Does Car Insurance Follow the Car or the Driver?

Last Updated on April 26, 2021

One of the most commonly asked questions in the context of auto insurance is whether car insurance follows the vehicle or the driver. There is no clear answer to this question. An array of variables are in play ranging from the type of insurance to the coverages following the vehicle to those that follow the driver and so on. The general rule of thumb is auto insurance follows the vehicle as opposed to the driver. However, there are exceptions. The details of each claim differ as insurance laws and coverages hinge on the policy, the coverage level, and a number of other factors.

Collision and Comprehensive: Driver or Car?

Collision coverage pays to repair your vehicle if it was damaged in an auto accident. Comprehensive coverage pays to repair your vehicle if it was damaged in non-collision scenarios, for example, if a tree falls on your vehicle.Does Car Insurance Follow the Car or the Driver?

Collision coverage and comprehensive coverage follow the automobile as opposed to the driver. These coverages are necessary to cover the damage to the insured vehicle following an accident or vehicle vandalism. In other words, someone who loans their automobile also loans their comprehensive and collision coverage. Comprehensive coverage is essential as it applies to nearly everything. There are usually some stipulations in place in terms of who is allowed to drive the vehicle for coverage to remain intact.

If the driver in question is not a family member or other person designated as a driver covered under the policy, comprehensive and collision might not apply. When in doubt, check with your auto insurance provider before lending your vehicle to a friend or anyone else. In general, family members such as one’s spouse or children qualify as insured parties yet it does not hurt to ask before ceding control of your vehicle to someone else.

Liability Coverage: Driver or Car?

Liability coverage pays for the damage you inflict upon other vehicles and other people in an accident you are responsible for.

Liability insurance coverage is tied to the driver, regardless of which vehicle is in operation. As long a the vehicle qualifies as eligible, liability insurance coverage will apply to the driver. Every single state but for one (New Hampshire) mandates liability insurance coverage for drivers. This coverage is necessary to protect the insured party, meaning the driver, when operating an automobile owned by another person. This driver is typically covered with his or her own car insurance.

What About Other Drivers Operating the Insured Party’s Vehicle?

If an insured driver lets other drivers operate his or her vehicle, the language of the specific auto insurance policy dictates the extent of coverage or if coverage is applicable in the first place. Auto policy liability terms typically cover permissive use yet there are exceptions. Even the residency status of the driver in question matters. In general, those living in the insured party’s home are covered. However, coverage can be limited based on a number of factors detailed in the auto insurance policy.

Bodily Injury Liability Coverage and MedPay

Bodily injury liability coverage (BIL) is a type of liability coverage that pays for medical bills if you injure another party in a car accident you are responsible for. Medical payments coverage (MedPay) pays for you or your passenger’s medical expenses resulting from a car accident.

BIL coverage and MedPay typically follow the driver instead of the automobile.  MedPay proves helpful in instances in which the insured party or the passengers in the vehicle are injured, regardless of fault.  This coverage sticks with the driver. In some cases, this coverage even covers the insured party when riding a bike or walking. The coverage even has the potential to follow the driver when renting a vehicle.  The logic in applying coverage for a rental vehicle is that this vehicle is a temporary substitute for the driver’s primary vehicle so it should also be insured.

Though rare, it is possible for MedPay to follow the automobile.  As an example, if those riding in a vehicle are involved in an accident and lack coverage, MedPay coverage can kick in to cover the costs related to their injuries.

Permissive Drivers

Auto insurers define permissive drivers as those who are not family members and not listed on the auto insurance policy.  Such an individual is usually covered in most states yet the extent of coverage differs by each unique policy. As long as you provide the individual with permission to drive the vehicle, he or she will be covered by your insurance as opposed to his or her own policy.  This driver’s insurance might apply in the event that damages exceed those of your coverage limits.

If the damages are beyond your insurance coverage maximum and the other driver does not have his own insurance, you might be legally liable for the difference.  This is precisely why you should think twice before lending your vehicle to anyone. If he or she is careless, you might end up paying higher monthly auto insurance premiums to compensate for a mistake you did not make.

What About Non-Permitted Drivers?

Those who take an automobile without the owner’s permission are referred to as non-permitted drivers.  Damages stemming from an accident in which a non-permitted driver was behind the wheel are not covered by the owner’s auto insurance policy.  The challenge lies in proving the individual in question was not permitted to operate the vehicle. Unfortunately, if the driver behind the wheel lacks insurance, it will be difficult to recoup damages.

Final Word on Making Sure You’re Insured

Generally speaking, car insurance follows the vehicle and not the driver. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule and it’s not guaranteed that you will be insured every time you get behind the wheel of an insured vehicle.

Please contact an Insurance Panda expert today to help you figure out whether or not you are insured, and if not, what kind of auto insurance coverage you need.

James Shaffer
James Shaffer James Shaffer is a writer for 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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