Business Use of Your Car (Independent Contractor Insurance)

Business use of your car isn't covered by your personal car insurance policy, so you will need to purchase commercial coverage. The average commercial car insurance rates are $100-$200/mo.

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Zaneta Wood, Ed.S. has over 15 years of experience in research and technical writing bringing a keen understanding of data analysis and information synthesis to reach a wide variety of audiences. She studied adult education and instructional technology at Appalachian State...

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Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses...

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UPDATED: Jun 25, 2020

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Here's what you need to know...

  • There are approximately 15.5 million independent workers in the U.S., according to Brookings.
  • If you drive your personal car for business purposes, you may need to carry commercial insurance.
  • Even if a company hires you solely to drive for them, if you own or lease the vehicle you’re driving, the insurance is your responsibility.
  • A business cannot force you to insure a car that they own.
  • The average commercial car insurance rates are $100-$200/mo

When you are buying car insurance as an independent contractor, it is important to understand that business use of your car generally isn’t covered under a standard policy. Many people don’t understand that, and they may be driving without coverage if using a personal car for business. That’s why it’s important to understand auto insurance for independent contractors.

Understandably, many people don’t purchase insurance for their personal vehicle with the knowledge that they will someday use it for business. If you unexpectedly find that you need to use your personal vehicle for business for only a single instance, then you probably don’t need to worry about coverage.

However, if you are an independent contractor and use your vehicle for business on a regular basis, then it’s time to consider your other insurance options. Our guide will cover everything you need to know about being an independent contractor and buying personal car insurance.

To start your search for insurance that covers the business use of your car,  enter your ZIP code here to receive quotes from multiple car insurance companies for free.

Personal Car Insurance and Independent Contractors: How It Can Change Your Price

The average commercial car insurance rates are $100-$200/mo, which is much higher than the average personal car insurance rates. So just how does your occupation affect your car insurance rates? While what you pay for car insurance by occupation shouldn’t affect what career you chose, understanding how rates change can help you save on car insurance. Keep reading to learn about why insurers ask about your occupation, how to tell your insurer when you change jobs, and how your job affects your insurance.

Why do insurers ask about your occupation?

So why do insurers care so much about what you do for a living? Well, think about the difference between a part-time nurse and a doctor working long shifts at the hospital. The doctor is much more likely to be stressed and tired when driving home than a part-time nurse. The result? The doctor is more likely to make a driving mistake and get into a crash.

In addition to job stress, there are also differences in driving time. An independent contractor who drives around town every day to various jobs is going to be charged more than a worker who drives 10 minutes to one location every day.

Another occupational difference that matters to insurers is salary. Why? A multimillionaire is more likely to buy a flashy sports car and speed along the highway than a nurse with a minivan. Bottom line: If you have a high-stress job, drive odd or long hours, or have a risky vehicle, insurers will raise your rates.

Telling Your Insurers When You Change Jobs

You have to tell your insurer when you change jobs. If you were an independent contractor who used to drive around town but now works from home, your insurer needs to know. Because occupation can change rates, concealing what your job is counts as fraud (the same as if you lied about your address to get better rates).

However, keep in mind that occupation doesn’t have a huge bearing on your rates, so it’s not worth lying about. Simply call your insurer or update your information on your insurer’s app or website. You may find that your rates don’t change at all until your next billing cycle.

In addition, you may even find that your rates go down after you notify your insurer. You may have qualified for a new discount or now have a lower-risk job. Unfortunately, this can also be the reverse, as you may lose a discount or have a higher-risk job that raises your rates. As we said, though, the occupation you have doesn’t drastically change your rates. At worst, it will raise rates a few hundred dollars (if your insurer does this, it’s time to start looking for a new insurer).

How does your job affect your personal car insurance?

Studies on occupation and personal car insurance rates have revealed some significant disparities. The organizations that did these studies did so with the intention of revealing unfair and unethical price disparities. Let’s start by looking at the main findings of the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG).

The NYPIRG used a profile of a 30-year-old single woman and changed her occupation as they applied for quotes at major insurers (Geico, Progressive, etc.). Their findings showed that many insurers charge more if an applicant only has a high school degree.

The NYPIRG says that a bank teller with a high school degree pays an average of 18 percent more than an fellow executive bank teller with a college degree.

This means that these rate changes are a form of discrimination, as people with high school degrees are charged more, even though they work in the same field as people with college degrees. Watch the video below to see how jobs can impact what you pay.

Another study by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) showed similar results to the NYPIRG study. Even if workers are in the same field, those with college educations are charged less. This means that blue-collar workers and high school graduates are paying higher rates. Some of the worst offenders in this study were Geico, Progressive, and Liberty Mutual.

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Providers Who Offer the Best Rates for Independent Contactors

You can’t really do anything about insurers basing rates on your occupation, short of changing careers, but you can work to lower your car insurance costs in other ways. In this section, we are going to help you find the insurer with the lowest independent contractor insurance cost. So stick with us to learn how annual mileage and discounts affect your car insurance rates, so you can start saving on your monthly payments.

What are the basic car insurance rates for independent contractors?

Before we get into how you can save, we want to take a quick look at what your rates will be for some of the more common jobs for independent contractors. Our data is from our partnership with Quadrant data and shows Geico rates changes for different occupations.

Geico Average Car Insurance Rates by Occupation
OccupationGeico Monthly RatesGeico 6-Month RatesGeico Annual Rates
Engineer$151.00$906.00$1,812.00
Computer/Math/Research$151.00$906.00$1,812.00
Architect$151.00$906.00$1,812.00
Construction/Skilled Worker$151.00$906.00$1,812.00
CPA/Comptroller$151.00$906.00$1,812.00
Attorney/Lawyer/Judge$151.00$906.00$1,812.00
Statistician$151.00$906.00$1,812.00
Farm Manager, Owner$157.98$947.90$1,895.80
Professional Designer$157.98$947.90$1,895.80
Marketing/Advertising$157.98$947.90$1,895.80
Mechanic$157.98$947.90$1,895.80
Technician$157.98$947.90$1,895.80
Sales/Real Estate$157.98$947.90$1,895.80
Machinist/Toolmaker$159.87$959.20$1,918.40
Breeder/Groomer/Trainer$165.33$992.00$1,984.00
Nanny/Caretaker$165.33$992.00$1,984.00
Chef/Baker$165.33$992.00$1,984.00
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Looking at the table, you can see how rates change depending on what your occupation is. An engineer is going to pay about $200 less for car insurance than a baker/chef. This could be because a baker will be driving around more making deliveries than an engineer. Now that you know what some of the basic rates are for independent contractor jobs, let’s start looking at how you can save.

Does your annual mileage affect your car insurance rates?

If you drive around frequently for your independent contractor job, you may be paying higher rates at your insurer. We partnered with Quadrant Data to bring you information on rates by mileage at popular insurers.

U.S. Average Annual Car Insurance Rates by Commute
Company10 Miles Commute. 6,000 Annual Mileage.25 Miles Commute. 12,000 Annual Mileage
USAA$2,482.69$2,591.91
Geico$3,162.64$3,267.37
State Farm$3,175.98$3,344.01
American Family$3,401.30$3,484.88
Nationwide$3,437.33$3,462.67
Progressive$4,030.02$4,041.01
Farmers$4,179.32$4,209.22
Travelers$4,399.85$4,469.96
Allstate$4,841.71$4,934.20
Liberty Mutual$5,995.27$6,151.63
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While some insurers only charge a little bit or nothing at all for a longer commute, other insurers charge over a hundred dollars for a longer commute. For example, Progressive charges an average of $10 for a longer commute, whereas Liberty Mutual charges an average of $150 for a longer commute. So if you find your rates rising for no apparent reason, make sure your company is charging you more for your long commute as an independent contractor.

Which companies offer discounts for independent contractors?

Take a look at the list below to see which insurers offer occupation discounts. Note that an occupation discount covers a wide variety of jobs, so independent contractors can earn this discount depending on what they do.

  • Allstate
  • Country Financial (for teachers, firefighters, police officers, EMTs, and paramedics)
  • Esurance (only available in California)
  • Farmers
  • Geico (only available in Arizona, but includes many applicable careers)
  • Liberty Mutual
  • MetLife
  • Nationwide (only in California)
  • Safeco (business owners, teachers, firefighters, police officers, and others)
  • The Hanover
  • The Hartford (only in California for doctors and nurses)
  • Travelers

The majority of providers offer an occupation discount, but some are limited to one state or certain employments. So even if your insurer offers an occupation discount, you may not be eligible for it. Don’t let this discourage you, though. There are other aspects of your job that may earn you a discount. For example, if you are an independent contractor who mostly works out your home, you can qualify for a low mileage discount.

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Personal Car Insurance and Independent Contractors

A common mistake that independent contractors make is not purchasing the right car insurance for their vehicles.

An independent contractor is a person who is not directly hired by any company. This person may have their own business or strictly work from 1099 tax forms. Watch the video below for an explanation of independent contractors versus employees.

If you are an independent contractor working for a client, then you are responsible for your vehicle and anything you do with your vehicle — not your client. This misunderstanding is a common mistake.

Oftentimes, independent contractors believe that if they are carrying a product or doing a service while using their vehicle, then the client becomes their employer and is responsible for their liability.

The truth is, as defined but the IRS, when you are an independent contractor, you are responsible for yourself, period. No one else is liable if you cause a car accident. Although other drivers can attempt to sue your client if you don’t have proper coverage, it is unlikely they would have any success.

There is no specific independent contractor insurance policy, but you can buy commercial coverage. Commercial car insurance is a necessary expense that ensures you are protected while you are working. Your insurance company has every right to deny a car insurance claim that you file if you cause an accident while you are performing your job.

Here are some examples of independent jobs that require commercial car insurance:

  • Magazine or newspaper delivery
  • Pizza delivery
  • Massage therapist
  • Physical therapist
  • Long-term care technician

While this list is short, its diversity should help you to understand that nearly any type of work that you perform could cause you to need commercial car insurance. The video below explains the gig economy — getting jobs as part- or full-time independent contractor.

If you’re on your way to see a client and carrying equipment for work, then the insurance company can make the claim that you are using your vehicle for work purposes. In addition, if you ferry around clients, such as a long-term care technician or a health care specialist might, then you need additional liability insurance to protect your clients.

Without the proper coverage, your insurance can refuse to pay your claim and you could leave yourself open to a lawsuit. According to the CDC, 25 percent of all work-related deaths are caused by vehicle accidents. You need to be prepared for accident costs and carry the proper coverage to protect yourself and the employees working for you.

Carrying commercial car insurance vs personal coverage might be more expensive, but the benefits far outweigh the risks.

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What should I know about the business use of a personal vehicle?

Many companies require employees to use their personal vehicles, so it’s your responsibility to carry the proper amount of car insurance. When it comes to business use of a personal vehicle, insurance is generally your responsibility, not that of your employer.

When you apply for a job with a company that requires you to use your own personal vehicle to do company business, you’ll have to sign documents stating that you understand your responsibility in terms of car insurance.

These companies are not required to provide you with money to pay for your insurance nor force you to carry the proper amount of insurance.

Some companies provide you with a stipend to purchase required car insurance, but many don’t. In addition, some companies won’t hire you until you provide proof of commercial insurance to ensure that you have adequate coverage on your vehicle.

If the company doesn’t provide you with a stipend or check to see if you have commercial insurance, they are still not liable if you cause an accident and don’t have the right insurance. However, the chances do increase that someone could sue them successfully if the company directly employs you.

What should I know about the business use of a company vehicle?

As a business owner, if you purchase vehicles for employees to use while doing business for your company, then you — not the drivers — are responsible for insuring the vehicles.

If you are working for a company that requires you to drive one of their vehicles, they cannot require you to pay for insurance for that vehicle. The exception is if the company leases the vehicle to you, much like a cab company might.

If you are hired for a job and the company tries to tell you that you have to pay for the insurance on company-owned vehicles that you drive, then they are breaking the law. The vehicle is registered in their name, making them responsible for paying for their own commercial insurance.

The bright side of using a company (or personal) vehicle for business driving is that you can usually get a tax break. The IRS requirements for standard mileage deduction for business use are below.

  • You must not operate five or more cars at the same time, as in fleet operation.
  • You must not have claimed a depreciation deduction for the car using any method other than straight-line.
  • You must not have claimed a Section 179 deduction on the car.
  • You must not have claimed the special depreciation allowance on the car.
  • You must not have claimed actual expenses for a car you lease.

If you use your vehicle for business or have a business vehicle, you can shave a little off of your taxes.

Your best bet is to keep track of your expenses as an independent contractor in a spreadsheet. Be sure to look into other expenses you may be able to deduct, such as payments on the car you use for business. Always check with an accountant to see what expenses you can claim as an independent contractor.

What is commercial insurance anyway?

Commercial insurance covers a vehicle that is used in the course of conducting business.

The reason that commercial insurance is separate from private insurance is because of the higher risks involved for companies and individuals who drive their vehicles for business.

Using your vehicle for business means more time on the road, which increases your risk of having an accident. In addition, commercial insurance may cover the products you are carrying if they are related to your business. Watch the video below for an explanation of what commercial car insurance covers.

Your private insurance doesn’t offer this protection. Personal insurance won’t cover you if: 

  • Your vehicle is used mostly for business.
  • You are in a serious accident while driving for business.
  • Your employees are driving your vehicle.

Take a look at the table below to see what types of situations are covered by personal insurance and which are covered by commercial insurance.

Personal Car Insurance vs. Commercial Car Insurance
Personal Car Insurance
Will Cover You if:
Commercial Car Insurance
Will Cover You if:
Commuting to your job site.Driving around town all day to meet clients.
Running out to grab pizza for your fellow workers.Delivering your baked goods to customers all over town.
Throwing a box of office supplies in the back of your car.Regularly using your vehicle to transport tools and equipment to job sites.
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Your business could be at risk if you don’t have commercial coverage, as you risk substantial bills if your insurer doesn’t cover you. If you are using your vehicle for business, your insurance company may require you to carry certain types of coverage depending on the type of vehicle you are using and your field of work. For example, if you are carrying around passengers, then you will be required to carry more liability insurance.

Insurance companies offer different types of commercial insurance for pick-up trucks, vans, trailers and so on. All of this will have an impact on your costs for commercial car insurance.

The main factors that will affect your commercial car insurance rates are:

  • Vehicle type and vehicle usage – If your vehicle ranks safer on a vehicle crash test or has safety features, it will cost less to insure. Insurers also care if you are driving a large commercial truck or a regular minivan to conduct business and how often/far you drive with your commercial vehicle. The more you are on the road, the more you will pay for commercial insurance.
  • Driving records – Who is driving your vehicle? You can save money by ensuring that you have a good driving record. In addition, if you have employees, don’t let them drive your vehicle unless they have a good driving record, as well.
  • Location – Do you live in a rural area or a bustling city? Traffic reports, local crashes, and theft in the area matter to insurers.
  • Credit score – If you have a poor credit score, insurers won’t trust you to pay bills on time, meaning you’ll be charged more for car insurance.

All of these factors influence how much you will be paying for commercial car insurance, and some of them are out of your control. However, shopping around can help you find a commercial car insurer in your price range. For example, the costs by driving record vary greatly. We partnered with Quadrant Data to show you how rates can change drastically depending on what offenses are on your record.

U.S. Average Car Insurance Rates Based on Driving Record
CompaniesAverage Rates With Clean RecordAverage Rates With 1 AccidentAverage Rates With 1 DUIAverage Rates With 1 Speeding Violation
USAA$1,933.68$2,516.24$3,506.03$2,193.25
Geico$2,145.96$3,192.77$4,875.87$2,645.43
American Family$2,693.61$3,722.75$4,330.24$3,025.74
Nationwide$2,746.18$3,396.95$4,543.20$3,113.68
State Farm$2,821.18$3,396.01$3,636.80$3,186.01
Progressive$3,393.09$4,777.04$3,969.65$4,002.28
Travelers$3,447.69$4,289.74$5,741.40$4,260.80
Farmers$3,460.60$4,518.73$4,718.75$4,079.01
Allstate$3,819.90$4,987.68$6,260.73$4,483.51
Liberty Mutual$4,774.30$6,204.78$7,613.48$5,701.26
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By switching companies, you could save hundreds or thousands of dollars. For example, having a DUI on your record at Liberty Mutual will result in an average rate of almost $8,000 compared to USAA’s average rate of $3,500.

Independent Contractor Occupational Path

An independent contractor is a broad term, as it can cover a variety of jobs and fields. However, some of the most common industries for independent contractors, according to MBO Partners, are:

  • Technology (IT, specialists)
  • Environment
  • Management consulting
  • Politics (political campaign assistants)
  • Accounting

These are some of the most common fields that can be a lucrative business for independent contractors. The video below goes over some of the best contractor jobs for handymen.

Any job where you work outside of a company and file 1099 forms counts as an independent contractor position. If you are wondering where a career as an independent contractor will take you and how it relates to car insurance, keep reading.

We’re going to go over education, rates, schools, and job responsibilities.

Education for Independent Contractors

Because independent contractors cover a variety of fields, we aren’t going to go into education for each one. However, we do want to discuss ways you can further your education or get a degree in the independent contractor field other than traditional college routes.

If you want to be an electrician, plumber, or another handiwork job where you can work as an independent contractor, trade or vocational schools are a great option. These schools will help you learn a valuable trade and start contracting yourself out.

If you want to start improving your contractor salary but are busy working, you can also add to your resume by getting associate degrees from local community colleges or online schools. Even course completions can help you fill out your resume. Check out free sites like Study.com for examples of courses you can take in your field.

How College Education Can Affect Rates

Insurers pay attention to college education and generally charge those with degrees lower rates. This is partially to do with age, as high school students are going to be charged much more than college students since they have less driving experience and are more likely to get into accidents.

College students are often eligible for discounts including a distant student discount, alumni discount, or good student discount, all of which can bring down rates.

Top Schools for Independent Contractors

It is important to pick a school that has a strong program for your chosen degree.  If you are having trouble deciding on a school, the following two sites can help give you some direction:

  • U.S. News ranks the best colleges every year. You can also search their site to find the best colleges ranked by degree.
  • LearnHowToBecome.org provides valuable information concerning what your degree will require and provides a search tool for finding a school in your area that specializes in your degree.

Using these tools, you can find a school in your area that offers associate, bachelor’s, master’s, or graduate degrees in your field.

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Job Responsibilities for Independent Contractors

There are a few personality qualities that all independent contractors must possess. These are the qualities that potential employers will be looking for when they review your work, as you will need them for your job responsibilities.

  • Goal-focused – You need to be able to set your own deadlines and complete them. If you aren’t goal-focused or driven, you will find it hard to be an independent contractor.
  • Good communicator – Effectively and strategically promote yourself and be thorough on what you need to get the job done.
  • Honest – This isn’t exactly a quality you will put on your resume, but it an important factor. If you aren’t trustworthy, it will be harder for you to find work.

Independent contractors also need to be effective at networking and problem-solving (especially if you are working in a field like management or IT). It’s also vital that you are flexible and accommodating. For example, if you are a roofer and it is pouring rain, you will need to rearrange your schedule until there is better weather.

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Getting Car Insurance if You’re Unemployed

If you’ve recently found yourself unemployed, the last thing you need to worry about is being refused car insurance. Luckily, insurers are not allowed to drop you or refuse you coverage because you don’t have a job.

However, if you are unable to make car insurance payments, insurers can drop you. To prevent this from happening, you need to make sure you able to pay your car insurance payments with careful management. A few ways you can reduce your costs are:

  • Shop around for a new insurer. Finding a new insurer with better rates is one of the best ways to reduce your costs.
  • Make sure you are using all the discounts. There are some discounts you may be missing out on, such as paperless billing discounts or safe driver discounts.
  • Maintain a good credit score. If your credit score stops dropping, your car insurance rates will go up (making it even harder to save and pay credit bills).
  • Reduce your coverage. This shouldn’t be your first step, as reducing your coverage can leave you vulnerable after an accident. However, temporarily reducing your coverage can help make costs manageable until you get a new job.
  • Increase your deductible. If you increase your deductible (the amount you agree to pay towards costs after an accident), you can bring your rates down. Make sure that the deductible is still an amount you can pay, as insurance won’t cover anything until you pay your deductible.

It’s important to do what you can to reduce costs to a level you can pay. Even a temporary lapse in coverage due to missed payments will raise your rates at any insurer you go to. You may also be labeled as a high-risk driver.

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As an independent contractor, you are in the unique position of working for yourself, paying for your own benefits, and working on multiple projects. Make sure that your car insurance doesn’t fall through the cracks. You need to check with your insurer to make sure that you have the proper coverage you need, whether it’s personal insurance or commercial insurance.

After all, your vehicle is a part of your livelihood, whether you use to drive to a construction site every day or drive to people’s houses to fix faulty wiring. You need to make sure that if you get into an accident, your assets are protected.

However, make sure that you understand how your occupation affects your rates, as this can help you get the best rate possible. Shopping around, discounts, and other tricks will make sure that in the unfortunate event you have trouble finding work, you will still be able to make payments and protect you and your vehicle.

Personal Car Insurance and Independent Contractor FAQs

There is a lot to talk about when it comes to car insurance. To make sure we’ve answered all your questions about being an independent contractor and buying car insurance, we are going to go through a list of frequently asked questions. So stick with us as we near the end of this guide.

What happens if I lie about my occupation?

If you lie about your occupation and your insurer finds out, you will be accused of committing soft fraud. In these cases, insurers have the right to deny you coverage or drop you. Be honest when you fill out a car insurance application.

Where can I get a free car insurance quote?

You can usually find a form for a free car insurance quote on an insurer’s website. In fact, most insurers advertise this on the home page as offering free quotes is the best way to attract new customers.

If an insurer is charging you for a quote, this is a red flag. It could be an unreputable company, and you should look into it more before paying for a quote.

What happens if I don’t have car insurance?

While in a small handful of states car insurance isn’t mandatory (such as in parts of Alaska), car insurance is mandatory in almost every state. While the required amounts of insurance vary, the penalty for not having car insurance is the same.

Drivers will face a suspended license, suspended registration, fines, and even jail time. Drivers will also be labeled high-risk and will face higher rates. In some cases, they may even be refused high coverage and will have to go through a state high-risk plan.

How do I know if I’m getting a good rate on car insurance?

It can be hard to determine if the rate your insurer is charging you is actually fair. The best way to determine a good rate is to get quotes from multiple different insurers. Comparing prices among insurers in your area will help you figure out which one actually has the best rate for your needs.

Can I pay for car insurance every month or every year?

It depends on the insurer, but generally, you can choose a one-month, six-month, or yearly payment plan. It is usually cheaper to pay yearly, as insurers give a discount for paying in full. However, monthly payments can be useful if you don’t have enough to pay in full.

Remember, in order to save money on your commercial car insurance, you need to take a few minutes to get a commercial car insurance quote. By using the free quote tool, you can get the information you need about your commercial car insurance right now.

Enter your ZIP code below for free car insurance quotes from multiple companies to cover business use of your car.

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