What is the Difference Between Primary Driver and Assigned Driver?

When getting an auto insurance policy, you’ll need to provide details on who the regular drivers are for each insured vehicle. Insurance companies use terms like “primary driver” and “assigned driver” to classify these regular users. While these terms sound similar, they have some distinct differences that affect your policy rates and coverage.

Defining Primary Driver

The primary driver is the person who drives a specific vehicle most often. They are considered the main operator of that auto. Some key points about primary drivers:

  • There can only be one primary driver assigned per vehicle.

  • The primary driver typically drives the car more than 50% of the time.

  • The primary driver’s details like age, driving record, credit, and claims history are used to rate and price insurance on that car.

  • Young drivers and those with accidents or violations are likely to be rated as a primary driver since they pose more risk.

  • For multiple-car households, each vehicle will have a different primary driver assigned.

The insurance company needs to know the main driver of a car in order to accurately evaluate the risk of insuring it. The primary driver has the biggest impact on premiums.

Defining Assigned Driver

The assigned driver on an auto policy can be used interchangeably with the primary driver. When you buy insurance, you assign one main person to each car as the customary operator.

Like the primary driver, the assigned driver is the individual who predominantly drives that vehicle. The terms primary and assigned indicate the same role of main user for rating purposes:

  • The assigned driver is the person “assigned” to that auto in insurance company records.

  • They are designated as the prevalent user and risk profile for that specific car.

  • Only one person per vehicle can be denoted as the assigned driver.

So primary driver and assigned driver carry the same meaning. They both refer to the main person operating the insured car based on policy definitions.

How are Secondary Drivers Classified?

In contrast to the one primary/assigned driver, multiple secondary drivers can be listed on an auto policy. These are people who drive the car occasionally but not as their main mode of transport.

Secondary drivers typically:

  • Drive the car less frequently than the primary driver.

  • Are lower-risk than the assigned driver.

  • Include family members, housemates, or others with access but not main usage.

  • Contribute to the overall policy premium but don’t determine the base rate.

Classifying secondary drivers grants them coverage when using the insured vehicles. But their risk profile does not predominantly decide the vehicle’s base insurance rate.

Why Driver Classification Matters

Identifying drivers as primary or secondary impacts your auto policy in two key ways:

1. Rate setting – The primary driver’s risk profile sets the baseline premium that additional drivers build upon. Their driving record, age, credit, and other attributes determine the starting rate.

2. Coverage – All listed drivers have coverage when operating the insured cars. But the primary driver’s usage patterns mainly dictate overall coverage needs.

Misrepresenting who the real primary driver is can be considered fraud. Insurers expect precise driver classification to appropriately evaluate risk exposure.

Examples of Primary vs. Secondary Drivers

Here are some common scenarios to illustrate primary and secondary driver designation:

  • A married couple shares two cars. Spouse A is the assigned driver of Car 1. Spouse B is the primary operator of Car 2. Both are secondary drivers for the other’s vehicle.

  • A parent owns a car that a teenage child drives to school and activities most days. The teen should be the primary driver despite the parent owning the car.

  • A family has two parents, two teens, and three vehicles. Each teen is the primary driver of their own car. Parents are secondary drivers of the teens’ cars.

  • A business owner has company vehicles driven by multiple employees. Employees using a car the majority of the time are assigned as the primary driver. Other employees become secondary drivers.

Determining accurate primary and secondary status is imperative for fair insurance pricing and seamless coverage in the event of a claim.

Can You Change the Primary Driver on a Policy?

Policies can be amended to change the primary driver if usage habits evolve. For example:

  • Parents assign a teen as primary driver of an old family car. When the teen goes away to college, the parents begin driving the car more. The primary driver can be updated to reflect this shift.

  • A husband and wife split time driving both family cars early in a policy term. But later the wife begins driving Car 1 most often due to a change in commuting distance. The insurance company can modify the primary driver on Car 1.

  • An employer promotes a worker who had been a secondary driver of a company vehicle to a outside sales role requiring daily use. The worker becomes the new primary driver.

Life changes, employment shifts or location changes can alter driving patterns. Let your insurer know so they can assign the accurate primary driver to each auto. This ensures you pay the right premium based on risk.

How to Determine Primary vs. Secondary Status

When starting a new policy, deciding on driver classification requires some thoughtful analysis:

  • Track usage – Keep a log of who drives each car and the percentage of use. This provides data to assign main vs. occasional drivers.

  • Consider risk levels – The driver age, record, license status and other risk factors often dictate primary status. List high-risk drivers first.

  • Think about ownership – The registered owner may not be the primary operator, but ownership can suggest main usage in some cases.

  • Review priorities – Who truly needs regular access to a certain car? What driving needs take precedence?

  • Be accurate – Incorrect driver classification can lead to denied claims down the road.

Having trustworthy records makes deciding primary and secondary status much clearer when purchasing coverage.

Why Misrepresenting Drivers Is Risky

It may be tempting to list an experienced driver with a clean record as the primary operator even if a teenager drives the car most days. But this is inadvisable for several reasons:

  • Insurers expect honest, accurate driver details to rate each auto appropriately. Providing false information is fraud.

  • If an unlisted driver causes an accident, the claim could be denied due to material misrepresentation.

  • Premium increases or outright cancellation can occur if your insurer uncovers incorrect driver classifications.

  • Even minor fender-benders can prompt investigations that reveal undisclosed primary drivers.

While being completely transparent may raise your costs somewhat, it protects you in the event of a catastrophic loss. And it keeps you on the right side of your insurer’s fraud detection efforts.

The Bottom Line

Identifying drivers as primary or secondary is imperative for pricing risk fairly, granting proper coverage, and avoiding denied claims. The primary/assigned driver should always be the individual operating the car more than 50% of the time based on ownership, usage patterns, risk profile, and household priorities. Classifying drivers accurately reduces premiums surprises down the road while ensuring protection for all regular vehicle operators.

Who Needs To Be Added As A Driver On My Car Insurance?


Does it matter who is the primary driver?

It helps to know that every car should be assigned a primary driver, and their driving history has an impact on the base insurance rates. Although the primary drivers don’t have to own their vehicles, they are the ones who use the car more as compared to the others.

What does it mean to be a primary driver?

In simple terms, the primary driver is the person who drives the insured vehicle more than anyone else. You do not have to be the owner of the car to be the primary driver.

What is an assigned driver?

Driver assignment is an auto insurance specific method of assigning a specific driver to a specific vehicle on a policy, based on certain criteria.

What are the primary drivers?

Primary Drivers are what need to occur for you to achieve your aim. Step 3 in the Disparities Impact Statement helps to develop primary drivers and anticipate potential barriers.

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