As the term implies, non-owner car insurance is insurance for licensed drivers who don’t own a vehicle. It may be a good fit if you are in between vehicles, frequently borrow or rent cars, or need to satisfy an SR-22 or FR-44 filing requirement. Here’s what you need to know about how non-owner car insurance works, what it covers, and how and when to get it.

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How does non-owner car insurance work?

Non-owner car insurance generally works as insurance that follows you when you drive cars that don’t belong to you.

Since standard auto insurance typically follows the car, the vehicle owner’s insurance policy provides primary coverage on a car you borrow, provided you have a valid driver’s license and the owner’s permission.

A non-owner policy generally covers expenses that exceed the vehicle owner’s policy limits and/or expenses that the vehicle owner’s policy may exclude.

The rules are slightly different for rental cars. In some states, a rental car company’s insurance is considered secondary when the customer has their own insurance. In these states, your auto policy, if you have one, is primary.

What does non-owner car insurance cover?

Non-owner car insurance typically covers your share of liability expenses, if any, in an accident you cause in a borrowed or rented vehicle.

You can sometimes also add uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, medical payments and/or personal injury protection, which cover injuries to you and your passengers. However, non-owner car insurance does not cover damage to a vehicle you borrow or rent.

For example, if you injure someone in an accident you cause while driving a friend’s car, your friend’s insurance covers the injured person’s medical bills, up to their policy’s limits.

If your friend’s policy has a bodily injury liability limit of $25,000 and the injured person’s medical bills add up to $20,000, your friend’s policy covers the claim.

If the injured person’s medical bills add up to $30,000, and your friend has a $25,000 limit for bodily injury liability, your non-owner’s insurance covers the $5,000 shortfall.

The only way for damage to your friend’s car to be covered by insurance is if your friend’s policy includes collision coverage.

How much does non-owner car insurance cost?

Non-owner car insurance tends to cost less than a standard policy for the same amount of coverage with an owned vehicle. This does not mean that all non-owner car insurance policies are cheap.

The specific rate you receive for non-owner car insurance depends on most of the normal factors car insurance companies use to determine your rate. These typically include your age and where you live, the coverages and limits you choose, and your driving record, credit (where allowed) and any discounts you qualify to receive.

If you need a non-owner’s policy for an SR-22 or FR-44 filing, the offense that led to the filing requirement, particularly if it’s a DUI or reckless driving, may cause you to receive a high rate. On the other hand, if you already qualify for preferred rates and decide to go car-less for a while, you are likely to pay less for a non-owner policy.

Since companies place different weights on each rate factor and offer different discounts, it’s best to compare quotes from multiple companies when you shop for non-owner car insurance.

How do I get non-owner car insurance?

Many companies that sell traditional car insurance also offer non-owner policies, but they don’t normally provide quotes online.

Some insurers only offer it in certain states, and some insurers only sell non-owner car insurance to existing customers. Bristol West and Dairyland are among the companies that offer non-owner car insurance to customers who have difficulties qualifying for coverage with other companies.

If you're interested in receiving a quote for non-owner car insurance, it’s best to call the insurance company to talk to an agent. The following companies are just a few that offer non-owner auto insurance policies:

  • Allstate

    (800) 255-7828

  • American Family

    (800) 692-6326

  • Bristol West

    (888) 888-0080

  • Dairyland

    (844) 242-4468

  • Farmers

    (888) 327-6335

  • GEICO

    (800) 207-7847

  • Liberty Mutual

    (800) 295-2723

  • Nationwide

    (877) 669-6877

  • Progressive

    (800) 776-4737

  • State Farm

    (800) 782-8332

  • Travelers

    (866) 662-1921

  • USAA

    (800) 292-8045

When you should get non-owner car insurance

Non-owner car insurance is often a good option if you:

  • Frequently borrow cars
  • Regularly rent cars or use a car-share service
  • Need insurance as part of an SR-22 or FR-44 requirement
  • Want to avoid a lapse in coverage while you’re between cars

Frequently borrow cars

A non-owner car insurance policy can protect you from the financial risks of car accidents when you frequently borrow cars from people you don’t live with.

Even though the vehicle owner’s insurance provides primary coverage, liability claims can add up fast. If the vehicle owner’s coverage limits are not high enough to cover the injuries or damage you cause, you can be held financially responsible for the shortfall.

Regularly rent vehicles or use a car-sharing service

If you regularly rent cars or use a car-sharing service, a non-owner policy may help you save money on insurance.

When you rent a car, the vehicle usually comes with the minimum amount of liability coverage required in the state where you pick up the vehicle. However, in California, car-rental companies do not provide any liability coverage at all.

Most rental-car companies offer supplemental liability coverage, which provides higher limits for injuries or damage you may cause. However, if you rent frequently, a non-owner policy may be cheaper than the daily rate the rental car company charges.

It’s important to be aware that the rental-car insurance your credit card may provide usually only covers damage to the rented vehicle, but not your liability for injuries or damage to other vehicles.

Car-share companies such as Zipcar also tend to provide liability insurance, usually in amounts that vary by state and company.

Though car-share companies often offer additional liability coverage for an extra fee, a non-owner car insurance policy may be cheaper and/or provide more coverage.

Non-owner car insurance for an SR-22 or FR-44 filing

Non-owner car insurance is often the only option for reinstating your driver’s license when you have an SR-22 or FR-44 filing requirement and don’t own a car.

You don’t necessarily need to purchase car insurance if you decide to forego driving altogether. However, if you don’t reinstate your driver’s license, you won’t be covered in a borrowed vehicle and won’t be eligible to rent a vehicle.

Avoiding a coverage lapse

A new car insurance policy is almost always more expensive after a lapse in coverage than it is when you’ve maintained continuous coverage for an extended period. Even just a few days without insurance may throw you into a higher rate tier.

If you sell your vehicle and need a few days or longer to replace it, or you just want to go carless for a while, a non-owner car insurance policy keeps your insurance status active. This, in turn, may help you qualify for a more favorable car insurance rate when you own a vehicle again.

When you should not get non-owner car insurance

You should probably not get non-owner car insurance if you borrow cars from roommates or family members you live with, plan to borrow the same vehicle for an extended period or if you don’t drive very often.

  • If you borrow a car from someone you live with, such as a roommate or family member, the vehicle’s owner may need to add you to their policy, depending on their insurance company’s rules.
  • Non-owner insurance may not cover you in a vehicle you borrow for an extended period of time. Check your policy for exclusions, or ask your insurance agent.
  • If you don’t plan to drive very often, you may not need non-owner car insurance. Just make sure the owner of any cars you borrow have adequate liability coverage, and consider springing for supplemental liability insurance when you rent a car.

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