Thousands of people risk driving borrowed cars without adequate cover because they do not understand how insurance policies work.
New findings from Churchill show that more than a third of motorists believe that if they have comprehensive car insurance cover on their own vehicle, this allows them to drive friends’ or relatives’ cars with the same level of protection.
In fact, few policies offer “driving other cars” (DOC) cover to comprehensive levels. Typically, if a policy includes a DOC clause at all, it will allow other vehicles to be driven only in an emergency and with third-party cover.
A spokesman for the Association of British Insurers said: “Some policies will cover you while driving a car which belongs to someone else, as long as you have the owner’s permission to do so. This can be helpful in emergencies. However, cover will usually be limited to third-party only, even if you have a comprehensive policy for your own car.
“Accidental damage to the borrowed car will not be covered by your insurance. If you drive another car regularly, the policyholder should add you to their policy as a named driver.”
Are you old enough to drive someone else’s car?
The research also found that nearly half of younger drivers – aged under 35 – thought they would be automatically covered to get behind the wheel of other cars. In fact, some insurers’ DOC clauses specifically exclude people under 25 or under 21.
The research showed that only a small minority of the motorists who thought their cover would extend to any other car understood that this would only apply for a limited time or in emergencies.
Meanwhile, only a quarter of all drivers said they would inform their insurer if they wanted to drive another vehicle.
Rob Miles, director of motor at Churchill Insurance, said: “Fully comprehensive insurance does not cover every driver in every situation and it’s worrying to see that so few motorists understand this. Drivers have a duty of care to passengers, fellow road users and pedestrians to ensure they have appropriate insurance cover in place when they get behind the wheel.”
Miles added that uninsured motorists drive up the cost of insurance premiums for all other drivers. “Ignorance is no excuse. We’d therefore urge all motorists to check their policies before using someone else’s car.”
There are other reasons that individuals may not be insured even if their policy has a DOC clause. For example, some policies state that DOC cover cannot be extended to a spouse’s vehicle – so if you want to use your other half’s car, you need to put yourself on their policy as a named driver.
Other DOC clauses may not apply to people who have certain occupations, particularly if the policyholder works in the motor industry. This is because such individuals might have cause to drive other cars in the course of their work, and insurers do not want their DOC cover to be abused.
At worst, failing to understand how DOC works means you could end up driving without any insurance, a crime punishable with a fixed penalty of £300 and six points or, if your case goes to court, unlimited fines and potential disqualification.
If your insurance extends you third-party cover only, any damage done to the borrowed car in an accident would not be insured and would have to be repaired out of your own pocket.