To start, let's explain what non-owner car insurance is.
This coverage protects you when you don't have your own car but cause an accident while driving a borrowed or rented vehicle. This type of coverage typically provides liability insurance, although some insurers may also offer personal injury protection, medical payments and/or uninsured/underinsured motorist bodily injury coverage as well.
The liability protection is important - without it you could be on the hook for the costs associated with an accident if you're found at fault. Keep in mind that non-owner insurance does not include comprehensive and collision protection or reimbursements for towing or a rental car following an accident.
Non-owner car insurance is cheaper than normal insurance, but the costs vary from company to company. Costs tend to range from 10 percent to 80 percent of the price you'd pay for a standard auto policy, says Jarrett Dunbar, a spokesman for Nationwide. Dunbar points out that "much depends on how often the customer has access to a car, how that car will be used and what age the operator is."
CarInsurance.com's sister site, Insurance.com, recently ran sample rates in California, comparing the cheapest liability-only policy available for drivers who own a car with a similar policy available to drivers who don't. The policy quotes don't cover damage to the car itself, only damage the driver causes to people and property, and that doesn't include any injuries suffered by the driver himself or his passengers.
Using a 25-year-old single male who rents and has a clean driving record as an example, the study found that he'd pay $438 a year for a non-owner policy, compared to $470 if he bought coverage for a vehicle he owned.
A single woman, 40, who rents and has a pristine driving history would pay $368 a year for non-owner coverage, compared to $424 for an owner policy.
Penny Gusner, the consumer analyst for Insure.com, points out that not all insurance companies offer non-owner policies in every state. She suggests contacting agents who represent insurers you're interested in to see if they write the policies and what the conditions are. State Farm, Progressive, Nationwide and Geico are among the bigger companies that do offer non-owner coverage in most states.