What happens if you lend your car to someone else?

Reviewed by Daniel Mirkovic

Updated May 14, 2024

There are many situations in which you need to lend your car to someone. Obviously, it’s your car, so it should be up to you how and when others drive it.

But, does your insurance let someone else drive your car? Or, if you borrow someone’s car, are you covered?

In this article, you’ll learn how car insurance works when someone other than the owner is driving.

Woman standing in front of a car, holding out car keys in front of her

Who can drive under my car insurance?

To start with, it’s important to be aware that car insurance works differently in each Canadian province. Fortunately, the rules for letting someone else drive your car don’t differ too much.

Car insurance policies are attached to individual vehicles. They typically don’t follow you from car to car, except in special circumstances like driving a rental while your regular car undergoes repairs. So, if you let someone else drive your car, you need to make sure that the insurance policy for that vehicle permits others to drive it.

In Ontario, Alberta, Quebec, and most other provinces, someone else can usually drive your car if they meet the following criteria:

  • They have your permission (verbal permission is enough)
  • They have a valid driver’s licence
  • They are not listed as an excluded driver on the policy
  • They will be operating the vehicle legally

One major exception is in BC. Drivers in BC need to have Unlisted Driver Protection in order to lend their vehicle to someone who isn’t listed on the policy. Individual insurers in other provinces may have their own rules, too — so be aware of your own policy’s conditions.

In every province, there’s a limit to how often someone can drive your vehicle before they need to be named on your insurance policy. As a rule of thumb, if someone is driving your car more than a handful of times in a year, they may need to be listed as an occasional driver.

An occasional driver is someone listed on a car insurance policy but who is not the vehicle’s primary driver. Many insurers restrict occasional drivers to people residing in the same household as the primary driver. If you regularly lend your vehicle to someone outside your household, make sure your insurer is aware of the arrangement.

What happens if someone gets into an accident with my car?

If you lend your vehicle to someone, your car insurance policy will cover them and your car just as it would if you were driving. That is, of course, assuming that they’re permitted to drive under the policy.

So, they’d have third-party liability coverage if they were found liable for damage or injury while driving your car. They’d be able to access accident benefits as well, if they were injured in the crash.

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If someone else gets into an accident while driving your car, you can start a claim with your insurance provider. If they were at fault for the accident, your insurance premiums would likely increase at your next annual renewal. That’s exactly how it would happen if you were driving.

However, their insurance premiums could increase, too. Since they were driving, the accident would go onto their driver’s licence record. So, if they have their own vehicle and car insurance, their provider would note any new at-fault accidents upon their annual renewal, and probably raise their rates accordingly.

What if I’m in an accident with someone else’s car?

Everything above is also true if you’re borrowing someone else’s vehicle and you’re not listed on their car insurance policy. If you’re borrowing someone’s car with their permission, you’ll usually be able to use their car insurance in the event of an accident.

But, since you were driving, the accident would go on your driving record. That could result in increased car insurance rates the next time you renew your own policy. The person from whom you borrowed the car might also see increased rates if they have to make a claim to repair damage.

Commonly asked questions

Who can drive under my insurance in Ontario?

In Ontario, you can lend your car to another person and your insurance policy will cover them as long as they have a valid driver’s license and they’re not listed as an excluded driver under the policy. This only applies to one-time lending; someone who regularly drives your car (even once per month or so) needs to be listed on the policy.

You can also drive someone else’s car in Ontario, under the same rules applying: as long as you have the owner’s permission, their policy will cover you.

Do I have to add my family members to my car insurance?

You’ll generally have to list every licensed driver in your household on your car insurance policy, whether a spouse, child, or roommate. Even if your child only has a learner’s license (like a G1 or G2 in Ontario), they will need to be listed on your car insurance policy. This is so the insurance provider can properly calculate a price based on who will or may drive the car.

What is an occasional driver?

The person who drives a vehicle the majority of the time is known as the primary driver or principal driver. An occasional driver is anyone else who is listed on the same policy and may drive the vehicle sometimes (even very seldomly).

Does car insurance follow the car or the driver?

Car insurance is attached to the car. So, even if you have car insurance for your own vehicle, you can’t hop into a different uninsured car and drive it around.

Want to learn more? Visit our Car insurance resource centre for dozens of helpful articles to guide you through the complexities of car insurance. Or, get an online quote in under 5 minutes and find out how affordable personalized car insurance can be.

About the expert: Daniel Mirkovic

A co-founder of Square One with 25 years of experience in the insurance industry, Daniel was previously vice president of the insurance and travel divisions at the British Columbia Automobile Association. Daniel has a bachelor of commerce and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia. He holds a Canadian Accredited Insurance Broker (CAIB) designation and a general insurance license level 3 in BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario.

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