Commercial Auto Policy

Does your job constitute your needing a Commercial Auto Policy? (Image via Can ‘o’ Rye on Flickr)

Do you need a Commercial Auto Policy? This is a question many small business owners ask themselves, their friends, and hopefully their insurance agents.  There is a common misconception that your personal auto policy will cover any losses incurred while driving for the business if you are driving your personal automobile which is covered under your personal auto policy.  This makes a certain kind of sense on the surface.  In essence, you are buying two insurance policies to cover the same exact circumstance, you, driving your car.

Commercial vs. Personal

The main difference between the two types of coverage is how you are using the car.  If you are only using it to drive your family around or to commute to your job, you only need a personal auto policy.  This is true in almost every case, although there are some circumstances where the type of vehicle you own may require you to purchase a commercial auto policy regardless of whether or not you are using it for commercial purposes.  If, however, you are using your vehicle for business activities, you likely need some type of commercial coverage since the majority of personal auto policies exclude losses resulting from business activity.

What Constitutes Business Activity?

This can be a complex question, especially for small business owners.  If you drive your son to school on the way to an appointment with a client, it isn’t always clear which part of the trip is business from an insurance coverage perspective.  The best way to understand what is business activity and what is not is to ask your insurance agent.  If in doubt, assume that anything related to your business requires commercial coverage.

There are some things you can ask yourself that may help you determine if the driving you do would fall under commercial or business activity.

  • Do you deliver anything to customers or clients using your car?  Things like pizza, newspapers, Avon, or any other product that you put in your car and then transport for delivery can be considered commercial activity.
  • Who is driving the vehicle?  If you allow employees or contract workers to drive the car for business purposes, this won’t usually be covered by your personal policy.  Even if you are the only driver, there is a good chance that commercial coverage will be required.
  • Who is riding in the vehicle? If you are using the vehicle to transport other people and getting paid for it, you absolutely need commercial coverage.
  • What percentage of use is personal and what percentage is commercial?  Although this doesn’t always factor into coverage determinations, some insurance companies require commercial coverage if the vehicle is being used primarily for business use.  Check with your agent to see if this applies to your coverage.

The bottom line is that most small businesses cannot afford to take the chance that they have an accident or become liable for damage caused by their car that their personal auto policy carrier refuses to cover.  If there is a question in your mind about whether or not you need to purchase a commercial auto policy, the odds are that you do and you should contact your insurance agent as soon as possible.

Related Articles: