Auto Insurance for Non-US Residents

Whether you are a traveler or an expatriate, you can get auto insurance for non-US residents, but you'll need to apply for an International Driving Permit (IDP). Most auto insurance companies will issue a policy to a non-U.S. citizen driver if they can meet licensing requirements within 45 to 60 days. Keep reading if you're ready to buy auto insurance for non-U.S. citizens.

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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. He has also been featured on sites like UpJourney.

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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, including home, auto, umbrella, and dwelling fire insurance. He’s also been featured on sites like Reviews.com and Safeco. He reviews content, ensuring that ex...

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Reviewed by Daniel Walker
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Feb 14, 2021

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Things to Remember

  • Before you can be insured to drive in the U.S., you need to be licensed to drive.
  • In the United States, an International Driving Permit will cost $20 at your local AAA.
  • If you’re only visiting the U.S. for a short time, the best option to get around is to rent a car.
  • The average monthly auto insurance rate is $84 for US residents, but it’s difficult to know what your rate will be as a non-U.S. resident until you follow the steps we provide.

Can you get auto insurance for non-U.S. residents? Folks traveling to the United States should take advantage of the vast roadways of the country. There are options for those staying for a short period of time, a long time, and even for expatriates.

Getting cheap auto insurance as a non-U.S. resident can be a bit more challenging than it would be for a permanent resident. While it is difficult, it’s not impossible if you follow the appropriate steps.

Which auto insurance company for non-U.S. citizens is right for you? Enter your ZIP code above to compare car insurance for foreigners and find the best auto insurance rates.

Table of Contents

Can you get auto insurance for non-US residents?

Since auto insurance is a requirement in most U.S. states, learning about compulsory auto insurance laws is a must before you get behind the wheel of any car.

Check out the table below for stats on driving internationally.

International Travel Statistics
Facts About Travel In The USAStatistics
International Arrivals in the US in 201880 million
Travel Spending – Public Transportation$200.4 billion
Travel Spending – Auto Transportation$166.5 billion
US Share of Total International Arrivals5.60%
Average Stay in the US by International Visitors18 nights
Average Amount Spent by International Visitors$4,200
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Keep in mind that traffic laws and auto insurance laws vary by state, so you need to know the laws of every state you are visiting in the U.S.

Before you can be non-resident insured to drive in the U.S., you need to be licensed to drive. If you’re on a short vacation or a longer stay for work or school, it’s important to familiarize yourself with rules and laws that apply to non-U.S. residents’ auto insurance.

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How do I get USA auto insurance if I am a non-US citizen?

Do you need auto insurance for non-U.S. residents? Every insurance company has its own underwriting requirements and car insurance for foreigners in the USA is required.

An International Driving Permit (IDP) grants you permission to drive temporarily in the United States, but having a permit doesn’t guarantee that you’ll qualify for traditional insurance.

Can you get auto insurance on a car that you own without being a resident?

You have to find a company with lenient rules so you can get auto insurance with a foreign license.

It’s more typical for a company to issue a standard policy to a driver with a foreign license if they can meet the U.S. licensing requirement after 45–60 days.

There are many online resources available to help you pass a driving exam in the U.S., so take advantage of those if you choose to get a license in the states.

If you can’t satisfy the licensing requirements by the end of the 60-day period, the company will cancel your policy and you will receive a refund for unearned premiums.

Can you get a US driver’s license without being a citizen?

It’s far easier to find auto insurance when you have a U.S. driver’s license. You don’t have to be a citizen to qualify for a driver’s license in most states. But you do need to establish residency in the state.

Some acceptable ways to establish residency so that you can get a U.S. license include:

  • Engaging in trade in the state
  • Accepting an employment offer in the state
  • Enrolling your children in public school
  • Having lived in the state for more than 30 days

If you can’t get traditional insurance, you have the option to buy a short-term specialty policy until you can.

What’s the difference between a short-term auto insurance policy and a long-term auto insurance policy for non-US citizens?

The best option for a short-term visit is to rent a car, and the rental company will often sell car insurance for the rental. Experts recommend making your rental car arrangements before arriving in the US.

If your foreign driver’s license will be valid throughout your visit, make sure to have a copy of your abstract driving report to show how long you’ve been driving for credits so that you can rent a car.

A long-term auto insurance policy is a must for any foreigners visiting to attend college or are here on a work visa.

If you are staying for a longer period of time, and your driver’s license from your home country will expire prior to leaving the US, you will not be able to drive a rental car after your foreign driver’s license expires.

At that time, you will need to obtain an IDP, purchase a car, and secure auto insurance.

Also, it is important to remember that insurance companies change their rules and policies with some regularity, so you should always check with a company to see if they have a product that meets your needs.

They may have a new type of policy that is perfect for you, or they may have eliminated the policy you purchased the last time you stayed in the U.S., so always check on their most current coverage options.

Once you have everything that you need to shop around, use an online rate comparison tool to compare premiums for standard coverage and short-term coverage. With these instant quotes, you can find the most affordable option.

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Can non-US citizens drive in the US?

For people visiting the United States, getting around can be tricky.

The quality of public transportation varies wildly, and that is only including the cities that actually have any real public transportation available at all. There are many cities in the U.S. where you have to have a car to get from place to place.

If you have to have a car in the U.S., that means you also have to have auto insurance. Not only is it vital to protect yourself financially, but it is also required by law in almost every state.

Additionally, driving in the U.S. also means you will need an International Driving Permit.

What is an International Driving Permit (IDP)?

If you have a valid driver’s license issued in your country of origin, you can’t use your foreign driver’s license to drive in the U.S.

If you’re planning to drive in the United States, you’ll need non-resident insurance; licensed drivers in the US who are not US citizens must apply for an International Driving Permit.

An International Driving Permit is an acceptable license that can be written in nine different languages and is accepted in more than 150 countries.

Where can I obtain an IDP?

You can’t apply for your International Driving Permit in the U.S. after you’ve arrived, so it is important to get your permit before you start your trip. So how do you get one?

Do I need an international driver’s license for driving in the USA?

You must apply for the permit before you leave your home country. Simply fill out an application, pay the fee, and present your identification to get your permit.

Every country is different, so you might need to go through your local automobile association, post office, or other government facilities to get your IDP.

Fees vary from country to country. For example, in the United States, an International Driving Permit will cost $20 at your local AAA as of the time of this writing. In the U.K., you would get your International Driving Permit at the post office for a cost of £5.50.

How long will my International Driving Permit be valid?

Typically, your IDP is valid for one year, but that is completely dependent on which format is offered by your country.

Some places only offer the 1949 IDP format, which is based on the 1949 Geneva Convention on Road Traffic. Other places only offer the 1968 IDP format, which is based on the 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Traffic.

Some countries could potentially offer both, so you will want to check with the people administering your International Driving Permit to find out what your options are and how long your permit will be valid.

No matter how long your permit is valid, it is only good as long as you have a valid local license. If your driver’s license from your home country expires while you are traveling, your IDP is no longer valid.

What happens if you didn’t apply for your permit before arriving in the US?

It isn’t recommended, but it is possible to apply for an International Driving Permit by mail.

If you find yourself in a position where you will need to drive, and you are going to be at your destination for more than a month, you can send a permit request by mail and have it sent back to you.

This is typically more time consuming and requires expensive international postage, but it can be done.

Americans staying abroad should send their IDP requests to the following address:

AAA/IDP
1000 AAA Drive
Heathrow, FL 32746
Attn: Mail Stop #28

International visitors in the United States will need to follow their home country’s instructions for obtaining their International Driving Permit overseas.

You can always check with your embassy or make a visit to a local AAA office for help determining exactly how to proceed, but be aware that they cannot give you an IDP at those locations.

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Can I rent a car instead of purchasing auto insurance?

If you’re only visiting the U.S. for a short time, the best option to get around is to rent a car.

Your International Driving Permit grants you permission to drive, and by renting a car, you will have access to your own transportation wherever you go.

If you purchased travel insurance before arriving in the U.S., it may have included some type of auto insurance, so check your policy to see if it provides coverage for your vehicle.

Getting insurance when you’re renting is simple, even as a non-resident.

If you don’t have another policy in place, the best option for getting insurance on a rental car when you don’t have a U.S. driver’s license is to purchase the supplemental insurance that’s offered at the rental counter.

Many experts tell drivers to decline rental insurance, but that’s only suggested if you have coverage in the U.S.

What steps should I take to prepare for driving in the USA?

If you don’t have your own coverage, you should carry some or all of the supplemental insurance options below:

  • Supplemental Liability Insurance – Provides you with $1 million of third-party liability coverage that pays for medical bills and repairs.
  • Collision Damage Waiver – Pays for the repairs needed to restore a rental car after it’s damaged due to a covered loss.
  • Personal Effects Coverage – Will pay to replace property if it’s stolen or damaged while it’s being transported in the car.
  • Personal Accident Insurance – Pays for you and your family’s medical treatment if you suffer injuries in an auto accident.

If you can afford it, consider getting the highest levels of coverage available to protect yourself from being held responsible for financial damages.

Is there anything else I need to know about auto insurance coverage as a visitor to the US?

In most of the world, at least some level of health care is provided by the government to cover the general population. This is not the case in the United States.

Instead of universal health coverage, U.S. residents are responsible for their own medical costs. This means that most people purchase their own health insurance policies but, because the responsibility falls on the individual, a car accident can cause someone to end up with unexpected medical bills.

The average bodily injury claim in the United States is $15,433, so it is especially important to have enough liability coverage.

Because of the health care system in the United States, drivers are almost always required by law to carry bodily injury liability coverage to pay for any injuries sustained in a car accident where they are at fault.

A bad car accident could result in well over a hundred thousand dollars in medical bills, which means that you should carry the highest levels of liability coverage that you can afford to purchase.

Higher property damage liability levels can also be helpful. If you hit an expensive car or accidentally run into a house or other building, you will be held responsible for that damage, so consider that carefully when choosing your coverage.

What are the insurance requirements in the USA?

If you are going to be staying in the U.S. for longer than a month, it may make the most financial sense to buy your own car.

You don’t have to be a resident to buy a car and register it in the state, but you do have to comply with the state compulsory insurance laws at all times when you’re the legal owner of the car.

Auto insurance is required in virtually every state.

When you drive in the U.S., even if you’re not a resident, you’re required by law to comply with state-mandated auto insurance laws. While the limits and rules vary from state to state, most officials require drivers to carry bodily injury liability and property damage liability coverage.

These coverage options help compensate a third-party driver when you cause an accident. You may also have to carry medical payments and uninsured motorist coverage to satisfy some state laws.

While comprehensive and collision coverage are not required in most situations, they can be helpful if you have purchased a car of your own.

Most states have laws holding a driver who caused an accident responsible for the damages, but some states have no-fault insurance laws.

What is the difference between at-fault and no-fault insurance laws?

There are two big differences between at-fault and no-fault of insurance laws.

  • Who pays for damages? In an at-fault state, the driver responsible for the accident pays for the damages. In a no-fault state, each driver pays for their own damages with their own insurance.
  • Can you sue the driver who caused the accident? No-fault insurance laws are designed to give you a limited right to sue, preventing small auto insurance claims from clogging up the court system.

At-fault insurance laws allow you to sue in court based on tort liability, holding the person responsible for the accident accountable for the financial damages caused.

The table below expands upon this difference.

No-Fault Versus At-Fault State
No-Fault InsuranceAt-Fault Insurance
Your own insurance pays damagesAt fault driver pays damages
Limited liability unless otherwise notedFull liability
PIP coverage typically requiredPIP coverage typically not required
Decreases the number of court cases but increases liability premiumsDecreases liability premiums but increases the number of court cases
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The insurance laws of the state you reside in will have a big impact on how much insurance you need and how much it will cost, so it is important to know this information when buying a car.

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What other laws should you learn before driving in the US?

The sheer size of the country and the number of people living in the United States means that things are often done differently than they are in other countries.

Traffic laws are determined at a state level, which means that a trip to see New York City, Orlando, and Dallas will involve different traffic laws in each location.

Taking a few minutes to learn the unique laws in a state can be helpful.

Can you turn right at a red light? Do they have roundabouts or traffic circles? What are the maximum speed limits? Is this an at-fault state? Answering these questions can help keep you safe as you drive in the United States.

What types of auto insurance should you consider when insuring a vehicle?

When considering car insurance for non-U.S. citizens, it’s important to know what you’re buying.

These are the primary types of insurance you should consider when insuring your vehicle:

  • Liability – Liability insurance protects your financial welfare by paying for damages to another person’s vehicle if you are at fault in an accident. It also covers medical bills in the event of bodily injury someone else sustained in an accident where you were at fault.
  • Uninsured Motorist Coverage – Uninsured motorist coverage, often referred to as UM, is mandatory in some states and optional in others. It covers you at the same levels as your liability coverage if you are in an accident where an uninsured driver was at fault.
  • Collision – Collision insurance protects you by paying for damages to your vehicle if you are at fault in an accident, whether you hit another vehicle or a stationary object such as a fence post. If you are responsible for a loan on your car you may be required by the lender to have active collision insurance on your policy.
  • Comprehensive – Comprehensive insurance covers damage to your car that isn’t caused during an accident. Some examples of what might be covered under a comprehensive policy are hail damage, theft, and vandalism.

There are other coverages to consider as well, such as roadside assistance or rental reimbursement, but the four listed above are the biggest and most beneficial types of insurance to consider when buying a vehicle.

What factors do auto insurance companies look for when deciding to insure or not insure a foreign driver?

Auto insurance companies will use the same factors they use for US residents when quoting a rate for a foreign driver with an IDP.

For US residents, average monthly auto insurance rates are around $84 for liability coverage that meets the state minimum requirements.

The biggest factor is the state in which you will reside because location makes a huge difference in the costs of auto insurance. Each state has specific car insurance laws in place that will determine the types of coverages required and the amount of coverage required per coverage type.

Even the fact that you reside in a large city or highly urbanized area can increase your rates as opposed to living in the suburbs or more rural areas.

To provide an example, look at the wide variety of average car insurance rates by state in the table below. It’s sorted from cheapest to most expensive.

Average Annual and Average Monthly Auto Insurance Rate by State
StateAverage Annual RateAverage Monthly Rate
Idaho$679.89$56.66
Iowa$702.46$58.54
Maine$703.82$58.65
Wisconsin$737.18$61.43
Indiana$755.03$62.92
Vermont$764.02$63.67
South Dakota$766.91$63.91
North Dakota$773.30$64.44
Ohio$788.56$65.71
North Carolina$789.09$65.76
New Hampshire$818.75$68.23
Nebraska$831.02$69.25
Virginia$842.67$70.22
Wyoming$847.44$70.62
Kansas$862.93$71.91
Montana$863.52$71.96
Alabama$868.48$72.37
Tennessee$871.43$72.62
Missouri$872.43$72.70
Utah$872.93$72.74
Hawaii$873.28$72.77
Minnesota$875.49$72.96
Illinois$884.56$73.71
Oregon$904.83$75.40
Arkansas$906.34$75.53
New Mexico$937.59$78.13
Kentucky$938.51$78.21
Washington$968.80$80.73
Pennsylvania$970.51$80.88
Arizona$972.85$81.07
South Carolina$973.10$81.09
Colorado$981.64$81.80
California$986.75$82.23
Mississippi$994.05$82.84
Oklahoma$1,005.32$83.78
West Virginia$1,025.78$85.48
Alaska$1,027.75$85.65
Georgia$1,048.40$87.37
Nevada$1,103.05$91.92
Texas$1,109.66$92.47
Maryland$1,116.45$93.04
Massachusetts$1,129.29$94.11
Connecticut$1,151.07$95.92
Delaware$1,240.57$103.38
Florida$1,257.13$104.76
Rhode Island$1,303.50$108.63
District of Columbia$1,330.73$110.89
New York$1,360.66$113.39
Michigan$1,364.00$113.67
New Jersey$1,382.79$115.23
Louisiana$1,405.36$117.11
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These rates are from 2015, so expect them to be even higher. Also, if you reside in Michigan, Florida, Louisiana, or New Jersey, these states tend to have the highest rates in the country.

A good way to save money on auto insurance while you are in the states is to purchase a six-month policy all at once rather than paying monthly rates. Many auto insurance companies offer discounts for paying your policy in full.

Another huge factor is your age. US auto insurance companies like to see foreigners that have a great deal of experience behind the wheel, and your age is the best indicator of this. If you are traveling to the US and you are 25 or older, your rates shouldn’t be too incredibly high.

However, if you are under 25, your rates could be more than double because US residents who are under 25 are a bigger risk. That’s why it’s important to get multiple quotes because some auto insurance companies (compared to other companies) offer lower rates on average to young drivers.

Don’t be surprised if you have more difficulty getting affordable auto insurance if you are under 25, even if you have an IDP. In fact, if you are under 18, you’re not permitted to obtain an IDP even though some states allow teens as young as 15 to get a driver’s license.

If you have visited the US before, and you have a bad driving record with an IDP, expect your rates to be higher. Speeding tickets, accidents, or other infractions such as driving under the influence will make a big difference in your rates.

Your credit history can also be a factor. If you have a low credit score, expect to pay higher rates. However, in some states, it’s illegal to base auto insurance rates on credit history, so study up on state laws prior to visiting.

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Frequently Asked Questions: Can you get auto insurance for non-US residents?

If you still have questions about driving in the United States, there is more detailed information in the questions below:

#1 – I forgot to get my IDP before I left my home country. What are my options now?

If you did not get your IDP before arriving in the United States, you won’t legally be allowed to drive. You will have to consider some of the following transportation options:

  • Public Transportation – Trains and/or buses are available in most major cities.
  • Taxi cabs – In areas where tourism is popular, taxi cabs are common. For safety reasons, don’t get into a taxi that is not clearly marked.
  • Ridesharing – If you find yourself in need of a ride outside of most major cities, rideshare options like Uber and Lyft are an easy way to get around. You will need to follow some basic safety rules when using rideshare apps, including verifying the license plate to make sure you are getting in the right vehicle and checking the door upon entering to make sure the child safety lock is not engaged.
  • Intercity Bus Lines – If you are interested in traveling across multiple cities and states, an intercity bus line like Greyhound or Peter Pan is an easy, affordable way to get where you need to be.

If public transit is not for you, it’s in your best interest to get insurance.

#2 – Can I use my IDP as a form of identification?

Your IDP will have your photo along with your personal information, so it is possible to use it as a form of identification.

It is, in fact, a United Nations regulated travel document, so it does hold some authority as an ID. For most purposes, however, your passport will be your best form of identification.

There are some places in the United States that have very strict laws regarding foreign citizens, so it is important to make sure you have all of your identification with you, including your passport, your local driver’s license, and your IDP when driving.

#3 – I don’t have my local driver’s license from my home country with me. Can I just use my IDP?

Your IDP is only valid when presented in conjunction with your local license. This means that forgetting your local license renders you legally unable to drive, rent a car, or purchase auto insurance in the United States, even if you have your IDP.

#4 – Is there an age limit on an IDP?

You must be 18 or older to be issued an IDP.

#5 – Where can I find answers to questions about travel insurance and auto insurance while I am traveling in the US?

There are several places you can find answers to your questions, including:

  • AAA – The American Automobile Association, better known as AAA, can assist you with all sorts of car and driving questions, including car repairs, insurance, travel information, and much more. Read more in this auto club auto insurance review.
  • Local Government – If you are traveling and you need answers to questions about local laws and regulations, you can check with the city or state government wherever you happen to be. For example, if you have questions while in New York, you can use their state government website to find answers to your questions or phone numbers of people to call for assistance.
  • Your Embassy– Your home country is very likely to have at least one embassy located in the United States. You can use the linked government site to find the contact information for your embassy if you need help with identification or other issues as you travel in the U.S. If you’ve been in an accident or there is another situation where you might have a legal problem, reach out to your embassy right away.

Your auto insurance representative might even be able to answer your question; don’t be afraid to ask around.

#6 – Why do so many countries require an IDP to allow visitors to drive?

An IDP serves multiple purposes, including:

  • Translating your information – An IDP will list your information in ten languages, making it easy for authorities in almost every country to understand your document.
  • Explaining your authorizations – Your IDP will list any and all certifications currently on your driver’s license. This means drivers certified to drive a motorcycle or a large truck will have that available on their IDP as well.
  • Certifying your documents – The IDP is proof that your current driver’s license is both valid and accurate, preventing issues that could earn you citations, fees, or even jail time in another country.
  • Preventing ID theft and forgery – Creating one, universal document means that police officers and customs agents around the globe are not tasked with determining the legitimacy of 150 different driver’s licenses from around the world. This makes it easy to verify if a document is legitimate and reduces the number of resources wasted in already overburdened systems.

It’s best to be safe.

#7 – Are there road trips I should definitely take once I get insured?

Road trips are a uniquely American experience, which often means people coming to visit the United States are interested in giving it a go. If you want to try your hand at traveling the U.S. Interstates, here are some of the most famous routes to take:

  • Route 66 – This road trip has been immortalized by the famous song, but there are so many other reasons to consider driving from Lake Michigan all the way to Los Angeles, CA. You’ll get to see amazing things like Cadillac Ranch, the world’s largest rocking chair, and the bright lights of Las Vegas, NV.
  • Pacific Coast Highway – In comparison to Route 66, this is a blissfully short three-day drive. You will get to see everything from the Golden Gate Bridge to Big Sur National Park.
  • U.S. 50/The Lonely Road – U.S. 50 crosses 12 states, but it has been nicknamed The Lonely Road because of the stretch of highway in Nevada where you can drive significant distances without seeing anything but the gorgeous desert scenery.
  • The Oregon Trail – This one may not have originally involved a car, but today you can drive the incredibly famous Oregon trail. It isn’t quite as impressive to make the journey by car, but you also won’t die of dysentery, so there is something to be said for doing it the easy way.
  • I-95 – If you want to see everything there is to see along America’s east coast, I-95 is the road that will take you there. Go from the top of Maine to the bottom of the Florida peninsula and see everything in between, including the famous city skyline of NYC, the Washington D.C. monuments, the big blue bug of Providence, RI, and so much more.

Are you ready to buy auto insurance for non-U.S. citizens? For affordable auto insurance for non-U.S. citizens, enter your ZIP code below to access auto insurance quotes for non-U.S. citizens from top companies in your area.

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