Can you get car insurance with a foreign driver’s license?

You'll need an International Driver’s Permit (IDP) and your country of origin's driver's license to drive in the United States. Auto insurance is required for all vehicles.

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Mathew B. Sims is Editor-in-Chief and has authored, edited, and contributed to several books. He has been working in the insurance industry ensuring content is accurate for consumers who are searching for the best policies and rates...

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Dan Walker graduated with a BS in Administrative Management in 2005 and has been working in his family’s insurance agency, FCI Agency, for 15 years (BBB A+). He is licensed as an agent to write property and casualty insurance...

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Reviewed byDaniel Walker
Licensed Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Apr 22, 2020

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Things to remember...

  • An International Driver’s Permit is used in conjunction with your home driver’s license to drive in the United States
  • You are required to have auto insurance on any car you drive whether you own, rent, or borrow it
  • Short-term policies are available through different companies, and you can shop around to find more appealing rates

When visiting the United States, you may want to take a drive to see the countryside or tour nearby cities.

Before getting on the road, you’ll need to be sure that you’re following state guidelines by having the appropriate license and insurance.

As you plan your visit to the United States, you should plan on taking a few steps prior to your trip.

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Obtain an International Driving Permit

The IDP is a valid form of identification accepted by 150 countries around the globe. It contains key information about you that is translated into 10 different languages.

It’s a highly recommended piece of identification for travelers because it displays your:

  • Name
  • Photo
  • Driver information

Take note that the IDP is meant to be carried with a valid driver’s license from your home country.

The two must be presented together if you’re ever pulled over for a traffic violation, and it’s usually good for a period of one year.

Additionally, the IDP will be obtained in your country of citizenship and brought with you to the United States along with your passport and driver’s license.

When visiting the United States, you may be able to rent a car using your licensed and the IDP.

If you’re a resident of the country, then you’ll want to check the individual requirements of your state. In most cases, you’ll be required to obtain a state-issued driver’s license.

In general, you can expect your foreign license and IDP to be good for one year. However, at the end of this period, the state you’re visiting may expect you to get a local driver’s license.

Contact your local Department of Motor Vehicles ahead of time to find out if you’re eligible and learn more about the requirements.

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When Borrowing A Car


If you’re visiting friends or family in the United States, then you may have a car that you can borrow for the duration of your trip.

Some insurance companies will cover visitors and allow them to drive the policyholder’s car, but it all depends on the company.

Rather than taking chances with coverage, ask your friend to add you to his or her policy as a short-term visitor.

If you’re going to rent a car, then you have a few different options for coverage.

In addition to the plans offered by the company, you also may have protection through:

  • The credit card you used to make the reservation
  • Your regular insurance company from home
  • Your employer if you’re traveling on their behalf
  • A motor club membership

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If you don’t have any of these coverages, then you can easily purchase the insurance you need right from the rental car agency. However, you’ll want to make sure that you have the right coverage before you drive off the lot. You should ask about:

  • Collision Damage Waiver – This coverage pays for any damage or theft to a rental car while it’s in your possession. As a visitor, it can provide you with peace of mind because you won’t necessarily know where the high-risk areas are in order to avoid them.
  • Supplemental Liability Insurance – Most people don’t really have enough liability coverage, and that includes renters. However, you can also get the protection you need with an umbrella policy and go with the minimum amount required at the rental counter.
  • Personal Accident Insurance – This covers medical expenses for you and your passengers in the event of an accident, but it’s not necessary if you have purchased health insurance for your trip.
  • Personal Effects Coverage – Items that are stolen out of your car would be covered with this plan, but you may already have protection through your homeowner’s policy you have at home. Before you leave for your trip, call your company to see if you have protection.

Tips for Renting a Car

In addition to educating yourself on rental car insurance, you may want to make sure that you’re fully prepared by booking your car in advance. If you’re purchasing the insurance ahead of time, then you can learn more about the options and make a fully informed decision.

If renting a car isn’t feasible due to the length of the stay, then buying a car is a smart choice. The vehicle can always be sold when you return home. However, in this case, you’ll have to invest in short-term car insurance.

The great news is that there are several companies offering short-term plans for visitors. You’ll need to have your IDP before you can apply for insurance, and you won’t be able to drive until you have the coverage. When applying for a plan, you’ll need to provide the company with:

  • The address where you’ll be staying
  • The make, model, and vehicle identification number of the car you’ll drive
  • Information about your driving record, including tickets or accidents in the last few years

If you don’t know what type of car you’ll have when you arrive and don’t have an address quite yet, then you won’t be able to purchase the insurance. However, you can still shop around ahead of time to find a company that offers these plans and is willing to serve you.

Upon arriving in the United States, either use an insured rental car or let someone else drive you until the insurance is in place. You’re expected to have the state-mandated coverage levels before getting behind the wheel of a car.

Learn the State Minimums

Most states require drivers to meet minimum guidelines for insurance coverage.

The state requirements are typically for property damage that you cause in an accident, personal injuries to a single person in a single accident, and personal injuries sustained by multiple people in a single accident.

It may take a little longer to find short-term car insurance companies, but you can still look around for different rates.

One great option is to use a comparison tool to quickly enter what you need and be rewarded with information on different companies. The process will be faster, and you just might save some money on the premiums when you arrive.

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Do Your Research on Companies

There are plenty of scams going around the globe, and that includes fake car insurance. Learn how to spot a phony company so that you’ll have the coverage you need when you arrive.

Keep in mind that if you’re driving with a phony insurance plan, then you are in violation of the law and can be ticketed. The good news is that all the answers you’re looking for about a company are right at your fingertips.

Take the time to check for:

  • License information — Available online through the state’s Department of Insurance
  • Fully detailed documents – Itemized insurance information will detail what type of coverages you have
  • Realistic costs – If the fees quoted seem impossibly low, then the company is probably fake

Start your vacation or extended trip off on the right foot by getting the coverage that you need to drive. It doesn’t matter if you’re borrowing a car or buying one to drive for the year.

You’ll need to have at least the state minimum insurance levels, and you may choose to go with a more thorough level of protection.

Shop around for different rates by using a comparison site. In addition to finding lower premiums, you can also look for more thorough coverage that better suits your needs.

When you know you’re covered, you can head out on the roads with confidence and start seeing all that the United States has to offer.

Compare car insurance quotes today by entering your zip code below.

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