If you've ever driven a vehicle that does not belong to you, you may have wondered what would happen if you are involved in an accident. A common question is whether your insurance or that of the vehicle's owner will provide coverage. Depending on the circumstances, coverage could come from one or both policies.
In most cases, the vehicle owner's insurance will provide the primary coverage, regardless of who is driving. This means that it is likely you will be covered if you are involved in an accident while driving another's vehicle, even if you don't have a vehicle or insurance of your own. As a rule of thumb, in auto insurance, the coverage follows the vehicle and not necessarily the driver.
However, there are situations where having your own policy can pay major dividends. Suppose you are driving the vehicle of a friend who carries only the minimum liability limits required by the state. If you are at fault in an accident and the injuries or damages exceed the limits of your friend's policy, you could be sued for the excess amount. If you have your own policy, you may be able to use your own liability coverage to pick up where your friend's policy left off.
Your own auto insurance may also provide coverage when you are driving a rental vehicle. Rental companies will often attempt to sell you their own insurance as a source of additional revenue, but in many cases, this will only duplicate the coverage on your own policy. However, before renting a car, it's a good idea to check your policy or contact your agent to be sure of your coverage status.
If you don't own a car, you can still purchase liability insurance to protect you in situations where you drive a friend's or a rental vehicle. A non-owner policy will cover you under these circumstances and can be purchased from most auto insurers at a relatively inexpensive price. It will also serve as proof of having continuous liability coverage, which can save you some premium dollars when it comes time to purchase your own vehicle again.
Chris Joseph writes for websites and online publications, covering business and technology. He holds a Bachelor of Science in marketing from York College of Pennsylvania.