An international student or exchange student in the United States of legal driving age may want to use a car while they attend university classes or activities. Families hosting them may also want to help them get around more freely by giving them access to a vehicle.
The only snag is insurance. While getting an international driver’s license is relatively easy for exchange students visiting, the insurance process becomes more complicated.
Most of the major insurers, such as State Farm or GEICO, do have a plan for international students that are based on their driver’s license status. However, these are considered short-term policies, which means higher premiums and special rules.
One reason insurance companies charge more for these short-term policies is that they have no access to the driving record of the student in their country of origin. Instead, they can only base their assumption off the in-country driving record (which most likely has nothing on it). Therefore, insurance companies automatically list international students as high-risk, and the premiums will vary.
Starting the Search: How Do You Find Companies That Offer International Students Auto Insurance Coverage?
If the international student is already accepted into a U.S. university or college, they may have insurance options there. Most universities carry programs for car insurance because they know that they will have international students come to their campus – and it helps keep up numbers for student registration.
They help students find insurance providers, and they remove the three-year U.S. driving requirement too. Before you can use a university program, you still need an international driver’s license – which is a time-consuming task.
Getting the Driver’s License First
International licenses are purchased as a time-based product. They range from one year to five-year spans, and they are relatively cheap. These have minimum times for usage, but you can renew them up to ten years if you need to while attending a university in the U.S.
To get an international license in the United States, drivers must show documentation, valid licenses from their country, and sometimes supply a driving record from their native country (depend on that state’s particular rules).
Most states will require that the driver have three years of U.S. driving experience to receive better insurance rates, but the campus programs help them forgo that requirement.
While the campus programs have their perks, do not assume that the insurance from those companies is cheaper or better by any means. In fact, in the long run, a student may pay more going through a campus than shopping privately.
Considering the Short-Term Policies Offered by Local Insurance Companies
Many insurance companies provide short-term auto insurance for those who are temporarily in the country or need insurance while they attend a U.S.-based university.
Some options to consider, along with the states they cover, and benefit options are:
Progressive is an international-friendly insurance option with short-term insurance policies. They still offer roadside assistance, new car protection, accident forgiveness, and provide students with good driver discounts while they have the policy.
Metromile is only available in some states, including Arizona, California, Illinois, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington. However, they too have roadside, new car protection, and if the student drives under 30 miles per day, they will allow a pay-per-mile policy for added savings.
Liberty Mutual is international student-friendly, and they give their perks like accident forgiveness and roadside assistance in all 50 states. Those who get premium plans for short-term insurance also get local support and car replacement.
Allstate offers good discounts and coverages short-term, and they will provide accident forgiveness, new car protection, and roadside assistance, but these are all add on programs with extra costs.
GEICO has always been international friendly, and they were one of the first to start offering insurance coverage for international students in the U.S. they have everything from roadside assistance coverage to new car and they also do online quotes to make it easier for international students to compare insurance options.
Which Type of Insurance is Best?
The type of insurance you need for your stay in the U.S. will depend on your driving situation and how long you intend to stay here.
Some options you have to include:
- Temporary or short-term policies. These policies are just like they sound – temporary. You can purchase coverage for six to 12 months, and you will pick the type of coverage you want when you need it. It works well for international students here in the U.S. for the semester, but still, travel back home in between sessions.
- Rental car insurance. If you are here, but not driving a car you own, you will need rental car insurance policies instead. These require credit cards, and it works perfectly if you are only renting a car periodically during your stay.
- Non-Owner insurance coverage. If you are staying with a local family, but they have permitted for you to drive their car, you need non-owner insurance. This protects you while driving that car, but only provides liability coverage.
Finding insurance as an international student or exchange student staying in the U.S. is easy enough. Just call a few providers, get a few quotes, and hopefully, you can enjoy exploring the U.S. on four wheels without paying too much to do so.