What Can I Do to Protect My Child When They Drive Someone Else's Car?

Updated: Aug 17

You were so proud the day you sent your kid off to college. They’re all that you hoped for: bright, funny, and responsible. One of the things that’s keeping you up at night, though, is that they're always borrowing their friend’s car. You’re worried about what might happen if they get in an accident. How can you make sure that they’re covered?

In short: Make sure your child has permission to borrow the friend’s car, and that the friend’s policy is up to date. Consider keeping your child as a driver on your auto policy or purchasing non-owned auto insurance to cover them when they borrow a car. Review safe driving practices with your child.

Is Your Child Covered When Driving a Borrowed Car?

The good news is that in most cases, your child will be covered under their roommate's policy if they cause an accident, as long as they had permission to use the vehicle from the vehicle owner and they don’t drive the car regularly – otherwise they need to be added to their roommate’s policy.

So, what exactly does that mean?

The three main coverages that a driver (in this case, your child) needs to be protected when driving a car are:

  • Third party liability – covers the cost of damage or injuries that your child causes in an accident

  • Property or physical damage – covers the cost of damage to your child’s personal property and the vehicle they’re driving, either due to a “Collision” (accident) and/or some other source, for example a fire or flood (“Comprehensive”)

  • Personal injury protection or medical payments – (“PIP”) pays for your child’s injuries no matter who caused the accident

First, your child will be covered under the liability portion of their friend’s insurance, so the damage to other drivers’ vehicle will be covered up to the policy limit. Now, this is where it gets tricky. If the cost exceeds the policy limits, it will be up to your son or daughter (or you, mom and dad moneybags) to cover the overage.

Second, if the policy has collision coverage, it will cover the damage caused to the friend’s car that your child was driving. But there would still be a deductible to cover. And most likely that would come out of your child’s pocket (or yours again, mom and dad moneybags). If there is no collision coverage, it could get real sticky as it would be up to you to cover the cost of repair. It’s also common for drivers of older vehicles to forgo the cost of collision coverage on a policy. So, if you’re child’s friends are more of the “drive-a-beater-old-Honda-civic” variety and less of the “mom-and-dad-bought-me-a-Beemer-for-college” variety, collision coverage might be questionable.

Third, in most cases, the insurance follows the vehicle. Your child would therefore be covered for any personal injuries or medical payments up to the policy limits.

Now, what happens if the roommate's coverage isn't in force or they never had coverage? Well, your child and their friend could find themselves in a court battle with the other driver and the insurance company over the damages. And you could find yourself dealing with a big headache over how to pay for everything.

While it may not be realistic to ask your child not to drive other people's cars, there are some other things you can do.

First, consider keeping your child as a driver on your auto policy. This will give both of you protection when they're home for the weekend driving your vehicle, riding as a passenger in a friend’s vehicle, or for liability when borrowing a car. If that costs more than you can afford, your second option is a non-owned auto insurance policy.

A non-owned auto insurance policy, or non-drivers’ insurance, provides bodily injury and property damage liability coverage (“third party liability”) when your child is driving a vehicle they don't own. This means the policy covers injuries or vehicle damage that your child might cause in an accident.

Surround’s new starter pack of insurance includes non-owned auto insurance with personal injury protection/medical payments coverage, in addition to renter’s insurance that would cover your child’s belongings in off-campus housing.

What About Preventing an Accident?

When your child prepares to leave for college, it’s a great idea to teach or review with them safe driving habits. These include:

  1. Always drive sober

  2. Put away cellphones or put in “do not disturb” mode (newer versions of iOS can be configured through the settings menu to automatically toggle this mode when driving)

  3. Obey speed limits

  4. Drive defensively

We’ve Got Your Back

At Surround, we know a parent's worry doesn't end just because their kids have flown the coop. In fact, we know that worry can intensify. That's why we are working to change insurance to protect those you love in everything they do, whether it's riding a bike or borrowing a car.

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