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 in the US. In any case, you must at least buy 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 in the US as a foreign visitor you should look at your options carefully. Implications of each choice will be different.
Length of Stay and Vehicle Ownership
Visiting with Your Car: Many people come to the USA with their cars, especially from Canada and Mexico. If this is the case, you will have to make sure that your insurance from your country will cover you for driving in the U.S. and you have a document to show at the border control. They wouldn’t knowingly let you go through without relevant documents. You should make sure that you comply with the US requirements of at least providing liabilities coverage for damages and injuries you may cause. Otherwise, you may be forced to buy car 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 insurance. 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 drive 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, buy, insure it, register and sell at the end of your trip. Most hire places will rent a car if you have a driver’s license from your country that is 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 buying an automobile, insuring and registering it. In that case, you might want to buy 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.
Long Term Stay: If you know how long you will stay and it is more than just few weeks you will probably want to buy a car and auto insurance for non-US citizens. So, you’d better read on.
Things to Know about Car Insurance for Non-US Motorists
- First of all, you will need to establish a residence since you cannot register a car to your name without a residence address.
- Probably you must have a valid International Driving Permit (IDP) in addition to a valid license from your own country. You can only get IDP while you are in your home country. You cannot get it from the US authorities. You should also get official English translation of your driving license just in case it is required by the state you will live in.
- Remember that IDP isn’t a permit to buy a policy.
- You must first check that you can buy insurance for the car you are planning on buying because you cannot register it without it in most states.
- It is probably sensible to apply for a US driving license even though you have an International Driving License. Many companies who would normally turn you down may be happy to insure you if you can prove that you are getting your US driving license soon.
- While you may need to find a specialist insurer with an international driving license, you can buy coverage from almost any company with your US driver license and the premium would be a lot cheaper.
- You probably need to have sufficient money for the car and insurance because it would be very hard to get an auto loan without green card and credit score check. Even if you can get the loan 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 long you have been driving in your home country.
- At least one good news is that visitors can apply for car insurance in America without a social security number (SSN).
- 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.