Zaneta Wood, Ed.S. has over 15 years of experience in research and technical writing bringing a keen understanding of data analysis and information synthesis to reach a wide variety of audiences. She studied adult education and instructional technology at Appalachian State University as well as technical and professional communication at East Carolina University. Zaneta has prepared technical p...

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Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He has an MBA from the University of South Florida. Jo...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder & CFP®

UPDATED: Sep 15, 2020

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Here's what you need to know...

  • Driving without minimum car insurance in the U.S. will get you in trouble
  • A Canadian driving license is fully valid in the United States
  • The most basic form of auto insurance required to drive in the U.S. is liability coverage
  • The level of insurance will depend on the value of your car
  • Rental cars come with full insurance coverage

Any vehicle on a U.S. road must have insurance at all times. Failure to abide by this rule will result in multiple fines and possible jail time, depending on the state you are in.

Despite the state and federal laws that require drivers to carry minimum liability coverage for the sake of other drivers on the roads, there are still more than million people in the United States who drive without any form of insurance.

If you are in need of auto insurance and want to find the best rates, start comparison shopping today by entering your ZIP code above!

Table of Contents

Minimum Requirements

Check your state laws regarding the amount of insurance you need before purchasing auto insurance coverage. It is true that all U.S. states stipulate that drivers must carry a certain minimum of insurance coverage, but state laws differ in their definition of minimum insurance requirements.

But this is for your own good. If you got into an accident without any form of insurance, how would you pay for the damage? The medical costs? What if you were at fault?

The lack of insurance makes you vulnerable to a plethora of financial as well as legal problems.

That said, it is important to note that not all cars on American roads are driven by U.S. citizens as there is car insurance for tourists in the U.S. The law stipulates that tourists and foreigners, in general, can drive on U.S. roads with the only requirement being that they talk to their insurers to extend coverage to U.S. soil.

Border patrol guards are required to check and ensure that vehicles entering the United States either through the Mexican or Canadian border have valid insurance and that the drivers have a valid international driver’s license. Annually, thousands of cars will come to the United States through these two borders.

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The Validity of a Canadian Driving License in the United States

A Canadian driving license is entirely valid on U.S. roads. Canada and the United States have had strong reciprocal agreements regarding the subject.

However, if you plan on extending your stay beyond six months, you will be required to make your driver’s license valid to cover the totality of your stay.

You might also be required to change the Canadian driving license to a state license depending on the length of your state, or if you decide to take permanent residence in the country.

What kind of insurance policy should I get?

The extent of auto insurance coverage for a non-U.S. driver will depend on a couple of factors, most importantly the type of the car, its value, and the owner.

The law requires that all cars carry liability only or liability with:

  • PIP (personal injury protection)
  • Willful damage
  • Theft
  • Accident
  • Fire

This type of coverage should apply to light passenger vehicles, private cars, and even motorcycles. You are not required to have an American social security number to get insurance in America if you are a non-citizen, contrary to what some reports have said in the past.

Before embarking on your trip to the United States, you should first apply for an international driving license in Canada.

After that, try to make contact with a local insurance broker or agent who will help you navigate the local insurance market if you need additional coverage.

Here are the three most popular foreign car insurance situations via driving and the cost of insurance you may relate to your needs.

New Car

If a visiting non-U.S. citizen decides to buy a vehicle, the value of the car will play a critical role in the determination of the type of insurance required.

If it’s a cheap car, then carrying one of the two types of liability insurance we discussed before would suffice.

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On the other hand, if it’s an expensive vehicle, you are going to need a little more coverage than that.

You may be required to have comprehensive coverage.

If so, make a comparison and keep the prices down. There are other factors than can keep the insurance costs down, something a Canadian or any other foreign visitors should bear in mind.

For instance, it could be financially prudent to take a longer comprehensive auto insurance coverage and cash it in at the expiration of your visit instead of a shorter one, which might end up being more costly in the long run.

Borrowed Car

Another thing that has to be taken into consideration is whether you will be borrowing a car from a friend or a family member or taking a rental.

If you are borrowing the car, it may already have liability insurance, and you will not have to purchase insurance.

If the individual who owns the vehicle has a fully comprehensive insurance on their car, then you should match it. Adjusting the owner’s policy to include a foreign guest as an impermanent additional driver might be a cheaper method of maintaining the car’s full coverage.

Rental Car

On the other hand, if your plan is to take a rental car for the entire trip, you don’t have to worry. The car rental company will take care of the tiniest detail concerning car insurance.

Chances are that the car will already have a fully comprehensive coverage since it would be a relatively high valued automobile.

Temporary Auto Insurance

Temporary car insurance can be a very useful tool when it comes to the insurance needs of visiting drivers whose stays are a little shorter.

Typically, this type of car insurance coverage will protect a driver for anywhere between one day and one month, or more as long as the term is shorter than the standard one year term.

It is a very convenient type of auto insurance and can apply to other situations too. Most, if not all car dealerships in the United States can facilitate this kind of coverage if need be.

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Bottom Line

All you need in order to buy insurance in the United States–whether as a Canadian visitor or any other visiting foreigner–is basic insurance knowledge, a little local knowledge, and some common sense. Make sure that you compare different quotes to score a better deal.

It doesn’t have to be a complicated process if you know what you are doing. Some will opt for rental cars while others will purchase a new car or settle for borrowed cars.

Whatever you do, ensure that you put some thought into it and fulfill your obligation to drive an insured car in the United States to avoid trouble.

If you are looking to cross the border and visit the U.S. soon and are in need of auto insurance, start comparing auto insurance quotes today by entering your ZIP code below!