Does my car insurance cover my kid who is away at school?

If your college student ever drives at school, make sure you understand when they are covered under your car insurance and when they aren't.

Does my car insurance cover my kid who is away at school?

Congratulations! Your son or daughter is away at college. The house is a little quieter than it has been in a long time, which is a bit bittersweet. And nobody is asking to borrow your car except on college breaks. That may leave you wondering: is your college student covered under your auto insurance policy?

Let us take you through the most common situations, and whether your policy is likely to cover your son or daughter. The starting point is whether your child’s permanent residence is still your home, or if they have a home of their own when school is not in session:

Your son or daughter's permanent residence is your home.

Your kid owns their own car.

They (and their vehicle) should either be listed on your policy, or they should have their own, separate policy in their name. Which option makes sense will depend on your insurance company’s policies in your state and whose name is on the car’s title.

Your son or daughter doesn’t own a car and drives your car occasionally when they are home on break.

They’ll need to be listed on your policy. Insurance companies want all resident drivers listed. Your policy also covers your college student for liability when they drive a borrowed or rented car. That’s nice peace of mind. Your insurance company may offer a discount for college students away at school, so be sure to ask your agent.

Sometimes parents take their child off their policy during the semester. This is a risky for three reasons.

  • If you forget to put your child back on the policy and they drive your car, they’ll have no coverage at all. If they are financially supported by you, you could be sued as well.
  • If your son or daughter ever borrows a friend’s car, or rents a car without buying insurance, they may be driving with little or no insurance.
  • If your college student is injured by an uninsured, underinsured, or hit and run driver, they won’t have access to any uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage you have on your policy. This is especially concerning for students who are biking and walking on busy city streets.

Your son or daughter never drives your car, but they sometimes drive a borrowed, rented, or car shared car for personal use.

If you don’t keep your child on your policy, you should make sure they have a non-owned auto policy. It’s car insurance for people who drive but don’t own a car. (It’s also called named non owner coverage. Same thing, different confusing insurance name.) It’s much cheaper than regular car insurance because it’s for people who usually drive less than car owners. Non owned auto will cover injuries or damage your child causes in a crash if there’s no insurance on the vehicle. This allows them to skip the expensive rental car company insurance. And you’ll never have to wonder if their friend with a car paid their insurance bill.

Your son or daughter has a new permanent residence.

This also implies that your college student is not financially dependent on you. The situation where your son or daughter has their own home, but you are financially supporting them can get complicated. You could be held responsible for some of their actions in some situations. If this is your family, make sure you talk to your insurance agent. They’ll be able to sort out what kind of coverage you and your child need.

And they own a car.

They need their own policy. Easy enough.

They don’t own a car, but they drive your car regularly.

Keys and leather keychain that says "Dad's Keys"
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“Regularly” is a little fuzzy, but they probably need to be listed on your policy. A driver you loan your car to occasionally is covered under your policy. They don’t need to be listed on your policy if they don’t live with you. But regular drivers do need to be listed on your policy. Check with your insurance agent to see what counts as regular.

They don’t own a car, but sometimes drive your car or someone else’s.

They should have a non-owned auto policy to protect themselves. Otherwise, they are hoping the vehicle owner has insurance and has enough to cover them.

One more common situation.

Your son our daughter drives for Uber, Lyft, or another car share service.

Whether they should be on your auto insurance policy has nothing to do with driving for Uber or Lyft. The personal auto insurance policy you use to cover your family will not pay for accidents that happen when the car is being used as a source of income. The only exception to this is if your auto insurance company offers coverage you can add to the policy for this situation. Ask your agent. Otherwise, your child absolutely needs a commercial auto policy. They should talk with their rideshare company to see if they have options available.

Conclusion

Car insurance policies do vary by insurance company. You should always check with your insurance agent for your family’s specific situation.

For more information about insurance for the college set, see our guide to insurance for college students.

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