Primary vs secondary driver insurance

8 minute read Published on Mar 31, 2024 by BrokerLink Communications

ortrait of happy mother driving a car with adult daughter on passenger seat, viewed through the windscreen

With any car insurance policy, there may come a time when you decide that you want to add another driver to your plan. This is where the distinction between primary drivers and secondary drivers comes into play. Below, we explain the differences between each and how to add a secondary or occasional driver to your policy.

Primary drivers explained

What is a primary driver? A primary driver is the person who drives the vehicle the most. In most cases, the primary driver is also the car's owner, though this isn’t always true. Further, the primary driver is typically the named insured on the policy. An insurer must know your policy's primary driver because this will impact your premium.

In fact, the primary driver and their circumstances will significantly impact how much you pay for car insurance, even if you have multiple secondary drivers added to your policy. In essence, if you’re trying to determine who the primary driver should be on your policy, it is usually the person who owns it and spends the most time behind the wheel of it.

Secondary drivers explained

Now, let’s move on to secondary drivers, which are also known as occasional drivers. Secondary drivers are drivers who use the car regularly but who don’t use it the most. In most cases, secondary drivers are other people with valid driver’s licence who live in the same household as the primary driver, such as an adult or teenage child or spouse. However, if anyone else operates the car on a regular basis, whether they are with you or not, they should be added as a secondary driver to your car insurance plan.

Examples of people whom you may need to add include siblings, coworkers, roommates, friends, neighbours, personal care workers, and nannies. Whoever it is, if they drive your car once a week or more, they should be named as a secondary driver. While the driving records, claims histories and more of secondary drivers will be considered by insurance companies when calculating your premium, they usually do not hold as much weight as that of a primary driver. You should expect your auto insurance rates to rise when you add one or more secondary drivers to your policy because the risk of an accident increases when multiple people use the same vehicle.

Primary vs. secondary drivers

How do primary and secondary drivers differ? The reality is that, when named on a car insurance policy, both will receive the same coverage. Thus, the main difference is the status of each type of driver on the policy. The varying statuses mainly matter regarding the premium. The risk factors related to primary drivers will be assessed and weighted more heavily than the risk factors for secondary drivers.

As a result, the premium you are given will reflect the primary driver more than the secondary drivers. To provide you with a better idea of how insurance companies determine premiums for car insurance plans, whether they only feature a primary driver or both primary and secondary drivers, keep reading:

  • Where you live
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Vehicle type
  • How you use your vehicle
  • Driving record
  • Driving experience
  • Past claims
  • Prior insurance coverage
  • Number of kilometers you drive
  • Type of coverage on your policy
  • Your deductible

How secondary drivers can impact auto insurance premiums

Adding a secondary driver to your auto insurance plan can impact your premium in a few possible ways. We outline the possibilities below:

  • Your premium could rise, especially if you add a young or new driver to your policy. Depending on how much your premium goes up, you may wish to consider purchasing young drivers insurance instead.
  • Your premium may not be impacted in any significant way if the person you are adding to your policy has driving experience coupled with a clean record. That is why we always recommend checking the driving record of any secondary driver you consider listing on your plan.
  • In some instances, your premium could actually go down by adding a secondary driver to your policy, e.g. if you are a young driver with a high premium who chooses to add an older motorist with ample driving experience to your policy.

At the end of the day, the best way to find out how much it will cost if you add a secondary driver to your policy is to contact BrokerLink and request a free quote. We offer free auto insurance quotes that can be obtained in as little as five minutes. It is the easiest and quickest way to determine how much your premium will go up or down by adding another driver to your plan.

When to add a secondary driver to your auto insurance policy

At this point, you may wonder when and if you must add a secondary driver to your auto insurance plan. There are several circumstances in which you may not only be required to add a secondary driver to your policy, but it might make the most financial sense when doing so.

For example, adding one or two occasional drivers to your car insurance plan might be cheaper than purchasing multiple auto insurance policies. Learn more about who might need to be added to your coverage below:

Teen drivers

If your teenager recently started to drive, now might be a great time to add them as a secondary driver on your car insurance plan. This typically makes the most sense, especially if they do not yet have a car of their own. By adding them as a secondary driver to your policy, they will be covered anytime they are behind the wheel. Since teen drivers are usually less experienced, they may be more likely to get into an accident. For this reason, some experts recommend adding accident forgiveness coverage to your plan or increasing the limit on your liability car insurance.

Adult drivers

There are several situations in which you may need to name an adult as a secondary driver on your policy. For example, if someone in your household, such as your adult child, spouse, sibling, parent, or roommate regularly uses your car, they should be added as a secondary driver. The same goes for neighbours, friends, or family members who do not live in your household but use your vehicle on a regular basis nonetheless.


Finally, if you employ someone, such as a nanny or personal care worker, and they use your car frequently, they should also be named as a secondary driver on your policy.

When not to add someone as a secondary driver to your car insurance plan

Knowing when to add a secondary driver to your policy is just as important as knowing when not to. Although there are many situations in which listing someone as an occasional driver on your policy makes sense, there are other times when it’s simply not necessary.

For instance, if a friend or family member borrows your car very occasionally, e.g. once a month, there is likely no reason to name them on your policy. In addition, if you have a loved one visiting from out of town for a week and they plan to drive your car for one week only, you also do not need to inform your insurance company and add them to your policy. Please note that if they plan to rent a car during their visit, they should look into rental car insurance. These types of very occasional or one-off drivers are covered under the permissive user clause in your auto insurance policy, which is why naming them as secondary drivers isn’t necessary.

What happens when a secondary driver gets into a car accident?

If someone who is named as a secondary driver on your car insurance policy gets into an accident, they will be covered by the same coverage as the primary driver. For example, if the accident was their fault, they can file a third party liability car insurance claim with the provider. Alternatively, if they were the victim of a hit and run, they can file an uninsured automobile insurance claim with the provider. At the end of the day, whether or not the primary driver was driving the vehicle or even present in the vehicle at the time of the accident does not matter. The secondary driver will still be covered for the cost of the accident, assuming they were not doing anything illegal at the time of the accident and had a valid driver’s licence.

Generally speaking, it’s wise to remember that insurance follows the vehicle, not the driver. So even if someone who was not listed on your policy was driving your car at the time of the accident, assuming you gave them permission to do so, they would still be covered by the primary driver’s policy. Even if that person had their own car insurance policy, because they were driving your car at the time of the accident, the claim they would file would be with your provider.

Do I have to add a secondary driver to my car insurance plan?

It depends. If someone else is driving your car on a regular basis, or even lives in the same household as you, then you must report them on your policy. If they have their own vehicle or insurance, you will not have to add them to your policy as a driver, however if they do not, then they must be listed on your insurance policy. Failing to do so would be misleading to your insurance company and could result in your claim being denied or your policy being cancelled down the road. In addition, insurance fronting is also prohibited. Insurance front is a type of insurance fraud and it is when you name your child as a secondary driver on a policy, when in reality they are the person driving the car the majority of the time. In Canada, committing insurance fraud is a crime.

Contact BrokerLink for more information on primary and secondary driver insurance

Are you ready to dive into the world of primary and secondary driver insurance? Contact BrokerLink today. We can explain how each type of driver differs, as well as give you an accurate quote of how much it will cost to add a secondary driver to your policy. We can also help you ensure that you have the best possible coverage for your needs, as well as the needs of any other drivers on your auto insurance policy. For example, we can recommend extra protection like comprehensive car coverage and make sure that you have all the mandatory coverage you need in your province, such as accident benefits coverage. Further, if you want tips on how to keep your premium low even after adding extra drivers to your policy, we can help. Get in touch today to request your free quote and begin your car insurance journey!

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