Is my car insured when somebody else is driving?

By IOL Motoring Staff Time of article published Sep 20, 2016

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Cape Town - Most family cars have more than one driver: Mom, Dad and teenage kids may all wind up driving it at some stage.

But what happens if somebody other than the person in whose name the car is insured is involved in an accident?

Even if it wasn't their fault, you could wind up footing the bill - or at least part of it - if that person isn't covered to drive the car under your policy. So it's vital to update the 'regular driver' section of the policy when you get a new car and the old one gets passed on to one of the kids.

The questions in the driver section of a vehicle insurance policy are designed to create a risk profile of that driver, in terms of age, driving experience, where the car will be driven and how much distance it averages over a given period, says Attie Blaauw, head of personal lines underwriting at Santam.

Obviously, a car that's driven mostly at night by a student will have a different risk profile from one that's driven only on Sundays by a little old lady.

"When someone other than the policyholder drives the vehicle regularly, you should be aware that this affects your insurance cover," said Blaauw. "If the regular driver is not correctly declared in your insurance policy and a different person who drives the vehicle regularly is involved in a crash, your claim may be rejected or not paid in full."

Q&A: What is a regular driver?

If you drive the car more often than anybody else over a 12 month period, you're the regular driver, even if you're not the policyholder.

Why does this matter?

Insurance companies calculate your premium based on your risk profile as the regular driver. If anybody else drives the car more than you do, that changes the risk profile and, if your insurance company hasn't been told about it, it may decide not to pay the claim, or pay only a portion of it, on the grounds that the car isn't properly insured.

What happens if somebody else crashes the car?

If somebody else uses the car on an infrequent basis and they are involved in an accident, you as the policyholder are still covered. This also includes the 'drive-assist' taxi services that drive your car home on your behalf after a night out on the town.

Can I add multiple drivers to an existing policy?

That depends on your insurer. Santam doesn't limit the number of irregular drivers that can drive the car, says Blaauw, so you don't have to tell him about them unless one of them is driving it more than you do. Other insurers may feel differently about this, though, so check with yours.

When do I need to inform my insurer?

Insurance contracts require you to disclose all details affecting the risk associated with insuring the vehicle, including the details of the regular driver, says Blaauw.

"You should inform your insurer as soon as possible if the regular driver of the car changes," he said, "to avoid any complications in the event of an untimely accident.

"If you don't, that's viewed as breach of contract and, depending on the circumstances, the insurer could reject the claim or even declare your policy invalid."

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