Car Insurance for Foreign Drivers in the U.S.

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.


Car insurance for foreign visitors to the U.S. — table of contents:
  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. How to get car insurance in the U.S.
  5. Car insurance for undocumented immigrants
  6. Which companies offer car insurance for foreign drivers?
  7. What's the average cost of car insurance in the U.S.?
  8. 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. 

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 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. 

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 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 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. 

Car insurance for undocumented immigrants

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.

States that allow undocumented citizens to obtain a license: 

Which companies offer car insurance to foreign drivers?

Below you'll find a list of car insurance companies offering coverage to drivers with foreign licenses (non-U.S.): 


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

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.  

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 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.


Compare rates and find an affordable policy today.

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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 six months of incident-free 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 help you find coverage.


Q: Can undocumented immigrants get car insurance?

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. 



Recent Questions:

If I am planning to buy a car in the US as a tourist, will I be able to get insurance?

Even if you don't have a US driver license, you should still be able to find coverage with most insurance companies. You mentioned that you will be traveling around the US so it's important to note that US insurance companies require a "permanent" address before they will issue a policy.

Can I get car insurance if I'm here on a tourist visa?

In this case, you would want to speak directly with an insurance company. At The Zebra, we have several carriers that will insure you with a foreign license.

Temporary car insurance for foreign driver in US

Since you will be driving your friend's car, you will need to be listed on their insurance policy as a driver. Since your friend is the owner of the car, they are required to maintain insurance on it.

Can I add a non-licensed, non-U.S. citizen to an auto policy?

Thanks for the question. The first thing that I would say is that you should consider having them get their drivers license beforehand.

Ava Lynch
Ava Lynch LinkedIn

Ava worked in the insurance industry as an agent for four-plus years. Currently providing insights and analysis as one of The Zebra’s resident property insurance experts, Ava has been featured in publications such as U.S. News & World Report, GasBuddy, and Yahoo! Finance.