A borrowed car is a license to snoop

(Photo: Cord Woodruff | Flickr)

(Photo: Cord Woodruff | Flickr)

Perhaps we should worry less about the NSA and more about the people most likely to pry into our lives: our friends, family and neighbors.

Sixty-three percent of drivers who borrowed cars admit they snooped through the vehicles, a new survey from CarInsurance.com shows. Borrowers ran across information you might not otherwise disclose and items you might not otherwise advertise.

And if you lend your car to a colleague, someone you're dating or a neighbor, they’re a lot more likely to dig through your possessions than someone who’s known you for years. It might be wise to take out any private or incriminating items before you hand over the keys.

Who is snooping and why?
CarInsurance.com surveyed 1,500 licensed drivers. Of those who borrowed cars, most borrowed from a family member -- but they were least likely to snoop through those cars.

•    52 percent borrowed from a relative, and 56 percent of those snooped through the relative’s car.
•    26 percent borrowed from a friend, and 67 percent of those snooped.
•    9 percent borrowed from someone they were dating, and 77 percent of those snooped.
•    8 percent borrowed from a co-worker, and 79 percent of those snooped.
•    5 percent borrowed from a neighbor, and 72 percent of those snooped.

Men were nearly twice as likely to snoop as women were, with 77 percent of male borrowers admitting to snooping vs. 44 percent of female.

We may never know the underlying reasons people feel compelled to snoop, but the top reasons people gave in the survey include:

•    17 percent were searching for the vehicle’s insurance card
•    20 percent said they were just curious
•    22 percent said they were looking for music
•    41 percent looked around the vehicle as they were storing something of their own

Where are they looking and what did they find?
The center console was most popular for snoopers, though some owned up to looking in multiple places. Here are the most-searched spots:

•    52 percent looked in the center console
•    39 percent got into the borrowed car’s trunk to sneak a peek
•    35 percent poked around the glove box

University of Texas personality psychologist Sam Gosling suggests in his book, "Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You," that you can uncover the secrets of a person’s true personality and character by secretly scouting out his or her possessions. We're not judging, but over half of those who snooped around a borrowed car found one or more of the following items:

•    A cell phone, 27 percent
•    Surprising photographs, 26 percent
•    Liquor, 23 percent
•    Expired registration, 23 percent
•    Expired insurance, 19 percent
•    Medicine, 18 percent
•    Illegal substances, 17 percent
•    Gun, 15 percent

Seventy-two percent of the snoopers mentioned their find to the car owner.  Would you?

They’re not just borrowing your car
Hopefully, the snooper in your borrowed car isn’t distracted by what he or she finds, because it would be your comprehensive, collision or liability car insurance that pays in the event of an accident.

Car insurance follows the car, not the driver, and claims against your policy -- even if you weren’t driving at the time -- can affect your future rates. You also assume vicarious liability for anyone who borrows your car, so when your insurance runs out, your personal assets are on the line.

Before handing over the keys:

•    Check that your car insurance policy covers permissive drivers (not all do).
•    Take personal items out of your vehicle if you don’t want them to share them.

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