Last Updated on September 9, 2021
An international driver’s license, also known as an international driver’s permit or IDP, allows you to legally drive in a foreign county. But can you buy car insurance with an IDP?
If you’re a short-term visitor to the United States, then you might have an IDP. This IDP allows you to rent cars and drive the vehicle of a friend or relative. It could also allow you to buy car insurance.
Today, we’re explaining everything you need to know about buying insurance with an international driver’s license, including how IDP car insurance works.
How an International Driver’s Permit (IDP) Works
As a foreigner visiting the United States, it helps to have an international driver’s permit (IDP).
Your driver’s license from your home country permits you to drive in your home country. However, that license may not pass inspection in the United States. That’s why many foreign drivers carry an IDP.
An IDP is an international translation of your driver’s license. It should translate your driver’s license information into several major languages, including English.
An IDP is not a valid driver’s license. It simply translates your foreign driver’s license into multiple languages. To legally drive in the United States and other countries, you must carry a copy of your driver’s license and your IDP.
How to Get an IDP
Typically, you get an IDP in your home country before you travel. As long as you are over 18 and hold a valid driver’s license in your home country, you should be able to receive an IDP.
The process of getting an IDP varies depending on your country. Most travel services offices will provide you with an IDP. Alternatively, your country’s driving regulation organization may be able to process IDP applications.
If you are in the United States, then any AAA location will be able to process your IDP application.
You may need to bring two passport-sized photos with you to complete the IDP application process.
Your IDP must be issued by the same country where your license was issued.
How Car Insurance Works with IDPs
If you are traveling to the United States and have an IDP, then you can buy car insurance in multiple ways.
First, check to see if your home country’s car insurance policy covers short-term trips. Most car insurance policies extend basic coverage to foreign rental cars, for example. You may not need to buy car insurance for your trip because you’re already covered.
The most common way to buy car insurance for a short-term stay in the United States is to buy it through the rental car agency. If you are renting a car for your trip to the United States, then your rental car agency should offer car insurance to you. If your home country’s car insurance does not cover your stay in the United States, then your rental car agency’s car insurance may be the best option.
If you don’t have auto insurance coverage from your home country, and if you don’t want to buy insurance from your rental car agency, then you can still buy car insurance with your IDP through other methods.
How to Buy Car Insurance as an Immigrant in the United States
Some of America’s largest car insurance companies allow you to buy car insurance even if you’re not a resident or citizen of the United States.
Farmers and Progressive, for example, even let you request a car insurance quote while holding a foreign license.
Alternatively, some smaller, specialty insurers offer car insurance policies to foreign drivers holding an IDP.
If you have a foreign driver’s license, and if you’re not a citizen or resident of the United States, then you can complete the online application and receive an estimated quote for car insurance – even as a foreign driver carrying an IDP.
Car Insurance for Short-Term Visitors
If you are a short-term visitor to the United States and have an IDP, then it’s unlikely you need to buy car insurance from a traditional insurance company.
Instead, your best option is to buy car insurance from the rental car company. The rental car company can issue liability insurance to protect you against damages you cause to other people and property while driving in the United States.
Most rental car companies will also offer an upgraded car insurance policy that covers damage to the car itself. In exchange for a higher fee, you can get complete protection against any damage to the vehicle.
If you’re not renting a car but want added protection in the United States (say, when driving the vehicle of a friend or relative), then contact insurers in your destination state. You might find specialty insurers willing to sell a policy to a foreign driver. Alternatively, some major insurers in certain states sell car insurance to foreign drivers regardless of immigration status.
Some States Allow Undocumented Immigrants to Obtain Car Insurance
It’s estimated that 3% of the population of the United States, or around 11 million people, are undocumented immigrants. If you are an undocumented immigrant, then you may be able to obtain car insurance in the United States with or without an IDP.
If you live in one of the 11 states below, then you can obtain a driver’s license through your local DMV regardless of your immigration status. Once you have a driver’s license, you can compare auto insurance quotes and buy auto insurance as you normally would. These states allow insurers to issue auto insurance policies to drivers regardless of their immigration status.
The 11 states that allow drivers to buy car insurance regardless of immigration status include:
Your Home Country’s Insurance Policy May Protect You in the United States
It’s possible your home country’s insurance policy protects you in the United States.
Visitors from Canada, for example, who drive in the United States should be protected by their Canadian insurance for trips under 30 days. Contact your insurer and check state laws to verify that you are protected.
When visiting the United States from Europe, your home country’s insurance company may or may not protect you. In the United Kingdom and many European countries, it’s more common for car insurance to be bundled with the cost of renting a vehicle. In this situation, you may need to buy the rental car company’s added insurance instead of relying on your home country’s insurance.
United States Car Insurance Requirements
Every state in America, except for New Hampshire, requires drivers to carry liability insurance. Liability coverage protects other people from your actions while driving.
Some states also have additional medical payments coverage requirements, personal injury protection requirements, and uninsured or underinsured motorist requirements.
Common car insurance requirements in the United States include:
Liability Insurance: Most states require drivers to carry both bodily injury liability coverage and property damage liability coverage, which protects other people and property from your actions while driving. Liability coverage requirements are expressed as three numbers. A state with 50/100/50 liability insurance requirements, for example, requires $50,000 of bodily injury liability coverage per person, $100,000 of bodily injury liability coverage per accident, and $50,000 of property damage liability coverage.
Personal Injury Protection or Medical Payments Coverage: Some states require personal injury protection (PIP) or medical payments coverage, which covers medical bills, ambulance care, and related expenses after an accident.
Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist Coverage: Nearly 1 in 7 drivers in the United States is uninsured. Many states require drivers to carry uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage for added protection.
If you hold an IDP and are renting a car, then your rental car company’s car insurance will rise to meet the minimum limits in any state. As long as you carry the right coverage on your rental car, you’ll be able to drive throughout the United States while being protected by car insurance.
Final Word on IDP Insurance
Citizens from most countries require an international driver’s permit (IDP) to legally drive in the United States (and other foreign countries). You must carry your home country’s driver’s license and your IDP on you at all times when driving.
If you have an IDP, then you can obtain car insurance in multiple ways. The best way is to buy car insurance through your rental car company. Alternatively, you can buy car insurance through an insurer in your home country. Or, you can work with a specialty insurer in the United States, as some specialty insurers sell car insurance to foreign drivers carrying international driver’s permits (IDPs).