Non-owner car insurance: Coverage for drivers who don't own vehicles

If you don't own a car but still drive often, a non-owner car insurance policy may be a wise purchase.

When you drive someone else’s car, the owner’s auto insurance policy should cover you, assuming you are using the car with the owner’s permission. However, if you get into an accident and the damages exceed the amount specified by the owner’s liability coverage, you may be on the hook for a significant amount of money.

When this happens, the injured party could come after your personal assets – including your savings and home – to recover the rest. Non-owner insurance can help protect you by increasing the amount of your total coverage.

Non-owner insurance can also be helpful if you will be without a car for a period – say, for spending a year aboard – and want to maintain continuous insurance coverage to prevent higher rates in the future. (Insurers typically charge higher rates if your insurance coverage has lapsed recently.)

If you don’t own a car but your high-risk driver profile requires you to file a proof-of-insurance certificate with your state – such as an SR-22 or FR-44 – a non-owner policy can fulfill the liability coverage requirement you need to keep your driver’s license.

(Looking for a quote on a non-owner insurance policy? You can call the Insurance.com call center at 844-520-1574 for assistance.)

There may even be instances of needing a non-owner policy when you actually own a vehicle. If you are happy with your current auto insurance carrier, but find yourself in need of a state filing -- such as an SR-22 or FR-44 -- and your current carrier does not offer them, you can take out an additional policy just to satisfy the state's requirement. These supplementary policies are generally very inexpensive as they don't cover your vehicle and can be set to your state's minimum requirements.

What non-owner car insurance covers

A non-owner policy focuses mainly on providing you with bodily injury and property damage liability coverage. Some car insurance companies also offer medical payments and uninsured/underinsured motorist bodily injury coverage as part of their non-owner car insurance policies.

Optional coverage types, such as comprehensive, collision, towing reimbursement and rental reimbursement, are not available with non-owner policies since there is no vehicle attached to the policy. There are typically no deductibles associated with non-owner car insurance.

Your non-owner auto insurance may cover you when you rent a vehicle and are involved in an accident. However, not all non-owner policies extend coverage to rental vehicles, so check the fine print of the policy before buying if you expect to rent cars.

If you borrow someone's car and crash it, the vehicle owner's car insurance pays out first, and if it's not enough to cover damages, your non-owner policy would then pay out as secondary coverage – provided your policy’s liability limit is high enough. For the non-owner policy to kick in as secondary coverage, its liability limit has to be higher than the car owner’s liability limit.

For instance, if the car owner's liability limit is $10,000 for property damage, and you cause $17,000 in property damage in an accident, your non-owner insurance would cover only the last $7,000 – provided your liability limit is at least $17,000.

Remember, however, that this pays for the car that you hit, not your friend’s car or your rental vehicle. A non-owner policy doesn’t include collision coverage, so it won’t cover repairs to the vehicle you were driving.

How much does non-owner coverage cost

A non-owners policy costs "significantly less" than a typical insurance policy, says Amanda Shore, operations analyst at the Insurance.com Florida call center.

That's because non-owner drivers typically drive less than drivers who own their own vehicle, reducing the chances they'll be in a wreck, Shore says.

To get a non-owner car insurance quote, you must have a valid driver’s license and not own a car. Most insurers also mandate that you don’t have regular access to a car, such as one owned by another member of your household. If someone in your home has a vehicle, you should get listed on that auto insurance policy if possible.

As with a conventional policy, it’s wise to compare car insurance quotes before choosing your non-owner policy. While non-owner insurance is generally cheaper than conventional policies, there are still significant price variations between carriers, particularly if you have a less-than-perfect driving record. 

With additional reporting by Susan Ladika

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