Insuring a Significant Other's Car

Couple in car

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Are you thinking of insuring your romantic partner's car?

If you're in a serious relationship, one of the decisions you may find yourself thinking of making—and that many people have done—is combining auto insurance policies with your partner. That's right: unmarried couples are starting to purchase their automobile insurance together.

If you’re in (and can prove that you’re in) a serious long-term relationship, then you might be able to insure your partner's car. But that doesn’t mean that it will be a simple process, or that it’s a good idea. 

Key Takeaways

  • An insurance policyholder must have a valid, determinable, and tangible interest in the thing being insured, known as insurable interest.
  • The scope of insurable interest has broadened due to legally recognized domestic partnerships and more unmarried couples owning joint assets.
  • Whether you can get a joint policy as an unmarried couple will depend on your state, insurance company, whether you live together, and other factors.
  • A joint policy might not save you money if one of you has a much worse driving record than the other.

Insuring Somebody Else's Car

When it came to car insurance, married couples used to get a joint insurance policy for the vehicles they owned, and single owners each purchased their own separate policies. It all made sense because it was all based on a fundamental principle of insurance coverage: insurable interest.

The concept of insurable interest is pretty simple. To insure something (person or object), the policyholder (or their beneficiary) must have a valid, determinable, and tangible interest in the thing being insured.

With an automobile, for example, the insurable interest would be ownership in the vehicle itself.

Life is not quite as simple anymore, though. For one thing, with the advent of legally-recognized domestic partnerships and the considerable number of unmarried couples living together, the lines between "married" and "single" have been blurred.

Today, lots of unmarried couples jointly own significant assets and real property—homes, furniture, pets—as well as share tangible interests in other items, like cars. As a result, the clear distinctions between what an insurable interest is and is not have also become blurred, leading insurance companies to rethink the rules they follow in writing policies. 

One change a lot of insurers have made is starting to allow unmarried couples, including those in domestic partnerships, to purchase joint auto insurance policies. There are two main reasons for this. The first is that insurance companies understand that many couples today, although not legally married, are in long-term committed relationships that provide a level of stability and lower risk that insurers are looking for. Second, there is a growing demand for joint insurance by unmarried couples, and insurance carriers want to get in on the action.

How It Works

Because this is a relatively new area of insurance, the processes and details involved are still evolving. There are a lot of factors at play, including state laws and different insurance company rules and definitions.

The truth is that if you are thinking about getting a policy that includes your partner's car, you are going to have to do some research and probably talk to several insurers to see, first, if they offer joint policies and, second, what rules they have to qualify.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • What constitutes an "unmarried couple," vs. a married couple, for auto insurance purposes? This is one where definitions are varied and fluid. In most cases, a legal civil union is sufficient for establishing a serious relationship.
  • Another case is when a couple is living together in a domestic setting: in other words, under the same roof. This one is almost always a requirement. One exception that a few companies are beginning to consider is couples who are engaged to be married but not living together. Again, you are merely going to have to do some shopping around to see what different jurisdictions and companies have to say on the matter.
  • The policy may have to be in only one partner's name and the other listed as an additional insured. Then again, it may be in both partners' names, depending on the particular insurer. Some companies will insist that one partner is the primary insured and the other is also listed as a named insured.
  • Couples will need to agree on one set of coverage types and limits. Often, each partner will come in with different kinds of coverage, limit amounts, premium costs, deductibles, etc. If they intend to combine their coverage into one joint policy, they will have to pick one set of coverage that applies to both partners and their vehicles.

Just Because You Can Doesn't Mean That You Should

Most couples automatically assume that if they combine their insurance into one policy, they are going to save money, but that’s not necessarily the case. If one partner has a bad driving record, a joint policy may end up costing the partner with the better record more on his or her premiums, and that would be true if you were married to one another as well. Also, remember that doing things jointly may end up causing problems if and when you want to "unjoin" them in the future. So, let's return to the original question: Can I insure my boyfriend's car? The best answer is that, given the right conditions, you probably can. But when all is said and done, you may not want to.