International drivers in the US need auto insurance coverage just like their American counterparts. However, international drivers tend to have unique auto insurance needs. Below are some critical factors that affect international drivers' insurance issues in the country.
Duration of Stay in the US
You need auto insurance anytime you drive in the US; it doesn't matter whether you intend to drive for a day or a year. However, the best type of insurance depends on how long you intend to drive in the country.
For example, those briefly in the US, say, those who intend to leave after a couple of weeks or months, usually don't buy cars but drive rental cars. You don't need stand-alone car insurance coverage for such brief stays. You can buy temporary or rental car insurance from the rental car company.
On the other hand, you should probably own a car if you intend to stay several years in the country. In such a case, you will also need a stand-alone insurance policy for the car.
Your Driver's License
Most insurance companies require you to have a driver's license before you can buy car insurance from them. State laws and insurance companies determine the necessary driver's license.
For example, some states allow you to buy car insurance and drive with your country's driver's license plus its translation—an international driver's license permit. However, some states require you to have a local driver's license. You should err on the side of caution and get a US driver's license if you are unsure where you will be driving or if you plan to visit several states.
Your Driving Areas
Apart from driver's license requirements, the locations you intend to visit also affect your insurance requirement in other ways. For example, the government regulates the auto insurance industry at the state level. Each state determines the type of coverage its drivers must have plus their respective limits.
For example, some states require only liability coverage. Other states require uninsured/underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage in addition to liability coverage. Some states even require personal injury protection (PIP) or medical payments (MedPay) coverage.
The good news is that you only need to adhere to the requirements applicable where you register and insure your car. You can then drive around to different states without adjusting your insurance requirements; the coverage automatically adjusts.
Don't navigate the US auto insurance industry alone if you are new to the country. The industry can be complicated, and the complications can cost you money. Consult an auto insurance agent for help.