Social Question

JLeslie's avatar

If I own a car and give it to a relative to drive, am I responsible if they have an accident?

Asked by JLeslie (65512points) 1 month ago

They would be taking out the insurance on the car. I would have the car in my name so if they stop using the car I own the equity in it. Is that a terrible idea?

What is the best way to gift a car to someone for use, but not be giving away the actual car.

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32 Answers

jca2's avatar

THe insurance would be in the name of the owner. Even if they pay for the insurance, the insurance is in your name and as the owner of the car, yes you are responsible and would be sued.

I think it’s a terrible idea, personally. They can’t afford a car or they want a fancy car and can’t afford one, and you have one?

I would never do what you’re doing.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Have them pay the insurance and have a contract stating they are using a at no cost and are responsible while driving.
Have a lawyer draw up the contract also paid by relative. If they are likely to use use drugs or do illegal activity the car can be confiscated .

seawulf575's avatar

It would depend. Most drivers have to have insurance just to get a license. So their insurance would cover any accidents. But it opens the door to someone suing you as the owner of record if there was a major accident. Example: my ex-Brother-in-Law, when he was 18, just out of high school, had an accident. His friend, in another car and who had been drinking, started effing around on the road as they were headed to the beach with a bunch of friends. Both cars were full. The friend started seeing how close he could get, trying to scare my BIL, and eventually bumped his car. The friend jerked the wheel to the right, slammed into the guard rail, bounced back slamming my BIL and all the kids in the car with him into on-coming traffic where they collided head-on with a guy that was driving 20 mph over the speed limit. Everyone in my BILs car was killed. Since he was driving and since he couldn’t protest, the entire accident was blamed on him. His insurance paid for a lot of the damages but there were proposed civil suits against my in-laws, who had co-signed on the loan for the car.

The point of that tragic story is that even if you are associated with the car even minimally, you could be targeted for a lawsuit if there is a bad accident. If it was just a fender bender, their insurance should be adequate to cover the damages and no one would care about you.

jca2's avatar

@JLeslie If there’s an accident, both the driver and the owner of the vehicle are responsible. If there are damages other than what are covered by insurance, both the owner and the driver are getting sued.

jca2's avatar

I think an attorney would tell you that even if you both sign a contract saying you’re not responsible, you’re still responsible. You’re ultimately responsible for the care and upkeep of the car, etc. All of it.

janbb's avatar

The owner of the car carries the insurance and is responsible in an accident. The driver may also be held liable and have points or lose their license.

JLeslie's avatar

Just so jellies know, I don’t even let someone else move my car from one side of the driveway to another. Lol. The only exception is sometimes letting my parents use my car, but I know 100% my parents would never cost me money, meaning if they had to buy me a whole new car they would. I know that doesn’t account for if people are hurt (God forbid) but just pointing out I am very reluctant to let anyone drive my car, and I am just as reluctant to drive anyone else’s car.

Your answers confirm what I was thinking, if I give the money to buy the car, I need to assume I will never see that money again, and if I do see part of the money if they sell the car it would be nice but I’m not holding my breath. The car should be in their name, no way around some sort of responsibility.

@seawulf575 Such a horribly tragic story.

jca2's avatar

@JLeslie The relative is not able to get financing on their own to purchase an auto? Or do they just want a fancy car and they can’t afford it?

Caravanfan's avatar

I’d call your insurance company and ask.

JLeslie's avatar

@jca2 They have a car lease that will come due soon. It’s not fancy at all, just a very basic moderate brand car, I would have to ask my husband the make and model.

I was thinking of offering to do the payment for the pay-off so they would own it without any payment. Then I thought maybe I should own it, so the car comes back to me eventually, but I worried about the liability.

We don’t know the pay-off, but my husband is guessing maybe $15k. It would be a gift, no expectations to pay us monthly or anything like that, just if they stop driving I would want to recoup whatever money that I could. Older relative, not younger.

Forever_Free's avatar

Tyically it goes as “your car, your insurance” they should be covered.

jca2's avatar

@JLeslie Why not just ask them what they owe and give them that money, then, so you’re free and clear of any responsibility?

RocketGuy's avatar

DMV stuff like parking tickets and fix-it tickets go to the registered owner of the car.

Zaku's avatar

I had a friend accidentally park my car without it being in gear or the brake set. It rolled away and crashed into someone else’s garage. It wasn’t a massive amount of damage, but my insurance paid for it and did not raise my insurance rates or even really complain, AFAIK.

I doubt and disagree with the idea that the owner would be responsible for damage caused while someone else was driving their car, unless the accident were somehow caused by the owner. (Like, they hadn’t fixed something that contributed to the accident. Or, if they knew the driver was dangerous, but let them drive anyway.)

Also, note: I have seen people get School speed zone camera tickets thrown out, because they wrote a letter to traffic court swearing they were not the one driving the car at the time.

jca2's avatar

@JLeslie I’m open to that I could be totally mistaken, as I’m not an attorney or an insurance agent and the laws in your state may differ from what I know in the NY/CT area. Please consult with your insurance agent and please let us know what you find out. It will be interesting.

I know here, if my daughter is driving my car and she injures someone, they are going to sue me and if it’s beyond what insurance will pay, I am liable for the difference, but that’s NYS.

@Zaku I believe (not that I know, but I believe) what you are talking about would be a moving violation (speeding in a school zone), which goes on the driver, not on the car. The insurance is raised on the driver, not on the car and there were no damages like there would be if @JLeslie‘s car were in an accident while driven by another person.

JLeslie's avatar

It’s a Nissan Rogue.

@jca2 Your daughter is on your insurance, I wouldn’t be putting him on my insurance, but anyway it sounds too risky for me.

I will never give cash to them again. The wife takes the money and the money doesn’t get used as intended. We would buy the car so the husband doesn’t have to work so many hours, he’s in his 80’s. I would write the check to dealer/loan holder.

SnipSnip's avatar

They are insured is they used your vehicle with your permission.

LadyMarissa's avatar

I wouldn’t be putting him on my insurance. Your insurance company will be asking who will be driving the car & they will insist he be added as a driver. If you lie to them, they can refuse to pay any damages & cancel your policy due to you providing false info. Although you have good intentions, it’s an awful idea!!! Simply giving them the $15K & leaving it in their name could very well be cheaper in the long run If anything goes wrong. If the car is in your name, the insurance will be on your policy. Another thing to consider…an 80 y/o driver is about as expensive as a teen driver because they aren’t considered good drivers even if they don’t have any accidents nor tickets on their record.

MrGrimm888's avatar

My bad idea radar, is pinging…

JLeslie's avatar

@LadyMarissa I would only have done it if I wouldn’t have to insure the car and they would be responsible for insuring the car. It doesn’t seem like that is a possibility. @Caravanfan is right that I should ask my insurance company if I seriously consider buying it.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

You may not be able to insure a car that is not garaged at your address with someone else driving that is not living at your address.

JLeslie's avatar

It is a little weird that a driver is less responsible than the car owner, but I know it works that way.

When I rent a car, my insurance covers me.

Just thinking out loud the inconsistencies and weirdness of how car insurance works.

What if my car is stolen and the driver crashes into a person or car? God forbid.

jca2's avatar

If you ask your insurance agent, please let us know what they say.

kritiper's avatar

No. You are only responsible if you didn’t give them permission and your insurance doesn’t cover them.

SnipSnip's avatar

@kritiper giving permission only protects you as to the driver being insured. You may be held responsible for anything someone does while driving your car if you used poor judgment in lending the car to that person in the first place. That is simple negligence.

jca2's avatar

@kritiper I can assure you that at least in my state, the owner and the driver are both responsible. If @JLeslie has another person driving her car and the driver kills someone, you don’t think the family of the deceased is not going to come after her? I think it’s naive to think that.

@JLeslie did you ask your insurance company?

Pandora's avatar

If you aren’t planning on using the car, you can always write up a contract to sell them the car for 100 bucks and they can only sell it back to you for 100 dollars when they are done with it.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

@Pandora that won’t work in my state. they use a a auto value estimator for tax purposes; so if the car has a “blue book” value of $15,000 – - they charge taxes for that value . . .same when they sell it back. to @JLeslie

JLeslie's avatar

I haven’t called insurance yet. I might call another company and not my own.

@Pandora Every time the car changes hand it would be taxed on the actual value of the car, and I know for a fact my state comes after you if you don’t declare close to the real worth when you do the title and registration. We have seen it happen, you get taxed a penalized and the penalty is almost the same amount as the tax. It’s brutal. We know two people ourselves who had to pay up.

That won’t work anyway. The main reason I want it in my name is so in the end I might get some of the money back. If it is in their name they own it and can do what they want with it. If they die (the person is elderly) it becomes part of their estate, so it goes to their spouse or if their spouse has already passed away then split among their children. The children are not likely to make it right.

This seems similar to the situation like the Q about lending money to family, we can’t expect to get the money back.

jca2's avatar

@JLeslie You could also ask an attorney. I would preface it by saying to them “I just have a general question.” They are usually willing to answer questions as long as the conversation is not too long.

JLeslie's avatar

@jca2 Good point. I have a friend who is that type of attorney. I’ll ask him.

JLeslie's avatar

I asked my lawyer friend, and he said most states the owner would be responsible.

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