Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products including home, life, auto, and commercial and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs. She has since used that knowledge in her more than ten years as a writer, largely in the insurance...

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UPDATED: Jul 14, 2021

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Here's what you need to know...

  • Driving your car overseas requires the purchase of international car insurance
  • A green card is proof of car insurance in accordance with the requirements of the 48 European countries within the Green Card System
  • Failing to purchase insurance for overseas driving can leave you financially liable
  • If you plan to rent a car, you will need international rental car insurance
  • A comparison tool can help you find the right coverage for the countries you are visiting

Wondering what to do about car insurance abroad? If you want to drive your car while on vacation or living abroad in another country — not including Canada — there’s a good chance you’ll need international car insurance or green card car insurance.

You’ll need to compare car insurance coverage and rates to find the right travel car insurance policy if you need to drive a car while you’re visiting a European country or any country that’s a member of the Green Card System. Knowing how to get car insurance online can save you money and streamline the process to get green card car insurance.

Need to buy green card car insurance? Start comparison shopping for green card car insurance rates today by entering your ZIP code into our free tool above.

Green Card Basics — What is a Green Card for Car Insurance?

What is green card car insurance in Europe? The Green Card System is a formal program administered by the European Council of Bureaux (CoB) on behalf of its participating countries, the majority of which are in Europe. The CoB maintains the list of participating green card countries (currently 48) and any areas within those countries that may be excluded from the Green Card System due to political disputes or claims.

A green card is your proof of insurance while you are driving within the Green Card System. The card contains information about your international insurance policy, and it’s accepted in every country that is part of the Green Card System.

If you do not have a green card while driving in Europe or another country that recognizes the Green Card System, you could be held liable for all accident-related expenses.

Which countries need green card insurance? Most of the countries that require a green card in order to drive are located in Europe and along the Mediterranean Sea. A few of the countries that require a green card include the United Kingdom, Belgium, Spain, France, Germany, Italy, Denmark, and Switzerland.

There’s also a rainbow of other international card programs involving countries outside of Europe and its Green Card System:

Additional (Non-Green) International Card Color Systems

Card ColorApplicable Geographic AreaParticipating Countries
BlueSoutheast AsiaBrunei, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam
BrownWestern AfricaBenin, Burkina Faso, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo
OrangeMiddle East and North AfricaAlgeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, United Arab Emirates, Yemen
PinkCentral AfricaCameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Republic of Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea
YellowEastern AfricaBurundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe
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Now that you know which color or colors of card you’ll need, let’s take a look at some insurance basics.

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International Car Insurance Basics

Standard car insurance policies in the United States don’t typically offer coverage abroad, which is why an insurance green card or other international car insurance is needed. International car insurance protects you if you get into an accident while driving your car abroad and works similarly to the policies issued in the United States.

Before we add the international component, let’s go over some basic information. Understanding the car insurance you already have can make the process of getting international coverage seem less overwhelming.

In the U.S., motor vehicle and car insurance laws are established at the state level, meaning they vary depending on where you live. Some states have what is called a no-fault insurance law, which means they might not even require certain aspects of car insurance at all. Always remember to check with your particular state’s insurance laws to determine what does and does not apply to you.

There are two basic kinds of car insurance: bodily injury liability and property damage.

Liability Car Insurance

Liability car insurance coverage pays for expenses related to an accident that you caused. There are two major types of liability car insurance: bodily injury liability and property damage liability.

  • Bodily injury liability covers the expenses related to the injuries of other people; these can include medical expenses, lost wages, or pain and suffering.
  • Property damage liability covers the expenses related to the damage of other people’s property, including vehicles, buildings, fences, and equipment.

This short video provides a nice overview of liability car insurance:

In the U.S. states with no-fault insurance laws, car insurance companies are required to provide Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance to all of their customers. If you live in one of these states, you’re not required to purchase PIP. However, if you decide not to, you’ll have to sign a PIP waiver. Before you do so, be sure that you understand the basic facts about a PIP waiver so that you’re not surprised to find you’re not covered after you’ve been in an accident.

Now that we’ve got that squared away, let’s move on to property damage car insurance.

Property Damage Car Insurance

Property damage car insurance pays for expenses related to damage to your car. There are two types of property damage car insurance: collision coverage and comprehensive coverage.

  • Collision coverage pays for damages to your car resulting from contact with an object, such as another car or a tree.
  • Comprehensive coverage pays for damages to your car resulting from events such as severe weather, theft, vandalism, or wildlife encounters.

Here’s a short video that summarizes collision coverage:

And here’s one that summarizes comprehensive coverage:

Uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage will cover the expenses related to your injuries if you’re hit by another driver who doesn’t have insurance, or who has inadequate insurance.

If you’re in an accident, you should request contact and insurance information from the other driver right away. You should also be sure to contact the police since, among other things, they can help get this information if you’re not able to do so. With regard to the other driver, you can find out if they have car insurance if you have their license plate number and information from the police accident report.

To round out our short video series in this section, here’s a brief summary of uninsured/underinsured coverage:

 

Now that we’ve covered the basics for U.S. car insurance, let’s take a look at some of the differences or nuances you’ll need to know about if you’ll be driving abroad.

Generally speaking, the car insurance basics are the same for both inside and outside of the U.S., since you’ll always want to think about the following:

  • Coverage for physical damage to the vehicle you’re driving
  • Coverage for injuries to you and any passengers
  • Coverage for damages and injuries to the other parties if you’re at fault
  • Coverage for theft or vandalism

Adhering to these basics can help you determine how best to protect yourself, your family, and your belongings when you’re traveling outside of the United States. As with any insurance decision, you’re balancing your best guess about your risk of an accident with how much the insurance will cost. Only you can truly know what is good car insurance coverage for your specific situation.

If you’re just headed for Canada, you’re in luck — your U.S. insurance policy will cover you there. However, you’ll need separate insurance coverage if you’re planning to drive in any other country. Your car insurance does not cover you abroad.

Believe it or not, although Mexico is just in the other direction from Canada, it has extremely strict driving regulations and harsh penalties, regardless of whether you’re driving your own car or a rental car. Also, be sure to research the road conditions along your planned journey, as poorly maintained roads are more likely to cause vehicle damage; in that case, you might want to purchase higher liability coverage.

As with visiting any country, make sure you understand the local culture and politics so you can avoid any unpleasant situations or experiences.

Remember how insurance laws differ by state in the U.S.? International driving laws differ by country. Different countries will require different coverage types and different minimum amounts. Therefore, you should research every country you plan to drive in or through to make sure the policy you intend to purchase is accepted there and that it adheres to all the applicable minimum requirements.

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How do I get a green card?

Some of the larger U.S. car insurance companies offer green card coverage. You might first want to check with your own car insurance company to see if they offer this coverage. If they don’t, then you can check online to find out what U.S. companies have this available. Getting green card car insurance online is not only convenient, but it can also save you time and money.

This short video provides some helpful tips on how to get started:

Do you have to pay for a green card for car insurance?  How long does a green card for car insurance last? For questions like this and things like green card car insurance cost, it’s best to go to the source. You might not think of going to your car insurance company for advice, but it’s possible they could be a big help with sorting through all the details involved when you’re looking to buy green card insurance. They can also help to ensure that your green card status is active prior to your trip abroad.

International Rental Car Insurance

If you don’t plan to transport your vehicle overseas and instead plan to rent a car, you’ll need, according to SmartTravel, international rental car insurance with a Damage Protection Waiver (DWP).

Standard overseas rental car policies only provide liability, which is not the liability coverage we expect and understand in the United States.

Instead, overseas liability protects against property damage that you cause with the vehicle. It does not pay for repairs to the vehicle you’re driving. DWP is collision insurance — it pays for the damage to your vehicle.

If it’s any consolation, Europeans can have the same kinds of concerns when they leave their home country and travel abroad.  This short video provides guidance that would work in both Europe and the U.S. when it comes to renting a car:

Knowing ahead of time how to protect yourself when you’re traveling can provide peace of mind and possibly save you money, too.

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The Hazards of Driving Without Car Insurance Overseas

If may be tempting to decline the car insurance when you travel, vacation, or live overseas. However, the money you save by not purchasing the insurance won’t cover the costs if you get into an accident. There are many potential hazards to driving overseas, including:

  • Unfamiliar road conditions and objects – The roads overseas are similar but not exactly like the roads in the United States. They contain features that U.S. drivers may not be familiar with, like low guard rails, hedgerows, and turnabouts.
  • Bad road conditions – Depending on the country you’re visiting, you may have to deal with bad or dangerous road conditions from improper installation to high cliffs or steep drop-offs.
  • Not knowing the local driving customs – Drivers in other countries may follow different right-of-way rules and local customs that you do not know about or understand, or they may follow more closely than you’re accustomed to. Try and research the local driving customs and roadway rules before you drive in a foreign country.

Speaking of local driving customs, in this short CNN video, a professional racing driver guides the correspondent around Mexico City. At one point, he advises her not to use her horn when in thick traffic, which is not something we’d think twice about doing here in the U.S.:

Before you depart on your trip, locate and find an international car insurance policy or an insurance green card. This task can be accomplished by using a comparison tool to find an appropriate policy for the overseas countries you plan to visit.

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Frequently Asked Questions: Green Card Insurance

#1 – Can I get car insurance in the U.S. with a foreign license?

If you’re looking to come to the U.S. from another country and drive, you can get car insurance with a foreign license.

Be sure to check with the state you’ll be moving to, and see if they require an International Driving Permit. If so, you can arrange to complete this task before you leave your country of origin. Also, make sure you bring your foreign license to the U.S. with you.

An insurance company in the U.S. may require that you obtain a U.S. driving license before they provide you with car insurance. If that’s the case, you’ll need to make time to study the laws and regulations in order to pass the exam for your license.

#2 – What if I just decide to get cheap car insurance?

You might be tempted just to get some cheap car insurance in order to save money or to get the process over with. This approach might work for you, but be sure that you understand the limitations of the policy you get before you find yourself in a situation where you’re financially responsible for damages but don’t have much insurance coverage to help you with making the payments.

#3 – Can I apply for car insurance in the U.S. if I have a green card?

This can be a little confusing because, although we’ve been talking about the Green Card System for driving in many European and surrounding countries, there is also a form of identification for immigrants in the U.S. called a “green card.”

The bottom line is, yes, you can apply for car insurance with a green card. Depending on what U.S. state you’re in, you may also need to provide documentation related to your driving history in your original country. Your insurance company can provide you with the specific requirements you’ll need to get car insurance with them.

#4 – Do I need insurance for shipping a car overseas?

If you’re moving or relocating overseas for a long period of time, you might decide to take your vehicle with you. As with many of the issues we’ve covered in this guide, you’ll want to look into what your current car insurance coverage provides, and what you’ll need in terms of insurance for shipping a car overseas.

You’ll also have some homework to do in terms of how you’d like to ship your vehicle, by ship or by air. What shipping method you choose might inform your insurance choices as well. Start with your current car insurance company to see what your existing policy will cover and ask if they have guidance or partnerships in place that can help with relocating your car.

#5 – How long does it take to get a green card?

It’s always good to get an early start on this, but guidance from the United Kingdom suggests that you should start talking with your insurance company at least one month before you plan to travel. This will give you plenty of time to work through any additional paperwork or questions that might come up during the green card process.

Getting a car insurance quote with a comparison tool will allow you to input your driving information and the countries you plan to visit so that you can see a variety of policies and premium amounts. This will help you choose an affordable international insurance policy that provides you with the right amount of international car insurance should you be involved in an accident or other vehicular incident.

Make sure you have the right coverage for your travels, or even your everyday driving in the U.S. Get started by using our comparison tool below to find affordable green card car insurance quotes.

References:

  1. https://www.cobx.org/
  2. https://www.smartertravel.com/international-car-rental-tips/