Driving in the U.S.
Find safe driving tips, renting a car and important documents needed for driving around the U.S.
Foreign Nationals Driving in the United States
People who drive in the United States must have a valid driver’s license.
To rent a vehicle in the U.S., check with the rental company and find out about documents and other requirements, like how old you have to be. These requirements vary from state to state.
If you are a visitor from outside the United States and Canada who plans to drive in the U.S., check with the motor vehicle department of each state you will drive in for its requirements. Some of the states will require an International Driving Permit (IDP) in addition to a valid license from your own country.
If you intend on getting an IDP, you must do so in advance of your travel:
- The United States does not issue IDPs to foreign visitors. To get an IDP, contact the authorities of the country that issued your driver’s license or its motoring association.
- If you want to rent a car, you may need both your license and an IDP; find out the rental company’s policies in advance.
- Beware of international driver’s license scams.
Residents (Non-U.S. Citizens)
The residency requirement for obtaining a U.S. driver’s license is different in each state. Check the requirements in your state’s department of motor vehicles.
- If you are eligible to apply for a driver’s license, you can get a driver’s license only from the state where you live. Check with your state’s department of motor vehicles to find out how to apply.
- Once you receive your U.S. driver’s license, you can drive anywhere in the U.S. Driving laws in each state differ; it is your responsibility to know and obey the laws of the state where you are driving.
When you rent a car, you are using another company’s car for a short period of time. This option can be convenient if your car is in the shop or when visiting another city. However, there are several factors to consider before you sign the rental agreement:
- Ask what the total cost will be after all fees are included. There may be an airport surcharge or fees for car drop-off, insurance, fuel, mileage, taxes, additional-drivers, under aged-driver, and equipment rental (for items such as ski racks and car seats).
- Ask whether the rental company checks the driving records of customers when they arrive at the service counter. If so, you could be turned away even if you have a confirmed reservation.
- Check in advance to be sure you aren’t duplicating insurance coverage. If you’re traveling on business, your employer might have insurance that covers accidental damage to the vehicle. You might also have coverage through your personal auto insurance, a motor club membership, or the credit card you used to reserve the rental.
- Carefully inspect the vehicle and its tires before renting and when you return it. Try to return the car during regular business hours so you and the rental staff can look at the car together to verify that you didn’t damage it.
- Check refueling policies and charges. Some rental companies, particularly at airports, may require you to refuel within a 10 mile radius of the airport or show a fuel receipt when you return the car.
- Pay with a credit card rather than a debit card, to avoid holds on other funds in your checking account.
- Ask the rental company if a deposit is required. If so, ask for a clear explanation of the deposit refund procedures.
- Visit the National Association of Insurance Commissioners for more information about renting a car and the insurance options.
- Some state laws cover short-term car and truck rentals. Contact your state or local consumer protection office for information or to file a complaint.
Stay Safe on the Road
Driving-related dangers come in many forms. Education is key to understanding the risks and keeping people safe.
Safe Driving Tips
- Learn the extent of danger of texting and other forms of distracted driving.
- Know the laws in your state.
- Find tools for teens, parents and educators to keep teen drivers safe behind the wheel.
- Drunk drivers kill almost 30 people a day in the U.S.
- Learn steps that everyone can take to help prevent drinking and driving.
Follow this Safe Driving Pinterest board for lots of great tips.
Child Car Seats
- Make sure your child, age birth-13, is in the right car seat.
- Find a car seat inspection station near you and get your car seat installed properly.
- Learn about graduated driver licensing laws, which gives young drivers more time to learn the complex skills of driving.
- Parental involvement—like setting ground rules and modeling safe driving—is key for molding your teen into a safe, responsible driver.
- Plan ahead and take steps to keep the older driver in your life safe on the road.
- Find safe driving tips specific to each health issue an older driver might experienc