Which car insurance to choose in the United States

Everyone agrees the car is an essential object in the United States… and consequently, car insurance is an essential subject! But for most of us, car insurance is also a real headache because the field is complex, the rules differ according to the State and the quality of the coverage varies greatly from one insurer to another. But how exactly does car insurance work in the United States?

Before looking specifically at insurance and its characteristics, it is worth mentioning two or three essential points in terms of automobiles in the United States…

You should know that you cannot drive with your French or international license for more than a few months (the period varies from one State to another). You must therefore retake your license in the State in which you reside or, if there is an equivalence with your license, as in Florida, you must then pass an “administrative visit” (which goes very quickly) in an organization (DMV), on pain of being in violation and even considered by the American police as “unlicensed”!

You should also know that a car garage in the USA will never let you leave with your newly purchased car if you do not provide proof that you are a license holder and that you are well insured. And, precisely on the insurer side, if you present a foreign license to a company, it refuses you any contract.

Moreover, as an expatriate and individual freshly landed on American soil, you are considered by insurers as a young driver! Even if you have 10 or 15 years of driving behind you, with thousands of kilometers on the clock and no accidents in your country of origin, the American State considers that you have no history and therefore that you are a beginner. And unfortunately, the status of young drivers does not make it easy to obtain good insurance at an attractive price…

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Auto insurance in the United States, how does it work?

Unlike other insurance (home, for example), car insurance is compulsory in most American states. However, laws and requirements differ from state to state. In other words, the minimum coverage required for car insurance is not necessarily the same in California, Nebraska or Florida. It is therefore important to obtain information from an insurer who knows the specifics of the State in which you reside. It should tell you the minimum insurance you need for your car, which can serve as a basis for you to choose the guarantee that best suits your needs and your budget.

Types of insurance that American insurers offers:

  • Liability for bodily injury caused to third parties (Bodily injury liability – BIL):

this insurance covers damage caused to persons, other than the insured driver or his passengers, and compensates them in the event of serious injury or permanent damage during an accident for which the insured is responsible. It also covers the costs if the accident was caused by a driver other than the insured, but covered by the latter’s policy. It can also pay the lawyer’s fees in the event of legal proceedings.

  • Liability for material damage caused to third parties (Property damage liability – PDL):

the insurance covers damage caused by the insured in the context of a car accident on the property of another person, such as a house, a fence, a garage door or a bicycle, in the event that the insured is found liable.

  • Protection against personal injuries (Personal injury protection – PIP):

this insurance reimburses the insured, the members of his family or the occupants of the damaged vehicle for medical expenses (ambulance, doctors, hospitalization, X-rays, medication, rehabilitation, prostheses , psychiatry, etc.), funeral expenses, lost wages or childcare costs. All these costs are covered regardless of who is responsible for the accident. It also covers the insured if he is injured as a passenger in someone else’s car. Attention, for this guarantee to work, you must go to the doctor within 14 days of the accident, otherwise the guarantees are reduced. This is the coverage most often required in states whose insurance system is based on “no-fault liability”.

  • Liability for damage caused by an uninsured driver (Uninsured/Underinsured motorist – UM):
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this policy covers injuries and damage caused by an uninsured driver, insufficiently insured or hit and run. It compensates medical expenses, pain and suffering, as well as lost wages for the insured and their passengers.


But there are other optional guarantees including “Collision” and “Comprehensive” insurance, which are often imposed on the beneficiaries of a car loan.

  •   – Bodily injury caused to the driver or his passengers (Medical payments or MedPay – MP):

the insured is covered for bodily injury caused to himself or his passengers, regardless of who is responsible for the accident. MedPay covers medical expenses “deemed necessary and reasonable” and funeral expenses. The insured is also covered if he is injured as a passenger in another car, on public transport, by another driver as a pedestrian or while riding a bicycle. Please note, “MedPay” is not a substitute for health insurance because it only covers in the event of an accident.

Note: “Personal injury protection” and “Medical payments” insurance both cover injuries suffered by policyholders and their passengers in the event of an accident. But the PIP covers a wider range of fees. MedPay is generally used to supplement standard liability coverage.

  • Damage with collision (Collision):

this guarantee reimburses the cost of repairs or the current value of the vehicle in the event of a collision with another vehicle or a fixed object (therefore other than an animal) or in the event of a rollover, whether insured is liable or not. In the majority of contracts, you must subscribe to the “Other Than Collision” guarantee in order to be able to subscribe to the “Collision”.

  • Damage without collision (Comprehensive other than collision – OTC):
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damage caused to the insured’s vehicle other than by a collision (explosion, fire, vandalism, theft, glass breakage, hail, etc.) is covered by this insurance. This guarantee also includes damage caused by the fall of an object or by impact with an animal.

  • Towing and labor (Towing & Labor Coverage):

also called (Emergency Road Service), it covers the costs of emergency services on the road, for example towing when the car is in an accident. It also pays for labor costs when it comes to changing a flat tire or unlocking a locked car where it is parked. The conditions and amounts for towing or repairs vary depending on the contract.

  • – Car rental (Rental reimbursement):

the insurance covers the cost of renting a replacement vehicle if the car is being repaired following an accident or if it has been stolen.

  • – Loan repayment (Gap insurance):

if an accident occurs while a car loan is in progress, the insurance can help the driver by acting as a “bridge” between the amount owed on the loan and the fair market value of the car.


In conclusion, choosing the right car insurance can be overwhelming, but it’s important to make informed decisions. Before selecting a policy, it’s essential to compare different providers and policies to ensure that you’re getting coverage that meets your needs. Evaluate the level of coverage you need, your budget, and the level of risk you’re willing to take on.

Consider looking into providers’ financial stability, customer service, and reputation in the industry. Additionally, be sure to read the fine print carefully before making any commitments.

Ultimately, the right car insurance policy should provide adequate coverage, peace of mind, and should be affordable. With a little research and the right resources at your fingertips, you can find the ideal policy to fit your needs. Remember, the car insurance policy you choose will provide you with protection in the event of an accident, so it’s crucial to choose carefully.


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