Best Car Insurance for Foreign Drivers

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

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How do you drive in the US with a foreign license?

Getting all the essentials together in order to drive legally in the US is a hassle — regardless of where you’re from. If you're a short-term visitor (aka, in the US 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 US 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 US?
  3. Where can I get insurance as a foreign driver?
  4. Frequently asked questions

What’s 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 US 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 US 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 is $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/underinsured: this 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 US

There’s a couple of ways to get insurance in the US as a non-citizen: you can get it from a car rental company or from car insurance companies. If you're in the US 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 US-based insurance company. This can be difficult for a few reasons. Some insurance companies will not issue insurance policies to drivers without valid US licenses. Without a US 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. We work with insurance companies across the US to find foreign and US drivers' car insurance. Enter your US 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 US drivers' license?

A: If you're going to live in the US permanently or at least for a long period of time, we recommend applying for a US 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 US 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.


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Recent Questions:

Best Car Insurance for Foreign Drivers

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.

Is there any auto insurance that better suits drivers with an international driver license?

I wish insurance were that easy. There are many different factors that go into calculating your rate.

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.