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Is There Auto Insurance for Non-U.S. Residents?

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As a nonresident of the U.S., you may wonder if you can get auto insurance or if you even need to have it. Almost every state in the U.S. does require coverage, so you’ll need to check out the available auto insurance for non-U.S. residents if you plan to drive anywhere in the country.

Our expert team took the time to review the major car insurance providers to help you find the best deals and coverage in the industry. Our quote tool is easy to use. Just enter the ZIP code you’re heading to and you’ll start receiving free, no-obligation quotes from providers in that area.

Can Non-U.S. Residents Get Auto Insurance?

If you are wondering whether there is auto insurance for non-U.S. residents, then you should be relieved to know that the answer is yes. You may not have as many options as residents do, but all major insurance providers are still likely to offer you insurance.

Keep in mind that you will still have to meet certain requirements to get car insurance as a nonresident. Most importantly, you will need to have a driver’s license that is valid to use in the U.S.

It is also essential to remember that laws regarding insurance for international drivers vary by state. As such, you should always take a few minutes to research the laws of the state you will be in so you can follow them. Do this for every state that you plan to drive through.

How Do I Get Auto Insurance as a Non-U.S. Citizen?

Each insurance company can set its own requirements on how to buy car insurance. To find the specific requirements, you will need to check with each individual provider.

As you search, remember that not every provider will offer auto insurance for non-U.S. residents without a U.S. license. Others may let you get auto insurance with a foreign license or international driving permit (IDP), but you should expect higher premiums.

If you currently have a foreign driver’s license and not a U.S. one, you will most likely still be able to get car insurance. Some companies will give you a conditional policy that requires you to get a U.S. license within a given amount of time. Most companies place a limit of 45 to 60 days.

Do I Have to be a Citizen to Get a U.S. Driver’s License?

The laws vary by state, but most states do not require you to be a U.S. citizen in order to get a U.S. driver’s license. However, you typically need to at least be a U.S. resident.

Some states will just require proof that you reside in the state from foreign drivers, such as bank statements and utility bills. Others may require you to prove yourself as a legal U.S. resident through showing your visa or green card. California is one of the states that does not require legal status in the U.S. but does require local residency. Check the department of motor vehicles (DMV) for the state you are visiting.

What is a Short-Term Auto Insurance Policy for Non-U.S. Citizens?

For foreign drivers who cannot get traditional auto insurance in the U.S., a good choice is to get short-term auto insurance. The easiest method of doing so is by renting a car and opting for the short-term insurance offered by the rental company, which will likely only require that foreign motorists hold a valid IDP.

However, if you plan to stay in the U.S. permanently, then you need a long-term car insurance policy. This means that if you will be in the country for school, work or another reason for a long period of time, you will likely need to get an IDP or a local driver’s license.

What is an International Driving Permit (IDP) and Where Can I Get One?

An international driving permit, also known as an international driver’s license or an international driver’s permit, is recognized internationally as a valid license. This is important as the U.S. generally does not recognize foreign licenses, though Canada is an exception. Most cannot legally drive in the U.S. without either a U.S.-issued license or an IDP.

One crucial point is that you must get the IDP before you enter the U.S. IDPs are available in the U.S. but only to American residents with driver’s licenses who wish to drive in another country. The specific process to follow to receive your IDP will depend on your country of origin.

IDPs typically have an expiration date that is a year after issuance.

As mentioned earlier, not all agencies will offer auto insurance for non-U.S. residents even with an IDP. Those from Canada must get U.S. auto insurance with a Canadian license, for instance, before they can legally drive in the U.S.

Can I Rent a Car Instead of Purchasing Auto Insurance?

Yes, you can rent a car instead of buying auto insurance. In fact, this is the best option if you will only need one week of car insurance in the U.S. That is because the process of getting rental insurance will be quite easy, as it is simply an add-on from the rental car company.

How to Prepare for Driving in the U.S.

In addition to getting your IDP, there are some other important steps to prepare for driving in the U.S.

Learn About Insurance Requirements

Remember to consider the minimum insurance requirements by state. Nearly every state requires at least a low level of insurance coverage, so check the requirements for each one you will drive in. Most states require liability coverage at the very least to take care of bodily injury costs for other drivers.

As you look at insurance requirements by state, you will notice that some are no-fault and some are at-fault states. At-fault states determine which party is responsible for an accident, and that person’s insurance pays for damages and injuries. In a no-fault state, you will need personal injury protection (PIP), which covers the cost of your injuries after an accident regardless of who was at fault.

It is also smart to consider health insurance. Remember that the U.S. health care system is different from that of other countries, so you may need to take out an additional health insurance policy during your stay.

Learn About Traffic Laws

You also want to ensure that you pay attention to how traffic laws vary by state. While most states have similar traffic laws, there are exceptions. For example, every state lets you turn right at a red light, typically after you come to a full stop. New York City, however, only allows for right turns on red in city limits when explicitly stated.

How Do Auto Insurance Companies Determine Rates for Non-U.S. Citizens?

Providers typically consider the same factors when determining rates on auto insurance for non-U.S. residents as they would for American citizens. These considerations include your driving record or driving history, your age and your vehicle.

The biggest factor in determining insurance rates and the coverage you need is the state you are in. The table below, supplied by data from Quadrant Information Services, lists how much the best auto insurance generally costs for U.S. residents in each state. Expect your rate as a nonresident to be moderately higher unless you add a large deductible. Numbers are based on a 35-year-old driver with a clean driving record and a good credit history, also known as a credit score.

StateAverage Annual Car Insurance Premium
District of Columbia$1,812
New Hampshire$1,190
New Jersey$2,132
New Mexico$1,385
New York$4,048
North Carolina$1,278
North Dakota$1,341
Rhode Island$1,947
South Carolina$1,610
South Dakota$1,348
West Virginia$1,418

As can be seen, car insurance rates vary widely based on the state you’ll be driving in. To save money on auto insurance for non-U.S. residents, compare quotes from multiple providers using the personalized quote tool below.

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Our Recommendations for Auto Insurance

Our top recommendations with auto insurance for non-U.S. residents are GEICO and Progressive. It is still best to use a comparison tool to look through auto insurance quotes, though, as this will save you both time and money. 

GEICO: Best Overall

GEICO earned a 9.1 out of 10.0 rating in our extensive provider review. This insurance company received a 9.8 for industry reputation along with a 9.0 for customer experience, 9.4 for cost, and 8.5 for car insurance coverage.

Progressive: Best for High-Risk Drivers

Progressive also received stellar ratings, with an overall score of 9.1 out of 10.0. The provider received a 9.1 for its excellent industry reputation along with a 9.0 score for coverage, a 9.3 for cost, and an 8.9 for customer experience.

FAQ: Auto Insurance for Non-U.S. Residents

Can I get car insurance without a U.S. license?

Yes, many but not all insurance providers will offer car insurance to those with an IDP.

Does an international license work in the U.S.?

Most foreign licenses are not valid in the U.S., but an IDP is. You must get an IDP before leaving your home country.

Are there short-term auto insurance options for non-U.S. residents?

The best way to get short-term auto insurance as a non-U.S. resident is to rent a car and opt for insurance through the rental agency.

What should I do if I forgot to get my IDP before leaving my home country?

You will need to ask each rental company or insurance provider separately. It’s likely that you will have to either not drive or establish residency in a state that offers non-U.S.-residents with licenses.

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