What You Need To Know

Just like U.S. citizens and residents, foreign visitors must have car insurance to legally operate a vehicle on U.S. roadways. How much coverage a foreign visitor needs depends on how long they plan to stay in the country.

Car Insurance For Short-Term Foreign Visitors

Even if you’re not a resident of the United States or you have a foreign driver’s license, you’re required by law to have car insurance if you want to own or drive a vehicle in the U.S. If you’re a short-term visitor who’s renting a car, you can usually purchase insurance from the rental agency.

However, as ValuePenguin points out, if you’re transporting your vehicle from your home country, you’ll have to purchase insurance from a U.S.-based insurance agency. Keep in mind that some agencies don’t insure foreign drivers, and you may have to apply for a new driver’s license depending on how long you plan to stay in the country.

When you purchase insurance from a car rental company, they’ll ensure that you have enough coverage to meet the minimum requirements of whatever state you’re driving in. According to CarInsurance.com, it is the rental agency’s legal responsibility to make sure that foreign visitors have enough insurance to meet those requirements.

On the other hand, if a foreign visitor is driving their own car instead of renting, it’s up to the driver to make sure that they have enough insurance. While most foreign visitors need a U.S.-based policy, if you’re visiting from Canada, your Canadian policy will usually cover you if you’re driving your own vehicle in the U.S.

According to ValuePenguin, you can expect to pay between $8 and $30 a day for rental car insurance, depending on the level of coverage you purchase. Whether you stick with minimum coverage or buy extra protection depends on what gives you the most peace of mind and how much money you’re comfortable spending.

Car Insurance For Long-Term Foreign Visitors

CarInsurance.com notes that if you are a foreign visitor who intends to buy or lease a vehicle in the United States, you’ll need to purchase an insurance policy. If you transport a vehicle from your home country and want to register it, you also have to have insurance. Keep in mind that the process for a foreign visitor to insure a car can be pretty complicated and costly.

In a survey of six of United States’ leading insurance companies, ValuePenguin found that only two will insure a driver with a foreign license. Progressive and Farmers will insure your vehicle if you have a license from your home country, while Geico, State Farm, Esurance, and Allstate require you to have a driver’s license issued in the U.S. if you want to buy coverage. It should be noted that all six of these companies sell insurance online. You might have better luck contacting another provider over the phone or in person.

If you want to purchase a policy from Progressive or Farmers, here’s what you can expect to pay for a six-month policy with minimum coverage:

  • Progressive – $391 if you have a foreign driver’s license
  • Progressive – $335 if you have a U.S. driver’s license
  • Farmers – $673 if you have a foreign driver’s license
  • Farmers – $673 if you have a U.S. driver’s license

    Unfortunately, if you’re a foreign visitor, you’ll usually end up paying more for car insurance. As CarInsurance.com points out, insurance companies typically use your driving history to calculate your rates and determine how much of a risk you are to insure. If you have a foreign driver’s license, an insurance company can’t access your driving record. They’ll often charge you the highest rates possible, just to be on the safe side.

    United States Car Insurance Requirements

    Each state has its own requirements for both driver’s licenses and car insurance coverage. For example, according to The Zebra, if you’re visiting the Commonwealth of Virginia for more than six months, you have to apply for a U.S. driver’s license. You should check with your host state’s DMV to see what their requirements are for foreign visitors.

    When it comes to car insurance, CarInsurance.com notes that if meet one state’s minimum requirements, you’re covered if you have to travel to another state temporarily. For example, if you’re staying in New York City, you’ll have to purchase enough insurance to meet the state of New York’s minimum requirements. If you end up having to drive into New Jersey, the insurance you bought in New York will cover you.

    Most states, as noted by The Zebra, require you to carry the following types of coverage:

    • Liability Coverage – If you’re in an accident and found to be at fault, liability coverage will pay for repairs to the other driver’s car and any medical care that the other driver needs.
    • Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage – If you’re in an accident that’s not your fault, uninsured motorist coverage will pay for your own medical care and car repairs if the other driver doesn’t have insurance.
    • Personal Injury Protection (PIP) – PIP pays your medical bills whether you’re at fault or the other driver is at fault.

      You can consult your host state’s DMV to see what type of coverage you need and how much coverage you need to meet that state’s minimum. If you want even more protection, The Zebra recommends adding the following types of optional coverage to your insurance policy:

      • Collision – Collision coverage pays for repairs to your vehicle if you’re in an accident that’s your fault or a single-vehicle accident. You have to pay a deductible when filing a claim.
      • Comprehensive – Comprehensive coverage pays for repairs if your vehicle is damaged due to vandalism, natural disasters, or animal-related accidents. Like collision insurance, it requires you to pay a deductible.

        Keep in mind that most insurance companies sell their policies for six months at a time. If you’re staying in the U.S. for less than six months, CarInsurance.com recommends that you ask your insurance company about their cancelation policy. You may be required to pay a cancelation fee for canceling your policy before it expires. On the other hand, it doesn’t hurt to ask if you can get a short-term policy.

        Check this out if you need additional information, resources, or guidance on car insurance.


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