Every state requires that drivers carry insurance for the cars they operate, but this doesn't necessarily mean you need to purchase insurance for every driver. Consult your policy before making any decisions, because this document has final say over who must be insured. In many cases, though, you won't need to insure adult children.
Car Insurance Basics
Although your name is on your auto insurance policy, it's technically the car that is insured, not the driver. If your adult child has her own car and doesn't have auto insurance -- even if she's listed on the policy you maintain for your car -- she's breaking the law. You're under no legal obligation to insure her, though. If, however, you allow your adult child to drive an insured car, she'll typically be covered under your policy.
Uninsured Adult Children
Adult children who don't have their own auto insurance will still be covered under your policy if they're driving your car. However, your coverage may be reduced. When a driver who's not listed on the policy gets into a car accident, their insurance typically kicks in first. When your child doesn't have insurance, you're limited solely to the protections afforded by your policy. If you have only minimum coverage, you'll be stuck paying out of pocket for damages to your vehicle.
Children Who Live With You
If your adult child lives with you and regularly drives your car, your insurance carrier may require you to list her on the policy. A driver who regularly operates the car but who does not own it or use it as her primary form of transportation is a secondary driver. You might not have to pay extra to add a secondary driver, but if your child has a bad driving history, you could incur more charges.
A permissive driver is any driver who has permission to operate your car. Most insurance policies allow you to specifically exclude certain people from coverage. If your adult child doesn't live with you but has permission to use your car, she'll automatically be covered under your policy. However, the amount of coverage she'll get depends on the specifics of your policy. She might not, for example, be covered for damages to your car.
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.