Buying car insurance in florida
The cost of insuring a car in Florida is one of the highest in the nation, but that doesn't mean individual consumers' car insurance premiums need to be high. ValuePenguin conducted a study of auto insurance quotes in the Florida to arm drivers with information in their search for the best rates in the state.
We discovered that car insurance rates can range widely from company to company, even in the same city. For example, our study found that in Jacksonville, FL, one year’s premium at the most expensive company could have paid for almost seven years at the cheapest insurer. This is why to find the best rates, consumers have to shop around. Enter your zip code above now to start shopping for great auto insurance rates among top U.S. insurers in your area, or read more by jumping directly to each section in our study.
- Which Companies Have the Best Auto Insurance Rates in Florida?
- Cheap Car Insurance in Florida: by City
- Best Rated Auto Insurance Companies in FL
- Cost of Car Insurance in Florida: by City
Cheapest Car Insurance Companies in Florida
To find the companies with the best rates in Florida, we reviewed quotes from some of the largest companies for our three policyholder scenarios as a benchmark: a family of four, a married senior couple, and a single 25 year old female across multiple counties.
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So who has the cheapest auto insurance in Florida? Based on our rate analysis, the top three cheap car insurance companies in Florida are: the Florida Farm Bureau Insurance Company, United Service Automobile Association (USAA), and GEICO. Travelers and State Farm rounded out the top five most affordable companies in Florida. Your rates will differ depending on where you live, and your driving record, among other factors, and only comparison shopping will yield good rates. Start by entering your zip code below for a list of cheap insurers in your area to shop for rates.
|Rank||Auto Insurance Company||Annual Premium|
|1||Florida Farm Bureau Insurance||$381|
|15||Ocean Harbor / Pearl Holding Group||1,723|
Cheap Car Insurance in Florida: by City
Location is one of the most important factors in the cost of insurance. Prices can differ drastically from city to city. For example, the average cost to insure a car in Liberty County, are $836 a year, which is 38% of the cost in Miami-Dade County. That's about an extra $1,362 a year that a driver in Miami could pay over a driver in Bristol, FL.
Furthermore, each insurer has different claims experience in each city, so the prices within a city can be quite different as well. In Jacksonville, FL, the premium at the most expensive company could pay for nearly seven years (6.75x) the cost at the cheapest insurer. Below are auto insurance costs and the three cheapest companies for the largest cities in Florida averaged across our three policyholder scenarios.
Jacksonville's 823,000 residents live in one of the most spacious cities in the United States. The city has a number of superlatives behind its name: the largest urban park network, the second biggest jazz festival, and the largest concrete cable bridge. For the largest city, Jacksonville's auto insurance costs actually aren't that expensive. The average citywide annual premium is $1,230 a year, or 12% higher than the state average. Rates for retired senior citizen couples average just $490 a year, while families with two teenagers can see rates of about $2,275 a year.
For cheap car insurance in Jacksonville, get quotes from Florida Farm Bureau, GEICO, and State Farm. These three auto insurers, in addition to USAA (limited to military families), had the cheapest costs in Jacksonville of $618 a year - savings of 50% over the average city premium.
The most expensive place for car insurance in Florida is the urban metropolis of Miami. Between its miles of beaches and its three-time NBA champions, the Miami Heat, the city's residents do not shy away from high temperatures. Average premiums here are just as high. Auto insurance in Miami costs about $2,198 a year - insuring a car here easily doubles a driver’s car insurance rates compared to other Florida cities.
There are always opportunities to save, however. If you're looking for cheap car insurance in Miami, we recommend the Florida Farm Bureau, GEICO, and Travelers (avg premium: $1,083). Going with these insurers will save drivers about 51% or $1,100 a year compared to the Miami average.
Located in Hillsborough County, Tampa is the third largest city in Florida with 336,000 residents. It is here that Ray Charles began his music career, and Babe Ruth hit his longest home run.
Drivers can pay on average $1,841 a year to buy auto insurance in Tampa, which is about 68% higher than the Florida average. For cheap auto insurance in Tampa, we suggest the Florida Farm Bureau, Travelers, and GEICO, which had the lowest rates in our study. Together, these companies would save you 56% compared to the average city cost with an average annual premium of $807.
St. Petersburg, FL
With over 360 days of sunshine a year, St. Petersburg is a haven of sandy retreats. Perhaps just as important as its beaches is the city's distinction of being the birthplace of commercial aviation and Major League Baseball training.
It costs on average $1,497 to insure a car for PIP and Property Damage in St. Petersburg - that's 36% higher than the state average. But if you go with Florida Farm Bureau, GEICO, and Travelers, three companies offering the most affordable rates in St. Petersburg, you can see an average rate of $713 - 52% lower than the city average.
Home to Disney’s Magic Kingdom, Universal Studio’s Islands of Adventure, and SeaWorld, Orlando is a dear national tourist destination. The Orlando Magic and 239,000 other residents also call this city home.
Car insurance in Orlando costs about $1,417 a year averaged among our three profiles. This makes Orlando at 29% more expensive than the typical city in the Sunshine State. If you’re looking for cheap auto insurance in Orlando, Florida Farm Bureau Insurance, GEICO, and Travelers had the lowest rates in our study (excluding USAA, which, for military members, would have been the actual third cheapest). Between the three, their rates of $661 represent a 53% decrease versus the typical insurer in the city.
The sixth largest city in Florida, Hialeah is located just nine miles northwest of Miami. Named for the pretty prairie the city was founded on, Hialeah is known for Hialeah Park, a grand Thoroughbread horse race track. Equestrians and other residents can see car insurance in Hialieah costing around $2,198, likely in large part due its proximity to Miami. For nearly half that cost, consider Florida Farm Bureau, GEICO, and Travelers, which are the lowest cost providers in the Miami-Dade County according to our analysis.
181,000 residents, one pre-historic mastodon skeleton, and the largest magnet laboratory call this city home. It costs $994 to insure a car in Tallahassee, which makes it the only Top Ten city in Florida below the state’s average premium. Florida Farm Bureau, Auto-Owners Insurance, and State Farm had three of the most affordable rates in Tallahassee, averaging $428 a year. At the mid $400s level, residents are paying 50% below the city average, and 61% below the state average.
Fort Lauderdale, FL
With access to over 23 miles of sandy coasts and a sunny and warm tropical climate, Fort Lauderdale is a great beach town. It’s known as the Venice of America with more than 300 miles of inland waterways. Auto insurance in Fort Lauderdale costs $1,748 a year, which is 59% pricier than the average city in Florida. You can shave off half of those costs, however, if you go with Florida Farm Bureau, GEICO, and Travelers, the three cheapest auto insurers in Fort Lauderdale (mean annual premium $868).
Port St. Lucie, FL
You can find the world’s largest tropical bonsai tree collection at the Heathcote Botanical Gardens or the world’s only museum on the Navy SEALs here in Port St. Lucie. Insuring a vehicle here costs about $1,258 a year – 14% costlier than elsewhere in Florida. Getting quotes from Florida Farm Bureau, GEICO, and State Farm should be a good start for cheap auto insurance in Port St. Lucie. Based on our analysis, these three averaged to $640 a year, and were 49% cheaper than the typical insurer in the city.
Pembroke Pines, FL
The city of Pembroke Pines is bordered by the Florida Everglades to the west and is situated for easy access to the I-75 and the Florida Turnpike highways. Its 160,000 residents can see average car insurance costs of $1,748. Our data indicates that Florida Farm Bureau, GEICO, and Travelers had cheaper rates of $868 on average, which is a 50% decrease from the citywide cost.
Home to the University of Florida, the Florida Gators, and a resident population of 188,000, Gainesville is the 17th largest urban area in Florida. The average cost of car insurance in Gainesville is $961 per year, or 12% cheaper than the average premium paid in Florida. Florida Farm, GEICO, and Travelers had some of the cheapest rates in Gainesville, averaging about $476 a year.
Fort Walton Beach, FL
Fort Walton Beach, located in Okaloosa County, has annual auto insurance costs of $1,014. We saw low rates in Fort Walton Beach at Florida Farm Bureau, State Farm, USAA, and GEICO, which averaged $461 for a reduction of $553 from the citywide average.
$1,064 is the mean annual premium for drivers in the urban area of Leesburg, Eustis, and Tavares. The four cheapest companies from the study were Florida Farm Bureau, State Farm, Travelers, and USAA. Rates here were 47% lower than the typical company underwriting auto coverage in the city.
Panama City, FL
If you live in Panama City on Florida’s Emerald Coast. Here, the average annual auto insurance quote for motorists is $567. On the lower end are GEICO’s rates for older adults of $338, and on the higher end, are Liberty Mutual rates of $836. The lowest premium data point in our study turned up in this city: $297 per year for 50 year old males, as quoted by GEICO.
Best Auto Insurance Companies in Florida
To find the best auto insurance companies in Florida, we looked at which companies received the fewest complaints at the Florida Office of Insurance Regulations in 2012. We consolidated individual underwriters into their parent group, since most drivers can't determine who issues their policy. Next, we weighted the companies' share of complaints by their share of premiums, and lastly looked at the thirty largest insurance groups in Florida to make it relevant to the majority of drivers.
By this metric, the top car insurance companies with the best ratings are: Amica, Allied, Auto-Owners, Florida Farm Bureau, and Progressive. As we mentioned above, Florida Farm Bureau Insurance ranked as the best auto insurance company with the lowest rates in Florida, so it's great to see that they are also one of the top-ranked auto insurers in the state. GEICO, State Farm, and Progressive, three of the largest companies in Florida, perform better than average as well with underweight complaint index numbers. At the other end were Direct General, Equity Insurance Company, and Windhaven, which received the most complaints relative to their market share size.
This is our summary of the Florida Auto Insurance Complaint Index (the lower the Complaint Index number, the better; Index of 1 = average):
|Rank||Company||Premiums||Market Share||Complaint Index|
|4||Florida Farm Bureau||113,513,117||0.8%||0.4175|
|26||Imperial Fire & Casualty||39,166,251||0.3%||6.0494|
|27||Ocean Harbor / Pearl Holding Group||117,529,782||0.9%||6.3166|
|29||Equity Ins Co||36,578,553||0.3%||7.7729|
Cost of Car Insurance in Florida: by City
The average cost of car insurance in Florida is $1,098 per year, averaged for three driver scenarios across sixty seven counties in the state. The cheapest county was Liberty County, with average rates of $836, up to Miami-Dade on the higher end with $2,198 a year. This table breaks down the costs for seventy five cities in Florida, with at least one city in each of the sixty seven counties. Note that these costs are indicative averages and will not represent the quotes you'll actually get. Car insurance quotes will be tailored to your background and circumstances, so it's best to enter your zip code below for a list of cheap companies to begin your comparison shopping.
|City||County||Avg Annual Premium|
|New Port Richey||Pasco||1,413|
|Port St. Joe||Gulf||893|
|Port St. Lucie||St. Lucie||1,258|
|St. Augustine||St. Johns||1,027|
|West Palm Beach||Palm Beach||1,849|
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Auto Insurance Coverage Requirements in Florida
Per the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, the minimum insurance coverage you should have on your car is $10,000 of personal injury protection (PIP) and $10,000 property damage liability (PDL). Bodily injury and uninsured motorist coverage come standard and recommended with your policy by insurers, but they are rejectable.
How We Conducted the Analysis
We averaged rates for three policyholder scenarios across twenty six auto insurance companies in sixty seven counties for the results in this data. Premiums are averaged at the parent company level, since drivers can't choose which affiliate underwrites their insurance. Coverage encompasses just bodily injury and property damage.
The family here consists of a 50 year old couple with children aged 20 and 18 who have good driving records for the past three years. They drive a 2012 Toyota Camry and a 2007 Toyota Corolla for a combined 20,000 miles per year. They carry a basic liabilty coverage of $25,000 / $50,000 for bodily injury, and $50,000 for property damage. The 65 and 70 year old senior married couple have had a great driving history with their 2007 Toyta Camry. There are liability limits of $50,000 / $100,000 in bodily injury and $100,000 of property damage on the car. The 25 year old female has had one minor traffic violation and one not-at-fault accident in the past three years. She has her 2012 Toyota Camry insured for $25,000 / $50.000 in bodily injury plus $50,000 in property damage.
Average premiums are for illustrative purposes, as individual quotes will differ based on driving history, zip codes, vehicle type, coverage limits chosen, and other factors.
Florida Office of Insurance Regulation
Florida Department of Financial Services
Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles
Comments and Questions
View the discussion thread.
Buying a car is one of the biggest investments most of us make and the process can often be overwhelming. DHSMV is committed to helping consumers know what to look for, what to ask and what rights they have.
- New Cars
- Used Cars
- Sealing the Deal
- Buying a Vehicle on the Internet
- Additional Resources
Buying from a Licensed Dealer
Florida’s motor vehicle laws protect you, when buying from a licensed Florida dealer. When a licensed dealer places an ad, the advertisement must disclose all charges you are expected to pay, except sales tax, tag and title fees, which the dealer must collect up front from the purchaser. Florida law requires the dealer to apply for title and registration in the name of the purchaser within 30 calendar days from date of delivery.
New Vehicle Warranty
New cars carry a manufacturer’s warranty, which will vary in months and/or miles. Some dealers offer extended warranties sold by the manufacturer or an insurance company. The Florida Department of Financial Services regulates warranties that insurance companies offer. Read all warranties to find out what it covers, for how long, who will honor the warranty and what you must do to keep it in effect. Click here for more information.
Florida’s New Car Lemon Law
Florida’s Lemon Law applies only to new or demonstrator motor vehicles or new or demonstrator recreational vehicles sold or long-term leased in the state. When consumers buy or lease a new or demonstrator motor vehicle, they must receive the Consumer Guide to the Florida Lemon Law from the dealer or lessor. To obtain a guide, or to speak with someone about the Lemon Law, consumers in Florida may call the Lemon Law Hotline at (800) 321-5366 or (850) 488-2221 for consumers outside of Florida between the hours of 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (Eastern Time). Click here for more information on the Lemon Law.
With the average price of a new car increasing every year, it is not surprising that the fastest growing segment of the auto industry is the used car market. Keep in mind that motor vehicle laws and warranties differ for used cars and buyers do not have the same protections as they do for new cars. Remember, there is no Lemon Law for used cars in Florida.
Warranty or AS-IS
Federal law requires all dealers to post a Buyers Guide in the window of each vehicle they offer for sale. The Buyers Guide notifies the buyer whether the vehicle is being sold with a warranty or AS-IS with no warranty of any kind. If purchasing an AS-IS vehicle, be aware that all repairs will be your responsibility. Once you drive the vehicle from the dealership, it belongs to you despite any problems the vehicle may have.
The bottom line is that you should read warranties carefully, especially the fine print. Be sure to obtain copies of the documents you sign and ensure that any other papers you sign match what you agreed to. Remember, there is no warranty or agreement unless it is in writing and signed by all parties. Get any promises made in writing.
When purchasing a vehicle from a private individual, there are no warranties of any kind. It is strictly buyer beware. When buying a used motor vehicle from anyone other than a licensed reputable dealer, protect yourself by following these tips:
- Check the vehicle identification number (VIN) to ensure it appears the same on the title certificate as it does on the vehicle.
- Visit our Motor Vehicle Information Check and verify the vehicle information with the VIN number.
- Check the vehicle’s doors and ignition locks to ensure they have not been tampered.
- Check windows for signs of break-ins, such as tool marks, chipped glass, windows that do not properly close or have the original glass. Check windows for an etched VIN, which should match the public VIN.
- Check the vehicle’s title certificate for evidence of erasures or other signs of tampering. Is the vehicle titled in the seller’s name?
- Verify the seller’s information on their driver license to ensure it matches the name on the title certificate.
- Remember, an advertised price will not include sales tax or tag and title fees. Expect to pay the fees to the county tax collector’s office when you transfer ownership.
Sealing The Deal
You Sign, You Buy — The Contract
Read and understand the purchase contract before you sign. Many consumers mistakenly believe they have three days to cancel the purchase contract. There is no cooling off period under Florida law.
The contract should include the following information about your purchase:
- Whether you are buying the car with a warranty or AS-IS.
- Date your vehicle will be delivered.
- Other conditions of sale. Get all promises in writing on the contract.
- Itemized list of costs including tax, title and registration fees.
Signing the Contract
Under no circumstances should you sign any blank forms. Obtain copies of all signed paperwork involved in the sale at the time of preparation. Do not lose control of your trade vehicle’s title.
In many cases, once a deposit is made, if the customer changes his/her mind and decides not to purchase the vehicle, the decision can result in a lost deposit. Make sure that your receipt and or contract specify a refundable deposit. Be sure that you understand all the terms of the contract.
Contracts are often written pending credit approval. The purchaser usually deposits a credit application fee and leaves with the vehicle, and the dealer begins processing the credit application. If the lending institution denies the credit application, the dealer may process the application with another lending institution but at a higher interest rate. Again, ensure that you get everything (agreed interest rate and terms, and terms if denied credit) in writing. If you have any questions about whether a dealership has a license to finance vehicles, check with the Florida Office of Financial Regulation.
After purchasing the car, have the seller write a receipt marked Paid in Full. The receipt should include the make, model and vehicle identification number of the car, the seller’s name, the buyer’s name and the amount paid.
Tax, Tag and Title
Dealers can charge only the actual amount of fees paid for tax, tag and title transfer. Generally, the tax, tag and title fees are not included in the contract. However, some dealers will charge a processing or handling fee. If they do, they must disclose it separately. Again, make sure you understand all the terms of the contract.
A licensed dealer is required to apply for a tag and title within 30 days, during which you will be issued a temporary paper tag. If a dealer issues a second temporary tag, you should start asking questions. If the dealer issues a third temporary tag, you should immediately fax or mail this form to your regional Division of Motorist Services’ office, as this is a violation of Florida Statutes.
Be sure you have proof of insurance. Florida law requires all vehicles licensed within the state to have insurance. Without this proof, the dealer cannot complete the transfer of title and registration into the consumer’s name.
Proof of Ownership
As the buyer, you should ask to see the title after you have agreed on terms and prices. Florida has been a title state since 1923, but the motor vehicle laws in other states or countries may require different documentation as proof of ownership. If the seller does not have a valid title, check with your local tax collector’s office or regional office for specific instructions. It is important that you compare the VIN on the vehicle to the VIN on the title. They must match.
The owner will complete the Transfer of Title by Seller section on the front of the title certificate and give it to the buyer. The buyer must complete an Application for Certificate of Title with/without Registration form, attach this to the title, and take it to their local tax collector’s office to transfer the title into their name.
Recording the Mileage
Space for the odometer disclosure reading is included on Florida titles. The odometer reading at the time of purchase will be required on your title application. Both the buyer and seller must acknowledge odometer disclosures on title transactions. Vehicles 10 model years old or older are exempt.
Removing the Plates
When motor vehicles are sold, the seller must remove the license plate from the vehicle. The seller may then transfer this plate to a new or replacement vehicle.
Applying for Title
Once the front of the title certificate is completed, the buyer must take it to a local tax collector’s office to register the vehicle and apply for a title. This must be done within 30 calendar days to avoid a late transfer penalty fee. If you borrowed money to buy the car, the Division of Motorist Services will issue the title in your name reflecting a lien. After the buyer pays off the loan, the lien holder must mark the lien “satisfied.” The Division of Motorist Services also requires the lien holder to send a Satisfaction of Lien to the division. The lien holder must complete and file a satisfaction notice within 10 days of pay off.
If you are titling your vehicle in another state, you will need to contact that state for proper titling procedures. You may purchase a Temporary Tag at your local tax collector’s office that will be valid for 30 days so that you may legally drive the vehicle to that state. You must pay Florida Sales Tax when purchasing the temporary tag.
Meeting Insurance Requirements
When applying for a vehicle registration (license plate) you must show proof that you have PIP (Personal Injury Protection) and PDL (Personal Damage Liability) insurance with a Florida insurance company for the vehicle. The exception is Florida residents on active military duty stationed outside the state of Florida.
License Plates and Registrations
Tax collector offices in all 67 counties issue license plates and registrations certificates. The registration taxes are based on the weight of your vehicle. If you have a valid license plate, you may request to have it transferred to your new vehicle. Personalized and specialty license plates are available for additional fees.
The operator must possess the registration certificate for a motor vehicle while the vehicle is in use. The state requires most owners to renew their registrations during the 90 days prior to the owner’s birthday. Exceptions will be noted on the registration certificate.
Fees and Taxes
Florida law requires fees from the buyer for registering and titling a vehicle in Florida. The buyer also must pay sales tax and use tax. The local tax collector’s office can help you determine what fees are required.
If the vehicle was not titled previously in Florida, the owner must complete a Vehicle Identification Number and Odometer Verification. The form requires verification by the owner and one of the following:
- Florida DHSMV Compliance Examiner/Officer
- Licensed Florida Motor Vehicle Dealer
- Florida Notary Public
- Police Officer
If you have lost or misplaced your title, you may apply for a duplicate at any county tax collector’s office. Bring proper identification and your current registration. The tax collector’s office may ask you to verify that you want the duplicate sent to a different address.
Buying A Vehicle On The Internet
One out of every four cars bought today is found on the Internet. Unfortunately, vehicles listed online could have hidden problems such as odometer rollbacks, flood damage or non-working air bags and are sold to unaware consumers. If you are buying a vehicle online take advantage of the following tips.
- Do Your Homework If the vehicle is titled in Florida, you can access Motor Vehicle Check on the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles’ website to see if there are any outstanding liens or the vehicle has been branded as salvage or a flood vehicle. Best of all this service is free. There are several commercial motor vehicle history reports that can provide useful information about whether the car has been in a crash and was reported to authorities. You can also find out whether the vehicle was ever reported as stolen, salvaged, damaged, or flooded.If the seller is a motor vehicle dealer in the state of Florida, you can contact the Division of Motor Vehicles at (850) 617-3171 to determine if the dealer is licensed and in good standing.
- Ensure that you receive the title Florida law requires that Florida dealers apply for title and registration on behalf of the buyer within 30 days of delivery of the vehicle. The Division of Motor Vehicles licenses and regulates Florida dealers and helps to resolve any disputes concerning motor vehicle sales and warranty work. For assistance and local office addresses and phone numbers or to file a complaint click here or call (850) 617-3171.
- If you feel like you have been a victim of fraud… If, in the process of purchasing a vehicle online, you feel you have been a victim of fraud, you should contact the Internet Crime Complaint Center.
- Finally… If you purchase an automobile online from an out-of-state vendor, you must pay the sales tax. Florida has very specific rules regarding internet purchases. The “use tax” applies to “items purchased outside Florida, including another country, which are brought or delivered into this state and would have been taxed if purchased in Florida.” If you have questions about the “use tax” and how it may apply to your online purchase, follow this link to the Florida Department of Revenue for more information.
Florida Attorney General Lemon Law
Motor Vehicle Check
DHSMV Complaint Form
National Automobile Dealers Association Web site
Odometer Fraud Brochure
Car Buyer’s Guide Brochure
Buying or Selling a Car
If you're not living in a big city in the U.S., chances are you're going to need a car to get around. If you don't know if you will need a car during your internship, be sure to check before you arrive. Ask your employer what the local public transportation is like, and whether they recommend purchasing a vehicle. That way, you will know ahead of time if you need to get a car and won't be stranded when you get here.
If you do decide you will need to buy a car, you must first make sure you are eligible to drive in the United States.
Step One: Getting a Driver's License
If you wish to drive a car in the United States, you must have a Driver's License. If you have a license from your home country, this may be acceptable if the document is also written in English. However, if it is not, you have two possible options.
If you already have a license from your home country, the first option is to get an International Driving Permit (IDP) before you leave. An International Driving Permit translates information contained on your driver's license into 10 languages so that officials in foreign countries are able to read your license. While an IDP will supplement a valid government-issued license, it is not a replacement for a license. You must have both an official license and an IDP if you wish to drive in the United States and carry both with you when driving. If a law enforcement official asks to see your license for any reason, you will need to show both the IDP and your foreign license. Please note that the U.S. does not issue IDP's to foreign visitors, so if this is something you want to obtain, you will need to do so before arriving in the United States.
The second option is to apply for a United State's Driver's License once you arrive. This can be a complicated process. Luckily, the Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) has provided these tips to help you understand what you will need to do:
- Contact InterExchange Career Training USA within 10 days of arriving in the U.S. to activate your SEVIS record.
- Wait at least two business days after your SEVIS record has been activated AND at least 10 days after your actual arrival in the U.S. before applying. This will ensure enough time for your information to be processed through SEVIS and other U.S. Government databases so that the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) can access it.
- Know what you are applying for and if you are eligible. Visit the DMV website for the U.S. state in which you are living for more information.
- Check your forms. Check to make sure all of your forms are correct when you apply for a license. Data integrity is very important because if there is an error on your paperwork, it will cause delays in your application process. Make sure that your Form I-94, Form DS-2019, and SEVIS record are each correct.
- Bring all of your paperwork. When you go to your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), please remember all of your paperwork. For most states, this includes:
- Form DS 2019
- Form I-94
- Passport (with visa)
- Proof of legal presence or residence. What this document is varies from state to state. Check with your state's DMV to see what they require.
- Social Security Number (SSN) or a Social Security Administration (SSA) Form SSA-L676, "Refusal to Process SSN Application." Please visit the SSA website for more information.
- Any other documents or information indicated on the DMV website
This process can take one or two months, so make sure to find a different means of transportation while you try to get a license. For more information, download the DMV fact sheet.
Step Two: Getting Car Insurance
While you may give the dealer money to purchase a car, they will not let you drive it out of the lot without proof of car insurance. You cannot drive a car in the U.S. without insurance. If you are caught driving uninsured, you will be ticketed and fined. Car insurance is meant to protect you against the losses that could occur with a major accident or theft. You will need to research different companies and compare prices to make sure that you are getting the best rate for your insurance needs. ConsumerReports.org has a great resource page that explains what different types of coverage exist and gives some money-saving tips. It also has links for sites where you can compare various insurance providers. For more information on how to select the best car insurance for you, click here. (Please note: The Accident and Sickness insurance you have through InterExchange is not car insurance.)
Step Three: Buying a Car
Now that you have a license and insurance, you can purchase a car. Doing your research before buying a car is very important. You must be sure that a car fits your needs and budget before you purchase it. First you should decide if you want to buy a used or new car. Used cars are normally much cheaper than a new car, but they do present more challenges. You will need to be willing to risk more car trouble and repair costs for a used car. Typically, the best place to find a used car is in the classified ads of local newspapers from individuals selling old cars. You can also go to dealerships or search online to find used cars. Before you buy a used car, make sure to get all the information on the car's history. This includes the number of previous owners, if the car was ever in an accident, any previous mechanical problems, and the maintenance history of the car. Sites like Carfax can help you find this information. Normally, anyone selling a used car will also allow you to take it to a mechanic for an inspection or "diagnostic check." This will make sure that the car is in good condition.
If you choose to buy a new car, different dealers will have different prices. You will need to decide what options and special features you will want installed in you car, if any. Make sure to compare different prices and options, and get advice from experienced car owners. Do not always trust the salesperson at the dealership, since they are probably more interested in making a profit than figuring out what is best for you. Do your research before you go to the dealership so you will not be taken advantage of. Buying a new car can be a negotiation, so you need to be prepared with all the facts so you can get the best deal. Again, ConsumerReports.org has another very helpful resource about buying a new car at the best price. Click here to learn more about bargaining and negotiating with the dealer.
Step Four: Registering Your Car
So now you have a license, insurance and car; there is still one last step you need to take before you can legally drive your vehicle in the U.S.: registration. All states in the U.S. require that a car be registered. If you are caught driving an unregistered vehicle, you will be fined or ticketed. If you buy a used car, you must still register it, even if it was registered under a previous owner.
Registration is the documentation that proves you have paid the registration tax and fees on your motor vehicle. In most states, this consists of a metal license plate, a validation decal, and a registration certificate. Most states also have a deadline for when a car must be registered after it has been purchased. You should research and find out how much time your state allows. This can be as little as 10 or as many as 30 days after you buy your car, so make sure to check. You will also need to check with your state's DMV to figure out what paperwork you will need to register your car.
Once you collect all the documents you need, you can go to your local DMV or tax collector's office and submit the registration application. They will then issue you the metal license plates or paper temporary plates that prove your car is registered. If you are going to be in possession of this car for over a year, make sure you also know when you need to renew your registration. In most states you are required to renew your registration and insurance every 12 months.
After you have registered your car, you are all set to drive in the U.S!
Plan B: Renting a Car
For those of you who do not need a car everyday, a good option is to rent a car when you need one. If you decide you want to get away for the weekend or perhaps explore some of America's scenic drives, then renting a car for just a few days is probably your best bet. Just like buying a car, you will want to do your research and compare prices at different rental agencies to make sure you get the best price on a rental. Many big cities also have car-sharing programs like ZipCar that will allow you to get a car for a few hours if you need one. The nice thing about renting or sharing a car is that most companies will provide car insurance to their customers, and you do not need to worry about registering the vehicle. As long as you have a valid license, then you should be eligible to rent or share a car.
We hope this has given you a better understanding of how to drive and get a car in the United States. For more information, check out some of these websites:
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