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A common conclusion on Travel.SE says that buying a car as a tourist in the US is difficult because of registration and the time it takes to do the paperwork. However I have a friend in NYC who can buy any car I want in his name. After my trip to the States is finished, he would sell it and wire me the money.

So the question is — what documentation (insurance, etc.) is needed for me to drive my friend's car in the US as a tourist?

  • I'd guess the answer is "just your license". You'll need to be appropriatley insured (no idea if you need docs to prove that on you or not - probably one of those annoying things that varies by county in the US), and some kind of evidence you have permission to be driving the friend's car can only help. – CMaster Feb 4 '16 at 14:32
  • @CMaster I can think of three things: insurance (which one though?), an affidavit from the friend (does it have to be legally certified?), and some paper guaranteeing I'm responsible for third-party damage (so that my friend doesn't worry about me crashing into someone). – JonathanReez Feb 4 '16 at 15:10
  • @CMaster insurance requirements vary by state, not county. I'm fairly sure that all of them have documentation requirements, but the requirements of the state of registration prevail no matter where the car is located. JonathanReez: I'm not sure exactly what you mean by "third-party damage" but IIRC state insurance requirements are specifically for coverage in case you crash into someone. – phoog Feb 4 '16 at 15:22
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    @JonathanReez The reason that insurance is legally required is normally to ensure that you can cover the costs to 3rd parties. THe government doesn't care if you ruin yourself crashing. So I wouldn't have thought you need a seperate document for that. The affadavit I doubt is legally required (people drive other people's vehicles all the time) but may smooth your way... – CMaster Feb 4 '16 at 16:05
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    Here's what the NYS Department of Motor Vehicles has to say about it: dmv.ny.gov/insurance/insurance-requirements. Your friend will probably want to determine whether his insurance will be valid if you are driving the car; it may be necessary to add you explicitly to the policy as an additional driver. – phoog Feb 4 '16 at 16:14
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+50

Normally if you're stopped or involved in an accident police officers are asking for 3 things:

  1. License
  2. Registration
  3. Proof of Insurance.

Normally in the case of the rental from a private party or from a car rental company you don't have car registration available but you do have a rental agreement signed by you and an authorized representative allowing you to drive the car. Turo formerly known as RelayRides provides this service for you so they must have formalized to process but I don't have their contract available but I have found a few others online

and so on.

One of the things that could pose a problem is actually insurance. I haven't found any companies in the US in any state that will sell a policy to a non-US resident for a limited term, but a policy holder in the US (and your friend will have to have one to register the car) will be allowed to add you as a foreign driver to his/her insurance thus clearing the last obstacle (this may vary from state to state and company to company).

P.S. There have been anecdotal evidence that a possession of a car registration allows you to legally drive someone else's car but I can't find any proof of that so don't take it at face value.

  • Does New York allow foreign drivers on their insurance? – JonathanReez Feb 4 '16 at 16:22
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    To the best of my knowledge yes. But your friend should check with his insurance company. I live in PA and I was able to do it here. – Karlson Feb 4 '16 at 16:24
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    Most US liability insurance includes anyone you let "occasionally" drive your car. – WGroleau Feb 5 '16 at 4:41
  • If they are listed as a driver yes. Arbitrarily not to my knowledge. – Karlson Feb 5 '16 at 4:53
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    It's also worth noting that while New York requires insurance underwritten by a New York insurer, nothing prohibits additional insurance underwritten by anyone. So a foreign driver may also be covered by his or her own insurance; it's just that any such insurance would not satisfy the minimum coverage requirement. – phoog Feb 5 '16 at 5:51
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You basically need to be sure to own an insurance all the time a current driver license and that's it. If you're going to stay there for a couple days you can also rent a car and forget about all of that or ask for a private transportation service like ShuttleWizard or Lyft that provide services in all the US cities.

Have a nice trip!

  • Lyft/Uber/ShuttleWizard can be problematic if you need to drive out of town. – Karlson Mar 7 '16 at 22:39

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