Chelsey Tucker graduated with a Bachelor of History degree from Metropolitan State University in 2019. She now writes about insurance with her specialty being life insurance and has been quoted on Help Smart Phone and MEL Magazine.

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Dan Walker graduated with a BS in Administrative Management in 2005 and has been working in his family’s insurance agency, FCI Agency, for 15 years. He is licensed as an agent to write property and casualty insurance, including home, auto, umbrella, and dwelling fire insurance. He’s also been featured on sites like

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Reviewed by Daniel Walker
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent Daniel Walker

UPDATED: Mar 19, 2020

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The lowdown...

  • Tourists visiting the U.S. can easily purchase cars
  • Before you travel, it is good to contact insurance companies in the U.S. to see if they are willing to offer you coverage
  • When shopping for auto insurance as a foreigner in the United States, many insurers will require a U.S. zip code and address

As a rule, people driving in the U.S. must be in possession of a valid driver’s license. For foreign nationals, other states will demand an International Driving Permit in addition to the valid license from your country.

It is good to check out the motor vehicle department of the particular state you intend to visit for its requirements.

You can also apply for a U.S. driver’s license once you are in the country, although this is not an easy process. A tourist visiting the U.S. has two options, either buying a car or renting one.

Buying and insuring a vehicle as a tourist in the U.S. isn’t as easy as it would be for citizens.

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How to Purchase a Car in the U.S.


As a tourist in the U.S., you can easily buy a car from either a dealer or a private person. If you choose the latter, ensure the private seller has all the valid documents for the car.

Both the buyer and seller should visit the state motor vehicle bureau local office in order to complete the sale in compliance with all the existing regulations.

The two will sign some documents, and the vehicle will be registered under the new owner. The buyer will pay both the tax for buying the vehicle and registration fee.

After signing all the documents, the new car owner will be given a copy of the car’s registration together with a paper that shows that the car is insured.

You will be required to produce this when proving insurance as a foreigner. These two documents are to be carried in the car at all times.

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Car Insurance for Foreigners

Anyone caught driving on U.S. roads uninsured will be issued a ticket and fined. You also need an insurance coverage before your car is legally registered.

Auto insurance protects you against losses that may occur due to theft or a major accident. In most states, drivers are required to possess the bodily injury liability cover.

Liability coverage would cover the passengers in the other car if an accident were to occur. The insurer pays for:

  • medical bills
  • lost wages
  • funeral expenses
  • other charges incurred by the ones injured in the accident

Any expenditure beyond the policy limit is the responsibility of the owner of the car.

While it is easy to buy a car in the U.S. without having a U.S. driver’s license, getting insurance coverage can prove to be a bit challenging. In most cases, insurers require a state-issued driver’s license to issue an insurance policy.

They also want you to have an authorized address in the U.S.

Some insurers will even refuse to give policies to non-U.S. drivers, and those willing to issue this kind of coverage may end up charging higher rates than the ones offered to the locals.

You will have to shop around and compare prices for different insurers to get the best deal for your insurance needs. Check for information on the different kinds of coverage as well as some money-saving tips.

You will also get links to a variety of sites that compare various insurance providers.

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Shopping for Car Insurance as a Foreigner

Fortunately, tourists who would wish to buy a car while visiting the U.S. have the option to start shopping for car insurance coverage while still in their country of origin.

The internet is the best place to begin searching for insurance coverage for foreigners visiting the United States.

You will be able to confirm which U.S.-based insurer is ready to extend coverage as well as how much this will cost you. Note that you will need to know the model and make of the car you will be buying in order to get a quote for your coverage.

The insurer may need to ask some questions to know you better and learn about your plans before deciding whether to extend coverage or not.

Renting a Car as a Tourist


This is option “B” for those visitors who won’t need a car every day. If for instance, you plan to have a weekend getaway and explore some of the America’s scenic drives, then car rental will probably be your best bet.

Just like buying a vehicle, it is good to do your research as you compare prices at various rental agencies to ensure you get the most competitive price for the car rental.

Most big cities in the U.S. also have car-sharing programs such as Zipcar that allows you to have a car for some few hours.

The best thing about sharing or renting a car is that many companies provide auto insurance to their clients. Also, you will not have to agonize about registering the car. You only need a valid driver’s license to be eligible to share or rent a car.

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The Importance of Having Insurance Coverage

Whether you cause an accident or not, it is a criminal offense to drive without insurance in the United States. The sentence for this crime varies from one state to the next and may include being fined or having your car seized.

Therefore, tourists who plan on buying a car while in the U.S. should also plan to make sure it is insured and registered.

Those who don’t plan on staying in the U.S. for a long duration have the option to rent a car. The good thing about renting a car is that you will not worry about insuring it.

You will, however, be responsible for any damages incurred while driving the car. Simply weigh your options and see which one works best for you.

Compare car insurance quotes today. Use our free rate tool to get started.