Despite COVID-19 travel restrictions, the United States remains one of the most popular travel destinations. Over 22 million tourists crossed the U.S. border in 2021, with a fair share of them renting a car to navigate the country only to be caught off-guard by national auto insurance requirements.
Not only is car insurance mandatory in all states excluding New Hampshire and Virginia, but every state has its own established regulations on car insurance for non-U.S. citizens, which makes it even more difficult for foreigners.
This article will explain how you can obtain car insurance in the United States if you are not a citizen of the country.
How Can You Get Car Insurance for a Non-U.S. Citizen?
To be eligible to get car insurance for non-U.S. citizens, you will need:
- Option 1: a valid driver’s license from your country. A valid driver’s license from your country will allow you to purchase auto insurance in some states, whereas other states will require an international driving permit.
- Option 2: an international driving permit (IDP). States not accepting your original driver’s license will, however, accept an international driving permit. You can apply for it through your country’s transportation department.
Having an IDP is the safest option for most drivers since the document grants the right to purchase car insurance in all states and facilitates the entire process. For example, an IDP will exempt you from taking a driving test and will likely speed up communication as it is written in English.
International Driving Permit (IDP) Explained
An international driving permit (IDP), sometimes mistakenly called an international driving license (there’s no such thing as an international driver’s or driving license), is a translation of your domestic driver’s license that will allow you to drive a motor vehicle in any of the 174 countries that recognize and accept IDP.
Is an International Driving Permit Required in the United States?
|Required||Not Required||Special Conditions|
|Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Mississippi, Montana, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington||Arizona, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming|| |
How to Get an International Driving Permit?
To apply for an IDP at your country’s transportation department, you will need your ID, driving license, and two passport photographs. Among three types of IDP – 1926, 1949, and 1968 – most states accept the 1949 version, so make sure to get the correct version.
Note that you can only obtain an IDP from the country where your driving license was issued, meaning you cannot obtain an IPD in the United States unless you are a resident of the country and your driving license was issued in the United States. The two authorized IDP issuers in the United States are the Automobile Association of America (AAA) and the American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA).
What if You Don’t Have an International Driving Permit in the United States?
You will not be able to drive a car if you don’t have an IPD in a state where it’s required. Likewise, you will be fined for not having an IDP – and the vehicle will likely be confiscated – if you cross the border of the state where the permit is required.
What Car Insurance Do You Need in the United States?
There are six main types of auto insurance in the United States:
- Liability coverage – damage and injuries sustained by another person in an at-fault accident.
- Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage – damage and injuries sustained by the policyholder when the at-fault driver’s coverage is not enough.
- Comprehensive coverage – damage to the policyholder’s car (or the cost of replacement up to the vehicle’s actual value) resulting from theft, vandalism, hail, or fire.
- Collision coverage – damage to the policyholder’s car resulting from a collision.
- Medical payments coverage – the policyholder’s and passengers’ medical payments.
- Personal injury protection – the policyholder’s medical and other expenses resulting from injuries in an accident.
Which of these coverages are mandatory and which are optional depends on the state, except for liability coverage which is mandatory in all states where insurance is required.
How Much Auto Insurance Is Required for Non-Citizens?
Car insurance is mandatory in all states except New Hampshire and Virginia, but the minimum amount of coverage varies. Most states require liability coverage and also collision and comprehensive coverage for those financing or leasing vehicles.
Can I Purchase Car Insurance Without Having a U.S. Driver’s License?
You can purchase auto insurance without having a U.S. driver’s license. However, having a U.S. driving license will allow you to build up your driving experience to decrease your premium, as it is unlikely that the driving experience from your home country will be transferred to the U.S.
How Much Is Non-Resident Car Insurance?
The cost of car insurance for non-U.S. citizens depends on the state, ZIP code, the parameters of the car (make, model, year, age), and the driver’s experience.
Is Tourist Car Insurance More Expensive?
Yes, car insurance for non-U.S. citizens is more expensive because of a lack of driving experience.
Rental Car Insurance for Non-U.S. Citizens
If you are staying in the United States for a month or less, then it might be reasonable to rent a car and get the coverage provided by your rental car company.
Most rental car companies provide three types of coverage for non-U.S. citizens:
- Liability coverage – reimburses for the damage and injuries sustained by someone else in an at-fault accident.
- Personal belongings coverage – reimburses the cost of your personal belongings (mobile phone, laptop, camera, etc.) stolen from your rented car.
- Personal accident coverage – reimburses your and the passengers’ medical bills regardless of whether you are at fault for an accident.
If you are going to stay in the United States for longer than a month, then you may need a full-fledged long-term auto insurance policy.
Borrowed Car Insurance for Non-U.S. Citizens
Borrowing an insured vehicle will allow you to not insure a car while traveling in the United States.
Temporary VS. Long-Term Car Insurance for Non-U.S. Citizens
Temporary car insurance sold by rental car companies is usually the best option if you’re renting a car for a short time — for example, one month. However, if you’re going to stay in the United States for longer, you may need a long-term auto insurance policy.
Can You Buy a Car Without a Local Driver’s License?
You can buy a car in the United States as long as you have an IDP. You can even consider buying a car with a rebuilt title to save on the car and car insurance. However, insurance will most likely be required to drive in the U.S. since driving without insurance is only legal in New Hampshire and Virginia.
Can International Students Buy a Car in the United States?
Foreign students who have an IDP can buy a car in the United States. They can also take advantage of student driving discounts offered by some insurers.
What If You Move to the United States from Canada?
A Canadian car insurance policy will cover you during your travel to the United States. However, if you decide to relocate, you will have to register your car with your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
Best Car Insurance Providers for Non-U.S. Citizens
The best way to choose auto insurance for non-U.S. citizens would be to get quotes from renowned providers, such as Progressive, Allstate, USAA, the Hartford, Nationwide, and Liberty Mutual. These brands will protect you from car insurance fraud and match you with the best deal based on your demands and individual factors, such as your vehicle make and model, your age and driving experience, and more.
Oleksandr is an expert in deep research. He covers insurance topics across four major insurance verticals – auto, health, life, and home insurance – while taking into account the legal landscape of the state in question. Come rain or shine, you can expect regular quality blogs and timely updates from Oleksandr.