Auto Insurance for Non-U.S. Residents

Temporary car insurance and rental car coverage are the most common types of auto insurance for non-U.S. residents. If you'll be in the U.S. on a long-term basis, you'll need to get a U.S. license and auto insurance policy.

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Rachel Bodine graduated from college with a BA in English. She has since worked as a Feature Writer in the insurance industry and gained a deep knowledge of state and countrywide insurance laws and rates. Her research and writing focus on helping readers understand their insurance coverage and how to find savings. Her expert advice on insurance has been featured on sites like PhotoEnforced, All...

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Written by Rachel Bodine
Feature Writer Rachel Bodine

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 Daniel Walker

UPDATED: Jun 6, 2022

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Things to Remember

  • The requirements for obtaining auto insurance as a non-U.S. resident differ from those of U.S. citizens
  • You will need an International Drivers Permit before you can get coverage from most insurance companies
  • While long-term insurance might be harder to get, there are a few temporary options for coverage

Whether you are a United States resident or not, you need car insurance if you hope to drive legally on U.S. roadways. This is the case whether you live in the country permanently or are visiting on a short- or long-term basis.

If you get into an accident and don’t have insurance, you may be on the hook for damages that you cause and/or sustain. This article will outline how to obtain car insurance in the U.S. for foreigners.

Can you get car insurance as a non-U.S. resident?

Given that most states require drivers to maintain auto insurance to drive legally, insurance companies must make coverage available to foreigners. However, there are no federal laws that dictate the availability and type of auto insurance coverage that should be offered to non-U.S. residents. 

Every insurance company maintains different requirements. If you plan to travel to and drive in the U.S., it’s important to understand your options and responsibilities as a non-citizen driver and take the appropriate steps to get the coverage you need.

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Can you drive in the States without a U.S. license?

If you possess a valid driver’s license from your home country, you can legally drive in the States for up to three months. After that, you will likely need an International Driver’s Permit to drive on most U.S. roadways. An IDP is a document that translates your ID into multiple languages. When paired with a valid driver’s license, it allows you to drive legally in 150 countries, including the United States.

Obtaining an IDP is typically easy and affordable, but you must get one from your home country’s motor vehicle department before you travel, as the U.S. doesn’t offer IDPs to non-citizens. Once you have an IDP, you may be eligible for car insurance via one of a few means.

The exception to the rule is Canadian licenses. Due to an agreement between the U.S. and Canada, Canadians do not need an IDP to drive in the U.S.

Can you get long-term insurance on a car you own if you’re not a U.S. resident?

To qualify for traditional long-term auto insurance on a vehicle you own, you may need a U.S. driver’s license. Most insurance companies that require this ask that you pass the U.S. driver’s license exam within 45 to 60 days of applying for coverage.

The good news is that there are several resources available online to help you study and pass the exam. However, if you don’t pass within the given grace period, the insurance company will refund you your premiums. If you do pass, you will need to establish residency in the state where you live. This can be done in a few ways:

  • Showing proof of employment in that state
  • Registering your children in local schools
  • Living in the state for 30 days or more
  • Engaging in some sort of trade in the state

If traditional auto insurance is not an option, you may be eligible for a short-term policy, although it can come with higher rates.

Are there any temporary insurance options for non-U.S. residents?

Depending on how long you will be visiting the United States, it may make sense to invest in a temporary auto insurance policy. Also known as a short-term auto insurance policy, this covers you for a limited amount of time, typically a minimum of six months. However, you may be able to find an insurer willing to cover you for less time. If you can’t, you may have to cancel your policy before the six months are up and accept the penalty.

If you plan to stay in the U.S. for an extended period, but not long enough to justify purchasing a long-term policy, a temporary policy may be a good fit. Short-term coverage may also be beneficial if you plan to share a vehicle with another driver, borrow a vehicle from a U.S. resident, rent a vehicle, or buy and then sell a vehicle after using it briefly.

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Can I pay for insurance on a rental car if I’m not a U.S. resident?

All reputable rental car companies in the United States offer rental car coverage to customers before they drive the cars off the lot, regardless of their residency status. Some companies even require certain drivers to purchase it. If you plan to rent a car for the duration of your stay in the U.S., it may make sense to purchase this supplemental insurance.

Though auto rental insurance policies vary from provider to provider, they are fairly comprehensive. Most policies include the following:

  • Liability insurance
  • Collision damage waiver
  • Personal accident protection
  • Personal effects insurance

This type of coverage is the easiest to obtain as a non-U.S. resident, as you do not have to provide proof of citizenship or meet other strict requirements. However, rental car insurance can be costly.

The Cost of Rental Car Coverage

Rental car coverage is expensive, so it may only be a good option if the length of time you need insurance is very short. Though the costs vary from provider to provider, the going rates for weekly rental and insurance for economy vehicles are between $230 and $575. Supplemental fees can add an extra $10 to $50 to rental car costs per day.

Compare these prices to the price of non-owner liability coverage, which is between $200 to $400 per year. Though your final rate will depend on your age, gender, driving record, and other factors, it is sure to be considerably lower than what you will pay for rental car coverage.

Getting Auto Insurance in the U.S. as a Non-U.S. Resident

Per the laws of every U.S. state, you must have auto insurance to drive within their boundaries. If you plan to drive in the United States as a non-U.S. resident, it is important to learn how to obtain coverage without a U.S. license.

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