Auto Insurance for International Students

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Rachel Bodine graduated from college with a BA in English. She works as an associate editor and writer for for over a year and enjoys creating content that offers expert advice on car insurance topics.

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Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products including home, life, auto, and commercial and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs...

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Reviewed byLeslie Kasperowicz
Former Farmers Insurance CSR

UPDATED: Mar 13, 2020

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International students who want to drive an automobile while attending a college or university in the United States will have to purchase an International Auto Insurance policy. Most major insurance agencies, such as GEICO or State Farm, offer auto insurance for international students who have obtained an international driver’s license from their country of origin and show it the insurance agent handling their policy. The amount of a international studentsshort-term policy for someone who is not an American citizen is somewhat high because the insurer does not know anything about the applicant’s prior driving record. This expensive type of policy is how they protect themselves from the risk of insuring someone from another country which may have different driving laws and regulations.

Where to Find Insurance for International Students

The majority of universities and colleges have programs to help international students with accommodating immediate needs such as purchasing car insurance. They will assist the student in finding an insurance provider that won’t insist the student have a minimum of three years of United States driving experience before being able to cover their vehicle with their insurance. Some insurance companies do count the international student’s driving experience in his or her native country and will offer a rate comparable to that of someone who is a United States citizen. Also, before the student leaves their country, they should make sure their international driver’s license is up-to-date and clear of any fines or warrants.

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Purchasing a Car in the U.S.

If an international student wants to buy a car to use while attending school in the U.S., he or she should think about the type of car, since this will influence the amount of car insurance they will pay. An older car which was manufactured before the year 1995 will not need to be insured with comprehensive coverage. Liability coverage is fairly cheap and entirely sufficient for older cars, since it may be much less expensive to simply purchase another older car in the event the first one was totaled in an accident. The option to rent a car is also available to the international student. In this case, an insurance policy already exists on a rental car and the student will only have to pay for rental fees.

Getting an International Driver’s License

International driver’s licenses can be purchased for varying amounts of time, from one year to five years. A three year license costs $45 while a five year license can be purchases for $55. Although the minimum amount of time you can obtain an international driver’s license is for one year, one can also be purchased and validated for ten years. It is not hard to receive an international driver’s license, but you will need proper documentation, especially a valid driver’s license from your native country. Nearly all United Nations countries recognize the validity of an international driver’s license. However, it is still better if the student kept his or her regular driver’s license as another form of identification. This type of license is all that is necessary to obtain car insurance in the United States. However, after three years of driving experience within the U.S., an international student can have premium rates substantially reduced, as long as their driving record is in good standing.

Driving in the United States

Depending on what an international student’s transportation needs are, the purchase of an automobile may not be necessary, especially if they are attending a university in a larger, metropolitan area. If the student is going to be living on-campus in a dorm or apartment, he or she can probably walk or ride a bike to classes. Also, public transportation will be able to transport the student wherever they need to go around the city where the university is located. Places like New York, Washington, and Boston have excellent transportation systems in the form of buses and subways. However, if a student plans on living off-campus, then purchasing a car may be a more viable option. When choosing to use public transportation, the student should consider purchasing a prepaid bus or subway pass to save the trouble of figuring out exact change. Other bits of helpful advice for driving in the United States include:

  • Driving over the speed limit and being caught means you will be fined an expensive traffic ticket fee and the incident may raise your auto insurance rate.
  • Always having your driver’s license with you, along with vehicle registration and proof of auto insurance in your car.
  • The Department of Motor Vehicles in each state issues current driving regulations. Contact the local Bureau of Motor Vehicles for more information regarding driving rules in that state.
  • Do not drink and drive. Not only are you putting yourself and others in danger, but you could also lose your license or be put in jail. To be legally drunk in most states, you only need to have a blood alcohol concentration of 0.8 percent.
  • Carry jumper cables in your car trunk in case the car does not start. Other useful items include a flashlight, first-aid kit, spare tire, warm wool blanket and car maps.

International students should have little to no problems obtaining auto insurance in the United States. Always check with your university for help with this and any other difficulties you may encounter while studying abroad.

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