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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. Let's explore.
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 Bodily Injury and Property Damage Liability Coverage. There are a handful of at-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 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.
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.
|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|
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.
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 get you covered.