Even with a non-U.S. license, you can still drive from sea to shining sea.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 state 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 help foreign and U.S. drivers find the best quotes on car insurance.
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 select states. Because the majority of car insurance companies require a driver’s license before they can sell you a policy, undocumented citizens must have a valid license in order to apply for insurance. As it stands, only 11 U.S. states and DC have policies that allow undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses. You can apply for a license through the state’s DMV or go through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Insurance companies in the 11 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.
Below you'll find a list of car insurance companies offering coverage to drivers with foreign licenses (non-U.S.):
Car insurance costs an average of $1,548 per year in the U.S. For a six-month policy, that comes out to $774, or $129 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.
|Coverages||6-Month premium||Monthly premium|
|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 may vary by 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.
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 six months of incident-free driving in the US.
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. California, Hawaii, and Massachusetts are the only states that do not use credit scores as a rating factor.
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.
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 help you find coverage.
A: In certain states, yes. 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.