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A car comes in handy when you need to get to work five days a week and still have time to run errands during your off hours. It’s also nice to let family members and friends use your vehicle when you don’t need it. But there’s a catch. If other people drive your car, even if only from time to time, you want to make sure your insurance covers their use of your car. Here’s the good news: This kind of coverage is easy to get. It’s called secondary driver insurance, or occasional driver insurance. Adding a second driver to your car insurance policy will likely raise your premiums, but it can also save you a world of grief if your car is in an accident when someone else is behind the wheel.

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Your secondary driver insurance questions, answered.

What is secondary driver insurance?

When you take out coverage on a car you buy or lease for your own use, your insurance company deems you to be the “primary driver.” You’re the person who’ll spend the most time behind the wheel and put the most mileage on the odometer. And your driving record will be the key element in determining your insurance premium, after accounting for factors such as the type of car you buy and the level of coverage you want.

But what if there’s someone in your life who drives your car from time to time? Maybe they’re a member of your household, a friend or a relative. If they use the vehicle regularly, even if not especially frequently, your insurer may consider them a “secondary driver” (sometimes called an “occasional driver”). 

If that’s the case, you’ll need additional insurance on your policy to cover them in case of an accident.

Fortunately, secondary driver insurance is not difficult to get. When you take out a policy, your insurance provider will add any drivers you want to include on your policy. It will increase the cost of your premium, but it’s worth it. Say your partner or teenage child borrows your car on occasion and has an accident while driving. If they are not listed on your policy as secondary drivers, your insurer may deny your claim — even if your partner or teen doesn’t drive on a routine basis.

Secondary driver insurance rules can apply to friends and relatives as well, or anybody else who uses your car on semi-regularly. When you are buying a policy, talk to your insurance broker or agent about who will use your vehicle and how often that person will drive. They’ll be able to advise you on who you should list as a secondary driver on your policy.

When it comes to defining an occasional driver vs. a secondary driver, most insurance companies use the terms interchangeably. 

How does secondary driver insurance work?

Imagine this scenario: You have a friend who recently moved and wants to borrow your car on a Saturday afternoon to make a one-off run to IKEA. They want to buy a few things for their new home, and you want to help. But you’re concerned about whether your car will be covered if there’s a fender-bender in the crowded parking lot.

As long as your friend is a licensed driver — and you’ve consented to the loan of your vehicle — your insurance travels with your car. Your friend will be covered in the event of an accident, unless they’re doing something unsafe or illegal, like driving under the influence.

Likewise, you can rest easy lending your vehicle to visiting relatives who want to take in an afternoon of sightseeing. As long as you consent to the loan, a licenced driver is behind the wheel, and they follow the law, your coverage will be in effect.

Now suppose you have a friend — or partner or roommate — who uses the car you drive to work to run errands on weekends. In this case, you’ll want to list them as a secondary driver. Insurance companies won’t view this person in the same way as someone who borrows your car for a one-off use. They see greater risk, and you’ll need secondary driver coverage.

In fact, it’s generally good practice to list any licensed driver in your household on your policy. (Ontario and Alberta require it). At minimum, talk to your agent or broker about your potential needs for secondary driver coverage. Tell them who else may drive your car and how often.

And remember, honesty is the best policy. Don’t try to avoid higher premiums by saying your teenage son or daughter won’t be driving your new SUV and then lend it to them to go to occasional school sports events. Your insurance company will likely take a dim view of a claim if your teen has an accident.

What does secondary driver insurance cover?

People listed as second drivers on your auto insurance policy receive the same coverage as you, the primary driver. Listing secondary drivers on your policy will likely increase you premium. But they are not part of a separate policy — all of your vehicle’s coverage extends to them.

What does secondary driver insurance cost?

If you're wondering whether secondary driver insurance is cheaper, the cost of adding an occasional driver to your policy depends on that individual’s driving record. A middle-aged person who has never been in an accident and has consistent auto insurance coverage over several years will likely be offered lower secondary driver car insurance rates compared to a teenager who just got their licence — especially if that new young driver is male. The insurance industry considers them especially high risk.

How can I get cheap secondary driver insurance?

When comparing secondary driver insurance quotes, there are steps you can take to tame the premium increase for a young person you want to list on your policy.

  • Driver training: Insurance companies generally offer discounts for new drivers who have completed an approved driver-training program.
  • Multiple vehicles: If you’ve bought a second car and plan to make it available to a young driver in your household, ask your insurance company if they will give you a discount if you buy multi-vehicle insurance. This type of insurance will cover all cars in your household under a single policy and will be cost-efficient for any multi-vehicle household.
  • Good students: Drivers under the age of 25 who are in school may be eligible for a discount if they maintain good grades.

I want my teen to have a car, but it will cost a lot to insure them. Can I be the primary driver of their vehicle to save money? 

This is a tricky question. Of course, listing your teen as a secondary driver on a policy where you’re the primary driver is cheaper than listing them as the primary driver on a car of their own. But you may have a hard time convincing your insurance company that you are the primary driver for two or more vehicles in your family’s household. Most insurers won’t let you be the primary driver of two cars if you live with someone else who has their licence.

2 parents + 1 teen driver + 2 cars

1 parent is the primary driver of one car

1 parent is the primary driver of the second car

Teen can be listed as a secondary driver

1 parent + 1 teen driver + 2 cars

Parent is the primary driver of one car

Teen is the primary driver of the second car

In short, there’s no savings to be had here — and a lot of risk if you try to understate your teen’s access to family vehicles.

The advantage of adding your teen as a secondary driver to your policy is that you are helping them build a driving record and history with an insurance provider. As long as they remain claims free, this will have a positive impact on their premiums and ease of getting insurance in future years, when they take out a policy for a car of their own.

Where can I buy secondary driver insurance?

Secondary driver insurance is part of the policy you buy for your car. All auto insurance companies offer this type of coverage, so you can find the best secondary driver car insurance for your needs. The record of the primary driver is part of their risk assessment in calculating a premium. The same goes for other people who drive the car occasionally. The level of risk they present based on their driving record will also factor into the final premium for the policy.

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