Guide to Car Insurance for Foreign Drivers, U.S. Visitors, and Tourists

Finding car insurance for foreign drivers in the US requires knowing the US driving rules and a company that specializes in foreign car insurance; you may also be required to acquire an international driving permit to legally drive

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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...

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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...

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Reviewed byJoel Ohman
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UPDATED: Jul 1, 2020

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Summary Stats
Summary DetailsFrom the Experts...
All drivers in the U.S. must have a valid driver's license, regardless of citizenship or country of originUSA.gov
Some states also require foreign drivers to carry an international driving permitUSA.gov
Foreign drivers will need to obtain an international driving permit prior to arriving in the U.S., because they are not issued in the U.S.USA.gov
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You may be wondering if you need car insurance as a tourist in the USA or can a foreigner get car insurance in the USA. If you are a tourist who is considering purchasing and insuring a car while in the U.S., you can do so, but the process is not as easy as it is for a citizen. Car insurance for foreign drivers, visitors, and tourists can be hard to find and can be expensive.

Why would you even want to buy a car while traveling abroad? A person who wants to visit the United States for an extended trip may be interested in buying an inexpensive vehicle to use while they are in the country, purchasing U.S. car insurance for foreigners, and selling the vehicle before they go home. In some cases, that can be cheaper than other traveling options.

The best way to find the best cheap insurance for foreign drivers (or as a resident) is to get quotes from different companies and use a car insurance comparison chart. Each company will offer different coverages for different prices.

If you are a foreigner looking for car insurance in the United States, enter an U.S. ZIP code to receive car insurance quotes from multiple companies.

Car Insurance for Foreign Drivers in the US

If you are a new visitor, you will need to know how car insurance works in the USA. While buying a car in the United States without a U.S. driver’s license is easy, getting insurance coverage can be challenging. In many cases, an insurance company requires a state-issued driver’s license before selling you an insurance policy.

Many insurance companies want car owners to have a valid address in the United States before issuing an insurance policy.

Some companies will simply refuse to issue a policy to non-resident drivers in the USA, and the ones who are willing to provide this type of coverage may charge higher rates than they would offer to U.S. residents.

Can you buy car insurance for UK drivers in the USA or buy auto insurance for non-U.S. residents or citizens? However challenging, it is possible to get U.S. car insurance for UK drivers, car insurance for foreign nationals, and car insurance for other drivers.

What are common car insurance requirements in the U.S.?

Do you need insurance to drive in the USA? In most states, car owners are required to have liability car insurance coverage in place. This coverage protects the occupants in the other vehicle if a car accident occurs and you are at fault. Take a look at this video to learn more.

This insurance for driving in the USA pays for the cost of medical bills, funeral expenses, lost wages, and other expenses incurred by those injured in the accident.

Any expenses above the policy limit (less the deductible) must be paid for by the car owner personally. For this reason, most experts suggest adding additional coverage to your policy.

You can also choose to buy temporary car insurance in the USA. This will be the same coverage, just for a much shorter period of time. If you will only be in the US for a short time, this can be much cheaper.

This video breaks down different types of coverage available from most car insurance companies.

Driving without insurance, whether an accident occurs or not, is a criminal offense. The penalty for doing so varies from state to state and may include a fine or having the vehicle seized. This table breaks down the penalties for driving without insurance in each state. Search for your state in the box below.

Penalties for Driving Without Car Insurance by State
StatePenalties for
First Driving Uninsured Offense
Penalties for
Second Driving Uninsured Offense
AlabamaFine: Up to $500; registration suspension with $200 reinstatement feeFine: Up to $1,000 and/or six-month license suspension; $400 reinstatement fee with four-month registration suspension
AlaskaLicense suspension for 90 daysLicense suspension for one year
ArizonaFine: $500 (or more); license/registration/license plate suspension for three monthsFine: $750 (or more within 36 months); license/registration/license plate suspension for six months
ArkansasFine: $50 to $250; suspended registration/no plates until proof of coverage plus $20 reinstatement fee; the court may order impoundmentFine: $250 to $500 fine — minimum fine mandatory; suspended registration/no plates until proof of coverage plus $20 reinstatement fee. The court may order impoundment.
CaliforniaFine: $100-$200 plus penalty assessments. The court may order impoundmentFine: $200-$500 within three years plus penalty assessments. The court may order impoundment
ColoradoFine: $500 minimum fine; 4 points against your license; license suspension until you can show proof to the DMV that you are insured. Courts may add up to 40 hours community service$1,000 minimum fine and license suspension for 4 months; 4 points against your license. Courts may add up to 40 hours of community service
ConnecticutFine: $100-$1000; suspended registration/license for one month (show proof of insurance) with $175 reinstatement feeFine: $100-$1000; suspended registration/license for six months (show proof of insurance) with $175 reinstatement fee
DelawareFine: $1500 minimum fine; license/privilege suspension for six monthsFine: $3000 minimum fine within three years; license/privilege suspension for six months
FloridaSuspension of license and registration until reinstatement fee is paid and non-cancelable coverage is secured; $150 fee for first reinstatementSuspension of license and registration until reinstatement fee is paid and non-cancelable coverage is secured; $250 fee for the second reinstatement
GeorgiaSuspended registration with a $25 lapse fee and $60 reinstatement fee. Pay any other registration fees and vehicle ad valorem taxes dueWithin five years: Suspended registration with $25 lapse fee and $60 reinstatement fee. Pay any other registration fees and vehicle ad valorem taxes due
HawaiiFine: $500 fine or community service granted by the judge. Either license suspension for three months or a required nonrefundable insurance policy in force for six monthsFine: $1500 minimum fine within five years; either license suspension for one year or a required non-refundable insurance policy in force for six months
IdahoFine: $75; license suspension until financial proof. No reinstatement fee.Fine: $1000 maximum fine within five years and/or no more than six months in jail; license suspension until financial proof. No reinstatement fee.
IllinoisFine: minimum of $500; License plate suspension until $100 reinstatement fee and insurance proofFine: minimum of $1,000; License plate suspension for four months; $100 reinstatement fee and insurance proof
IndianaLicense/registration suspension for 90 days to one yearWithin three years: license/registration suspension for one year
IowaFine: $500 if in an accident; Otherwise, fine: $250; community service in lieu of fine. Possible citation/warning if pulled over plus removal of plates and registration possible when pulled over without insurance and reissued upon payment of fine or completed community service, proof of insurance, and $15 fee; possible impoundment when pulled overN/A
KansasFine: $300 to $1000 and/or confinement in jail up to six months; license/registration suspension; reinstatement fee: $100Fine: $800 to $2500 within three years; license/registration suspension; reinstatement fee: $300 if revoked within previous year, otherwise $100
KentuckyFine: $500 to $1000 fine and/or sentenced up to 90 days in jail; license plates and registration revoked for one year or until proof of insurance is shownWithin five years: 180 days in jail and/or $1000 to $2500; license plates and registration revoked for one year or until proof of insurance is shown
LouisianaFine: $500 to $1000; If in a car accident, fine plus registration revoked and driving privileges suspended for 180 daysN/A
MaineFine: $100 to $500; suspension of license and registration until proof of insuranceN/A
MarylandLose license plates and vehicle registration privileges; pay uninsured motorist penalty fees for each lapse of insurance — $150 for the first 30 days, $7 for each day thereafter; Pay a restoration fee of up to $25 for a vehicle's registrationN/A
MassachusettsFine: $500 to $5000 fine and/or imprisonment for one year or lessWithin six years: License/driving privileges suspended for one year
MichiganFine: $200 to $500 fine and/or imprisonment for one year or less; license suspension for 30 days or until proof of insurance; $25 service fee to Secretary of StateN/A
MinnesotaFine: $200 to $1000 (or community service) and/or imprisonment for up to 90 days; License and registration revoked for no more than 12 monthsN/A
MississippiFine: $1000; driving privileges suspended for one year or until proof of insuranceN/A
MissouriFour points against driving record; the driver may be supervised; suspended until proof of insurance with $20 reinstatement feeFour points against driving record; the driver may be supervised; suspended for 90 days with $200 reinstatement fee
MontanaFine: $250 to $500 fine and/or imprisonment for no more than 10 daysFine: $350 and/or imprisonment for no more than 10 days — within 5 years; license and registration revoked until proof of insurance and payment of reinstatement fees within 90 days
NebraskaLicense and registration suspension; reinstatement fee of $50 for each; proof of insurance to remain on file for three years
NevadaFine: $250 to $1,000 depending on the length of lapse; registration suspension — until payment of reinstatement fee and, depending on circumstances, an SR-22 (proof of financial responsibility) if lapsed more than 90 days; reinstatement fee: $250Fine: $500 to $1000 depending on the length of lapse; registration suspension — until payment of reinstatement fee and, depending on circumstances, SR-22 (proof of financial responsibility) if lapsed more than 90 days; Reinstatement fee: $500
New HampshireNot a mandatory insurance state. Proof of insurance may be required as the result of a conviction, crash involvement, or administrative action. If you are required to file proof of insurance and vehicles are registered in your name, you will be required to file an Owner’s SR-22 Certificate of Insurance.N/A
New JerseyFine: $300 to $1000; license suspension for one year; pay surcharges for three years in the amount of $250 per yearFine: up to $5000; two-year license suspension; 14-day, mandatory jail term, and an additional mandatory 30 days of community service
New MexicoFine: up to $300 and/or imprisoned for 90 days; license suspensionN/A
New YorkFine: up to $1500 if involved in accident plus $750 civil penalty; license and registration suspension – revoked for one year; suspension of the license if without
insurance for 90 days; suspension lasts as long as registration suspension; Suspension of registration: equal to time without insurance or pays $8/day up to thirty days for which financial security was not in effect, $10/day from the thirty-first to the sixtieth day $12/day from the sixtieth to the ninetieth day and proof of security is provided. Or for the same time as the vehicle was operated without insurance.
N/A
North CarolinaFine: $50; registration suspension until proof of financial responsibility but 30-day suspension if in a car accident or knowingly driving without insurance; $50 restoration fee plus license plate feeFine: $100 within three years; registration suspension until proof of financial responsibility but 30-day suspension if in a car accident or knowingly driving without insurance; $50 restoration fee plus license plate fee
North DakotaFine: up to $1500 and/or 30 days in prison; 14 points against license plus suspension; Proof of insurance must be provided for one year; license with a
notation requiring that person keep proof of liability insurance on file with the department. The fee for this license is $50, and the fee to remove
this notation is $50.
Fine: up to $1500 and/or 30 days in prison; 14 points against license plus suspension; license plates impounded until proof of insurance (provided for one year) plus $20 reinstatement fee; license with a notation requiring that person keep proof of liability insurance on file with the department. The fee for this license is $50 and the fee to remove this notation is $50.
OhioLicense/plates/registration suspension until requirements are met and $100 reinstatement fee is paid; maintain special high-risk coverage on file with the BMV for three to five years; If involved in an accident without insurance: all above penalties and a security suspension for two-plus years and an indefinite judgment suspension (until all damages are satisfied)License/plates/registration suspension for one year; $300 reinstatement fee; maintain special high-risk coverage on file with the BMV for three or five years; if involved in an accident without insurance: all above penalties and a security suspension for two-plus years and an indefinite judgment suspension (until all damages are satisfied)
OklahomaFine: $250; jail time up to 30 days; license suspension with $275 reinstatement fee. Police can seize license plates and assign temporary plates and liability insurance — in effect for 10 days and can also impound the vehicle. The cost of the temporary coverage is added to the administrative fee and any fines paid for plates to be returned. If the car impounded, the owner must also pay towing and storage fees.N/A
OregonFine: $130-$1000 ($260 is the presumptive fine); If involved in an accident — at least a one-year license suspension; proof of financial responsibility required for three yearsN/A
PennsylvaniaRegistration suspended for three months (unless lapse was for less than 31 days and the vehicle not operated during that time); $88 restoration fee plus proof of insurance required to get it back; $500 civil penalty fee is optional in lieu of registration suspension plus $88 restoration fee — can only use this option once within a 12-month periodN/A
Rhode IslandFine: $100 to $500; license and registration suspension up to three months; reinstatement fee: $30 to $50Fine: $500; license and registration suspension up to six months; reinstatement fee: $30 to $50
South CarolinaFine: $100-$200 or 30-day imprisonment; failure to surrender registration and plates when insurance lapses; license/registration suspended until proof of insurance plus $200 reinstatement feeFine: $200 and/or 30-day imprisonment — within 10 years; license/registration suspended until proof of insurance plus $200 reinstatement fee
South DakotaFine: $100 and/or 30 days imprisonment; license suspension for 30 days to one year; filing proof of insurance (SR-22) with the state for three years from the date of conviction. Failure to file proof will result in the suspension of vehicle registration, license plates, and driver license.N/A
TennesseePay $25 coverage failure fee within 30 days of notice; if not paid, then an additional $100 coverage failure fee with suspension or revocation of registration plus reinstatement fee of no more than $25N/A
TexasFine: $175 to $350 fine; plus, pay up to a $250 surcharge every year for three years (may be reduced with certain requirements)Fine: $350 to $1000; pay up to a $250 surcharge every year for three years (may be reduced with certain requirements); suspend the driver's license and vehicle registrations of the person unless the person files and maintains evidence of financial responsibility with the department until the second anniversary of the date of the subsequent conviction; Impoundment: for 180 days and
cannot apply for the release of the car without evidence of financial responsibility and an impoundment fee of $15/day.
UtahFine: $400; license suspension until proof of insurance (maintained for three years) and $100 reinstatement feeFine: $1000 — with three years; license suspension until proof of insurance (maintained for three years) and $100 reinstatement fee
VermontFine: up to $500; license suspended until proof of insuranceN/A
VirginiaFine: may pay $500 Uninsured Motorists Vehicle fee to drive without insurance at your own risk. If this fee is not paid in lieu of insurance, all driving and vehicle registration privileges will be suspended until a $500 statutory fee is paid, proof of insurance is filed for three years, and a reinstatement fee (if applicable) is paidN/A
WashingtonFine: Up to $250 or moreN/A
West VirginiaFine: $200 to $5000; license suspended for 30 days with reinstatement fees, unless there's proof of insurance and $200 penalty feeFine: $200-$5000 fine and/or 15 days to one year in jail — within five years; license suspended for 90 days and registration revoked until proof of insurance
WisconsinFine: up to $500N/A
WyomingFine: up to $750 fine and up to six months in jailN/A
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You can see that the penalties are stiff. Make sure you are insured with at least the minimum coverage before you drive. Take a look at this table, in which we summarized the minimum coverage requirements for each state, as reported by the Insurance Information Institute.

Minimum Liability Auto Insurance Requirements by State
StateInsurance Required in the StateMinimum Liability Limits
AlabamaBI & PD Liab25/50/25
AlaskaBI & PD Liab50/100/25
ArizonaBI & PD Liab15/30/10
ArkansasBI & PD Liab, PIP25/50/25
CaliforniaBI & PD Liab15/30/5
ColoradoBI & PD Liab25/50/15
ConnecticutBI & PD Liab, UM, UIM25/50/20
DelawareBI & PD Liab, PIP25/50/10
District of ColumbiaBI & PD Liab, UM25/50/10
FloridaPD Liab, PIP10/20/10
GeorgiaBI & PD Liab25/50/25
HawaiiBI & PD Liab, PIP20/40/10
IdahoBI & PD Liab25/50/15
IllinoisBI & PD Liab, UM, UIM25/50/20
IndianaBI & PD Liab25/50/25
IowaBI & PD Liab20/40/15
KansesBI & PD Liab, PIP25/50/25
KentuckyBI & PD Liab, PIP, UM, UIM25/50/25
LouisianaBI & PD Liab15/30/25
MaineBI & PD Liab, UM, UIM, Medpay50/100/25
MarylandBI & PD Liab, PIP, UM, UIM30/60/15
MassachusettsBI & PD Liab, PIP20/40/5
MichiganBI & PD Liab, PIP20/40/10
MinnesotaBI & PD Liab, PIP, UM, UIM30/60/10
MississipiBI & PD Liab25/50/25
MissouriBI & PD Liab, UM25/50/25
MontanaBI & PD Liab25/50/20
NebraskaBI & PD Liab, UM, UIM25/50/25
NevadaBI & PD Liab25/50/20
New HampshireFR only25/50/25
New JerseyBI & PD Liab, PIP, UM, UIM15/30/5
New MexicoBI & PD Liab25/50/10
New YorkBI & PD Liab, PIP, UM, UIM25/50/10
North CarolinaBI & PD Liab, UM, UIM30/60/25
North DakotaBI & PD Liab, PIP, UM, UIM25/50/25
OhioBI & PD Liab25/50/25
OklahomaBI & PD Liab25/50/25
OregonBI & PD Liab, PIP, UM, UIM25/50/20
PennsylvaniaBI & PD Liab, PIP15/30/5
Rhode IslandBI & PD Liab25/50/25
South CarolinaBI & PD Liab, UM, UIM25/50/25
South DakotaBI & PD Liab, UM, UIM25/50/25
TennesseeBI & PD Liab25/50/15
TexasBI & PD Liab, PIP30/60/25
UtahBI & PD Liab, PIP25/65/15
VermontBI & PD Liab, UM, UIM25/50/10
VirginiaBI & PD Liab, UM, UIM25/50/20
WashingtonBI & PD Liab25/50/10
West VirginiaBI & PD Liab, UM, UIM25/50/25
WisconsinBI & PD Liab, UM, Medpay25/50/10
WyomingBI & PD Liab25/50/20
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To make it easier to review the minimum insurance requirement information in the above table, we spelled out the relevant abbreviations below.

Minimum Liability Car Insurance Abbreviations
AbbreviationMeaning
BIBodily Injury
PDProperty Damage Liability
PIPPersonal Injury Protection
UMUninsured Motorist
UIMUnderinsured Motorist
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Car insurance also needs to be issued before a vehicle can be legally registered. Anyone considering a lengthy stay in the U.S. who wants to buy a car should do his or her homework before traveling.

Does a foreign driver’s license work in the U.S.?

Depending on the state you are in and the country you are coming from, a valid driver’s license from another country may be all that is required. You may find it easy to get car insurance with a passport, but it can be difficult to find cheap car insurance with a foreign license.

However, USA.gov states that you may be required to have an International Driving Permit (IDP) in addition to your license. You would need to request the IDP from the country in which you are licensed, as the U.S. does not issue IDPs. This shows you are a licensed driver and meet certain requirements. Having an IDP may make it easier for you to get car insurance with a foreign license (and in some states it is required in order for you to legally drive).

How do I shop for USA car insurance?

Fortunately for people who want to buy a car for their use while visiting the United States, they can start car insurance shopping before they arrive. The internet makes it easy to research insurance companies and shop for coverage online.

The best way to proceed is to start looking at insurance options well in advance of the trip. That way a visitor can confirm that a U.S.-based insurance company is willing to extend car insurance for USA visitors and how much it will cost. Insurance rates vary a great deal from company to company, and it is possible to save up to 17 percent by shopping around for coverage. Some steps to do this include:

  • Tell three or more of the insurance companies you found online the requirements you have for car insurance
  • Obtain a quote from each of the companies chosen
  • Check to make certain that the insurance company is licensed in the state you wish to visit. Contacting the Insurance Department for that state will give you the information
  • Examine the insurance companies’ financial rating and complaint information by contacting the National Association of Insurance Commissioners
  • Other rating sites are A.M.Best and Standard and Poors

It’s also a good idea to start with the basics when looking for auto insurance for foreigners in the USA.

The visitor will want to check with various insurance companies to see whether they offer coverage to international drivers. Getting multiple quotes will allow the best coverage at the cheapest price.

Someone looking for car insurance will also want to take into account how well the company ranks in customer service. Even though rates may be cheap, a company needs to have great customer service, in the event a claim needs to be filed.

Then the visitor will need to have an idea about the make and model of vehicle they will be buying so they can get a quote for coverage. Most insurance companies can offer insurance on foreign cars as well as cars in the U.S.

The insurance company may need to ask a series of questions to learn more about the tourist and their plans before making a decision about whether to extend coverage, but the first step in the process is to find an insurer offering this type of policy.

Keep in mind, if you are renting a car instead of buying, that is a different story. Most car rental companies will offer insurance, making it easy to buy rental car insurance in the USA for tourists. You will not need to use an outside company to find coverage.

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Buying a Car in the USA as a Foreigner

Buying a car in the U.S. as a non-resident isn’t all that tricky. A dealer in the U.S. will likely sell a vehicle to a tourist who is visiting the country. The visitor also has the option of buying a vehicle from a private seller.

If the transaction is made through a private seller, the purchaser will need to make sure that they see valid ownership papers for the vehicle.

For the sale to be a legal one, both parties are required to go to the local office of the state motor vehicle bureau. They must sign documents to affirm the sale and register the new ownership of the vehicle.

The buyer will be required to pay a registration fee, as well as sales tax on the purchase. At this point, the buyer can purchase plates for the vehicle.

Once the documents have been signed, the new owner is required to keep a copy of the vehicle registration and proof of insurance in the vehicle at all times.

Traveling to a new country can be an exciting adventure. If you make sure you have car insurance in place in advance, your travels will be that much smoother.

Now that you know more about what is required to drive in the U.S., you can get started. Getting quotes from different car insurance companies is the first step to being able to purchase and drive a car in the U.S.

if you’re a foreigner needing car insurance, enter your ZIP code below to find car insurance rates from multiple companies today!

Tourist Car Insurance in the USA

Do tourists need car insurance in the USA? Yes. You can find car insurance in the USA for for foreign drivers if you are willing to look around. Finding the best car insurance for foreign drivers visitors doesn’t have to be difficult—get started comparing quotes today!

  • Tourists driving on vacation in the USA need to be aware of the ramifications of insurance law before they leave
  • It is illegal to operate a vehicle without some form of insurance coverage that meets local legal requirements
  • Liability insurance usually follows the person purchasing the insurance but physical damage coverage on the vehicle itself stays with the individual vehicle

Insurance regulations in the United States are complex and change from state to state. You may be wondering if your existing car insurance will extend to driving in the USA. The answer to this varies, as it depends on your insurer and if the limits apply to U.S. insurance laws.

One thing that is always the same, though, is that every state requires drivers carry insurance when driving. Tourists driving on vacation in the U.S. need to be aware of the ramifications of insurance law before they leave.

Legal Resident in USA Car Insurance

Consult your own automobile insurance carrier to determine if your insurance applies to a rental vehicle or one that you borrow from a friend or relative. Many people want to know they can add a foreigner to their car insurance or if a foreigner drive their car. You can temporarily add a foreigner to your policy.

Below are several ways of obtaining vehicle insurance for a rental or loaner vehicle:

  • Rely on liability insurance from your own automobile policy
  • Obtain insurance on a rental vehicle through your credit card (some companies offer insurance on as one of their benefits)
  • Purchase physical damage coverage for the vehicle itself from the rental agency
  • Request the friend or family member you are borrowing the car from add you as a driver to their insurance policy for a specific vehicle
  • Purchase a short-term U.S. car insurance policy to provide liability and physical damage coverage for you

As we’ve already noted, U.S. residents can temporarily add you to their policy if they plan to lend you one of their vehicles to drive while you’re in the country.

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Foreign Nationals Driving in the US

Individuals driving in the United States must have a valid driver’s license. Since each state has differing regulations, contact that state’s motor vehicle department to ascertain its requirements.

USA.gov states that an International Driving Permit (IDP) is often required in addition to a valid license from your own country to acquire a driver’s license from the state.

The United States does not issue International Driving Permit for non-residents, so it is necessary to contact that country’s driver’s license issuing entity or the motoring association.

Renting a vehicle in the United States requires a driver’s license, so you’ll need to obtain and IDP and possibly a temporary license in the state(s) you plan to visit (this is typically important if your stay is a long one). One driver’s license from a single state will ordinarily be enough for your entire visit. So if you need car insurance but have a Chinese license, or need car insurance with an Indian driving license, you will first need to get a USA driver’s temporary license.

Car Insurance for Foreign National Drivers in the US

Things to do to acquire car insurance in the USA for foreign drivers:

  • Learn U.S. rules of the road; any Department of Motor Vehicles can offer you this information
  • An IDP is required, as well as a license from your country of residence; you may also need a temporary U.S. driver’s license if you plan an extended stay
  • Look online for insurance companies who specialize in car insurance in the USA for foreigners
  • Contact insurance companies and collect information and quotes on the cost of this insurance

For example, ask about Geico car insurance and foreign licenses or Progressive car insurance for international drivers in the USA to get help on specialized car insurance.

Car Insurance Coverage Needed to Protect Yourself

Each state has its own laws for required limits of liability (recall we listed these in a previous section). Go through this checklist to determine what coverage you need:

  • Bodily injury liability – Coverage for your legal liability should you be responsible for an accident; recommended limits of liability are typically $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident
  • Property damage liability – Coverage for legal liability for property damage to others if you are responsible for an accident; $50,000 is the recommended limit for this type of coverage
  • Underinsured and uninsured motorist’s coverage – Pays for injury to you and your passengers if you’re in an accident involving someone without insurance; most people are responsible, but about 13 percent of U.S. drivers are currently uninsured

These amounts may be higher than the minimum requirement, but are recommended in order to ensure you have appropriate protection.

Should I get physical damage protection?

While not legally required to drive in the US, physical damage coverage for the vehicle you are driving is important to protect you from damage. This coverage consists of comprehensive and collision insurance.

Comprehensive insurance – covers wind, hail, flood, theft, glass damage, vandalism, and animal damage, among other things, but only for your vehicle. A deductible applies to this coverage. Take a look at this video to learn more.

Collision insurance covers damage to your vehicle in the event of a collision with another car or running into another object. A deductible applies to this coverage. Watch this video for more on collision insurance.

Rental companies typically offer physical damage coverage for the vehicle you are renting (usually for an additional charge). Read the contract carefully to determine the extent of this coverage. It may save money if you shop different rental agencies and ask for the price of this coverage.

If you are a U.S. citizen, it is relatively easy to acquire insurance that will cover your responsibilities when driving in another state. Foreign nationals and individuals living within the parameters of a visa need to acquire a valid drivers license in the state.

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Getting Car Insurance for Non-US Residents

As we’ve discussed, international driver insurance in the USA is required in order to legally drive. As a non-US resident, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Car insurance that meets the requirements of the state in which you are staying is necessary
  • Your IDP is valid in more than 150 countries
  • Rental car agencies will require both an IDP and your foreign driver’s license

Being a non-US resident who drives in the U.S. does not exempt you from mandatory car insurance laws. If you are a foreign national in the United States and you will have regular access to a privately owned vehicle, you are required to carry and maintain your own insurance.

Unfortunately, some insurance carriers make it difficult to secure car insurance because they want to verify that you have a valid state-issued driver license.

To get car insurance, you’ll need to research the underwriting guidelines; ideally you’ll find out which company’s underwriting guidelines will be most beneficial to you as you are comparing rates.

Not only do you need to get licensed to operate a vehicle within the United States, you also need to have all of the right documents to secure your own U.S. car insurance policy.

Read this step-by-step guide, and learn how to get insurance when you are not a resident.

Step 1: How do I get licensed to drive in the US?

It is against the law to drive without a valid license and insurance. Some countries will recognize a license issued by certain countries, so it is possible that your foreign license will be accepted.

You need to check to see which licenses are recognized and which are not. If you are not a foreign national of a country like Mexico or Canada, you will need to apply for an IDP regardless of your foreign driving experience. Car insurance cannot be purchased without appropriate licensing as a driver in the U.S.

If you are a resident but not a U.S. citizen, the state that you reside in may require you to apply for a state-issued license. In order to get this driver license, you will need to show your old license and pass written and driving tests just like you would if you were a new driver.

It is up to you to study for these tests and learn the laws of the state so you can pass them the first time around.

What is an International Driving Permit?

The IDP is a permit that will allow you to drive in a foreign country while you are visiting. It is valid in more than 150 countries and can be translated into 10 languages.

It will act as a direct translation of your driving record in your home country and must be issued by your country of origin, not in the U.S.

How do I to apply for an IDP?

If you are not sure where to begin applying for an IDP, you can start by contacting a local travel agency or an automobile association. You’ll need both passport photos and your license to obtain an IDP.

You must apply for the privilege before your trip to the United States; once it is granted, you’ll be able to drive internationally for up to 12 months. One of the great things about the IDP is that you do not have to pass any new licensing tests to get a license in the state that you are visiting.

Step 2: What documents do I need as foreign driver in US?

If you are renting a car, applying for an IDP, applying for a U.S. driver’s license, or applying for car insurance, you are going to need several different documents.

Rental car agencies will require both your IDP and your foreign license. If you’re applying for a U.S. driver’s license as a foreign resident, the documents that you need may vary from state to state, but in most cases, you are required to show your:

  • Foreign license
  • Immigration documents
  • Passport
  • Proof of social security number
  • Proof of your duration of stay in the US
  • Proof of residency
  • Proof of valid car insurance (when you own a personal vehicle)

The documents required to apply for your personal car insurance are extremely important. Failing to bring the right documents with you could be the difference between being eligible or ineligible for coverage. Documents you should have before leaving your home country include:

  • IDP
  • Copy of out-of-country license
  • Abstract of your driving record translated into English
  • Letter of experience from prior insurance company showing initial date of inception
  • Claims history letter detailing claim dates and payout amounts

Without these documents, you may still be able to find a company that will insure you, but without the right documents, you are going to pay a huge sum for your protection.

Step 3: How do I find good insurance rates for foreign drivers?

Now that you can legally drive in the country and you have all of the documents you need to get insurance, you can shop the market.

As a resident non-citizen, you can still compare rates, you just need to be more aware of the company’s requirements. There will be limitations surrounding which companies will extend coverage to you and how you will be classified as a driver.

Keep reading to learn more about some considerations to keep in mind as you shop around:

How to Find a Company that Gives you Credit For Prior Driving Experience

Having an IDP license or a newly issued driver’s license can affect your premiums when you choose a company that will not give you prior experience credits.

If you are classified as a new driver because your permit or license was recently issued, you will pay rates similar to those offered to teenage drivers.

Since teens pay nearly double the rate of the average driver, it is important to find companies that are willing to give you experience credits.

Considering Personal Insurance Over Supplemental Rental Coverage

You need liability insurance even if you do not own the vehicle you are driving. If you are renting a car long-term, you should consider buying a personal non-owned policy instead of paying the expensive rental car rate.

Rental insurance can double the cost of your contract and provide limited protection, while a non-owned policy will cover all vehicles  you borrow or rent for one low cost.

Buying car insurance as a resident does not have to be difficult.

Start comparing car insurance rates now by using our FREE tool below and you can find the companies that have fair guidelines for foreign drivers in minutes.

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