Handing your car keys to another driver, even for a quick trip, can be tough. Especially once these numerous (and, frankly, frightening) thoughts start whirling through your head:

Are they going to position my seat all wrong? Are they going to ride the clutch too hard? Are they going to reset my favorite radio station to polka?     

But perhaps the most important question you can ask before lending your car out is: Are they going to be covered by my insurance? If you’re confused about just who does and doesn’t get the benefit of your auto coverage when they take the wheel of your car, you’re not alone. It’s one of the most common questions we receive.

To ease to your worries, we’ve consulted with our customer service specialists. Together, we’ll scan the list of people who could conceivably take your wheels for a spin — and let you know when it’s safe, insurance-wise, to give them the keys.    

Does my car insurance policy cover someone else?

Immediate family

People living in the same house typically enjoy the car insurance coverage of whoever’s ride they’re using. In fact, depending on the laws in your state, everyone bunking under the same roof is often required to be on the same policy. Either way, if your son, daughter, or spouse wants to take your vehicle out, they should usually be covered as long as they have a valid drivers license.

Extended family

If your grandpa, aunt, or some other relative has to borrow your car while visiting, they’ll probably be covered by your policy thanks to permissive use. Permissive use means that if you give someone permission to use your ride, they can typically fall under your ride’s auto policy. Just make sure Grandpa Mort has a valid license before he takes off (no matter how much he insists that’s not how it was in “his day”).

If, on the other hand, relatives are living with you or using your car for several weeks, your insurer might want them added to your policy before they drive your car.

Friends

Permissive use also typically covers friends who use your wheels once in a while. If you and some buddies trade shifts on a road trip, for instance, they’ll likely enjoy your coverage options. They may, however, not get the same coverage amounts. Drivers not listed on your policy sometimes face lower liability limits. If your friends have their own car insurance, though, it can help make up any gap in coverage.

Boyfriend or girlfriend

Similar to your extended family, your boyfriend or girlfriend can probably use your car occasionally under permissive use if you live separately. But if you move in together, you might need to be listed on each other’s policies before you can share car insurance.

Understanding permissive use car insurance

Car insurance follows the car. And that simply means your coverage stays with your vehicle no matter who’s driving it (usually), as long as they’re immediate family or have your permission.

If you’re ever in doubt, though, you should always check with your insurer. They’ll go over your policy contract and let you know what will happen if someone else drives your car.

Want to update your policy? Find out how to add a driver to your car insurance.

Car insurance 101

about Alex

As copywriter for Esurance, Alex had professional experience in everything from film to literature to (thanklessly!) correcting the grammar in friends' emails. As a fervent Minnesota sports fan, he spends most of his non-writing time gently weeping into cereal bowls.