Hey, Can I Borrow Your Car?

Son borrowing father's carIn the song, it’s easy: a simple “baby, you can drive my car” and they’re off with a “beep beep, yeah!” In real life, you should ask a few more questions before letting another driver head into the sunset in your vehicle—or before borrowing someone else’s ride.

If you’re loaning out your car, ask:

  • Is the borrower licensed to drive? If they’re visiting from out of state, you don’t need to worry. If they have a driver’s license from another country, check your state’s requirements—the driver may need to apply for an International Driving Permit before he or she arrives in the U.S.
  • Does the borrower have a good driving record? If they have a history of fender benders and you keep your vehicle in pristine condition, it’s OK to not hand over the keys.
  • Is my insurance up to date? Every state requires a minimum level of auto insurance coverage, and some stipulate that in case of an accident, the car owner’s auto insurance—not the driver’s—provides primary coverage. (So if the driver rear-ends someone or bumps another car in a parking lot and your insurance has lapsed, you could be liable for damages.) Depending on your state’s regulations, you may also want to verify whether the driver has his or her own car insurance.
  • What do they plan to use the car for? If it’s any kind of commercial activity, like driving for a ridesharing program, you’ll need to check your auto insurance policy. Again, in many states, the car owner’s auto insurance provides primary coverage. If the car is being driven for commercial purposes and you only have a personal policy, you may not have sufficient coverage.

You should also ask if they plan to drive the vehicle into Canada or Mexico. Customs officers are often on the lookout for stolen cars, so you may want to provide the driver with a letter stating they’re authorized to take yours across the border.

  • Will the borrower use the car regularly? Your newly licensed teenager may phrase it as ‘borrowing’ the car, but if they’re using it to go to sports practice or the mall every weekend (and live in your household), you should add them to your insurance policy as a regular user.

If you’re the one borrowing the car, ask:

  • Do I have permission to borrow the car? If not, you could run into legal trouble. In many states, if you’re a direct family member of the car’s owner, it’s assumed you have permission—but it’s still polite to ask.
  • What are the regulations in the state where I’ll be driving? As the driver, it’s your responsibility to know the local rules of the road, from licensing requirements to speed limits and whether right turns on red are allowed. You should also check insurance requirements to make sure you’re properly covered, and be sure to ask the owner. Some states require the car owner’s insurance to cover any accidental damage, so if they’re not insured or don’t have the right coverage, as the driver you may end up being liable.
  • What kind of gas should I fill up with? They were generous enough to loan you a car—the least you can do is return it with a full tank.
  • Where do you keep the registration and insurance information? It’s best to be prepared, instead of rummaging in the glove compartment if something goes wrong.
  • Where do you usually take the car for maintenance? Get the name and number of their mechanic shop or dealership in advance for peace of mind while you’re on the road.
  • Can I eat and drink in the car? A vehicle is a personal space, so show it the same courtesy you would someone’s home.

Have you ever lent your car to a neighbor or friend? Would you do it again? Tell us about the experience (good or bad) in the comments below.

By Kristen Koch

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  1. Clara Chaney says

    I have a question if I let my nefew borrow my car and he is not on my insurance and he has an accident and it is his fault will my insurance still pay for the damage to the other car

  2. Frank Acello says

    I carry biodegradable rope in my trunk to use as emergency tire chains. when reaching dry road it simply wears out and becomes mulch for plants. Sessel rope is a good choice.

  3. Susan Gargiulo says

    I have full coverage ins.& am on disability. I want to b sure my licensed family members insured w driving privledges can do errands or help me when the need arises. Do they have coverage under my ins for my car? Thank you, Susann Gargiulo

  4. Girly Girl's Mom says

    Funny, no. No, I have never lent my car out to anyone, ever. Not with my permission, anyway. I have never been asked, and if I were to be asked I don’t think I would let anyone else drive my car. Except for the mechanics and only for repairs.

  5. John f says

    Lent my second car to a friend who drives 1000 highway miles per week. He drove 6,000 miles which was fine with me…Its old with 300k miles so I didnt mind, it was clean and mechanically in excellent shape (new engine etc) but he returned it with a 1 ft crack in the winshield….it slipped my mind that highway driving is obviously highly proned to rock cracks. To him it’s just “wear and tear” but when I lend my car out, I expect it to be back in the same shape I lent it out in.. Little chips are fine but large road rashes, blown tires from road debris, and cracked windshields need to be fixed by the borrower…especially when I didn’t mind helping someone in need…best of all he makes 70k per year…

    It is what it is…I didn’t hold it over him, but lesson learned and a warning to those who want to help out. I recommend not doing it at all. I would never do it again no matter how much in need they are. Let them take care of it themselves. Be prepared to lose more than expected. I guess I got lucky with just a $150 repair and not more.

  6. Shams says

    Recently my son who lives and works in a different State, came to visit us. With our permission he drove our car to drop our daughter to the Airport. As he is a Contract IT Manager for a company in our State, he lives out of hotels when on work normally a year. On his return a front right tire blew up and the car severed and hit the curb. Being a 2008 BMW 335i, the insurance Co. totalled it as the cost to repair the wheels & Rt. underside was about the same or near the value of the car. My son was not on the policy as he lives out of State and rarely vists home. The Ins. Co. Added him and doubled the premium and no car, just paid the claim after over 2 months. We had 3 cars , now only 2 and premium twice the amount from before. Guess the co. AAA, without any notice. WHY EVEN HAVE INSURANCE.

  7. Qamruddin Chowdhury says

    Excellent reading. So much useful for a new comer to USA,like me, for Winter Driving caution and preparedness. All the topics are so relevant snd must read. Many thanks.

  8. Doris silva says

    I have a geico insurance policy. My brother in law bought me and my husband a car but he lives in a another state and he won’t be driving the car, can i just add him to my policy?

  9. Erica Salazar says

    I am the owner of a car that I am selling to a family member. I have him on my insurance because he is driving it right now as we speak. The car will stay in my name until he finishes paying what he owes me but I want to have him get his own insurance under his name but I still own the car. Would it be best if I tell him to get himself insurance, instead of staying connected to me. Or is it best to keep him on because it is still my car?

    • Steph says

      Just curious i have a car insured in my name but i let my mom use it daily somehow or another the ins comp has caught on and sent me a letter regarding they are listing my mom as driver on the policy theirfore they increased my rate dont understand how they new she was driving it