Hey, Can I Borrow Your Car?

Son borrowing father's carWhether it’s a friend in a jam or a family member visiting from out of state, drivers borrow each other’s cars all the time. But what are the implications for your insurance coverage? Here’s what to ask before letting another driver head into the sunset in your vehicle—or before borrowing someone else’s vehicle.

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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