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Ava Lynch

Insurance Analyst

  • 7+ years of Experience in the Insurance Industry

Ava joined The Zebra as a writer and licensed insurance agent in 2016. She now works as a senior insurance contributor, providing insights and data a…

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Jean Lucey, CPCU

Faculty, IIAA Virtual University

  • CPCU, Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter

Jean Lucey has researched and written about insurance matters for well over 30 years. A current member of The Zebra's Insurance Expert Review Bo…

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Ross Martin

Insurance Writer

  • 4+ years in the Insurance Industry

Ross joined The Zebra as a writer and researcher in 2019. He specializes in writing insurance content to help shoppers make informed decisions.

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How to get car insurance in the U.S. with a foreign license

Preparing your paperwork to drive legally in the U.S. is a hassle, regardless of where you’re from. But even if you're not a resident, having car insurance is a requirement.

If you're a short-term visitor

If your stay in the U.S. is short, i.e. visiting on vacation, your best bet for car insurance is to purchase it through your car rental company.

If you're a long-term visitor

If you're moving to the states or living in the U.S. long-term, it may make sense to buy insurance from an American car insurance company.

Need insurance now as a foreign driver?

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Car insurance with an international drivers' permit

To drive legally in the U.S. as a foreign driver, you need insurance and a license from your country of origin, and you may need an International Driving Permit. An IDP serves as proof that you are licensed to drive in your home country.

An IDP is NOT a valid driver's license. It simply serves as a translation for your foreign license and should always accompany the license of your native country.

You will need to meet your home country's legal driving requirements first and be in possession of a legal license from your country of origin. Together, these two documents show proof of driving ability.

You will not be required to take a sequential driving test in the U.S. if you have a foreign license AND an IDP.

How to get an IDP

If you're over 18 and have a valid license, you can apply for an international driver's permit. Depending on your home country, the process of getting your IDP may vary. Consult your country’s transportation and regulation department. Remember, you cannot apply for an IDP in the U.S., as it must be done before arriving in the U.S. Moreover, your IDP must be issued by the same country from which your license is issued.

U.S. car insurance requirements

Insurance in the U.S. is regulated at the state level but priced by ZIP code. With some exceptions, most drivers are required to carry liability coverage, which includes both bodily injury and property damage coverages. There are a handful of no-fault states in the U.S. in which you're required to carry Personal Injury Protection (PIP) in addition to bodily injury. If you're leasing or financing your vehicle, you will also be required to carry collision and comprehensive coverage (often referred to as other-than-collision). Below are brief explanations of what these coverages do.

  • Bodily injury liability: provides compensation for the medical bills and costs you cause to other drivers or pedestrians. This coverage applies on a per person/per accident basis. For example, the state minimum bodily injury liability insurance could be $30,000 per person and $60,000 per accident.
  • Property damage liability: provides compensation for the property you cause. This only applies on a per-accident basis.
  • Uninsured/underinsuredthis coverage applies to bodily injury and property damage if the at-fault driver does not have insurance or enough insurance to cover your medical or property damages.
  • Personal injury protection (PIP): this is required in no-fault states and — depending on your state — covers your medical expenses (and possibly lost earnings) after an accident, regardless of fault. You may have to purchase this and bodily injury liability coverage in addition to PIP coverage depending on your state.
  • Collision: protects your vehicle if it's damaged in a collision in which you're at fault. A deductible applies — what you pay prior to your insurance company.
  • Comprehensive: this protects your vehicle from damage outside of a collision — think weather, theft, vandalism and animal-related claims. It also features a deductible.

How to get auto insurance in the U.S.

There are a couple of ways to get insurance in the U.S. as a non-citizen: you can get it from a car rental company or from a car insurance company. If you're vacationing in the U.S., consider purchasing insurance coverage from your rental car company. This will be cheaper and less time-consuming.

If you're staying in the United States on a long-term basis, you will have to purchase insurance from a U.S.-based insurance company. This can be difficult for a few reasons. Some insurance companies will not issue insurance policies to drivers without a valid U.S. license or social security number. Without a U.S. driver's license, insurance companies have a difficult time reviewing your driving history or credit score.

Some U.S. insurance companies do issue policies for foreign drivers, but rates may be higher. Farmers and Progressive allow applicants to state their possession of a foreign license on their quotes pages, indicating a willingness to offer policies to foreign drivers. The Zebra works with insurance companies across the U.S. to help foreign and U.S. drivers find car insurance quotes.

Car insurance for undocumented immigrants in the U.S.

If you have immigrated to the United States and plan on staying long-term, you might explore buying a car and insuring that vehicle. Finding car insurance as an undocumented citizen can certainly pose a challenge, but there are ways to accomplish this in some states. Because the majority of car insurance companies require a driver’s license before they can sell you an auto insurance policy, undocumented citizens must have a valid license in order to apply for insurance.

As it stands, only 11 U.S. states and Washington, D.C. have policies that allow undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses. You can apply for a license through each state’s DMV or go through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Insurance companies in the states that issue driver’s licenses to undocumented citizens are allowed to sell auto insurance policies to citizens who don’t have proof of legal presence in the U.S.

States that allow undocumented citizens to obtain a license:

The best insurance companies for foreign drivers in the U.S.

Find below a list of car insurance companies catering to drivers with non-U.S. drivers licenses: 

carriers for foreign drivers

What's the average cost of car insurance in America?

Car insurance costs an average of $1,529 per year in the U.S. For a six-month insurance policy, that comes out to $765, or $127 per month. Rates vary widely depending on a number of factors, including your age, credit history and driving history.

The type of coverage you choose may also impact your rates. Find below the average cost of various coverage levels.

Coverage Avg. 6 Mo. Premium Avg. Monthly Premium
State Minimum Liability Only $298 $50
100/300/100 BI/PD Liability Only $374 $62
50/100/50 BI/PD Liability Only $382 $64
State Minimum with $1,000 Deductible $685 $114
100/300/100 BI/PD with $1,000 Deductible $770 $128
50/100/50 BI/PD with $1,000 Deductible $777 $129
State Minimum with $500 Deductible $787 $131
100/300/100 BI/PD with $500 Deductible $873 $146
50/100/50 BI/PD with $500 Deductible $880 $147

The Zebra’s Dynamic Insurance Rating Tool data methodology

The Zebra’s Dynamic Insurance Rating Tool for home and auto insurance rates utilizes the latest ZIP code-level rate filings from across the U.S., sourced from Quadrant Information Services and S&P Global. These filings, typically updated annually or biennially by insurers, are verified through Quadrant’s QA process and then integrated into The Zebra’s estimator.

The displayed rates are based on a dynamic home and auto profile designed to reflect the content of the page. This profile is tailored to match specific factors such as age, location, and coverage level, which are adjusted based on the page content to show how these variables can impact premiums.

For a comprehensive understanding, see our detailed methodology.

These rates may vary by auto insurance company and by the state in which you live. Enter your U.S. ZIP code below or call The Zebra at 888-444-9728 and a licensed insurance agent will help you find cheap car insurance.

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Frequently asked questions

A driver's history from another country usually does not transfer to the U.S.

Studies by the Federal Trade Commission show that drivers with poor credit not only file more claims than drivers with excellent credit, but their claims also tend to be more costly. Thus, drivers with a poor credit history tend to be more expensive clients. CaliforniaHawaii and Massachusetts are among the only states to not use credit scores as a rating factor.

Drivers who live in the U.S. permanently should apply for a U.S. driver's license. The requirements vary by state. A U.S. license allows drivers to compare more insurance companies and find more affordable rates.

Yes. It is similar to having a foreign license. Call The Zebra's agency at 888-444-9728 to find coverage.

Yes, in certain states. Undocumented citizens must obtain a valid driver's license through the state's DMV before applying for insurance, but insurance carriers in those select states are allowed to sell policies to this population.

Temporary car insurance doesn't really exist. Commonly, policy terms are for six months. Policies can be canceled, but keep in mind you may be charged a termination fee.

About The Zebra

The Zebra is not an insurance company. We publish data-backed, expert-reviewed resources to help consumers make more informed insurance decisions.

  • The Zebra’s insurance content is written and reviewed for accuracy by licensed insurance agents.
  • The Zebra’s insurance editorial content is not subject to review or alteration by insurance companies or partners.
  • The Zebra’s editorial team operates independently of the company’s partnerships and commercialization interests, publishing unbiased information for consumer benefit.
  • The auto insurance rates published on The Zebra’s pages are based on a comprehensive analysis of car insurance pricing data, evaluating more than 83 million insurance rates from across the United States.