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driving concerns

I don’t have a driver’s licence, but I was backing my niece’s car down our driveway just to move it out of the way. At the same time, another vehicle pulled into the driveway next to ours, over the gravel in between, and onto our driveway. I backed into him. My niece is fully insured, so will the car be covered? Will her rates go up even though she wasn’t driving? – Anita, Nova Scotia

In most of the country, when you borrow somebody’s car, you borrow their insurance – so if you crash it, their insurance rates will take the hit.

But if you’re driving their car without a licence, their insurance may not cover the damage.

“One of the conditions of the Nova Scotia auto policy is the driver must have a valid licence,” said Rob de Pruis, national director of consumer and industry relations for the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC).

But it’s not entirely black and white. For instance, de Pruis said if you previously had a licence but didn’t renew it, the car might be covered. If you’ve never had a licence, it likely won’t be.

In Nova Scotia and other provinces without government-run insurance, if you’re licensed to drive, you crash someone else’s car and you’re at fault, the owner’s rates would go up for the next six years – the same as if the owner had caused the collision.

“Your insurance policy goes with your vehicle,” de Pruis said. “Don’t lend your car lightly. If the person using it causes a collision, it will go on your insurance record and your premium may increase as a result.”

But someone can’t rightfully borrow a car without permission, de Pruis said. So, if the owner can prove that the car was driven without permission, the insurer would remove the at-fault crash from the owner’s insurance record.

At that point, the other driver’s insurance company could come after the driver who caused the crash.

But there’s a catch: To prove that you weren’t supposed to be driving the car, the owner would have to report it as stolen to police, de Pruis said, which creates its own set of headaches.

Rules vary

The rules around borrowing vehicles work differently in the three provinces with government-run auto insurance.

In Saskatchewan and Manitoba, the at-fault crash would go on the borrower’s insurance record, if they have one, and not on the owner’s record. So the borrower’s rates would go up but the owner’s would not.

In British Columbia, the crash would go on the borrower’s record. But if the owner hadn’t opted for extra coverage for occasional drivers, they might have to pay a one-time penalty, said a spokesman for the Insurance Corp. of British Columbia (ICBC).

In B.C., if the borrower doesn’t have a licence, the damage might not be covered. In Saskatchewan and Manitoba, it would be covered if the car’s owner didn’t know the borrower didn’t have a licence – but it might not be covered if they knowingly let someone without a licence drive their vehicle.

Still, it’s a bad idea anywhere to let someone drive your vehicle if they don’t have a licence, IBC’s de Pruis said.

“You should not let an unlicensed driver use your vehicle,” he said. “If you don’t have a licence, you should not be driving a vehicle, even to back out of a driveway.”

Another thing to keep in mind: If you hit someone while you’re backing up, you’re usually considered to be at fault in a collision, he said.

Have a driving question? Send it to and put ‘Driving Concerns’ in your subject line. Emails without the correct subject line may not be answered. Canada’s a big place, so let us know where you are so we can find the answer for your city and province.

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