When you're traveling to the United States, you may wonder whether your international driver's license legally allows you to purchase car insurance coverage during your visit. The answer is a bit complex, but depending on your living situation in the United States, there are a few ways to tackle car insurance to ensure that you're covered in the event of an accident (and to ensure that you're legally abiding by a state's car insurance laws).
International drivers need to consider how long they'll be staying in the United States in order to determine their car insurance needs. If you're only going to be in country for a few months, the best way to handle car insurance is to contact your current insurer in your home country and find out whether you'll be covered by them during your stay. Assuming that you're renting a car, you'll want to have the information from the rental agency in front of you. If you don’t have that yet, you may ask your car insurer for a recommendation. Often, you'll be covered while traveling for a short period of time, but it’s worth double-checking, as policies differ from country to country. You will need a copy of your proof of insurance with you when you're driving in the United States. You might also be staying with friends or borrowing vehicles. If this is the case, you'll often be covered under your friend's car insurance coverage. Again, you should contact the insurer of the vehicle you'll be driving to sort out the details and make sure that you're covered in the event of an accident.
For longer stays, you will need to get a U.S. driver's license instead of depending on your International Driver's License or permit. And, once you obtain this U.S. license you'll need to get U.S. car insurance coverage. Car insurance rates vary quite a bit in the U.S. according to location. State requirements for car insurance can also be different. Contact several insurers to look find the best insurance rates, and contact your state DMV to find out what minimum coverage you need. It can sometimes take a few months to get a U.S. driver's license, so be sure to apply early if you're going to be in the United States for more than a year.
As you might have guessed, two of the most important aspects of maintaining car insurance coverage abroad are to let your insurer know of your plans and research specific state laws in regards to foreign drivers and car insurance. Most of the time, your current insurance will be sufficient, but in the United States it's illegal to drive without any car insurance, so it's critical to sort out any issues early.