Survey: 1 in 3 drivers trust someone else with their car, despite insurance risks

person holding key ring

We wanted to get a read on people's understanding of their car insurance coverage, so we ran a poll to see how trusting Americans are when lending out their cars.

Are we overly trusting when handing over the keys?

Raise your hand if this sounds familiar: your friend's in a pinch and needs to borrow your car. You shrug and say, "why not?" They take off with your ride and return it home safely. No scratch. No harm done. Right?

But fender benders and minor accidents are pretty common. So what happens when someone else gets into an accident with your car? Who's responsible? As it turns out, the whole thing can get pretty messy.

At Esurance, we're committed to making car insurance surprisingly painless. One way we do that is by making insurance coverages simple and transparent so people can actually understand them. To that end, we're shedding a light on some of the myths and confusion surrounding "permissive use" — that is, who's covered and who's not when it comes to lending out your car. Because a little clarification can go a long way in helping drivers everywhere understand the risks and feel confident about their decisions.

We polled 2,000 Americans ages 18 and up and asked them the following questions:

  1. Would you let someone you trust but who isn't listed on your insurance borrow your car?
  2. Who would you trust to borrow your car?

Here's what we discovered:

  • 36% would trust someone who isn't listed on their insurance to borrow their car.
  • Young drivers are significantly less likely to trust someone with their car.
  • People were most likely to trust a parent with their car over anyone else.

Over one third would lend their car to someone not on their policy

comfortable lending graphic comfortable lending graphic

About 1 in 3 people we polled said they would lend their car to someone even if they're not listed on the car's insurance policy. On the surface, lending your car out may seem like no big deal, but this casual attitude could be related to the fact that some people are unclear about how their coverage works. Car insurance follows the car, not the driver — so when lending your car, you're also lending your insurance. That could mean money out of your pocket if something happens.

People trust parents over anyone else when lending their car

who we let borrow graphic who we let borrow graphic

When asked who they'd trust to borrow their car, nearly half of surveyees said a parent. Tied for second place were siblings and close friends. Less than one third would lend their car to a significant other, extended family member, or an acquaintance or neighbor.

Gen Z drivers are significantly less likely to lend their cars than Baby Boomers

how trust varies graphic how trust varies graphic

According to the survey results, the youngest drivers are also the least willing to take this risk. Less than a third of Gen Z and millennial drivers aged 18-34 would lend their car to someone not on their policy, compared to nearly half of adults aged 55-64, a group that falls into the Baby Boomer generation.

Believe it or not, one study found drivers aged 18-24 were less likely to drive distracted than Millennials or even Baby Boomers ... no, seriously!

So who's covered to drive your car?

Despite popular belief, insurance stays with the car, not the driver. Usually, when you give anyone permission to borrow your vehicle, your insurance is still on the hook and the borrower's insurance acts as secondary coverage.

Laws vary by state, but here are some situations where lending your car could cost you:

  • If your friend borrows your car and gets in a wreck, you'd be responsible for filing a claim and paying the deductible; plus, your rate may increase.
  • If your friend borrows your car and causes damages that exceed your car insurance limits, the rest may come out of your pocket.

There are several other risks to lending out your car to drivers not on your policy:

  • Depending on your state, your liability limits may drop to the state's minimum if an unlisted person drives your car and causes an injury or accident. That means you'd have to foot the bill for costs beyond these limits.
  • If you routinely file claims for damages caused by an unlisted driver, your insurer may cancel your policy.

To make sure you cover all bases, it's good to know when you should add drivers.

Who should you add to your policy?

You might consider adding any friends or family members who live with you to your insurance policy. In fact, when you buy insurance, that's something you're typically asked from the get-go. Now, if you let someone who doesn't live with you use your car a lot, also consider adding them to your policy. In case of an accident, it could curb any unwanted surprises — like having to pay a lot more out of your pocket. Or coverage flatout being denied if the driver is excluded under your policy.

Bottom line: car insurance follows your car — not you

Next time you're deciding whether or not to lend your car out, think about this: one third of people who borrow cars from friends and family either aren't covered by car insurance or aren't sure if they're covered. When deciding whether or not to lend your car to someone, remember that you're lending your insurance as well as your car. The borrower's insurance acts as secondary insurance. But if they're uninsured, you'll have no secondary insurance — and the cost of any damages that exceed your coverage limits could fall on you.

No one can ensure the safety of you and your vehicle better than you. If you do need to lend your car, here are some things to consider:

  • Does the borrower have a valid driver's license and their own auto insurance?
  • Are your registration and insurance documents in your glove box?
  • What does and doesn't your policy cover? And who is and isn't listed on it? If you let an excluded driver, say, borrow your car, there'll typically be no coverage for any injuries or vehicle damage while they're driving.

Of course, it's critical to have the right amount of car insurance — and to fully understand what your insurance covers. To help you figure out your coverage needs, Esurance offers Coverage Counselor®. It's an online tool that explains coverages for you to consider in words that make sense. So you can feel confident about getting the protection that's right for you. It's just one more way Esurance is making insurance surprisingly painless.


Car Next Door | National Safety Council | The Harris Poll


This study consisted of two survey questions conducted using Google Surveys. The sample consisted of no less than 1,000 completed responses per question. Post-stratification weighting has been applied to ensure an accurate and reliable representation of the total population. The survey ran during March 2019.

Related links

Who's covered under my car insurance policy?
If you're confused about who is and isn't covered by your auto coverage, learn more here.

Car insurance claims
Here's how to handle an accident at the scene and what to do after you file a claim.

Adding or removing cars and drivers
Learn the ins and outs of managing the people and vehicles on your policy.

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