Insuring a car you don't own: how it works

Insuring a car you don't own: how it works

There are lots of ways to insure a car you don’t own. You can buy a full insurance policy, become a named driver, get temporary car insurance, or get Driving Other Cars insurance.

But, like most things in insurance (especially in the UK), things gets a little more complicated once you look into a bit more deeply.

How car insurance works in the UK

In some countries, it’s the car that’s insured.

In others, it’s the driver.

Here in the UK, we think both of those options are far too simple. So we made a different system. One where individual drivers get insured on individual vehicles.

That means two things:

  1. Just because you have your own car insurance doesn’t mean you’re insured to drive other people’s cars. Even if your policy is fully comprehensive.
  2. Just because your car is insured doesn’t mean other people can drive your car.

So if you want to drive a car you don’t own, you need to have that car insured. But this, too, can be a little more complicated.

Owner, registered keeper, main driver: why insuring a car you don’t own can get so confusing

As soon as you try to insure a car you don’t own, you’ll run into a lot of jargon. And that’s because owning the car is only one part of the big insurance puzzle. There’s the:

Owner. This is the person who bought the car, and who the car technically belongs to.

Registered keeper: This is the person who is responsible for the car. They pay tax, get MOTs, have to pay speeding tickets – that kind of thing.

Main driver: This is the person who, for insurance purposes, does most of the driving.

Named driver: This is someone who, as well as the policyholder, is covered to drive the car on an insurance policy.

There’s no reason you can’t insure a car you don’t own. And sometimes you can insure a car without being the registered keeper. But ultimately it comes down to the insurer.

Usually, when you buy insurance, you’ll be asked if you’re the owner as well as being asked if you’re the registered keeper.

All this terminology can get a bit confusing. We’ve gone into more detail about registered keepers and owners elsewhere.

Insuring a car you don’t own: your options

As well as getting a full car insurance policy, there are a bunch of other options for insuring a car owned by someone else, too. Here’s the full list.

1. Buy a full insurance policy on the car

You don’t have to own a car to insure it. But you do need to tell the insurer that it’s not your car, and that you’re not the registered keeper.

Not every insurer will give you a full policy on a car you don’t own. And if they do, you might find the price is a lot higher than it would be if you were the owner or registered keeper.

2. Become a named driver

One way to drive someone else’s car is to become a named driver on their policy. This means you’re insured on the same policy as the main policyholder.

Adding a named driver to a policy usually comes with a small(ish) admin fee. It also affects the cost of the policy.

If you’re adding a younger driver as a named driver, the cost will usually go up. It’s a risk thing.

The cost of adding a named driver depends on things like their:

  • Age
  • Marital status
  • Relationship to the policyholder
  • Number of vehicles
  • Year of driving experience
  • History of driving convictions

Being added as a named driver can be a good option if you’re planning to drive the car fairly regularly – if you’re a learner driver who wants to practise in your parents’ car, or if you regularly borrow a family member’s car.

If you don’t plan to drive the car very often, being a named driver can be (relatively speaking) pretty expensive for the policyholder.

If you’re a named driver on someone else’s policy, make sure you’re honest about who the main driver is. If you’re likely to be doing the bulk of the driving, you could be committing insurance fraud. It’s called “fronting”.

Fronting means putting the cheaper driver forward as the policyholder, and adding the more expensive driver as a named driver, to keep the price down.

So if you start doing more of the driving than the person listed as the “main driver”, you’ll need to let the insurer know.

3. Buy temporary car insurance

If you want to insure someone’s car as a one-off, then you wouldn’t want to get a full insurance policy. That would be a bit silly.

Getting added as a named driver would probably end up being quite expensive for a single trip, too. Never mind all the hassle you have to go through to get it sorted.

So you need another option. And – not to toot our own horn – you could get temporary car insurance.

This means getting insured for just hours, days or weeks at a time.

It’s particularly good if you’re only planning to drive someone else’s car once, or only occasionally. In these cases, it’s cheaper than being listed as a named driver on their policy.

Like any other kind of insurance, the cost of temporary car insurance depends on things like your:

(In case you’re wondering, here’s a detailed explanation of how we price our temporary car insurance policies. 🤓)

Plus, it won’t affect the owner’s insurance.

4. Get a “Driving Other Cars” insurance policy

It’s not impossible to get insurance that covers you to drive any car. It’s called Driving Other Cars cover (DOC).

These kinds of policies used to be more common. Nowadays you don’t see them very often. Generally, it’s only a small handful of comprehensive car insurance policies. And it’s almost impossible to get Driving Other Cars insurance if you’re under 25. (Car insurance isn’t much fun for young drivers.)

To see if you’ve got DOC insurance, check your car insurance certificate. You’ll be able to see exactly what you’re covered for. If your certificate doesn’t mention it, it means you’re not covered for it.

And it’s worth bearing in mind that most Driving Other Cars policies are only third party cover, rather than being fully comprehensive. But again, it’s worth checking your policy documents.

Insuring a car you don’t own and Continuous Insurance Enforcement laws

Continuous Insurance Enforcement (CIE) is everyone’s favourite motoring law. Probably. (Everyone has a favourite motoring law, right?)

CIE means that every car that’s on the road has to be insured all the time. 

If you own a car, that means you can’t get an hour’s insurance while you drive, and then leave the car uninsured until the next time you drive it. (Unless you declare a Statutory Off-Road Notice, but that’s a whole other thing.)

When you’re insuring a car you don’t own, that means if you’re…

Getting a full policy, your insurer might want to see evidence that the car is already insured by the owner. (But you’ll probably be fine.)

A named driver, you can sit back and relax. You wouldn’t need to worry about it.

Buying temporary car insurance, the owner will need their own insurance policy once your short-term one runs out.

Using a “Driving Other Cars” policy, you’ll need to check your policy documents. Some insurers will need the car to have an underlying policy. Others won’t mind.

Learner drivers insurance: how provisional licence holders can get insured

Learner drivers need insurance too. It can add a bit extra to the cost of learning to drive.

When you have driving lessons, the insurance is taken care of for you, and the cost is included in the lesson price.

But if you want to get extra practice outside your lessons, or to learn with a trusted friend or family member, you need insurance.

You can do that as a named driver on a parent or friend’s car, or you can get temporary learner driver insurance.