Your College Student and Auto Policy
Just as with your homeowners insurance policy, your personal auto policy will typically state that the named insured includes a dependent child away at school. For specific questions and clarification on what property or liability coverage would be extended to your college student as well to confirm that there is any coverage, please contact our agents to obtain an evaluation of your current policy.
“The Personal Auto Policy & College Students”
This article references the “ISO standard” Personal Auto Policy and their Extended Non-Owned Coverage for
Named Individual endorsement. Be aware that YOUR insurance company’s auto policy may differ from this
industry standard form, so be sure to check with your agent to see if the issues discussed in this article apply to
Courts have generally held that students away at school are still considered to be “family members” under the
Personal Auto Policy (PAP) and, thus, are covered while operating autos at school. However, there is an
important exclusion in the personal auto policy that says there is no coverage if a vehicle is furnished or available
for the regular use of a family member.
As you can see, IF the vehicle is “furnished or available” for the “regular use” of a “family member,” there is no
coverage under the parents’ policy while the student drives the car. Without debating the issues of “furnished or
available” or “regular use,” let’s assume that the student does have regular, unrestricted access to her
roommate’s car. In that case, she is at the mercy of the insurance on the vehicle, if any, since her parents’ policy
will not provide any coverage.
Is there anything her parents can do to extend coverage to her under their policy while driving her roommate’s
car? Well, speaking of the word “extend”…there is an endorsement commonly referred to as the Extended Non-
Owned Coverage for Named Individual that may provide coverage and it is certainly routinely used for this type of
exposure. However, note the following wording from the endorsement:
“This endorsement does not afford coverage under Part A or Part B of the policy for any accident involving a
vehicle owned by the individual named in the Schedule or in the Declarations, by a member of the same
household, or any accident involving a temporary substitute vehicle for such owned vehicle.”
So, even though this endorsement provides coverage to family members for vehicles furnished or available for
their regular use, it does NOT provide coverage IF the vehicle is owned “by a member of the same household.”
What this means is that coverage still does not apply to vehicles owned by a member of the same “household” of
the family member. How does this apply to the college roommate situation?
On at least one occasion (and probably more), a claim involving a college student’s roommate’s car was denied
under this endorsement. According to the insurer, the roommate was a “member of the same household.” But, is
this true? Do two college students sharing a dorm room constitute a “household?” In deciding the coverage
issue, we must examine what is meant by a “household.”
According to Black’s Law Dictionary:
“Household, n. A family living together. Those who dwell under the same roof and compose a family. Term is
generally synonymous with ‘family’ for insurance purposes, and includes those who dwell together as a family
under the same roof. Generally, the term as used in automobile policies is synonymous with ‘home’ and ‘family.'”
The Black’s Law discussion of “family” indicates that it is comprised of blood relatives or a close-knit social unit
with a high degree or permanency, living under the control of one head of the household. I don’t think two people
who possibly had never met before, spending a few months together as roommates, but otherwise being
independent of each other, constitutes a “family”…i.e., just because two people share a room doesn’t make them
What if it’s not her roommate that makes the auto regularly available, but her best friend across the hallway?
Clearly, in this case, coverage applies since they aren’t roommates…or does the entire dormitory constitute a
“household?” What if we’re talking about a sorority or fraternity where there is (at least theoretically) more of a
“family” than a dormitory setting?
Clearly, there are no easy answers. So, the best thing to do is to discuss the situation with your insurance
representative in advance. As you can see from this one example, insurance contracts are sometimes subject to
interpretation and can be difficult for a consumer to understand. This is one reason why it is advisable to purchase
your insurance from a qualified professional insurance agent.
Copyright 2000 by the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America, Inc. Reprinted with permission.
NOTE: Policy coverages and circumstances can change at any time, so the information above may not be
accurate at the time of reprinting or subsequently to that time. IIABA does not assume and has no responsibility
for liability or damage which may result from the use of any of this information. The most current, up to date
version of this article can be found at IIABA’s Virtual University at http://vu.iiaa.net.