Car Insurance for Foreign Drivers

Even with a non-U.S. license, you can still drive from sea to shining sea.

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How do you drive in the U.S. with a foreign license?

Getting all the essentials together in order to drive legally in the U.S. is a hassle — regardless of where you’re from. If you're a short-term visitor (aka, in the U.S. for vacation), your best bet for car insurance is to purchase it via your rental company. If you're moving here or will be living here long-term, it can make sure sense to buy insurance from an American company. To drive legally in the U.S. as a foreign driver, you need insurance and a license — from your country of origin and sometimes an International Driving Permit. Let's explore.

  1. What’s an International Driving Permit?
  2. How much insurance is required in the U.S.?
  3. Where can I get insurance as a foreign driver?
  4. What's the average cost of car insurance in the U.S.?
  5. Frequently asked questions

Car insurance with an international drivers' permit

As a foreign driver, it helps to have what is known as an International Driving Permit. An IDP serves as proof that you are licensed to drive in your home country. However, you should know that 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 have to pass all of 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 here in the U.S. if you have a foreign license AND an IDP. 

Where to find an IDP?

If you're over 18 and have a valid license, you can apply for an international driver's permit. Depending on your country, the exact location of getting your IDP might vary. You should 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, you are required to get your IDP issued from the same country where your license is issued. 

US 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 instead of bodily injury. If you're leasing or financing your vehicle, you will also be required to carry Collision and Comprehensive coverage. 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 covers your medical expenses after an accident — regardless of fault. You may have to purchase this and bodily injury liability coverage or just 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 insurance in the U.S.

There’s 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 car insurance companies. If you're in the U.S. on vacation, we recommend purchasing the insurance coverage via your rental car agency. This will be cheaper and less time consuming for you.

If you're going to be 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 valid U.S. licenses. Without a U.S. drivers' license, insurance companies have a difficult time seeing your driving history or credit score and thus the risk you present as a driver. Thus, they do not know how to price your auto insurance policy. 

Still, there are insurance companies that do issue policies for foreign drivers. However, their insurance rates can be higher. Farmers and Progressive allow you to designate that you have a foreign license on their quotes page, indicating their willingness to offer policies to foreign drivers. The Zebra works with insurance companies across the U.S. to find foreign and U.S. drivers' car insurance. 


Which companies offer car insurance to foreign drivers?

Below you'll find a list of car insurance companies that the Zebra works with who are able to offer coverage for drivers with a foreign license: 


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

Car insurance costs in the United States average about $1,548 per year. For a six-month policy, that comes out to $774, or $129 per month. However, rates vary widely depending on a number of factors, including your age, credit history, and previous driving record. The types of coverage that you choose can also impact your rates as well. Below you'll find an average cost of various coverage levels.  

Coverages6-Month premiumMonthly premium
State Minimum $310$51
50/100/50 BI/PD $360$60
100/300/100 BI/PD $408$68
State Min with 1000 Comp/Coll DED$638$106
50/100/50 BI/PD with 1000 Comp/Coll DED$686$114
100/300/100 BI/PD with 1000 Comp/Coll DED$733$122
State Min with 500 Comp/Coll DED$726$121
50/100/50 BI/PD with 500 Comp/Coll DED$774$129
100/300/100 BI/PD with 500 Comp/Coll DED$821$136


These rates can vary by company and by the state in which you live. Enter your U.S. ZIP code below or call us at 888-444-9728 and a licensed insurance agent will help get you insured!


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Frequently asked questions

Q: Will my foreign driving experience transfer in the US or will I be considered a new driver?

A: It's unlikely your driving history from your home country will transfer to the US. However, you should see a decrease in your premium based on your driving experience after 6-months of clean driving in the US.


Q: Why is credit history utilized in my car insurance quote?

A: 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 the only states that do not use credit scores as a rating factor. 


Q: Should I apply for a U.S. drivers' license?

A: If you're going to live in the U.S. permanently or at least for a long period of time, we recommend applying for a U.S. drivers' license. The requirements vary by state. This will allow you to shop with different insurance providers and help lower your auto insurance quotes.


Q: Can I get car insurance with a foreign license and a U.S. permit?

A: Yes. It will be similar to only having a foreign license. Give us a call at 888-444-9728 and one of our insurance agents can get you covered.


Recent Questions:

Car Insurance for Foreign Drivers

Is it possible to have long term car insurance with a foreign license?

Yes, you can get longterm car insurance with a foreign driver's license. You may need to look offline, however, and look for an insurance agent or you can call us at 888-444-8949.

If I'm Canadian, can I purchase a 4-month temporary car insurance policy in California?

Thank you for the question. It's likely that you'll be able to get coverage in California with a foreign license.

Can someone with a French driver's license obtain car insurance in California?

Absolutely, you can get insurance with non-US licenses. Many of the big-name insurance companies won't offer this kind of service, but we can help.

I am a returning US citizen and bringing my right-hand drive UK car with me. How can I get it insured?

You can get insurance for an imported RHD vehicle, but be prepared to shop around because not all car insurance companies would be willing to cover it. It all depends on the company.

Ava Lynch LinkedIn

Based in Austin, TX, Ava has been in the insurance industry as a licensed agent for 4-plus years. Ava is currently one of The Zebra’s resident property insurance experts and has been featured in publications such as US News Report, GasBuddy, and Yahoo! Finance.