The United States is a large country and best seen by car. You may have many reasons why you would want to buy a vehicle while you are here. In any case, you must at least have liability coverage in order to drive it legally and you will probably need to find car insurance for non-US citizens. If you are considering driving as a foreign visitor you should look at your options carefully. Implications of each choice will be different. A few of them are discussed below.
Length of Stay and Vehicle Ownership
Visiting with Your Car: Many people travel with their cars, especially from Canada and Mexico. If this is the case, you will have to make sure that your home country coverage is valid in the USA and you have a document to show at the border control. They wouldn’t knowingly let you go through without relevant papers. You should make sure that you comply with the requirements of at least providing liability for damages and injuries you may cause. Otherwise, you may be forced to buy vehicle insurance for foreign drivers at the border or turn back.
Short Term: For a short term up to a month you may be served well with a rental car and policy. In that case, you will have no problem choosing a vehicle and coverage for it from one of many car hire companies. It may not make sense to buy an automobile to use few days and look for short term vehicle insurance unless that is what you must for whatever reason since it involves a lot of work. You need to choose a car, purchase, insure, register and sell at the end of the trip. Most hire places will rent if you have an international license in English.
Little Longer Stay: This will depend on how long and who owns the car. If you have access to a friend’s or relative’s car they would be able to add you to their policies for a short period at a reasonable additional premium. This could work out great in many ways and save you ton of money. However, not many people have cars they can spare for you.
Otherwise, you may have to go through the whole process of ownership. In that case, you might want at least a 6-month policy rather than trying to get coverage for only 2 – 3 months. You can always cancel it when you are going back and get a refund. You are already high risk and you don’t want to reduce the alternatives even further by insisting on a shorter term.
Long Term Stay: If you know how long you will stay and it is more than just few weeks you will probably want to own a car that will require a policy. So, you’d better read on to learn about the limitations, restrictions and availabilities.
Things to Know about Auto Insurance for Non-US Motorists
- First of all, you will need to establish a residence since you cannot register a car without a residence address.
- Probably you must have a valid International Driving Permit. You can only get IDP while you are in your home country. You should also get official English translation just in case it is asked for.
- Remember that IDP isn’t a permit to purchase a policy.
- You must first check that you can get coverage for the car you are considering because most authorities don’t allow registration without it.
- It is probably sensible to apply for a license and start the process of taking the tests even though you have an IDL. Many companies who would normally turn you down may be happy to accept you if you can prove that you are currently a learner who will take the tests soon.
- While you may need to find a non standard insurer with the current documents, you can get it from almost any company after passing the tests and the premium would be a lot cheaper.
- You probably need to have sufficient money because it would be very hard to get an auto loan without green card and credit score check. Even if you can get it the interest rate would be astronomical.
- It is unlikely to be cheap. You need to be prepared for high premiums because you will be treated just like a new driver no matter how experienced you actually are. Also, you will hardly get any discount because they take time to qualify like for good credit.
- At least one good news is that visitors can apply for car insurance in America without a social security number (SSN). Again, most carriers may not quote but this should not deter you.
- In few states, Mexicans may be allowed to buy automobile insurance with no license as long as they can show an ID. This is a very limited provision in many ways that don’t concern many motorists and only applies to Mexicans.