Most major vehicle insurers in the US cover international drivers as well, although premiums may be higher due to lack of history in the country. There are several options depending on the length of stay and where you are from but it is best that you get an International Driving Permit (IDP), which is usually valid for a year, before you leave your home country as you are allowed to drive and can get car insurance with IDP.
Driving licenses and insurance are regulated by states and each requires at least minimum Liability insurance and valid license to drive a vehicle. Some states may accept foreign licenses issued by certain countries for up to three months but an International Driving Permit is accepted all over the world including in the United States.
Let’s have a look at options for driving as a foreign visitor and getting insured 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 automobile insurance 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. Most hire places will rent if you have an international license in English and you can buy your insurance from the rental company.
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 tons 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 a vehicle insurance policy 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. Many companies, even the big ones like Progressive and GEICO offer car insurance with foreign driving licenses. Bristol West is another company they can apply to.
Long Term Stay: If you are going to live a while in the US you have a couple of options. You can drive with an International Driving Permit for a year and can get insurance from many companies, depending on your state. However, you will be treated as a new driver regardless of how long you have been driving in your country and how good your accident and driving records are because US auto insurers don’t count foreign records.
Once this one year period is over and your IDP expires, you will need to get a driving license from the state you live in. Some foreign driving licenses issued by certain countries may be exchanged with a license in the state you live in. You need to check if there is such an exception for your country. Otherwise, you will need to apply for a new license in your state and take the test.
If you know how long you will stay and it is more than just a 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 availability.
Things to Know about Auto Insurance for Non-US Drivers
- First of all, you will need to establish a residence since you cannot register a car without a residence address and buying insurance would be tough.
- You should get an International Driving Permit. You can only get IDP while you are in your home country. You should also get an 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 US driving license through the DMV office in your state as early as possible and start the process of taking the tests even though you have an IDL, if you are planning to stay longer than a year. Some companies who would normally turn you down may be happy to accept if you can prove that you are currently a learner who will take the tests soon.
- While there are companies offering auto insurance with foreign driving licenses, you can apply to every 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 a green card and credit score check. Even if you can get it, the interest rate would be astronomical.
- Car insurance with foreign driver licenses is not 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 for, like 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 several 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.
In conclusion, foreign drivers can manage to find auto insurance but they need to be prepared depending on how long they will need to drive a vehicle. Normally, tourists can hire a car and get insurance from the hire company with their home country driving licenses as long as they are in English, have an acceptable translation or IDP. International Driving Permits are valid for a year and acceptable by most insurance companies.
And Canadians can probably drive in with their cars and their policies from a Canadian insurer would cover them for their travels for a short period of time. If they settle in any state, they will need to comply with the rules and regulations there, which may require them to get an automobile insurance policy valid in that state after a short while like a month.