Car insurance for non-U.S. citizens and foreigners in the United States

Car insurance for non-U.S. citizens and foreigners in the United States

Car insurance for non-U.S. citizens and foreigners in the United States, You need car insurance as a driver in the United States, even if you are not a U.S. citizen. If you are a short-term visitor and want to rent a car, you can get the necessary coverage from the rental company. But, if you plan to stay here for a long time, you may need to buy car insurance for non-U.S. citizens from a U.S.-based company.

It’s natural to have many questions about car insurance matters when you’re a traveler from abroad. What car insurance international license requirements must you meet? What are the rules around insurance for international drivers? Is car insurance for foreign drivers required? We’ve got answers to your questions in this definitive guide to car insurance for non-U.S. citizens.

Car insurance requirements in the United States

For stays extending beyond a month, purchasing or leasing a car may be more cost-effective than long-term rentals, depending on your needs and circumstances.

To drive in the U.S., you must have a valid license and an auto insurance policy for non-U.S. citizens that meets state-mandated requirements. Most states require drivers to carry liability coverage, which varies by state but typically includes property damage and bodily injury protection.

Types of car insurance coverage in the U.S.

  • Liability coverage: Liability covers the other driver’s bodily injury and any property damage if you are at fault in an accident.
  • Collision coverage: Protects you if you’re at fault in a collision and your car is damaged.
  • Comprehensive coverage: Protects against weather-related damage, theft, animal/vehicle collisions and vandalism.
  • Underinsured/Uninsured motorist coverage: Helps you pay medical bills and even cover property damage if the other driver, who is at fault, does not have auto insurance.
  • Personal injury protection: PIP covers the cost of medical treatment after a collision regardless of who is at fault.

How do foreigners get car insurance in the U.S.?

Your international driving permit proves you can drive in the United States. However, some states require you to have your IDP and your foreign license. If you have an IDP and your foreign license is valid, getting car insurance may be simple. Look for a car insurance carrier you trust, get a few quotes and shop for the best car insurance.

Zhaneta Gechev founded One Stop Life Insurance, which sells online life insurance. She is originally from Bulgaria and is based in Las Vegas. She also has had firsthand experience looking for auto insurance with an international driver’s license.

She says even if you find an insurer who will cover you, you’ll want to shop for quotes to get the best rate and coverage. “The best thing you could do is simply reach out to a broker,” Gechev says. “You could ask friends and family who they have insurance with.”


Getting auto insurance in the U.S. without a U.S. driver’s license can be difficult

Like shopping for any other insurance policy, compare policies and insurers – but remember that not every carrier will clamor to sign you up.

“When we arrived in the States in 2005, we did not have U.S. driver’s licenses and had to search for companies that would offer us auto insurance,” Gechev says.

Even though Gechev worked for State Farm then, she couldn’t get car insurance from State Farm.

“At that time, you were considered an inexperienced driver if you hadn’t had your U.S. license for more than three years. So, even with the U.S. license, I had to seek out other carriers,” Gechev says.

That’s why it can be hard to find car insurance for foreigners in the United States: If you haven’t been driving for a long time or at all in America, an insurance company doesn’t know whether you’re a safe driver or one who will take a lot of risks. Since you have no substantial driving history in the United States, it’s hard for an insurance company to determine a price for your monthly premium.

What factors do car insurance carriers look at for non-U.S. citizens?

Several things could make it harder or easier to get car insurance if you are a non-U.S. citizen and hoping to drive in the United States with a foreign license – or even if you’re a non-U.S. citizen and you have a state driver’s license:

Your age: Insurers tend to look more favorably on non-U.S. citizens seeking car insurance who are 25 or older (that’s the case for American drivers as well). Even if you have an IDP or a state driver’s license, if you’re younger than 25, you may have trouble getting insured – and you’ll likely pay higher monthly premiums than older immigrants. If you are younger than 18 and a non-U.S. citizen, your odds of getting car insurance are very low.

Your driving history: If you’ve had any accidents or speeding tickets, that might hurt your chances of being insured, but it definitely will increase your premiums.

Your credit history: Insurers can use your credit history to determine your insurance eligibility and rates, except in California, Hawaii, Massachusetts and Michigan.

Per Mark Friedlander with the Insurance Information Institute, Canadian residents are allowed to drive in the United States with a Canadian driver’s license and Canadian plates on their vehicle. Mexican residents can drive in the U.S. for up to one year using an international driving permit and a valid Mexican driver’s license.

If you’re a Canadian visiting the United States on vacation, there’s no need for additional insurance coverage; your existing Canadian policy should cover you. But suppose you’re moving permanently from Canada to the United States. In that case, you’ll need to register your vehicle with the relevant Department of Motor Vehicles in your new state of residence and then purchase car insurance in the U.S.

“For U.S. drivers visiting Canada and Canadian drivers visiting the U.S., no additional insurance coverage is needed when driving over the border. U.S insurance covers all 50 states, its territories or possessions, Canada and between their ports,” says Julie Jakubek, an Allstate agency owner in Phoenix. “For U.S. drivers visiting Mexico, they’ll need to have an insurance policy issued to drive into Mexico. Several insurance agencies in many bordering U.S. states will offer insurance coverage to drivers from Mexico. Note that your U.S. insurance most likely will not cover you driving into Mexico.”

Car insurance for foreigners or short-term U.S. visitors

If you are visiting the United States temporarily, it may not be worth buying a car insurance policy. It is best to get temporary car insurance coverage from any car rental agency, covering any accidents during your stay in the United States. This type of coverage is equal to liability coverage, which protects against costly damages caused by unintentional collisions with other vehicles on the road.

Car insurance for long-term international visitors to the U.S.

If you are going to stay in the U.S. for an extended time and plan to buy or lease a car, it is crucial to get an insurance policy. In most states, driving or registering a vehicle requires auto insurance.

Car insurance with an international driving permit (IDP)

An international driving permit, commonly known as an IDP, is a document you get from your home country to prove you are licensed.

However, an IDP is not considered a valid driver’s license in the United States. Instead, it is a translation of your foreign driver’s license. A license from your home country should always accompany it.

You also must fulfill your native country’s driving requirements to obtain a legal driving license. A legal driving license and an IDP are enough to prove your driving ability – so you do not have to take a driving test in the U.S.

How do you get an IDP?

You can apply for an international driver’s permit if you are at least 18 years or older and possess a valid driver’s license. You must check with your home country’s transportation and regulations department to get your IDP.

Also, ensure you get your IDP before arriving in the U.S. You can only get an IDP from the country where your license was initially issued.

Do I need a foreign driver’s license to drive in the U.S.?

To drive in the U.S., you must have a foreign driver’s license. Apply for an international driver’s permit (IDP) before leaving your home country—the IDP is issued from the driver’s home country.

Learn which countries have reciprocal agreements for driver’s licenses with the U.S.

Will my driving history in another country impact my insurance rates in the U.S.?

Typically, your driving record from another country doesn’t carry over to the United States. Consequently, when obtaining a quote, you’re regarded as a new driver without any prior driving background.

Your insurance premiums are likely higher due to your lack of driving history, regardless of your extensive driving experience in your home country. The primary reason for facing elevated rates as a newly licensed immigrant is the absence of a driving record in the U.S. Even if you’ve been driving for 20 years, your driving record begins when you’re issued a U.S. license.

Consequently, insurance companies categorize you as an “inexperienced driver” and assess you as high-risk since there’s no documented driving history to reference in the motor vehicle records maintained by each state. You’ll likely continue to pay higher premiums until you establish a track record of safe driving, which may take several years.

The bottom line

It’s important to understand the car insurance rules in America when you are not a citizen and visiting from another country but want to drive in the States. You may be required to purchase car insurance from a U.S.-based carrier, although you’ll likely need an international driving permit and a valid driver’s license issued by your home country. If in doubt, contact the Department of Motor Vehicles in the state you are visiting for complete details.


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