Whether living in the U.S. as a resident or visa holder or visiting for a short time, international drivers need to have car insurance to drive on U.S. roads. MoneyGeek analyzed car insurance rates and coverages across the country to make recommendations for drivers with an international license.
Where to Find the Best Cheap Car Insurance for International Drivers
Generally speaking, anyone on the road in the United States is required to have car insurance. In every state except New Hampshire and Virginia, driving without auto insurance is illegal, and you could end up footing a hefty bill if you get into a car accident without insurance coverage. If you’re a visitor residing in the country for an extended period of time and you own or lease a car, you’ll need to buy a formal insurance policy from an insurance company.
To purchase a car insurance policy, drivers may need to show proof that they have an international driver’s license or an international driver’s permit. Alternatively, drivers can apply for a U.S. license in their resident state. If you want to know where to start, MoneyGeek dug into the data and found the best cheap car insurance companies for international drivers.
If you’re visiting the United States for a short time, you can typically get car insurance coverage directly from your car rental company without having to purchase a policy from a third party.
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How to Get Car Insurance With an International License
If you’re in the United States as a resident or on a visa and you buy or lease a car, you’ll have to buy a car insurance policy from a car insurance company. In most cases, you’ll need to provide proof of a valid license from your home country as well as an international driver’s permit. While some car insurance companies do offer policies for international drivers, other companies may be unwilling to provide you with an insurance policy if you don’t have a U.S. driver's license.
No matter what car insurance company you decide to purchase coverage from, your policy must comply with state and local requirements for minimum coverage. These may vary depending on where you live, so be sure to check with your car insurance provider to make sure that you’ve purchased the necessary coverage.
In most cases, you may want to purchase more coverage than the minimum amount required since higher coverage levels can help protect you and save you money in case of an accident. How much car insurance you need is determined by a variety of factors, including the value of your car and your budget.
Some car insurance companies may not sell you a policy if you don’t have a United States driver’s license. Since an international driver’s permit is only valid for a limited time, it makes sense to work toward getting a driver’s license if you plan to stay and drive in the U.S. long term.
The Best and Cheapest Car Insurance for Foreign Drivers
Once you obtain a U.S. driver’s license, you can easily purchase car insurance from most car insurance companies. However, if you don’t yet have an American license, some insurance companies may refuse to sell you a policy. Therefore, you’ll want to look for insurance providers that accept international driver’s licenses.
Cheap companies that accept applications from drivers with international driver’s licenses include:
- State Farm
State Farm is explicit about offering insurance policies to drivers with international licenses, while Progressive and Farmers both allow applicants to provide information from international driver’s licenses during the application process, indicating that they are open to offering coverage to drivers with a license from abroad. Drivers can contact these companies by phone to learn more about applying for insurance with an international license. The rates below will give you an idea of what to expect, but they represent average annual rates for a domestic driver. So they may not accurately represent the rates an international driver might pay.
Companies With the Most Affordable Insurance for Foreign Drivers
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Keep in mind that even companies that do provide insurance to drivers with an international license typically charge higher rates. This is because it’s more difficult for companies to find information about driving history, credit score and other factors.
Car Insurance for Foreign Drivers Staying Long-Term by State
The best and cheapest car insurance companies nationally may not be the same as the best and cheapest car insurance companies in your state. Insurance is regulated at the state level, and insurance companies may offer different levels of service across state lines. For this reason, rates from the same insurance company can vary from state to state.
For example, the cheapest car insurance company in California for drivers is Progressive. But that doesn’t mean that Progressive is the most inexpensive in every state. The cheapest car insurance also varies depending on your driver profile, which is influenced by several factors, including your age, gender and driving history. Before purchasing an insurance policy, you should be sure to compare rates from multiple different providers to ensure you’re getting the best deal possible.
We highlighted which of the three companies that offer insurance to those holding an international license — State Farm, Farmers and Progressive — are the cheapest on average in each state and in the nation's capital.
- State Farm is the cheapest in most states (35)
- Progressive takes the top spot in 11 states
- Farmers is the most affordable in the remaining five states
These rates are averages for domestic drivers, so keep in mind that your rates may be higher as an international driver.
Cheapest Car Insurance for Foreign Drivers by State
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How to Get Car Insurance as a Tourist or Temporary Visitor
If you’re only visiting the United States for a short time, you can usually buy insurance from your car rental company. The three main components of car insurance provided by rental companies include liability insurance, a collision damage waiver and personal accident insurance.
Coverage limits for each of these components may vary depending on the rental company and on your personal preference. Insurance coverage from a rental company may cost up to $50 per day, depending on how much coverage you purchase.
Most visitors from Canada who are driving their own car will be covered by their own insurance company. However, this isn’t true for drivers from Mexico, who will need to purchase additional coverage.
Liability coverage covers you if you damage someone else’s car or injure another person in an accident.
A collision damage waiver covers damage to your vehicle in the case of an accident.
Personal accident insurance covers medical expenses for you and your passengers in the event of an accident.
Average rates on this page are calculated based on a policy with $50,000 in bodily injury liability insurance per person, $100,000 in bodily injury liability insurance per accident and $50,000 in property damage insurance per accident. Policies also have comprehensive and collision insurance, making it a full coverage policy.
Sample rates are for a 40-year-old male with a Toyota Camry and a clean driving history. Rates are an estimate for domestic drivers, so rates will likely be higher for international drivers.
About the Author
- State Farm. "Auto Insurance for Foreign Drivers." Accessed March 29, 2021.