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By Cheryl Winokur Munk
December 23, 2020
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Amid the pandemic, drivers for ride-share companies or food-delivery services are in high-demand at the moment. But make sure you have the right auto insurance in place to ensure your coverage doesn’t come up short after an accident.

As if figuring out your personal insurance isn’t confusing enough, using your car for both work and pleasure adds another layer of complication. Obtaining adequate coverage can turn on details such as your type of work, your employer, and your carrier.

Here’s a guide to help you navigate these issues.

Ride-share company coverage

The biggest ride-share companies provide drivers with some company coverage. Uber and Lyft maintain auto insurance on your behalf, subject to certain limits and deductibles and state requirements, when you’re available or waiting for a ride request, as well as when you’re carrying passengers or en route to a pickup.

But that free company coverage has limitations. For example, drivers need to maintain comprehensive and collision coverage for Uber’s contingent insurance of those perils to kick in. If applicable, the Uber insurance goes toward repairs and replacement for your car up to its actual cash value, after a $1,000 deductible.

Injury protection, meanwhile, which provides benefits for medical expenses, disability, loss of life and dismemberment, is currently only available to Uber drivers for accidents that occur while you’re online and waiting for a trip in California or on the way to a pickup or on a trip originating in California. In many other states, Uber offers Optional Injury Protection, for a fee.

Lyft’s coverage, meanwhile, requires the driver to pay a $2,500 deductible before its contingent collision coverage kicks in. Lyft says it may also provide first-party coverages such as medical payments or personal injury protection, though availability and coverage limits vary by state.

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Buying your own ride-share insurance

To be fully protected, rideshare drivers need their own insurance, to meet ride-sharing company requirements and to cover them when they aren’t on the company clock (as determined by the app) and to fill any other coverage gaps. This often means purchasing special insurance, since most personal auto policies have exclusions that apply when carrying passengers for hire. Generally, they will specifically exclude coverage for any damage or injuries you caused to others, damage to your vehicle, as well as any medical payments coverage for your own injuries, says Robert Passmore, vice president for auto and claims policy at the American Property Casualty Insurance Association.

There are a few ways to make sure you’re protected: You could purchase a special ride-sharing insurance policy offered by a number of insurers, or you may be able to modify your personal policy through extra-cost policy additions known as endorsements.

There also may be another option. In select regions, Lyft partners with a few carriers to offer policies that provide continuous coverage, on and off the clock, so there’s no question which insurance applies in the case of an incident. It has partnerships with GEICO, Buckle and more recently, Mobilitas Insurance.

Lyft drivers aren’t required to take this particular insurance, when available, and it’s advisable for drivers to compare the cost and benefits of this coverage, versus a rideshare endorsement or rideshare insurance policy with their personal carrier.

Certainly, insurance premiums, coverage types and policy limits can vary by carrier and by state, so it makes sense to shop around. Not all carriers offer both rideshare policies and endorsements.

The cost of rideshare insurance depends largely on what type of coverage you buy. It’s possible that a rideshare endorsement will cost less than a separate rideshare insurance policy. Endorsements add an average of $94 every six months to the cost of your policy, according to online car insurance broker The Zebra.

If you add a rideshare endorsement to your car insurance policy, your rideshare coverage limit will generally be the same as the one you set for your personal car insurance policy, Allstate says on its website. If, for instance, you have a $100,000 liability limit on your regular policy, $100,000 is also the most your policy would pay toward a covered rideshare insurance claim, Allstate says.

As with most insurance coverages, the higher your limits, the more insurance is likely to cost.

Options for delivery work

While ride-share companies generally offer some type of commercial coverage, that’s not always the case if you are delivering goods. Some, but not all, commercial delivery companies maintain a commercial auto policy to cover drivers while they are on the job, but even then limits and exceptions apply.

Instacart, for example, says in its shopper contract that it does not provide insurance to its drivers. Meanwhile, a few national delivery companies—such as Amazon, UberEats and DoorDash—maintain commercial auto insurance on behalf of their drivers, but coverage can depend on the state. Also, you may need to make a claim on your personal policy first and coverage limits and exceptions may apply.

Make sure you ask the company you’re delivering for what, if anything is offered by way of insurance and whether you also need your own coverage. Also be sure to talk to your carrier and read your policy to find out what your policy covers, since auto insurance policies vary. “Read your policy carefully, and talk to your insurance agent or company to make sure. Even if your insurer excludes delivery, there are often endorsements available for purchase,” Passmore says.

It’s unlikely you’ll have any company coverage if you drive for a local restaurant, grocery store, or other retailer. But you may have coverage through your personal insurance policy, at least for the time being. During the pandemic, many national and regional auto insurers temporarily extended personal auto coverage for their customers who took delivery jobs for groceries, pharmacies, restaurants and medical supplies, says Mark Friedlander, director of corporate communications for the Insurance Information Institute.

If you work for one of these types of companies, Friedlander advises asking if your carrier offers a pandemic exception on your personal policy, because some of these programs may have ended by now. It also may depend upon where you live as some states, such as Wisconsin, ordered this personal auto policy exception to remain in effect as long as a state of emergency remains in place, he says.

Understand, too, that the pandemic exception, even when applicable, works for local businesses. It does not allow you to use your personal insurance when driving for commercial delivery businesses such as Amazon, UberEats, or DoorDash.

When driving for these companies, you’ll want to understand their requirements and what, if anything they offer as supplemental insurance. For example, Friedlander says, you could be covered while delivering food, but not covered driving to and from the restaurant where you are picking up the next order. “You need to discuss these details with your insurance professional to ensure you are fully protected,” he says.

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