Given the price of fuel and the demands of time, more drivers are going back to the carpool as a way to get to work or to ensure that their children make their soccer practice or violin lessons on time. If you are new to the concept of car pooling, you’re likely concerned about the “etiquette” of the process as well as the of auto insurance protection you enjoy — both when you’re the driver and the passenger.
Our concern is with basic insurance questions, but do be aware that in order for a carpool to be a beneficial experience for all involved, there are “rules” of behavior, most having to do with simple communication and common courtesy. There are many online articles about carpool basics, including formulas for fairly sharing monetary expenses. To avoid acrimony, learn a little bit about how good carpools function before you get in the car.
Make No Assumptions About Your Auto Insurance
First, do not assume anything about your auto insurance coverage. All policies are different. If you are going to start riding in a carpool, ask the other drivers to check their policy terms and then share your own with them. Especially consider the portions dealing with “exceptions” and “exclusions.” Passengers are covered under general liability insurance and most policies do not specifically exclude carpooling arrangements.
One of the best reasons to check in with your insurance professional before starting to carpool is to your own benefit. You may qualify for a carpooling discount if you can prove decreased usage on your own vehicle. Also be aware, however that the same conversation could go the other way. If your policy does not include sufficient liability coverage for passengers, you may face a slight rate increase, but that is generally offset by your lowered fuel bills and the fact that you don’t want to wind up in a lawsuit in the future!
Special Considerations When Driving Children
If you will regularly be transporting children, it may be a good idea to increase your liability coverage period. No matter how well-behaved they might be, when you get several children in a car, all excited about going to a particular event or destination, the degree of potential distraction for the driver increases exponentially. Additionally, due to their lower body weight, children are at a much greater risk of injury in an auto crash.
Get the Basic Questions Covered
Any time you deal with your insurer, it’s a good idea to have your questions written down in advance. You want to make sure you’ve covered all the basic questions, since these usually lead to more in-depth discussion.
- Is carpooling specifically prohibited by my current auto coverage?
- If carpooling is prohibited by my auto insurance, is an alternate policy available?
- Do I have enough bodily injury liability coverage for the maximum number of passengers who can possibly ride in the vehicle?
- Will I have coverage no matter who is at fault for the accident?
- Do I need to increase the maximum amount that my policy will cover per person given the high cost of medical care?
Carpooling is surging in popularity for a number of reasons: the expense of gasoline, the demands of busy schedules, and an environmental concern to decrease the number of vehicles on our roadways. Make sure, however, that a discussion with your auto insurer is a key part of your plans to establish a carpool — for the safety and protection of all concerned.