Auto Insurance For Foreign Visitors Who Want To Drive In The U.S.

Posted on: 24 July 2017

While a foreign visitor can usually buy or rent a vehicle for use while temporarily staying or traveling in the U.S., purchasing an auto insurance policy may not be as easy. The problem is if you can't get auto insurance, you can't legally register the vehicle you buy. In most states, you won't be able to drive either.

Potential Obstacles

Many insurance companies require that individuals who purchase auto insurance have a U.S. address. Some insurers also require that a person buying auto insurance have a state-issued driver's license. Otherwise, the company won't issue a policy.

There is always the question of liability if an accident occurs. Most states require that drivers carry at least the minimum bodily injury liability coverage mandated by state law.

If you find a company willing to issue you a policy as a non-resident driver, there is a good chance that the insurer will charge you a higher rate than what U.S. residents pay. That's because the company doesn't know your driving history and that makes you a higher risk.

Advance Planning

If you are planning a trip to the U.S. and want to drive a vehicle during your stay here, there are steps for buying auto insurance that you can take beforehand.

  1. Shop auto insurance companies ahead of time. Search online for U.S. auto insurers willing to provide coverage to non-residents. Even if you are a licensed driver in your primary country of residence, U.S. coverage can be harder to come by if you don't have a valid U.S. driver's license.

  2. Compare insurance rates. Once you identify companies willing to sell you an auto insurance policy, get multiple quotes on premium rates. You'll need to have an idea of the make, model, and year of the vehicle you intend to drive since this information affects the rate you pay. The insurance company also needs to know whether you will be driving primarily for business, work, commute to school, or simply for pleasure while you are in the U.S.

  3. Show that you have a license issued in your home country. If you don't at least have a driver's license from another country, you may not be able to get U.S. auto insurance coverage. Some states also require that foreign nationals have an international driving permit from the country that issued their driver's license.

    If you are entering the U.S. from Canada or Mexico and driving a vehicle registered in either of those countries, many U.S. insurers will offer you insurance coverage as long as you have a valid driver's license from that country.

  4. Talk to your employer. If your job requires international travel and you are traveling in the U.S. on business, you may be insured to drive a vehicle through the company that employs you.

    Another option is to add auto insurance coverage to a travel insurance policy you buy in the country where you reside before you leave on your trip to the U.S.

  5. Get your name added to another person's policy. When visiting a family member or friend in the States who is a U.S. resident, that person may be able to add your name to his or her auto insurance policy. You must drive an insured vehicle that the other person owns and to whom the vehicle is legally registered.

However you choose to get insured, keep in mind that if you drive in the U.S. without insurance, you may face penalties if you are caught. If you are involved in a motor vehicle accident and don't have insurance, stiffer penalties may apply even if you weren't at fault. Contact an auto insurance company, such as Lanham Insurance Agency, to ask for more information about getting auto insurance as a foreign visitor.