No, it’s not illegal to drive someone else’s car. But you’re legally liable for the vehicle that you’re driving, regardless of whether you own it or not.
Most of us have driven someone else’s car before, be it out of necessity or convenience, without really stopping to think much of it. After adjusting the mirrors, and maybe pulling your seat forward or back, you usually just get on your merry way. But though driving someone else’s car is perfectly legal, you might want to at least familiarise yourself with the car enough to know that it’s registered and insured before you hit the road.
According to the National Road and Motorists’ Association, the driver is legally responsible for whether or not a car is registered or insured - not the owner. Although vehicles must be insured in order to be registered, oversights can happen, so you should consider checking that everything is in order before you get behind the wheel of any car that’s not yours.
The penalties vary across the states of Australia. But to give you an idea, according to the New South Wales Roads and Maritime Services website, you’re looking at a $607 fine for driving a vehicle that’s unregistered and a $530 fine for driving a vehicle that’s uninsured. The deal is similar in South Australia, according to the Royal Automobile Association, where you can be fined $366 plus a $60 victims of crime levy for driving an unregistered vehicle, and $677 plus a $60 victims of crime levy for driving a vehicle not covered by compulsory third party insurance.
Besides getting in trouble with the law, there are other ways to find yourself in hot water if you’re driving someone else’s car. If they don’t have their registration and insurance sorted, then you’re driving without compulsory third party insurance (sometimes called CTP insurance or a green slip). This is the insurance that you are legally required to have in Australia because it financially covers bodily harm caused by your car on the road - and you really don’t want to get caught out without it.
Beyond that, though, a owner's comprehensive insurance policy might not cover extra drivers. So in the event of a collision, you or the owner could be paying out of your own pockets.
This article is not intended as legal advice. You should check with your local road authority to verify the information written here is suitable to your situation before driving in this manner.
Have you had an issue driving someone else's car? Tell us in the comments below.