If you don’t own a car but regularly drive someone else’s – perhaps your partner’s, or maybe you borrow your mum’s every week – then you can have your name put on their car insurance, usually quite easily.
This means that you'll become a named driver on that person’s car insurance policy and you'll be legally covered to drive their car.
But what if you already have your own car that’s insured in your name? Is it okay for you to get behind the wheel of someone else’s? Chances are that you’ve driven a friend or relative’s car in the past, without actually checking whether you were insured to do so. Maybe you’ve split a long journey with another driver or you’ve had to use someone else’s car in an emergency, to drive them to hospital, for example.
Check whether you're insured
Many of us assume that because we have a comprehensive car insurance policy this means that we’re covered to drive another vehicle. It’s wrong to assume this and it could be a costly mistake.
You can be fined and get points on your driving licence if you drive without adequate car insurance. In some cases, you could be banned from driving altogether. In these instances, insurance companies can refuse to pay for damage to the car being driven.
If you have car insurance, you may be covered to drive a car that does not belong to you, with the owner’s permission, on a third-party basis. Third-party basis means that the insurance company will cover you legally if you kill or injure someone, damage their property or damage their car. This is referred to in car insurance policies as a ‘Drive Other Cars’ option.
However, as not all car insurance companies offer this option, you must check your insurance certificate or check with the company before you drive someone else’s car. It is also worth noting that most companies insist that you are over the age of 25 to have the ‘Drive Other Cars’ option.
What if you want to test-drive a car you might buy? If you are test-driving a car from a dealer, then they will have insurance cover for this purpose.
If you're a learner driver, then you must also check that you have the correct insurance cover before you get behind the wheel of another person’s car. And you must display L-plates anytime you're driving their car.
You need to make sure that the car owner’s insurance covers you, which means that person adding you to their insurance policy as a named driver on a temporary basis or for a set period of time.
Finally, it’s always a good idea to familiarise yourself with a different car before you drive off. For example, if you’ve been used to driving an automatic car for a few years, you might find a manual gear system quite daunting. Give yourself the opportunity to get used to a strange car and its clutch and gears before taking it on the road. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.