Chelsey Tucker graduated with a Bachelor of History degree from Metropolitan State University in 2019. She now writes about insurance with her specialty being life insurance and has been quoted on Help Smart Phone and MEL Magazine.

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Dan Walker graduated with a BS in Administrative Management in 2005 and has been working in his family’s insurance agency, FCI Agency, for 15 years. He is licensed as an agent to write property and casualty insurance, including home, auto, umbrella, and dwelling fire insurance. He’s also been featured on sites like Reviews.com.

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Reviewed by Daniel Walker
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Mar 19, 2020

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Here's what you should know...

  • In some states, the Department of Motor Vehicles will give people access to a vehicle’s insurance information if they have the vehicle’s VIN and/or license plate number
  • If you have a driver’s insurance information and you try to call the carrier to get information on the policy, the agent won’t give you information. By law, companies are only allowed to give the policyholder, lender, and authorized parties any information about the policy status or coverage
  • When you’re borrowing a vehicle, it’s important to ask the vehicle’s owner what type of coverage they carry. Under the car’s primary policy, you may be covered as a permissive user
  • Your existing policy will extend liability coverage and medical payments to you when you’re driving a non-owned car. If the car is a substitute for your vehicle for a valid reason, your comprehensive and collision coverage may even extend
  • If you’re in an accident with another driver, you should ask for the driver’s policy information. If you can’t get the information from them, get as much vehicle information as you can so that your claims adjuster can use a database to verify coverage

There’s a long list of reasons you might want to verify what type of insurance coverage someone has on their vehicle. If you’re borrowing a friend’s car, you’re allowing an acquaintance to borrow your vehicle, or you get into an accident with another party, it’s in your interest to find out whether a driver’s insurance is active and what type of coverage they hold.

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Unfortunately, since it’s not your vehicle, checking insurance information isn’t as easy as you might think it would be. Since there is a privacy concern, you may not be able to get information on a vehicle owner’s insurance unless you’re authorized to inquire. There are ways, however, to get the information that you need in certain situations. Here’s what you need to know:

If You’re Borrowing a Car, Ask About Insurance Coverage First

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Just because it’s the vehicle owner’s responsibility to insure a vehicle doesn’t mean that you don’t put yourself at risk when you borrow a car that’s not insured. If you are going to drive your sister’s car, your cousin’s car, or your friend’s car, you need to ask them about their insurance coverage.

You may worry about offending someone who’s close to you, but you need to explain that a claimant may come after you as a driver if you’re not covered under the primary policy. It’s best to ask the vehicle owner to call their carrier in front of you to verify that the coverage is active and that you will be covered as a permissive user.

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Why Asking to See Insurance ID Cards Isn’t Enough

If your friend offers to show you proof of insurance, that is a start. Unfortunately, you can’t rely on the information on the ID card being accurate. Since these cards are issued, a vehicle owner can easily carry expired or fraudulent cards as proof of coverage. This is why it’s helpful to ask the owner to make the call with you present so that you can verify their current insurance status.

Some States Have Electronic Verification Systems

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Calling an insurance company and asking for information on a policy is a violation of most insurer’s privacy terms, unless you have been given permission to call by the named insured. If you don’t have permission to check the status of the policy, the next step will be to see if your state has an insurance database that can be accessed online.

If there is a public database, you can find out whether or not a car has insurance with a few pieces of information. Most of the electronic systems will display the real-time status of a car’s insurance if you enter the vehicle insurance number (VIN), license plate number, and the name of the insurer.

The criteria will vary among states and databases, so it’s best to collect as much information as possible before you begin your search.

Filing a Police Report After an Accident

One of the common reasons you might need insurance information on a car you don’t have a financial interest in is when you’re in an accident. Obviously, it would make the most sense to get information directly from the driver when you’re in an accident. Unfortunately, you might not be so lucky.

If it is a hit-and-run driver or the driver won’t give you their insurance information, get vehicle information and contact the police. Sometimes, the police can pull up insurance information in their onboard squad car computers by using the license plate number. If they can’t, they will write this in the police report.

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Filing a Claim With Your Insurer

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If you don’t call the police or the police can’t access insurance information, you can still file a claim through your insurer. When the claim is filed, the adjuster will do some investigating to look for policy information on the driver. Hopefully, the insurer’s database will have the information that the adjuster needs.

Knowing how insurance works is a must when you’re driving any vehicle. Make sure that you know how to be resourceful when you need to find insurance information. If you need your own coverage, use an online quote comparison tool and price the cost of coverage today.

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