In the United States, it’s illegal to drive a vehicle without a license and auto insurance.

Each U.S. state has different laws regarding coverage limits, so getting behind the wheel as an international driver can seem overwhelming.

As a visa holder, the cost of your car insurance will be more than the average U.S. citizen’s because you don’t have an American driving record or credit score. These two records are used by car insurance companies to determine how much of a risk you are on the roads and whether or not you’ll cost a significant amount of money to cover. But don’t let this hold you back from using your one-year international driving permit (IDP)! There are many ways to save on insurance so that you can spend more time and money on your visit.

Cheapest Car Insurance Quotes for International Drivers

Insurify crunched the numbers and determined the cheapest and most expensive companies for international drivers. See which carriers have the lowest and highest generic quotes for non-U.S.-born drivers:

Cheapest Car Insurance Companies

Insurance CompanyLowest Rate
Farmers$38/month
First Chicago$38/month
Kemper$38/month
Bristol West$40/month
Dairyland$42/month

Most Expensive Car Insurance Companies

Insurance CompanyLowest Rate
Arrowhead$323/month
Plymouth Rock$144/month
Aggressive$119/month
National General$100/month
Freedom National$92/month

Discounts for International Drivers

How to Get Car Insurance with an International Driver’s Permit

As you can expect, the process of getting car insurance coverage will vary depending on whether you’re a short-term visitor to the United States, staying permanently, awaiting a visa, and/or on the pathway to citizenship.

Before coming to the U.S., you must prepare the proper documents that are required to show that you can legally drive on American roadways. There are two documents you must have to legally drive in the States:

  1. Your foreign driver’s license (that is, your driver’s license from your home country).
  2. An International Driving Permit or IDP. Driver’s licenses come in many different languages. So you might benefit from getting an IDP to shows that you are legally licensed to drive in our home country. An IDP is not a valid driver’s license, but a translation of your “foreign” license from your home country. Drivers over 18 and with a valid license may qualify for an IDP. You must receive an IDP from the same country that issued your driver’s license.

These two documents should prove that you can operate on U.S. roadways in lieu of taking a driving test in the U.S.

If you’re renting a car during your short-term stay in the U.S., your car rental company might offer insurance.

Students, visa holders, and more: if you’re staying for more than six months in the country, you might be eligible for lower rates at the end of your six-month policy period. Your driving history, good student status, on-time payment habits, and more might qualify you for a lower rate with your current carrier or a different insurance company.

Compare car insurance quotes with Insurify to get an estimate on how much you could save.

How to save on your insurance policy in the U.S.

Insurify can help you choose a car insurance provider by letting you compare quotes from 10+ companies all at once. 

Find an insurance company that understands international drivers’ specific needs and would be able to give you advice on coverages. Larger insurance companies offer some international driver insurance that won’t charge you with unnecessary fees.

Buying Car Insurance in the U.S.

The following coverage levels are required of every person driving on U.S. roadways.

Bodily injury liability and property damage liability are the two most essential components of your auto insurance policy. State minimum insurance requirements will vary. The minimum amount of liability coverage for which you’re eligible will vary by state. Learn more about car insurance requirements in your state here.

Other optional car insurance coverages include:

  • Comprehensive coverage
  • Collision coverage
  • Personal Injury Protection (mandatory in some states)
  • Medical Payments coverage
  • Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage
  • Roadside assistance (You can also sign up for emergency roadside assistance through AAA, an independent service provider)
  • And more

Other tips you should be aware of:

  • Be aware of where your new apartment, house, and/or job is located. When setting your premiums, insurance providers consider the crime and traffic rates of where your car spends most of its time. If your home or office is located in an area with high rates of both, you may want to add on security and/or collision coverages that will cover you in the event of theft or damages. You can even get a discount if you buy an anti-theft or tracking device for your car.
  • If you have a family member living in the U.S. already and you’ll be moving to the same state as them, ask them about adding you to their policy. Your primary residence address will have to be the same as the person whose policy you’re joining. Having multiple people on one policy is cheaper than owning one on your own. Likely, the policyholder will get multi-car and multi-driver discounts from the insurance provider. This way, you only need to pay the new charge added to this family member’s policy.
  • If you’re visiting the U.S. for fewer than six months and a family member or friend is letting you borrow their vehicle, make sure they add you to their policy as a short-term coverage user.

Buying a Car in the U.S.

  • Rent a vehicle that’s already insured if you’re going to be in the U.S. for under six months. In this case, car insurance comes automatically with your rental. The coverage with a rental comes as an additional fee.
  • You can also get car insurance by renting a vehicle with your credit card if your rental car company and/or credit card company allows. You’ll get the protection you need at no additional cost. Call these companies beforehand and ask whether or not the policies apply to the U.S.; if the policy includes collision, comprehensive, and liability coverage and their respective coverage limits; and whether a fee applies.
  • If you’ve decided to buy your own car, consider buying one that has up-to-date safety features. Vehicles that include full-front airbags and restraint devices can qualify you for safe driving discounts.
  • Along with shopping for a car with safety features, remember that reliable vehicles such as family sedans are usually cheaper to insure, especially if these vehicles were bought used. Convertibles are cool, but higher premiums aren’t.

Commuting and Driving as a Non-U.S. Citizen

  • Make sure you follow your state’s specific rules for visas and international driver’s licenses. You don’t want points on your driving record that will lead to even higher premiums.
  • If you plan on staying in the U.S. for more than a year, it’s recommended that you get a U.S. driver’s license instead of relying on your international permit, even if you don’t plan on becoming a citizen. You’ll avoid fees pinned on international drivers if you’re fully licensed in the states.
  • If you just moved to the U.S. and plan to drive to school or work frequently, make sure to make an educated guess on your mileage when purchasing car insurance. Mileage doesn’t only help set insurance rates, but coverages, too. If you aren’t sure how much driving is considered a lot or a little, contact your agent.
  • Ask yourself if you need a car in the first place. Are you moving to a city with a reliable public transportation system? Will you be able to get to and from work or school with the subway or bus? If so, you could save a lot of money by simply opting out of a car.
  • If you do have access to public transportation but still want a vehicle for out-of-town trips, make sure to add that you’re only an occasional driver on your car insurance policy. Lower mileage means lower monthly payments.
  • Consider buying higher than your state minimum liability insurance coverage, especially if you don’t have much in savings. You might never financially recover from being found at fault in an accident if you don’t have sufficient insurance to cover the cost of damages.
  • Don’t choose the highest deductible simply because it will lower your premium. You may agree to a deductible that is beyond your financial limits. It’s smart to select the highest possible deductible that you can afford, but it’s essential to figure out how much you can pay out of pocket if you have to at a moment’s notice.

Frequently Asked Questions: Car Insurance for International Drivers

Can I get car insurance with an international driving permit (IDP)?

You can get American car insurance if you have both an IDP and a valid driver's license issued from the same country. These are the equivalent of a valid U.S. driver's license, authorizing you to drive on American roadways. Note that each country has different rules and regulations about getting an IDP.

Can I get car insurance with a foreign license?

If you have a license to drive from your home country, you will need that and an IDP (an international driving permit) to prove you can drive on U.S. roadways without having to take a U.S. driving test or get a U.S. driver's license. It is recommended that you get a U.S. driver's license if you plan to stay in the U.S. for longer than six months to a year.

How can I compare American car insurance companies?

Use a car insurance quotes comparison site like Insurify to compare rates from top companies and save on your policy premiums. Whether you're from Canada, the Maldives, or Uzbekistan, drivers looking for car insurance in America can save big by comparing quotes in advance—not just trusting one company or agent.

Conclusion: Saving big on car insurance with Insurify

In need of American car insurance? We’ve got your back. Compare up to 10+ quotes, unlock discounts, and save up to hundreds on your car insurance premium with Insurify.

 

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Updated March 5, 2020

Nick Dehn is a writer currently serving as a content specialist for Insurify. A seasoned writer, Nick has produced feature pieces, opinion editorials, and press releases for start-ups, small businesses, and local news publications. He now develops content full-time for Insurify, researching and writing data-driven studies and producing insights on the insurance industry. Nick is an alumnus of Williams College, where he graduated cum laude with a degree in English and Sociology. He hails from Wilton, CT but has recently set roots in Cambridge, MA. Nick enjoys exploring the greater Boston area, making stir-fry, and award-show prognosticating.