Driving in the U.S.

Driver's licence

You can get an international driver’s license before leaving France (ask your prefecture) but not all U.S. states recognize foreign driver’s licenses. Some administrations and companies only take national ones. So whether you have an international driver’s license or not, take your French one with you.

The validity duration of your driver’s license depends on the US state. Consult the DMV in the state to confirm the length of validity. Local DMV offices may be found by consulting your area’s telephone Yellow Pages, or by visiting the state’s official DMV website.

Obtaining a Driver's License in the U.S.

Depending on your stay length, you may be able to apply for US driver’s license. Some states have an agreement with France and will automatically deliver a US license to French driver’s license holders. Some others will require you to pass tests.

Contact the local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) for the state where you will be working to find out whether you are eligible to apply for a U.S. driver’s license. In all case, you must have a social security number to obtain a US driver’s license.

Renting a car

Renting a car is an option available across the country. Most car rental companies require drivers to be at least 21 years old, and charge a per-day surcharge for individuals under the age of 25. Watch out for hidden costs and rental terms, such as limited miles, taking the car out of state, refueling charges and insurance deductibles. Make sure everyone who drives the car is listed.

Buying a car

If you stay in the US for a long time or live in a small city, you may consider buying a car. Here are a few advices from previous interns’ experience:

  • Cars sold by owners are most of the time cheaper than car dealers

  • You can find a lot of cars to sale on but avoid scams

  • If you buy a car, be very careful to buy one in good conditions. Each state government is free to decide whether to require vehicle safety inspection so if your state do not it may be a good idea to spend extra dollars and have a mechanic look over the car before investing your savings

  • Take a look at the Blue Book to get a value estimation of a car

  • Every US car has a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). You can ask for this number and use it to get information using CARFAX, a commercial web-based service that supplies vehicle history reports to individuals on used cars. This system is not 100% reliable but still useful

  • Ask the closest DMV about required forms to buy a car

  • Do not pay the car if the owner cannot give you the car title in exchange. Without the car title, you cannot register, insure or sale your car

Insuring you car

After purchasing a car and before registering it, you must purchase insurance. Some companies insure people with foreign driver’s license for extra fee. You can find bellow some insurance companies:

If you plan to rent a car to visit the US, you can ask your car insurance to cover the cars you rent. Insurance is about half the price of a car rent.

Registrering your car

Check with the state’s DMV before buying the car, and find out everything you need to do and the cost to register it.

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