5 must-know facts about non-owners car insurance

By Posted : 08/13/2013

non owners car insuranceEven if you don't have your own wheels, it might be a good idea to have your own auto insurance .

Non-owner car insurance protects you in case you cause an accident in a car you borrow or rent and end up on the financial hook for the damage and injuries other people suffer.

Although not heavily advertised, non-owner policies are available from a variety of insurers and provide important protection as well as proof of financial responsibility. Just as with standard insurance, you should compare car insurance quotes to be sure you get the best car insurance rates.

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As the name implies, a non-owner policy is not for you if you own a car, and generally you're excluded from purchasing one if you have regular access to a vehicle. If someone regularly furnishes a vehicle for you, you should be a listed driver on that car owner's policy. In addition, the vehicles you rent or borrow should be for personal use only. Ask about a commercial non-owners policy if you use cars for business purposes.

Here are five must-know facts before you buy:

1. Chief purpose of non-owner car insurance: liability protection

A non-owner policy provides liability insurance, although some policies include personal injury protection or medical payments and uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.

Liability insurance pays for the damage and injuries you cause others. You can buy liability insurance at the rental counter, but a non-owner policy is probably more cost-effective if you rent cars frequently. Liability insurance through rental car companies runs about $7 to $14 a day.

If you borrow a friend's car, your friend's liability insurance typically would pay out first if you caused an accident. Your non-owner policy would kick in if the damages exceeded the friend's liability limits.

Without a non-owner policy, the injured people could come after you to pay their medical bills and car repairs if your friend didn't have enough coverage.

How much protection should you buy?

"This will vary on the customer's assets," says Jarrett Dunbar, a Nationwide Insurance spokesperson. "Non-owner policies are a very unique insurance situation."

As such, Nationwide agents offer personalized reviews to help customers select the right amount of coverage they can afford, Dunbar says.

"This involves understanding how often our customer will have use of other vehicles and how those vehicles will be used," he says. "It's also important to understand who is responsible for damage to the vehicle if an accident were to occur and how your coverage interacts with other insurance policies that may be in play."

2. Non-owner auto insurance can help you get a driver's license reinstated

People who need to provide proof of financial responsibility to keep or reinstate a driver's license are the primary buyers of non-owner policies, says Sandra Spann, a spokesperson for American Family Insurance. After serious violations, some states require you to file an SR-22 or FR-44 form, which certifies you have the type and amount of insurance mandated by the state. To get the document filed, you have to buy coverage from an insurer that provides the filing.

"People who do not own a vehicle, but still need to show this proof, would purchase a non-owners policy," Spann says.

3. Protection for the cars you drive not included in non-owner auto insurance

Non-owner car insurance does not include these optional forms of car insurance:

  • Collision
  • Comprehensive
  • Towing
  • Rental reimbursement

That means the policy does not cover the vehicle you borrow or rent if you wreck it or if it gets damaged or stolen while you're using it.

You can pass on liability insurance at the rental counter if you have a non-owner liability policy, but you should still purchase a loss damage waiver or a collision damage waiver through the rental company. The waiver isn't insurance, but rather an agreement by the rental company to waive your financial responsibility if the rental car is damaged or stolen. Without the waiver, you could face a hefty bill for repairs and loss of use if you crash the car.

4. Cheaper than standard full coverage

Costs vary anywhere from 10 percent to 80 percent of the price you'd pay for a standard full-coverage auto policy, Dunbar says.

"Much depends on how often the customer has access to a car, how that car will be used, and what age the operator is," he says.

Your driving history and insurance risk score based on credit information may also be considered, Spann says

5. Could save you money on car insurance down the road

Going without any car insurance, even if you don't own a car, can lead to higher car insurance rates when you do buy or lease a car and need a standard policy. Insurers consider a gap in your car insurance history a red flag signaling high risk.

Maintaining a non-owners policy lets you keep a continuous history of insurance coverage so you can qualify for better rates later as a car owner.

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