UPDATED: Aug 14, 2020
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|Summary Details||From the Experts...|
|Anyone driving in the U.S., regardless of citizenship or country of origin, must have a valid driver's license||USA.gov|
|Some states require foreign drivers to carry an international driving permit||USA.gov|
|The U.S. does not provide International Driving Permits to foreign visitors, so you'll need to obtain one prior to your trip to the U.S.||USA.gov|
The United States attracts millions of visitors every year. Some of them stay for just a couple of weeks and some for a lot longer. One of the things that all visitors to the U.S. have in common, however, is that if they intend to drive a car in the states, auto insurance for non-US residents is required.
There are no exceptions to this rule. Short term visitors usually either rent a car or borrow one from friends or family. In either case, it is the responsibility of the renter or lender to make sure that visitors will be legally covered by car insurance for foreigners in the USA. Visitors staying longer-term may buy a car to get around in. In this case, it is the visitor’s responsibility to ensure the car has enough auto insurance to legally drive in America.
We know finding out the exact rules about car insurance in the U.S. can be frustrating and overwhelming. But that’s why we’re here. In this article we’ll cover minimum auto insurance requirements, ways you can obtain insurance coverage as a visitor, whether or not you’ll need to obtain an international driving permit, and more.
Before we get started, you can get a free quote on auto insurance using the ZIP code of the hotel or area in which you’ll be staying.
Auto Insurance Requirements for Non-US Residents
The requirement that every driver on the road maintain auto insurance is in place to financially protect everyone on the road. Car insurance for foreign visitors is no exception to this. So what are the car insurance for non-residents requirements? Are international driving permits required? Keep reading to learn more.
What are the insurance requirements in the U.S.?
The law states that all vehicles must have liability coverage only, or liability coverage with fire, theft, property damage coverage, bodily injury coverage, and personal injury protection (PIP). These coverage requirements, which vary by state, apply to private passenger vehicles, motorcycles, and light passenger vans.
Take a look at this table to see a quick summary of the minimum insurance coverage requirements by state, according to the Insurance Information Institute.Minimum Liability Auto Insurance Requirements by State
|State||Auto insurance requirements||Minimum car insurance liability limits|
|Alabama||BI & PD Liab||25/50/25|
|Alaska||BI & PD Liab||50/100/25|
|Arizona||BI & PD Liab||15/30/10|
|Arkansas||BI & PD Liab, PIP||25/50/25|
|California||BI & PD Liab||15/30/5|
|Colorado||BI & PD Liab||25/50/15|
|Connecticut||BI & PD Liab, UM, UIM||25/50/20|
|Delaware||BI & PD Liab, PIP||25/50/10|
|District of Columbia||BI & PD Liab, UM||25/50/10|
|Florida||PD Liab, PIP||10/20/10|
|Georgia||BI & PD Liab||25/50/25|
|Hawaii||BI & PD Liab, PIP||20/40/10|
|Idaho||BI & PD Liab||25/50/15|
|Illinois||BI & PD Liab, UM, UIM||25/50/20|
|Indiana||BI & PD Liab||25/50/25|
|Iowa||BI & PD Liab||20/40/15|
|Kanses||BI & PD Liab, PIP||25/50/25|
|Kentucky||BI & PD Liab, PIP, UM, UIM||25/50/25|
|Louisiana||BI & PD Liab||15/30/25|
|Maine||BI & PD Liab, UM, UIM, Medpay||50/100/25|
|Maryland||BI & PD Liab, PIP, UM, UIM||30/60/15|
|Massachusetts||BI & PD Liab, PIP||20/40/5|
|Michigan||BI & PD Liab, PIP||20/40/10|
|Minnesota||BI & PD Liab, PIP, UM, UIM||30/60/10|
|Mississipi||BI & PD Liab||25/50/25|
|Missouri||BI & PD Liab, UM||25/50/25|
|Montana||BI & PD Liab||25/50/20|
|Nebraska||BI & PD Liab, UM, UIM||25/50/25|
|Nevada||BI & PD Liab||25/50/20|
|New Hampshire||FR only||25/50/25|
|New Jersey||BI & PD Liab, PIP, UM, UIM||15/30/5|
|New Mexico||BI & PD Liab||25/50/10|
|New York||BI & PD Liab, PIP, UM, UIM||25/50/10|
|North Carolina||BI & PD Liab, UM, UIM||30/60/25|
|North Dakota||BI & PD Liab, PIP, UM, UIM||25/50/25|
|Ohio||BI & PD Liab||25/50/25|
|Oklahoma||BI & PD Liab||25/50/25|
|Oregon||BI & PD Liab, PIP, UM, UIM||25/50/20|
|Pennsylvania||BI & PD Liab, PIP||15/30/5|
|Rhode Island||BI & PD Liab||25/50/25|
|South Carolina||BI & PD Liab, UM, UIM||25/50/25|
|South Dakota||BI & PD Liab, UM, UIM||25/50/25|
|Tennessee||BI & PD Liab||25/50/15|
|Texas||BI & PD Liab, PIP||30/60/25|
|Utah||BI & PD Liab, PIP||25/65/15|
|Vermont||BI & PD Liab, UM, UIM||25/50/10|
|Virginia||BI & PD Liab, UM, UIM||25/50/20|
|Washington||BI & PD Liab||25/50/10|
|West Virginia||BI & PD Liab, UM, UIM||25/50/25|
|Wisconsin||BI & PD Liab, UM, Medpay||25/50/10|
|Wyoming||BI & PD Liab||25/50/20|
For reference in looking at the information in the above table:Minimum Liability Car Insurance Abbreviations
|PD||Property Damage Liability|
|PIP||Personal Injury Protection|
To learn a bit more about liability coverage, take a look at this video.
Ultimately this means that any vehicle on U.S. roads must have insurance. This includes both drivers who are not residents and cars on the road that are owned by non-residents and non-citizens. The law clearly states that drivers who arrive in the U.S. from a foreign country can drive on U.S. roads as long as they have ensure they have appropriate insurance coverage the USA.
For drivers entering the country from Canada or Mexico, this is certainly something to take into consideration. If you are from either of these countries, make sure your existing car insurance policy will cover you when you cross the border. The patrol guards at the border check-points will often check to make sure you have valid insurance before entering the country. They will also make sure you have a valid driver’s license.
For visitors entering the country by plane or boat, and not driving their own vehicle over the border (not from Canada or Mexico), you’ll need to buy auto insurance on your own, as your auto insurance coverage back home most likely won’t cover you in the U.S. Continue reading below to find out what car insurance coverage you will need.
What kind of insurance policy should I get?
The extent of car insurance coverage that a non-US citizen will be required to buy depends on the type of vehicle, who owns it, and its value. The following policy options are available when looking for car insurance for UK drivers in the USA as well as drivers from any other country but Canada and Mexico (recall we already discussed some of the exceptions associated with drivers from those two countries).
If a non-U.S. citizen is renting a car, the rental car company will work with you on the insurance requirements before renting it to you. Rental car insurance for tourists in the USA is not automatically included, so if you want insurance through your rental car company, you’ll need to purchase it as an add-on to the rental agreement.
Rental car companies want to protect their product, so they will go over every insurance detail with a fine-toothed comb before renting it away. Before purchasing insurance from a rental car company, however, check to see if your credit card company covers rental car insurance.
When borrowing a car from someone, you typically won’t need to purchase insurance to drive a friend’s car in the USA. If the owner has full coverage insurance on their vehicle, it should be safe to drive regardless, though the vehicle owner will still need to check with their insurer (for example, Geico car insurance). A foreign license to drive may or may not be sufficient when the visitor is driving your vehicle (more on this later).
If the car owner has liability insurance that meets their state’s minimum requirements, it might not be necessary to take out a policy with higher coverage, but it’s still a good idea. To be completely safe, a relatively low-cost method of ensuring the car is fully covered is for the policyholder to add the foreign guest as a temporary additional driver on their policy.
If a non-U.S. citizen is buying a car in the United States, then the value of the car will again play a role in determining how much insurance coverage is needed. If the car is of low-value, then auto liability insurance will probably be sufficient. If the car is of a higher value, then comprehensive or full insurance is recommended.
If you choose to purchase a policy, you’ll need to shop around to find out which companies sell car insurance to foreign drivers. For example, Progressive offers car insurance for foreigners in the USA, as does Farmers, but many other companies do not.
Do I need a special driver’s license?
Every driver on the road in the U.S. must have a valid drivers license. So while you may be able to purchase auto insurance with a passport, you won’t be able to drive without a license.
Canadian and Mexican drivers licenses will be valid for use in the United States, but drivers entering the country that are citizens of other countries might need to have an international driver’s license or an international driving permit (IDP) to drive in the US.
While IDPs are not a federal requirement, depending on where you’re planning to go, they may be required at the state level. Additionally, some rental car companies may require an IDP before they will rent you vehicle.
What steps should I take to prepare for driving in the U.S.?
Non-U.S. citizens who intend to drive a car during their visit should make a few inquiries on the steps involved before arriving. Asking friends and acquaintances for tips is always a good idea. Contacting an American insurance agent, however, is probably the most recommended thing to do before stepping foot on U.S. soil and getting behind the wheel of a vehicle.
Buying auto insurance for a non-U.S. citizen who is visiting the country does not need to be a complicated matter. All that is needed is some local knowledge and a little common sense, both of which are things a local insurance agent can provide.
Is there anything else I need to know about auto insurance coverage as a visitor to the U.S.?
There are a few more items to keep in mind as you plan for your next visit to the U.S. and consider whether to purchase car insurance for travelers, obtain an IDP, etc.:
- Unless you are entering from Canada or Mexico, an international driver’s license might be required and it will need to be applied for and issued in the visitor’s country of origin.
- Contrary to many reports, visitors to the U.S. are NOT required to have a local social security number (SSN) in order to apply for car insurance in America. Just let the insurance company know that you don’t have one and it shouldn’t be a problem.
- For a foreign visitor, purchasing short-term tourist car insurance in the USA (under six months) can be an expensive endeavor, and it may be more cost-effective to take out long-term insurance and then cancel the policy before the end of the visit.
Regardless of what you choose, as long as you plan to drive in the U.S., some form of insurance coverage is required. Enter your zip code below to view companies that have cheap auto insurance rates. Secured with SHA-256 Encryption
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The Bottom Line for Auto Insurance for Non-Residents
Renting a car is usually the first option for most short-term visitors, in which case the rental company will take care of all of the details before renting you the car. Borrowing a vehicle requires little of a visitor, as the vehicle’s owner is responsible for ensuring any visitors are temporarily added to the policy. However, buying a vehicle is a more complicated issue that requires the visitor to contact a local car insurance company.
No matter what, it is of extreme importance that the visitor follows all local laws and meets the local insurance requirements of whatever place to which they intend to travel. The United States is a great place to visit but has a vast, complex legal system that is not always forgiving to foreign visitors who do not respect the law.
Still have questions about auto insurance for non-U.S. citizens and non-U.S. residents? Read through these frequently asked questions to learn more.
How much does minimum liability auto insurance coverage cost?
If you choose to purchase a long term policy with the intent to cancel once you leave the U.S., the average cost for a policy by state is summarized in this table, populated with data from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC).The Average Minimum Liability Auto Insurance Coverage Rates by State
|State||The Average Liability Car Insurance Rates Per Year|
|District of Columbia||$628.09|
These are average annual rates and may vary based on your specific circumstances.
Is there an independent agent near me that offers international drivers licenses?
If you’re planning to visit the U.S. and would like to obtain an international driver’s license, you’ll need to speak with experts in your country, as the U.S. does not provide international drivers licenses or permits to foreign visitors.
If you’re a U.S. citizen looking to obtain an international drivers license prior to traveling abroad, you’ll need to do so either through the Automobile Association of America (AAA) or the American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA). They are the only two organizations in the country that currently provide IDPs to U.S. citizens.
And don’t forget you’ll probably need international driving insurance as well; to obtain this, you can start by speaking with your insurer and your credit card company to find out your options.
Can a foreign visitor drive my car?
Technically the answer is yes, but as we noted above, you’ll need to make sure that your insurance policy is adequate and temporarily includes your foreign visitors, which you can do by calling your insurance agent.
Can I purchase U.S. car insurance for expats?
If you’re a U.S. citizen living in another country as an expat, you’ll likely need to purchase auto insurance through a provider in your country of residence. Depending on how long you plan to live abroad, you may also be able to purchase temporary international car insurance coverage, which you may or may not be able to obtain through your U.S. insurer; you’ll need to speak to a licensed insurance agent to find out whether they offer this.
Bon voyage! But before you go, use the ZIP code of the area you’ll be visiting to get a free quote on auto insurance today.