here's what you need to know:

  • Most Policies Include It: The vast majority of standard car insurance policies include permissive use coverage. It's a widely accepted practice within the insurance industry.
  • Policy Variations: While widespread, permissive use isn't universally included. Some specialized car insurance policies, particularly those for collector cars or high-risk drivers, might have limited or excluded permissive use coverage.
  • State Regulations: Insurance is regulated at the state level. Some states may have specific requirements or limitations regarding permissive use that your insurance company must adhere to.
  • Always Check Your Policy: Don't rely on assumptions. It's crucial to review your own car insurance policy documents to confirm if permissive use is included and understand the specific terms.
  • Variations Exist: While most policies include permissive use, there might be variations in the extent of coverage provided. This could involve differences in liability limits, collision coverage, or comprehensive coverage application, or deductible amounts for permissive drivers.

If you're unsure about permissive use in your policy, contact your insurance agent directly. They can clarify the details and ensure you have the right coverage for your needs.

How Does Permissive Use Protect Car Owners?

Permissive use offers several key benefits for car owners, providing peace of mind in situations where you lend your vehicle:

  • Financial Protection: In the unfortunate event of an accident while someone else is driving your car with your permission, permissive use can be a lifesaver. Your insurance may cover property damage and bodily injury inflicted on others, depending on your policy limits. This can shield you from significant financial liabilities.
  • Reduced Legal Risk: Accidents can lead to lawsuits. Permissive use can help minimize your legal exposure if the permissive driver causes an accident. Your insurance company can provide legal defense as stipulated in your policy.
  • Preserves Your Coverage: Without permissive use, if someone else is driving your car and has an accident, your insurance company might deny coverage entirely. This could lead to financial penalties and even policy cancellation. Permissive use helps ensure your own coverage remains intact.
  • Peace of Mind: Knowing you're covered when someone borrows your car allows you to lend it out with greater confidence. Permissive use eliminates the worry of being solely responsible for any potential damages caused by a permitted driver.

Permissive use isn't a replacement for responsible car lending. It's always wise to verify that a driver has a good driving record and ensure they have a valid driver's license, before lending them your vehicle.

Weighing the Pros and Cons of Permissive Use

Understanding car insurance permissive use is essential for responsible car ownership. It offers clear advantages:

  • Financial Protection: Covers damages caused by others driving your car with permission.
  • Investment Protection: Safeguards your vehicle from financial losses due to accidents during permissive use.
  • Peace of Mind: Allows you to lend your car without constant worry about financial liability.

However, there are also some things to consider:

  • Coverage Variations: Permissive use coverage can differ between policies. Always check your policy details.
  • Impact on Rates: A permissive driver's poor record might affect your rates.
  • Frequency Limits: Permissive use is meant for occasional driving, not regular use.

By understanding both the benefits and limitations of permissive use, you can make informed decisions about lending your car and ensure you have the right vehicle insurance coverage in place. When in doubt, consult your insurance agent to clarify any questions and tailor your policy for optimal protection.

This story was produced by CheapInsurance.com and reviewed and distributed by Stacker Media.