If you don’t operate a fleet of business vehicles — or run a business at all — you may never have given commercial auto insurance a thought. But it’s possible you may need a commercial policy even if you don’t fall into these categories, particularly if you use your own vehicle for work purposes other than commuting.
To help you avoid confusion, we’ll explain when shopping for commercial auto coverage makes more sense than getting personal car insurance quotes.
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Who needs commercial auto insurance
These examples show how fine the line between needing personal and commercial auto coverage can be, and can help you see which side you’ll likely fall on.
|Personal auto insurance||Commercial auto insurance|
|Grabbing morning doughnuts for co-workers||Delivering pizzas to paying customers|
|Driving friends to a concert||Transporting people to a concert as an Uber driver|
|Taking weekend road trips||Regularly driving long distances to meet work clients or visit job sites|
|Commuting to the construction site where you're working||Hauling tools and equipment to the construction site where you're working|
The trouble with transporting stuff
Personal car insurance typically won’t pay to repair damage or treat injuries you sustain while you’re transporting people or goods for money, in large part because the liability and property damage risks are too great. Driving friends to a concert or grabbing food for co-workers back at the office is covered. But if you use your vehicle, say, to deliver pizzas, you need commercial auto insurance.
Rideshare drivers — such as Uber drivers — are a unique case, and a growing number of insurers offer ridesharing insurance. These policies are often cheaper than commercial car insurance.
It’s not where you drive, but why
There’s no limit to how much you can drive under a standard auto policy, as long as it’s for personal reasons.
But if, for example, you’re a sales manager and regularly use your car to visit stores within your region, or you’re an account representative and frequently drive far and wide to meet — and possibly transport — clients, you probably need commercial coverage to account for the high liability risk your company could face in the event of an accident.
Watch what you’re hauling
Commuting to a job is one thing. Bringing along heavy tools or equipment is another. For instance, a construction worker hauling a trailer, ladder rack, expensive drills and other supplies faces a higher chance for property damage and theft than your average commuter — and might need commercial car insurance as a result.
Talk to your insurer about modifying your policy
Deciding between personal and commercial auto insurance involves many mitigating factors and questions, so you should discuss the issue with your insurance agent or insurer.
You likely need a separate commercial policy if you use your car primarily or frequently for business. But if you only occasionally use it for business purposes, your insurer might be able to modify your personal auto policy, for an added cost, so that it includes your work-based driving.
Most well-known insurers offer commercial auto insurance. Because it’s typically more expensive than personal auto coverage, getting several quotes is the best way to find affordable rates.
Alex Glenn is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: [email protected].