How to insure and registrate a car in the US as a foreigner on a tourist visa (non-resident)
Updated: May 21, 2022
So it took us three weeks and a lot of nerves in the US to figure out how to get our truck insured and registered. We don't have the definite number plates yet and will update as soon as we have them (or not), but we're optimistic that it works now.
The easiest way to get it done is to buy the car from an official car dealer, then he would be able to insure and register the car. The prices may be much higher though, and we didn't know that before, so we bought our truck and the slide-in camper both from private sellers.
So here's how we did it:
Registration state: Vermont
Vermont will let you insure your car without a US residency or drivers license. You can even register your car via mail so you don't need to drive all the way there. The only downside is that it can take up to 8 weeks to get your definite registration. Until then you can get an immediate temporary registration which is valid for 60 days and you can print your "plate" and stick it to the back window of your car/camper.
If you do the registration by mail you have to pay by check or money order. So here's how we did it with our 2006 Ford F-350 4WD double tire:
1. Get a US SIM-Card, because if you call with a foreign number, people will not trust you and think you're a scam!
2. Become a member of American travelers Facebook groups, there you might be able to find a lot of information, we realized that at some point in our process. For me, the PanAmerican Travelers Association helped a great deal!
1. Fill in all the information of the registration form (all that you know). We put our Swiss address as residency address and our Georgian friends' address as mailing address. You will need a Vermont address though for the insurance so you might want to get a P. O. Box or a virtual mailbox in Vermont from the beginning, which is again not very easy for non-residents.
2. Calculate how much the fee and tax will be (to be sure of the correct amount, and also about the correctness of all we left empty in the form, we called the Vermont DMV. The guy was very helpful and offered to go through the form together, he confirmed that our calculation was correct and that we were ready to send it.
3. Go to a bank or post office to get the confirmed amount of money in checks or money order (for money order at the USPS you either have to pay by debit card or in cash, so you might need to go to an ATM first to get the cash).
4. Add the recipients address and your address in the money order bills, put all needed documents (registration form, bill of sale, title if available, NADA book value of your car, checks) in the envelope and send them to the DMV.
Helpful info (which are also mentioned in the instructions to fill in the form):
- If the car is 15 years or older (in our case they counted 2007 as the 15th year) you don't need to provide a title and you don't need to apply for one.
- If you have a signed bill of sale, you don't need the seller to sign the registration form.
- You always have to add a printed version of the NADA book value of your car and you pay tax either on the price you bought it for, or the clean trade value, whichever is higher.
1. If not done yet, get a P. O. Box/virtual mailbox or a contact person in Vermont that is willing to receive mail for you. (It wasn't easy for us to get a P. O. Box as non-residents of the US, so our friend in Georgia got it for us and added us as an official user.)
2. Fill in the insurance quote form online with mentioned Vermont address and your international drivers license. Pick at least all the minimal coverage that is needed in Vermont (Bodily injury liability coverage: $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident, Property damage liability coverage: $10,000, Uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage: $50,000 per person and $100,000 per accident, Uninsured motorist property damage coverage: $10,000 with a $150 deductible) or call Progressive directly and get the quote over phone.
3. Now you should be ready to hit the road!
I hope this instruction will make the registration and insurance part a bit easier for you.
We talked to about 100 different persons including insurance agents, insurancies, DMV's, embassies and wrote at least the same amount of emails (we contacted the main DMV of all 50 states).
After three weeks we had finally found our way through the US bureaucracy jungle!
UPDATE (12. October 2021):
On the 09/21/2021 our registration form was returned with an additional cost. Because we have a flatbed truck, they consider it a commercial vehicle and the NAPA value changes. We added the missing money in money order and sent it back the same day.
Yesterday (11. October) I called the Vermont DMV and they told me the plate was just shipped and should arrive within the next 10 days, which would be just before our temporary plate expires.
So be aware that if they have to return the letter to you, it will take more than 6 (8-9) weeks to process!
UPDATE (14. October 2021):
Today we received an email from Progressive where they want us to send them a proof of our garaing address in Vermont (i.e. utility bills etc.). So the problem doesn't seem to be solved yet!
UPDATE (04. November 2021):
After some more research and returning to options we had considered the first time already, we contacted an insurance agent in Anchorage, Alaska (email@example.com).
Unfortunately, the first "RV insurance" policy she got us was not working for our truck camper. So we ended up with a much more expensive policy from Progressive Commercial (because our flatbed truck automatically considered commercial). At least it seems to work now.