Car Insurance for Pleasure vs. Commuting: What Does It Mean?

You may wonder why your insurer asks how you plan to use your car. Your answer may impact your premium.


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You've done your research, identified the car you want to buy, and negotiated a sale price. You're almost ready to hit the road—you just need insurance. So, you start shopping for quotes, and one of the first questions you're likely to field as you compare coverage options is whether you're planning to use your car for commuting or pleasure.

It may seem like a strange question, but policy rates can vary when you're looking at car insurance for pleasure vs. commuting, so it's important to give this ample consideration before answering.

Here's a look at the insurance implications of your intended use for a car, and why it matters for you.

Understanding Car Insurance for Pleasure vs. Commuting

When determining the premium for your new car your insurer looks at how you plan to use your vehicle. Personal cars tend to fall into two categories of use: commuting and pleasure.

If you drive your vehicle to work every day and use it on the weekends for fun, your insurer considers it a commuter car. However, you don't have to drive to work daily for your car to count as a commuter. The same is true if you're using it to go back and forth to college, or to pick up and drop off your kids at school daily. The use is regular and consistent—that's what counts.

On the other hand, if you have a sports car you've painstakingly restored and only bring it out on special occasions, then an insurer would likely classify that as a pleasure car. The same is true if you have a car but take public transportation to work or school daily, driving it only on the weekends for fun or once a week to get groceries. If your vehicle spends most of its time sitting in your driveway, it's probably a pleasure car.

Why Does the Designation Matter?

The primary ways to determine if your car is for commuting or pleasure are frequency and miles. Even if you work just a few miles from where you live, using your vehicle regularly will typically classify it as a commuter car.

These are some of the many factors insurers weigh to calculate your premium, in addition to your car type, driving record, and location. For insurers, the theory is often that the more time you spend driving, the higher your risk of getting into an accident. The same is true if you're driving during high traffic, such as during the start or end of the work day.

Traffic and the chance of having an accident are likely lower during the weekends, especially if you're driving to remote locations for some rest, relaxation, and fun. Accordingly, cars that are driven for pleasure are typically less risky for insurers to cover.

How Does it Impact My Premium?

If you spend a lot of time in your vehicle during busy times in highly-populated places, the likelihood of having an accident is higher. Thus, insurers may charge a bit more for a premium because of it.

As you're shopping for quotes, check with insurers to see if there are mileage limits for pleasure use or commuting. Some insurers may classify car use as "pleasure" if you only drive a few thousand miles a year, even for a commute.

For instance, you may use your car daily, but if your office is only two miles away, you're commuting just 12 miles a week, round trip. While you're still commuting, you're on the road far less than someone driving 100 miles a week. For some insurers, spending significantly less time on the road means you have less potential risk, which can be reflected in your premiums.

In general, pleasure use premiums are slightly cheaper. Depending on the insurer, these differences can range from a few dollars to a few hundred annually.

What If I Use My Car for Both Purposes?

Most people use their cars for both commuting and pleasure. In that case, you may want to tell your insurer that your car is used for commuting. That said, if you have a short commute, or you commute only a few times a week, let insurers know. You may find that you qualify for lower rates, or you might want to consider a use-based insurance policy.

If you use your car as rideshare, or you plan to rent it out, you may need to consider other insurance options, including commercial auto insurance. Discuss your plans with your insurer to ensure you're getting the right coverage for your needs.

Bottom Line

Before you shop around for quotes regarding car insurance for pleasure vs. commuting, review your planned use for your car and map out your commute. Then, when you reach out to insurers, let them know your plans, commute distance, and the time of day when you commute to get the most accurate quote for coverage.

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Liz Froment
I love learning about money — deals, financing, and what to avoid. All that came in handy after my own extensive car search, where I put everything I learned about the financial side of things to use. That's where I can help you too. I want to give you tools to help you find the best vehicle that will fit your practical and financial needs.