Who is the Primary Driver of an Auto Insurance Policy?

Last Updated on October 8, 2020

When dealing with car insurance, the primary driver is important.

In fact, in some insurance claims, the insurance company can dispute the primary driver of your policy, leading them to deny your claim.

The primary driver of your auto insurance policy is the person who drives your vehicle most days. The primary driver is the person who spends most time behind the wheel.

In some cases, the primary driver is obvious. It’s the person who drives the car to work every day. In otWho is the Primary Driver of an Auto Insurance Policyher situations, however, the primary driver can be confusing, and it can lead to serious insurance issues.

Today, we’re explaining everything you need to know about primary drivers and car insurance, including who the primary driver of an auto insurance policy is – and how to determine who the primary driver is.

What is a Primary Driver?

The primary driver, as you may have guessed, is the person behind the wheel the majority of the time. The primary driver is the person who spends more time in the vehicle than any other person.

If you drive your vehicle to work 5 days a week, for example, but your wife occasionally drives your vehicle on evenings and weekends, then you should still be the primary driver.

Similarly, if you drive your vehicle regularly but sometimes allow your friends to borrow your vehicle, then you are still considered the primary driver.

Why is the Primary Driver Important?

Many insurance policies require you to disclose the primary driver. You need to list the primary driver on your auto insurance policy.

Your auto insurance policy may ask for the primary driver. You need to disclose the name of this primary driver. Your insurance company uses this information to calculate risk.

If you incorrectly (or fraudulently) list the wrong primary driver on your car insurance policy, then you could face serious insurance problems. Your insurer could deny your claim, for example.

Let’s say you have a bad driving record. You have multiple DUIs and speeding tickets. Your roommate, on the other hand, has a perfectly clean driving record. You list your roommate as the primary driver on your policy to save money on premiums. You drive your vehicle most days of the week, although your roommate drives your vehicle occasionally. If you cause an accident while driving your vehicle, then your insurer could investigate your claim, discover you’re the primary driver of the vehicle, and deny compensation.

Primary and Secondary Drivers

Most auto insurance policies allow you to list one primary driver and multiple secondary drivers.

The primary driver is the person who drives the vehicle most frequently.

The secondary driver is anyone who regularly drives the vehicle or lives at the same address as the registered driver. You may need to list your parents or roommates as secondary drivers, for example. Or, if a friend regularly drives your vehicle, then you may list your friend as a secondary driver even though they live at a separate address.

What is a Secondary Driver?

Insurance companies require you to list anyone of driving age living at your address on your insurance policy – even if these people do not regularly drive your vehicle. In the eyes of your insurance company, these secondary drivers could drive your vehicle in certain situations – say, if you have an emergency or if another vehicle needs repairs.

Any driver who shares the address of the primary driver should be listed as a secondary driver on your policy. This includes nuclear family members – like siblings, parents, and anyone else living in your same home. It also includes roommates, partners, and anyone else living at your same address.

Secondary driver status is important. If your roommate crashes your car and was not listed as a secondary driver, then your insurance company could challenge your claim.

For this reason, you need to list all eligible secondary drivers with your insurance company to avoid insurance complications.

However, you do not need to list someone as a secondary driver if they drive your vehicle but do not live at the same address. If a friend drives your vehicle once or twice per month, for example, then you should not need to list this person as a secondary driver.

Confused about secondary drivers? Talk to your insurance company. Insurers have different rules about secondary drivers. By clarifying rules today, you can avoid insurance claim issues in the future.

The Primary Driver is Not Necessarily the Owner

In most cases, the primary driver on the car insurance policy is also the owner. You buy a car, and you buy car insurance for that vehicle.

However, the primary driver is not necessarily the owner. If your vehicle is in your name, but your husband regularly drives the vehicle to work, then you may need to list your husband as the primary driver even though you are the official owner of the vehicle.

Similarly, if you are leasing, renting, or financing a vehicle, then you are not the full owner of your vehicle. Your financing company (or the dealership) may own (or co-own) the vehicle. In this case, you may be listed as the primary driver even if you’re not the exclusive owner of the vehicle.

Insuring Multiple Vehicles and Drivers

If your household has multiple vehicles and multiple licensed drivers, then primary and secondary driver status can get messy. Many families share multiple vehicles, for example, with each person sharing driving roles.

In this situation, your insurer still needs to designate one person as the primary driver of each vehicle.

Any other drivers in the household will need to be registered as secondary drivers.

Typically, your insurer will recommend having each driver in the household register as the primary driver of one vehicle. Pick whichever vehicle you drive most frequently, then list yourself as the primary driver of that vehicle.

Some households have more vehicles than drivers. In this situation, you could be registered as the primary driver of multiple vehicles – and that’s okay.

Do Insurance Companies Investigate Claims for Primary Drivers?

Insurance companies can and will investigate an insurance claim to verify you are the primary driver.

If you cause a $100,000 accident, for example, but you are not registered as the primary driver of a vehicle, then your insurer could review evidence to determine how frequently you drive the vehicle. If you drive the vehicle 25 days of the month, for example, while the “primary driver” drives just 5 days a month, then the insurer could deny your claim. You incorrectly listed the primary and secondary drivers, and your insurer is not required to pay.

Final Word on Primary Drivers

The primary driver of a car insurance policy is the person who drives the vehicle more frequently than anyone else. It’s the person who spends the most time driving the vehicle relative to any other drivers (listed as “secondary drivers”) on the policy.

Your insurer needs to know the primary driver of the vehicle to calculate risk.

If you are confused about primary and secondary driver status, contact your insurance company and review your situation. If you incorrectly list your primary and secondary drivers, then your insurer could deny your claim.

James Shaffer
James Shaffer James Shaffer is a writer for InsurancePanda.com and a well-seasoned auto insurance industry veteran. He has a deep knowledge of insurance rules and regulations and is passionate about helping drivers save money on auto insurance. He is responsible for researching and writing about anything auto insurance-related. He holds a bachelor's degree from Bentley University and his work has been quoted by NBC News, CNN, and The Washington Post.
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