There are a lot of things you can do as a private citizen that you can't as a professional. Anyone can pick up a hammer and help a neighbor nail boards to a deck or offer a friend a lift to a doctor's appointment. When you start charging money for doing those same things, then the rules change. If you're in the business of driving people around, for example, you may need a chauffeur license in your state. With or without the special license, you'll almost certainly need added insurance.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
The products offered for those who transport people for money usually include property damage coverage, employment practices coverage, collision and comprehensive coverage, uninsured and underinsured coverage and personal injury coverage.
When Is a Chauffeur Not a Chauffeur?
States define a "chauffeur" differently, so depending on the type of driving you do and the kind of vehicle in which you do it, you may or may not need to be classed as a chauffeur driver. In Michigan, for example, you'll need one if you drive a bus or school bus, if your main job role is driving a vehicle of 10,000 pounds or more or if you primarily operate a vehicle for the purpose of transporting passengers.
Depending on the vehicle, you might also need a commercial driver's license. In the state of Washington it's called a limousine license and applies to anyone carrying passengers in specific classes of vehicles. You'll need to check the requirements in your own state to know if you should have a chauffeur license in order to operate.
Driving for Money Ups Your Liability
If you're paid to drive people around in a vehicle, whether your state considers you a chauffeur or not, you will almost invariably need better insurance. Personal auto insurance only provides coverage for personal use, which is logical enough, so your personal coverage is only valid when you're driving the car for personal use.
If you're hauling passengers for work and have an accident, your personal coverage doesn't apply. You'll be left liable for any damage to your vehicle as well as any civil litigation your passengers bring against you. That's the kind of hit that can put you out of business in a hurry if you're not prepared for it.
Chauffeur Vehicle Insurance Basics
Ultimately, it's up to you and your broker to craft a policy that meets or exceeds your insurance needs, but the products offered by chauffeur insurance companies usually boil down to some combination of the same basic types of coverage. These include:
- Property damage liability: Covers you against any property damage caused by you or your vehicle – or your employees, if you own the fleet – should an accident happen.
- Employment practices liability: There have been plenty of news stories about drivers behaving badly. This kind of coverage protects you against liability from your drivers' actions and may also protect you should a driver file a harassment or discrimination charge against you as the employer.
- Collision and comprehensive coverage: These are the same as they are in your personal coverage. Collision protects you against crashes specifically, while comprehensive coverage protects you against anything else, from getting vandalized in your parking lot to having your vehicle crushed by a falling tree during a storm.
- Uninsured and underinsured coverage: If you're involved in an accident with an uninsured driver or one who doesn't carry enough insurance to cover the costs to you, this coverage will kick in and make up the difference.
- Personal injury coverage: Protects you from liability if you or a driver you employ should hurt someone while working. It might cover funeral costs in a worst-case scenario or provide victims with cash for medical expenses, rehab and lost income.
You Might not Know you Need it
Sadly, even if you don't think of yourself as a chauffeur or professional driver, you may still need some form of chauffeur car insurance. If you're a nanny, for example, and you're using your own car to drive your clients' kids from place to place, many states – and more importantly, many insurance companies – consider that to be business use and is therefore not covered by your private insurance.
The same holds true for a caregiver who drives an elderly client to an appointment. Your employer may not be candid about this or simply might not know, but you're the one who will be on the hook if anything should go wrong.
- Michigan Secretary of State: Chauffeur License
- Washington State Department of Licensing: How to Get Your License – Limousines
- Trusted Choice: How to Find the Right Commercial Auto Insurance
- Miller's Insurance Agency: What Type of Commercial Auto Insurance Do Chauffeurs Need?
- Insureon: Why Personal Auto Insurance Doesn't Cover Business Driving
- Freeway Insurance: Does Your Auto Insurance Cover You for Work-Related Driving?
Fred Decker learned business fundamentals at second hand as an insurance and mutual funds broker, and at firsthand as a retail store manager and the chef/proprietor of his own restaurants. He has written hundreds of business-related articles for sites including Zacks.com, Chron.com, Vitamix.com, Bizfluent and GoBankingRates and many others. He was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.