I haven't owned a car for months, and I'm about to go on a road trip with a few friends. We want to split the driving between ourselves, but I haven't owned a car in months, so I no longer pay for auto insurance.

Can I legally drive my friend's car? Whose insurance applies in the case of an accident?

  • 2
    Get your friend to call their insurance company and read the policy. Feb 2, 2017 at 22:43
  • 3
    There doesn't appear to be a general rule as to whether the owner's insurance covers your liability – that's a "check the policy" issue. You are required to have liability insurance and to provide proofs of such insurance.
    – user6726
    Feb 2, 2017 at 23:23
  • You may also be able to buy "spot" insurance for just this outing, similar to what car rental companies offer (but hopefully, more reasonably priced). Try calling your previous insurance agent and asking them about this. Mar 1 at 13:49

1 Answer 1


I'm not aware of any U.S. state that requires Many U.S. states do not require personal vehicle drivers to be insured. I.e., with the exception of some commercial classes of vehicles, the law only requires that cars driven on public roads be insured (to levels specified by law or regulation).

In every case I have encountered, state insurance regulators do allow insurers to assess premiums based on the owners and drivers of insured cars. Therefore, you must review the insurance policy to ensure that your use of the car complies with its terms. Policies will usually have exceptions or guidelines for when "occasional, casual, or intermittent" drivers must be declared.

If an undeclared driver has an accident, and the insurer determines the driver should have been declared, then the insurer might cancel its coverage or increase the premiums charged to the owner. Both the driver and the owner could even find themselves without insurance coverage for the incident.

  • 1
    Although, RCW 46.30.020 "No person may operate a motor vehicle subject to registration ...unless the person is insured under a motor vehicle liability policy", so both the operator and vehicle are bound by law.
    – user6726
    Feb 3, 2017 at 1:38
  • 1
    @user6726 - Hmm... I'm not familiar with WA, but it's not known as the biggest outlier in insurance regulation. Do you happen to know whether the effect of that law is the same as if it only stipulated vehicle insurance because (I conjecture) nobody can write auto insurance in WA that doesn't cover "occasional" drivers of a car?
    – feetwet
    Feb 3, 2017 at 2:20
  • 1
    ORC 4509.101 is about operating (or permitting). I'll see if I can find out if there's such an effect.
    – user6726
    Feb 3, 2017 at 2:33
  • 2
    They must offer, you may decline. apps.leg.wa.gov/wac/default.aspx?cite=284-20-300 (2). If you reject the required liability insurance, you are supposed to have comparable cash on hand or functional equivalent per RCW 46.30.020. As I recall, Ohio is the same.
    – user6726
    Feb 3, 2017 at 5:34
  • 5
    @user6726: So what's it like to be pulled over in WA in someone else's car? Do police demand "license, insurance, and registration," and then when they see the licensee isn't the insured do they come back and say, "OK, sir, now show us your insurance?"
    – feetwet
    Feb 3, 2017 at 12:45

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