Rachael Brennan has been working in the insurance industry since 2006 when she began working as a licensed insurance representative for 21st Century Insurance, during which time she earned her Property and Casualty license in all 50 states. After several years she expanded her insurance expertise, earning her license in Health and AD&D insurance as well. She has worked for small health insuran...

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Chris Harrigan has an economic degree from Limestone College and an MBA from Clemson University. He previously managed auto insurance claims for Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Currently, he is using his business and insurance expertise to provide insurance data analysis and visualizations to enhance the user experience.

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Reviewed by Chris Harrigan
Former Auto Insurance Claims Manager

UPDATED: Sep 23, 2020

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Key takeaways...

  • Tourists who are visiting new states in their own vehicles must have insurance on their vehicles at all times
  • When traveling out of state, you still need to keep your insurance in the state where your car is registered
  • When you cross state lines, your insurance policy limits will adjust if you don’t have limits that satisfy state law
  • It might be advisable to carry higher limits of liability while you’re exploring for added protection
  • If you’re renting a vehicle and you don’t have your own, you need to purchase supplemental car insurance from the agency

There’s nothing like visiting a new land and experiencing the way that people live life in different parts of the world. You can visit different sights, eat new cuisine, and meet a diverse group of people you would have never known if you didn’t venture out.

Whether you’re leaving your home to travel cross-country or you’re visiting from overseas, it’s always exciting to be a tourist.

The further you’re traveling from home the more planning you’ll have to do prior to your trip. If you’re going on vacation for a few weeks or a few months, you’ll have a lot of business to take care of beforehand.

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Any tourist who’s going to drive themselves around must have the right auto insurance. Here’s a guide to buying auto insurance for tourists:

Where are you traveling from?

Are you a domestic tourist who is going on a road trip or are you a foreigner visiting the United States on a visa?

Where you’re visiting from can have a huge affect on whether or not you’ll qualify for insurance and where you should start shopping for your policy.

If you’re a United States citizen going on vacation in a new state, you can easily find the domestic car insurance you need with your state-issued driver’s license.

It becomes a bit more difficult for foreign tourists who are visiting to get insurance because they don’t have a U.S. license.

Since that’s often a requirement for standard insurance, you’ll have to do research before you leave your home without the right paperwork.

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Apply for Your International Driving Permit


You have to have a valid driver’s license if you plan on driving in the U.S. Not only do you need a license from your home country, you also need to apply for an International Driving Permit before you leave home.

You can’t have this IDP issued in the U.S. as a foreign national and must have the permit to rent a car or drive a borrowed car during your stay.

Are you buying a car in the U.S.?

If you’re not a resident in the U.S. and you’re only visiting, one option to get around would be to buy a car. It’s a reasonable option if you’re staying long enough to want to avoid high rental fees as long as you can sell the car when you’re set to leave.

You do have the option to buy a car for cash as a tourist but you won’t be able to find financing. If you do buy a car, make sure to research your purchase and sign an official bill of sale.

Once you have the sales agreement or private bill of sale, you’ll have to register the vehicle, license it, and maintain insurance on the car as required by state law.

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Can you buy insurance on a car registered in your name?

Short-term tourists can register cars in their names as long as they have their IDP and they have their passport or other acceptable identification documentation.

One of the difficulties will be insuring the car because of your licensing status. Unfortunately, an International Driving Permit is needed to legally drive in the U.S. but it doesn’t satisfy auto insurance underwriting requirements.

Anytime you’re insuring a car in your name you have to be the registered owner of the car because you have to have an insurable interest in the vehicle at all times.

Unfortunately, since you have a foreign license, you won’t qualify for standard insurance. Some companies will provide coverage to someone with a foreign license temporarily for 30 days during the binding period.

Where your car is registered matters. Every state in the U.S. has different auto insurance laws. You’ll have to check to see what’s required by law where the car will be registered to avoid being cited and fined.

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Getting a Driver’s License on Your Visa


Getting a driver’s license as just a visitor can prove difficult. Since you’re not a permanent resident, there will be some restrictions that you’ll have to get around.

On solely a tourist visa, you can’t get your driver’s license. If you’re on a work or student visa or you show you need an SSN for a valid reason, you may qualify.

Remember, you need an SSN to get a license in any state.

Renting a Car Is an Easier Option

Foreign nationals will find it easier to rent a car for their stay while they need access to transportation. Rental car agencies have more flexible policies for tourists who have their International Driving Permits.

Not only can you legally drive the rented car with the contract in your name, you can also buy insurance coverage. Here are rental insurance options that you can buy:

  • Supplemental Liability Insurance provides $1 million of liability coverage
  • Damage Waiver will pay to repair the rental if it’s damaged
  • Personal Accident Insurance pays for your medical bills after a car accident
  • Personal Effects Coverage pays to replace your personal belongings if damaged or stolen from your rented car

What if you’re a citizen driving your own car?


If you’re a domestic tourist visiting a new state in your own car, your auto insurance will follow you as you travel. While the requirements will change as you pass through states, your limits will bump up to protect you while you’re visiting other states.

Having protection in case of unexpected losses is crucial. If you don’t make insurance a priority, your stay could turn into a disaster. If you’re driving your own vehicle on a visa, finding insurance can be a challenge.

The best thing that you can do is shop around on the internet for instant quotes and find a company with lenient underwriting requirements. Enter your zip code below to begin!