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If you’ve come to the United States and intend to drive, you’ll need two things in addition to a car: a permit or license, and car insurance.
An international driving permit translates your driver’s license information into 10 languages, besides English. It serves as proof that your home country allows you to drive abroad. An IDP is not a valid U.S. driver’s license, and some states require that you also carry your valid home country license.
You can get car insurance in the United States in two ways if you have an IDP:
From a rental car company if you’re visiting on business or vacation, have no plans to become a permanent resident and are renting a car.
From a car insurance company if you plan on staying a long time — for example, if you are a student or wish to become a permanent resident — and will buy a car.
Car insurance for long-term foreign residents
It may be difficult to find car insurance with an international driving permit; some insurers will only sell you an insurance policy if you have a U.S. driver’s license. This is because car insurance companies rely on U.S. records to determine how risky it is to insure you. Those records include:
Driving history, including accidents and moving violations such as speeding tickets
Credit history in all states except California, Hawaii, and Massachusetts, where such information can’t legally be used
Car insurers also set prices based on these records, so nonresidents’ rates may be higher to account for the lack of information.
» MORE: What does car insurance cover?
An independent agent can help
An independent car insurance agent who works with several companies can help you find insurance. The agent might find more than one company willing to insure you and can help you select the best option.
Staying awhile? Get your U.S. driver’s license soon
Some car insurance companies will only offer a policy if you are getting a U.S. license within a short time. As soon as you can, get a driver’s license from the department of motor vehicles in the U.S. state where you live.
Find out more about your state’s requirements for international drivers by going to USA.gov’s DMV directory and selecting your state.
Once you’ve established a U.S. driving history, ask your agent to get quotes again or shop for coverage yourself online.
» MORE: Compare auto insurance rates