Car Insurance When Borrowing a Car — How Does it Work?

If you borrow a car, you might wonder whether your auto insurance policy will cover you. Here’s what you should know before you drive someone else’s car or lend out your car to somebody else.

“Hey honey, can you run to the grocery store to get some eggs? You can use my car,” your mom asks. “Sure,” you respond. 

You find the eggs. But as you pull out of the grocery store, you get into a fender bender. The cracked eggs make a mess all over mom’s car. But that’s the least of your concerns.

Whether you moved back home during the COVID-19 pandemic or you’re just visiting, if you get into an accident in your parents’ car, you might be wondering whether you’re covered under your Metromile policy or if their auto insurance will kick in.

Far and away, this is one of the most common concerns we hear from customers. Now, we’re breaking down the basics of what you might want to know when you borrow someone else’s car. (But of course, you should check with your insurance company and contract to understand what your specific policy covers.)

Does my car insurance cover me while driving someone else’s vehicle?

The general rule of thumb is that car insurance follows the car, not the driver. Therefore, if you borrow someone’s car, you would be covered under their car insurance policy up to the policy limits they chose. This is what’s known as “permissive use.”

It’s important to note that this counts for irregular and infrequent borrowing. For example, if you’re home for the holidays, you’d be covered when you drive your mom’s car. But if you moved back home for an extended period during the pandemic, then your parents might need to add you to their insurance policy.

If someone who is not a Metromile customer drives my car, are they covered? 

Metromile insurance follows your car.

So if you’re a Metromile customer and you let your friend borrow your car, they would be covered if they get into an accident.

Unfortunately, this also means that even if you have a spotless driving record, your friend’s accident could increase your insurance costs going forward.

Keep in mind: Metromile is pay-per-mile auto insurance. You’ll need to pay for any miles they drive in your car.

What if I borrow my friend’s car: Does Metromile still cover me?

Because car insurance generally follows the car and not the driver, your friend’s policy would be primarily responsible if you get into an accident while driving their car.

Metromile will cover your friend’s car if they are a Metromile customer, too.

What happens if I’m renting a car?

Your Metromile insurance policy typically extends to rental cars.

So if you’re renting a car for a trip and you get into an accident, we might be able to help. But you should check your policy before driving the car off the lot to make sure you understand your coverage and have the policy limits that make sense for your budget.

What about my mom, dad, sibling, or roommate’s car?

Usually, driving-age family members who live together should all be on the same insurance policy, making it just fine to swap cars. If not, they should be formally excluded from each other’s policies; importantly, a driver is generally not covered by a policy they’re excluded from, meaning you should never loan your car to someone you’ve excluded.

Roommates who aren’t direct family members can fall in a gray area; it’s a good idea to check with your insurance carrier about what’s allowed, but usually, you’ll want your roommate to either be listed on your policy if they have regular access to your vehicle and drive it occasionally.

What is primary vs. secondary auto insurance coverage?

When claims get complicated, insurance companies spend time working out who is primarily responsible — that is, taking point on paying out damages — and secondarily responsible, or kicking in only when the primary coverage is exhausted.

If you give someone regular permission to drive your vehicle, your car insurance usually takes primary coverage status. If damage exceeds your coverage limits, the driver’s policy may take over as secondary.

Am I covered if I’m using a borrowed car for business?

Here’s where things get sticky. 

Commercial policies cover some vehicles for business use, but it gets complicated when a car is borrowed or swapped around for a use that’s out of the ordinary, or if a personal vehicle is used for a delivery or transportation service, such as a local laundry delivery or an app-based service like Amazon, Doordash, Lyft, or Uber.

There are lots of ins-and-outs and exclusions when it comes to commercial use, so it’s worth doing your homework before borrowing a car in a situation like this.

Metromile provides personal auto insurance coverage for low-mileage drivers and does not cover vehicles used for work, including food delivery, package delivery, or ride-sharing.

The bottom line

You could pay less for auto insurance if you don’t drive your car often.

If you’re a low-mileage driver who’s driving less these days, you might be able to save money with a pay-per-mile car insurance policy. 

You can see if Metromile is right for you with Ride Along™. Download the Metromile app to get started. After you get a free auto insurance quote, you’ll keep your current coverage and drive as you do ordinarily for about two weeks. Then, we’ll show you how much you could save with an accurate rate based on your actual driving.