It’s a scene you see in many Hollywood films: Hero needs to chase the girl but doesn’t have a car; Hero’s friend throws him his car keys, and hero jumps into the friend’s car and sets off in hot pursuit. However, in real life, this behaviour is a sure-fire way to get you in trouble with the police and your insurance company. Sorry, wannabe heroes.
Why can’t I lend my car to a friend?
Let’s start with the basics: it is illegal to drive without insurance. Most UK insurance policies cover only the people named on the policy to drive the particular car covered by the policy. If someone else wants to drive your car, even if they have their own insurance for a different vehicle, they will be breaking the law if they drive your car because they would be driving without insurance.
There can be some confusion about this, partly because insurance policies used to provide ‘driving other cars’ cover as standard, but this was exploited by fraudsters and withdrawn by most insurers. Another reason for confusion is that in some countries including the US, the driver is insured, rather than the vehicle being insured for particular named drivers.
What does the law say?
You need at least third party insurance to drive a vehicle in the UK on a road or in a public place. This is because if you injure someone else while driving or damage their property, they will want to bring a claim against you for compensation. Insurance must be in place to ensure you can cover this cost.
If the police find you driving a vehicle that you are not insured to drive, they either issue a £300 fixed penalty notice plus six penalty points on the spot, or they decide to take you to court. If you go to court, the maximum penalty is 6-8 penalty points, a fine of up to £5,000 and/or disqualification from driving for a fixed period. Police can also impound a car if you are found driving it without insurance.
What will my insurer say?
If you are insured to drive your own car but are convicted of driving another vehicle without insurance, or are given a fixed penalty notice and points for this, you need to tell your insurer. If you do not, you will almost certainly be in breach of the terms of your insurance and the policy will be void – not good news if you need to make a claim.
If you receive points or are convicted of driving without insurance, your insurer will see you as a greater risk and is likely to increase the cost of your premiums.
Does this mean I can never drive my friend’s car?
There are plenty of legal ways to arrange insurance to drive someone else’s car. You can take out short-term insurance, add yourself as a named driver on their policy, or take out insurance that covers you to drive any vehicle with the owner’s permission. There will be some additional cost for this, but it’s still infinitely preferable to being taken to court.
Driving without insurance isn’t worth the risk – always make sure you and your friend have the right cover in place before getting behind the wheel.