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How to get car insurance as an undocumented citizen

Fact-checked with HomeInsurance.com

There are an estimated 11,300,000 undocumented immigrants living in the United States. As an undocumented citizen, it can be difficult to obtain a driver’s license and purchase a car. Most states do not offer driving privileges to non-U.S. citizens, but some states are making it easier.

Getting car insurance remains difficult for undocumented immigrants. Without insurance, driving is incredibly risky and comes with serious consequences, including deportation. Yet, many undocumented people drive without any coverage. 

In this article, we’ll explain how non-U.S. citizens can get car insurance in certain states.

Can you get car insurance for non-US-citizens?

Yes, it’s possible for non-U.S. citizens to get car insurance. If you have a car and need insurance, there are a few steps to take. 

Get a driver’s license

If you need car insurance, the first step is to get a driver’s license. Every driver who applies for insurance must have a valid license, regardless of their status. This applies to undocumented citizens as well, as indicated by financial advisor and consumer advocate, Laura Adams:

“If you’re an undocumented citizen, it’s possible to get car insurance, but the options depend on the state where you live. You typically need a driver’s license, so check with your state’s department of motor vehicles to find out what’s permitted.”

Until you’re licensed and insured, it’s illegal to drive, so don’t risk it. Having coverage protects you from an accident that’s caused by you or another driver. New drivers pay relatively high car insurance premiums; however, as you get more time behind the wheel and maintain a clean driving history, your rates should come down. 

Currently, 15 states and Washington D.C. allow undocumented citizens to get a driver’s license. Those states include:

  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Maryland
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • Nevada
  • Oregon
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Washington

If you live in one of these states, you can apply for a driver’s license through the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Like any other driver, you’ll be required to take driver’s education courses and complete an on-road test. Depending on your age and the state, you may also be required to drive with a learner’s permit for a period of time.

If you don’t live in one of the 15 states, you might be able to get a license through the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), which is available nationwide. DACA allows non-U.S. citizens to get a valid driver’s license if they fit certain criteria, including:

  • Immigrated to the U.S. before age 16
  • Were younger than 31 on June 15th, 2012
  • Are living in the U.S. consistently
  • Have a GED degree
  • Have no criminal record 

If you don’t fit into these categories, you may be out of luck unless your status changes. 

Shop for car insurance

Once you have a valid state driver’s license, you can shop for car insurance. Every state has a minimum amount of car insurance drivers are legally required to carry. The minimum amount of insurance is usually the cheapest coverage you can get.

Before you purchase insurance, your provider will let you know how much coverage you need. 

In most states, you must have a certain level of liability coverage to protect you from lawsuits. Additionally, your state might require drivers to carry personal injury protection (PIP), uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM) and medical payments coverage. 

Usually, collision and comprehensive insurance are optional coverages. However, these two coverages are what protect your vehicle. For instance, if you get into an accident and your car gets damaged, collision insurance will reimburse you for the cost of repairs. Because of that, collision and comprehensive insurance are beneficial.

When you’re shopping for insurance, look for providers that offer coverage in your area. Check the coverage, discounts and endorsements they offer. You can also read reviews from research firms like J.D. Power, and check the company’s financial strength rating from AM Best.

Find affordable options

Get several quotes from different companies. That way, you’ll know which provider can give you the best deal for the amount of coverage you need. Most insurance companies have free online quote generators where you input your information and get an estimated rate.

If you can’t afford insurance and you happen to live in California, you can take advantage of the Low-Cost Auto Insurance Program. The program helps California residents get insurance if their income is less than $29,425 for one person or $60,625 for a family of four. Although the program only offers the minimum amount of protection, it is much more affordable than getting private insurance.

To qualify for the Low-Cost Auto Insurance Program, drivers must have a valid California license, be at least 19 years old, own a car that is worth less than $25,000 and meet the program’s income requirements.

Consequences of driving uninsured

The consequences of driving without insurance are serious. If you get caught driving without it, you could face fines, car impoundment and even jail time if it’s not your first offense. Additionally, undocumented immigrants may face deportation.

Laura emphasizes the importance of insured driving; 

“Until you’re licensed and insured, it’s illegal to drive, so don’t risk it. Having coverage protects you from an accident that’s caused by you or another driver. New drivers pay relatively high car insurance premiums; however, as you get more time behind the wheel and maintain a clean driving history, your rates should come down.”

Driving without insurance also isn’t worth the financial risk. If you don’t have insurance, you are responsible for paying the cost of a claim entirely out-of-pocket. Accidents often cause thousands of dollars worth of damage, and if that money is coming out of your savings account, it could put you in debt.

The takeaway

  • Car insurance is sometimes available for non-US citizens.
  • A driver’s license is required to get car insurance and allow you to drive.
  • States require a minimum about of insurance coverage.
  • People face high consequences for driving without insurance.

If you’re an undocumented citizen, there are ways to purchase car insurance. Currently, 15 states allow non-U.S. citizens to get a driver’s license. If you don’t live in one of those states, you may be eligible for a license through the federal DACA program. 

Once you have a license, you can start looking for insurance. Don’t forget to compare providers and quotes, to see which company can give you the best deal for the coverage you need. Remember that driving without insurance is illegal and comes with heavy consequences.

Elizabeth Rivelli

Elizabeth is an insurance writer for coverage.com, where she covers insurance providers and reviews policies to help consumers find comprehensive and affordable coverage for every area of their life. She has more than three years of writing experience for top online insurance and finance publications.

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