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How to Get Car Insurance as an Immigrant or Non-U.S. Citizen

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Owning or having access to a car can be convenient and helpful, but it comes with some rules. If you move to the United States, a car can help make things feel like home, but you should make sure you have the insurance coverage you need to stay safe and also to follow state laws. Whether you’re a new driver or already have a driver’s license, having car insurance is required.

With hundreds of insurance companies in the market, finding the right policy for you might feel overwhelming, especially if you’re already making a move to a new country. Luckily, quote-comparison tools can do the legwork of comparison for you. You can find auto insurance quotes to help you compare costs and save money.

Quick Facts

  • Car insurance is required for any motorist looking to drive in the United States.

  • Even if you already have a valid driver’s license, insurance companies see recent immigrants as “new drivers” because they don’t have a U.S. driving history yet.

  • New drivers have higher insurance rates than more experienced ones.

The Basics: What You Need to Know

Each state has its own set of minimum requirements for car insurance. Regardless of each state’s laws, it’s important to know that a car insurance policy is required in nearly every single state if you decide to get behind the wheel. Speak with an insurance agent if you need more information on your state’s insurance requirements.

When you start looking up auto insurance rates, don’t be surprised if they look expensive at first. The average cost of car insurance in the United States is $234 per month. You can save through discounts, driving programs, and more. Car insurance companies take a number of factors into account when calculating how much you will pay.

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If your immigration status into the U.S. was just recently approved, it’s likely that insurers will see you as a “new driver,” even if you have been driving for years. This is because a newly attained U.S. driver’s license means that your driving history starts fresh, despite prior experience, and companies really consider it when calculating costs. The same goes for your new credit score.

Your unique driving record, financial health, and more all get taken into account when auto insurance companies figure out your premium (the amount you pay for your insurance policy) and your deductible (the amount of money you pay for an accident before insurance kicks in). Insurers also consider the type of car you drive, where you live, your gender, your age, and more.

A Typical Car Insurance Policy in the United States

Most states require your coverage to have liability insurance at the very minimum. This can help cover medical expenses and property damage endured by another driver if you are at fault for an accident. Be sure to note, though, that it does not cover your own costs. Also, be aware of the two types of liability coverage: bodily injury and property damage.

Some states might require personal injury protection (PIP), which helps pay for your own medical expenses, making it different from bodily injury liability insurance. This additional coverage can help give you peace of mind behind the wheel, especially if you’re driving in a new country for the first time and want some extra cushion to help adjust to driving laws and rules.

There are add-ons you can get to customize your policy. Uninsured and underinsured coverage help if the driver who causes the damage does not have enough insurance coverage to reimburse the full claim amount. Comprehensive coverage has you covered in case something other than a collision happens, like vandalism, bad weather, or theft.

See More: Best Car Insurance Companies

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How to Get Car Insurance as an Undocumented Immigrant

What’s the best car insurance for immigrants and non-US citizens?

All drivers operating a vehicle in the United States, regardless of immigration status, need insurance coverage. Here’s Insurify’s guide to the best.

Your Immigration Status and What It Means

Every single person in the United States has an immigration status, from a U.S. citizen to an undocumented immigrant. Someone’s immigration status explains the way they are present in the country. Some examples are:

  • U.S. citizen

  • Legal permanent resident, also known as a “green card holder”: This status can be supported by family petitions, employer petitions, refugee or asylum status, or other avenues of entry.

  • Non-immigrant: This is a person with a temporary visa, like a student, visitor, or temporary worker.

  • Undocumented immigrant: This is someone who has overstayed their visa or entered the U.S. without the necessary paperwork. Some states might refer to undocumented immigrants as “illegal immigrants”; however, this term may be less commonly used.

If you are an undocumented immigrant and need car insurance coverage, there are resources to support you. One of the most important things to know is your state’s laws because the ability to get a U.S. driver’s license varies from state to state. Some states will offer a license or another form of driving identification, regardless of status or lack of a Social Security number.

These states let their residents apply for a driver’s license, even if they’re undocumented:

For those under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, be sure to check if you qualify for a license. This program exists to protect those who immigrated to the U.S. as children (likely with their parents when they were very young) from deportation. This means that those covered by DACA can likely apply for a driver’s license, no matter what state they live in.

See More: Cheap Car Insurance

How to Save Money on Your Car Insurance Policy

When looking up car insurance quotes, you might be shocked at first when you see high prices. Even if you’ve been driving for years, your driving record resets once you become a licensed driver in the United States. Because new drivers start from zero and need to work their way up, car insurance companies see new, foreign drivers as high-risk when operating motor vehicles and raise prices accordingly.

One of the best ways to keep costs low is by building a clean driving history, free of violations, tickets, collisions, and accidents. The good thing about starting fresh is that you can be extra intentional about practicing safe driving, which will really help you in the long run.

However, if you’re looking for ways to save almost immediately upon arriving, check these tips out:

Research car insurance discounts. Each insurance company offers its own array of discounts, some more than others. The good thing is that there is a wide variety of savings, which can help people who have children in school, who have a car with safety features, safe drivers, and more. Check to see which ones you qualify for.

Compare auto insurance policies. Every company will offer a different car insurance rate after taking multiple factors into account, like your driving history, credit score, driver profile, and more. You may find cheaper rates at different places, even with the same exact credentials and needs. Insurify is the best place to get side-by-side comparisons.

Research your state laws. Some states, like California, offer low-cost auto insurance programs, which makes a pricey auto insurance policy more easily available to low-income drivers who qualify.

Be careful about what car you choose. Fancy sports cars cost more to insure and to repair. Vehicles that are associated with careful family driving, like minivans and sedans, are seen as safer and typically cost less to insure. Prioritize your needs and how they might affect your rates.

Consider your area. Insurers take your location—from your state to your ZIP code—into account when figuring out your rates.

  • If you move to a city that has high crime rates or bad traffic, you might end up paying more due to a higher risk of theft, vandalism, or damage.

  • If a less risky area isn’t an option, consider investing in collision coverage to protect your car, as well as safety features for your vehicle, like automatic locks, to get discounts.

Check if there’s access to public transit. Having a car can definitely be convenient, but it comes with its costs. You can potentially eliminate additional expenses altogether by choosing a city with convenient public transit options, moving closer to your job for an easier commute, or opting to walk or use a bike instead.

  • Also, be sure to keep track of your mileage and see if you qualify for low-mileage discounts. If you take public transportation more often than not and only drive occasionally, list yourself as an “occasional driver” on your policy to save.

Get added to someone else’s policy. If you have family in the U.S. or are joining your partner, see if you can join their auto insurance policy. This is more likely to work if you live at the same primary residence, and it can help all involved get access to discounts like multi-driver and multi-car discounts.

See More: Best and Worst Sites to Compare Car Insurance

How to Get the Best Car Insurance as an Immigrant or Non-U.S. Citizen

Moving to another country is exciting and full of opportunities. The last thing you want clouding your dreams is the stress of making sure you’re following the law when you get behind the wheel. Thankfully, there are many steps you can take to save and find the coverage you need, regardless of immigration status.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • At the very minimum, every state in the U.S. requires liability coverage. This means your policy needs to include bodily injury liability and property damage liability to cover you when you are at fault for an accident. A handful of other states also require personal injury protection (PIP) to make sure you’re covered. Other add-ons are completely optional but can be useful.

  • Every state has its own department of motor vehicles (DMV) or registry of motor vehicles (RMV). This facility is operated and funded by the state government and offers services that follow that state’s laws. Here, you can apply for a driver’s license, pay bills, and more.

  • Yes, depending on which state you live in. Some states will offer a license or another form of driving identification, regardless of your immigration status or lack of a Social Security number. For this reason, be sure to research your state’s laws and what it offers.

  • The best way to save on your auto insurance policy is to shop around before committing to one. Insurify makes it easy to compare multiple quotes and find the best rate for your needs and budget. In just a matter of minutes and at no cost to you, we do all the work to go through millions of quotes and find you the best ones.

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  • Data scientists at Insurify analyzed more than 40 million real-time auto insurance rates from our partner providers across the United States to compile the car insurance quotes, statistics, and data visualizations displayed on this page. The car insurance data includes coverage analysis and details on drivers' vehicles, driving records, and demographic information. Quotes for Allstate, Farmers, GEICO, State Farm, and USAA are estimates based on Quadrant Information Service's database of auto insurance rates. With these insights, Insurify is able to offer drivers insight into how companies price their car insurance premiums.

Maria Sanchez
Maria SanchezInsurance Writer

Maria Sanchez is a personal finance writer specializing in auto, home, and renters insurance. With a special interest in educational content, Maria distills complex financial information to be more accessible to the greater public. She holds degrees from the University of Massachusetts and the London School of Economics.