Are You Covered By Your Personal Auto Policy for Business Use of Your Vehicle?

Ride Sharing, Pizza Delivery, and More Examples of Using Personal Automobile for Business

Jane uses her Honda Accord a few evenings a week while she drives for Uber.

Jim, Jr. uses his mother’s Ford Escape during the weekends for his pizza delivery job at the local pizzeria.

Sarah uses her Dodge Minivan to deliver packages for an internet-based retail delivery service five days each week until she finds a new management position.

Nick drives his Chevrolet Blazer a few days each week while he does delivers for Door Dash until his music gigs begin again as bars and restaurants reopen.

Each of these are examples of people using their personally owned automobile in a business centered around transportation of people or objects.

While some of these could be called a part of the “new economy”, there are also hosts of old school situations that are still current like driving a carpool, using your vehicle to drive people to nearby airports for pay, home delivery of newspapers, magazines, and other products, or using your own vehicle to run errands for your boss, make sales calls, or for other work-related uses.

Your automobile insurance policy may handle each of these situations differently–and that there is significant variation by specific insurance company and by state in what they may cover and how it may be covered.

Let us break down some of these business exposures and discuss how they are covered by your personal automobile policy.

Using Your Personal Vehicle on Behalf of Your Employer

Many of us will use our own car from time to time to run errands for our employer, visit a client, or attend an out of the office seminar. If you get into an accident while using your personal automobile on behalf of your employer, it is likely that your Personal Automobile Policy will protect you for both injuries you cause to others (third party claims) and damages to your vehicle (first party).

In addition, your Personal Automobile Policy will provide primary coverage to your employer if someone named them in a negligence suit as a responsible party for the damages to others. Your employer may also have coverage under their business insurance to protect them for these claims in excess of your coverage. It is unlikely that you will be a covered party under your employer’s policies for your use of your own automobile.

Since your policy may dilute your limits providing coverage to your employer (you will share your limits), you should consider having an automobile policy with high limits of liability and extending those limits by purchasing a Personal Umbrella Policy.

This conversation would be much different if the business of your employer relates to delivery of goods or services or the transportation of people.

Transportation Network Platform Use or Ride Sharing

If you really want to freak out your children (or in my case grandchildren), ask them if they know where there is a pay phone so you can call a taxi to get a ride home from a restaurant!

Companies like Uber and Lyft have become ingrained in our public consciousness. These are now massive transportation companies who do not own any vehicles–unfathomable to comprehend just a few years ago.

Driving for one of these services can be a substantial income augmenting part-time job with very little up-front costs and total flexibility in your work schedule. However, it is important to understand that using your own automobile for one of these companies is not without risk.

Most Personal Automobile Policies will exclude coverage for all sections of your policy while you are driving on behalf of a ridesharing service. Many carriers have adopted special “Transportation Network Platform” exclusions to restrict your coverage under your policy from the time you log on to the network to the time you log off the network.

It is likely that the service provides you with some level of coverage while you are on the platform, but perhaps not nearly as much coverage as you have under your own policy.

A typical scenario is that while you are logged into the system but do not have a client, you receive a low level of liability coverage from the service. We have seen coverage as low as $50,000 for Bodily Injury per person/$100,000 Bodily injury per accident/$50,000 Property Damage for this phase of operations.

Once you pick up a client, the coverage may increase to a larger limit–we have seen this as high as $1,000,000 per occurrence. Once you drop off the client and are again in between rides, you would revert to the lower limit of liability.

The insurance typically provided by the ride sharing service is only for Liability to others. This does not include coverage for damages to your car or injuries sustained by you while in the car, while your Personal Automobile Policy likely excludes all these coverages.

While Uber and Lyft may be the best known of the ride share companies, there are many others and they may include the transportation of food or other items instead of people. The exclusions in your Personal Automobile Policy include all such transportation network platform services, regardless of what you are transporting.

To fill in the gaps created by driving for a ride sharing operation, it is necessary for you to purchase a special Ride Share Coverage Endorsement from your Personal Automobile insurance company. Not all carriers offer this coverage, and it is not available in all States.

If your carrier does not offer it, it may be possible to purchase standalone Ride Share coverage. If neither of these options are available, you may need to purchase a Business Automobile Policy for the vehicle that is being used in a ride sharing business.

Newspapers, Pizza, and Other Deliveries

There are jobs that may include delivery services that do not use a transportation network platform. Delivering newspapers, pizza, or other take away food, products or services are the most common jobs that we see where folks routinely use their personally owned vehicle for delivery services for an employer.

The coverage for these situations is much less well defined. Most policies contain an exclusion that states, we do not cover the insured’s liability arising out of the ownership or operation of a vehicle while it is being used as a public or livery conveyance. The policy gives no further definition of the meaning of public or livery conveyance.

Livery generally refers to the transportation of goods or people. Clearly using your vehicle for a taxi service, limousine, or school bus would not be covered by your Personal Automobile Policy.

Occasional deliveries or things like take out food are less clearly contained in the generally accepted definition of these terms and would be open to interpretation by your insurance carrier and ultimately the courts.

We are not big fans of depending on court rulings and lawsuits to get coverage from your insurance carrier. Most insurance underwriters and claims adjusters will tell you that none of these situations are covered by your policy and all are considered public or livery conveyance.

A glance at the results of court cases on this issue are not as clear, with courts in many jurisdictions granting coverage for newspaper delivery or pizza delivery under the Personal Automobile Policy (keep in mind that this would only apply if the driver were not engaged by a transportation network platform).

Our recommendation is that you treat any delivery use of your vehicle as being excluded from your policy and purchase Ride Share coverage as mentioned above.

What Should You Do About Your Auto Policy?

  • Call your insurance agent if you have questions on specific situations that you may have with using your personally owned vehicle for business use.
  • If deliver services are a part of a job, ask your employer what insurance coverage the company provides to you for injuries to others, damage to your vehicle, and injuries that you incur while operating the vehicle.
  • Be very careful with any job where you are paid as an Independent Contractor.

Please contact us if you have questions regarding your personal automobile insurance.