Even if you have comprehensive car insurance you may not be covered to drive someone else’s car. Read our guide to find out how to ensure you’re legal to drive before you get behind the wheel.
Many people assume that their own comprehensive car insurance policy allows them to drive another vehicle – perhaps you occasionally drive your partner’s or family member’s car assuming you get the same level of cover as they do.
But the likelihood is, you may not be covered to drive it at all unless you’re specifically named on the policy. If you are permitted to drive other cars on your insurance, it will only be third-party cover and may only be for social, domestic and pleasure purposes. You’ll need to check the wording.
If you have a comprehensive insurance policy on your own car, you may have driving other cars (DOC) cover included. In the past, driving other cars cover was a fairly standard addition to comprehensive policies, but fewer insurers now offer it as it was always only intended to be used for emergency situations.
The car you want to drive must be covered by an existing insurance policy and you must have permission to drive it.
Although driving other cars cover does allow you to drive another already insured vehicle, most policies will only cover you to drive other cars with third party only (TPO) cover, rather than the fully comprehensive cover you get on your own car.
Third party is the minimum cover you legally need to drive, and in the event of an accident your insurer will pay for any damage or injuries to third parties, their vehicles or property, but will not pay for repairs or replacement of the car you were driving.
So if you're driving a friend's car and get into an accident, you could be liable for any repair bills to their vehicle as this won't be covered by your insurance. This level of cover will cover injuries caused to any third parties, including your passengers, but not to yourself.
Read our guide on the different types of insurance to learn about third party only (TPO), third party, fire and theft (TPFT), and comprehensive insurance policies.
Some insurers also state that even if you have commuting and business use on your insurance, only social driving will be covered if you drive someone else’s car. The devil is in the details so always check the policy wording.
Driving other cars cover allows you to drive other insured cars without being a named driver or buying temporary cover. The car you want to drive must be covered by an existing insurance policy and you must have permission to drive it.
Driving other cars cover is usually only available on a comprehensive car insurance policy so if you have third party (or third party, fire and theft) cover, you won’t be covered to drive any other cars. It is not automatically included on every comprehensive policy – so check first.
Unfortunately, driving other cars cover is not available to everyone. Insurers will typically exclude DOC cover from your insurance policy if you are under 25, as you’re seen as a higher risk to insurers. Those with criminal convictions or who have made an insurance claim on their own policy may not be able to get DOC cover either.
Some occupations are excluded too. Those in the motor trade, for example, are likely to drive their customers’ cars regularly, so insurers may take the view that you’re more likely to be involved in an accident. If you drive your customers’ cars, your company should have its own insurance in place for those circumstances.
It’s important to realise that driving other cars cover should not be seen as a substitute for a full car insurance policy. If you get into an accident while driving someone else’s car, you could end up paying a hefty repair bill.
Driving other cars insurance is only ever third party only insurance, so it will not pay for any damage your do to the car you have borrowed. You would need to pay for that out of your own pocket.
It’s best to check with your insurer to find out whether you have DOC cover as it’s not always included automatically. Make sure you check before borrowing someone else’s car.
If you own a second car, note that you cannot use your ‘driving other cars’ cover from your first car to avoid taking out insurance on the second car. Driving other cars cover is an add-on intended to allow you to drive other cars in an emergency, and will not extend to other cars you own.
If you don’t have DOC cover, there are other options that allow you to legally drive someone else’s car:
Add your name to the policy: If you plan to use another person’s car regularly, or even occasionally, ask for them to add you as a named driver on their insurance policy. Depending on your driving experience, it could even help to cut the cost of their cover.
Temporary car insurance: Alternatively, you could consider a temporary car insurance policy if you plan to borrow their vehicle as a one-off. You can even get one-day cover to drive someone else's car.
Temporary car insurance is a short-term car insurance policy that typically lasts between one and 28 days, sometimes longer. It can be ideal if you need to borrow a family member’s car for a short period of time.
It’s important to understand that you can only drive a car if you have insurance. If you don’t have your own insurance policy (either on your own car including DOC cover, as a named driver on the car owner’s policy, or standalone temporary cover), you will not be legally covered to drive.
Remember that it’s not the car that’s insured – it’s the driver. So while the owner of the car may have an insurance policy for the vehicle, each driver needs to have their own insurance (with driving other cars cover), or be specifically named on the policyholder’s insurance policy.
The bottom line is you must have insurance to drive a car, whether it’s yours or somebody else’s. The only exception is when you're hiring a car or taking driving lessons in a professional instructor's car, as the insurance will be included in the cost of the hire car or lesson.
All things considered, it’s best not to jump into a friend’s car and assume you can legally drive it, even with their permission.
The same rules apply if someone else wants to borrow your car. To be covered, they will either need to have DOC cover or be added to your own insurance policy as a named driver.
A temporary insurance policy may be a good option if, for example, your son or daughter wants to drive your car while they are home from university, and they are not covered on your insurance.
Alternatively, you could consider ‘any driver’ car insurance which means anyone can drive your car – there’s often no limit to how many people can drive it. However, this type of policy isn’t very common, and you’ll often find it’s very expensive.