New York State Driver's License

New York State Driver's License

You do not need to apply for a New York driver’s license unless you become a state resident.

Your license from another country is recognized in NY as long as it is readable in English. Make sure it is valid and you carry it with you when you drive.

If your license is not in English, you can apply for the international driving permit, which proves that you have a valid license in several languages. You need to apply for one in your home country. To drive in the United States, you will need to carry both documents - your license and the international permit.

For more information, visit the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles.

Owning a Car in the U.S. 

There are also significant responsibilities and obligations. As an international student you need to learn about the U.S. federal and state laws that govern driving and owning a car before you start driving.

Owning a car is also expensive. You will have to pay for the car, insurance, state fees, parking and gas, and maintenance.  

More information about owning a car in the U.S. is below.

New York laws governing owning a car

The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles explains laws about owning a car and rules of the road. has an excellent website that explains the driving laws governing persons living in New York State.

Should you buy a new or used car? 

New cars generally require less maintenance, but can still be more expensive than used ones. If you only expect to be in the country for a year or two, you will only be able to sell your new car for much less than you paid.

Do research before you buy

Used cars hold their value much better than new cars, which matters when you sell it after your studies in the U.S. are finished. But it's important that you find a reliable car. Go to the library to review the latest auto issues of Consumer Reports to see which cars they recommend and which you should avoid. Limited information is available online.

Before you buy, make sure you know how much you can afford, including purchase price, insurance and maintenance. You can buy a car from an individual, online or from a dealer. Dealers are the most reliable, though slightly more expensive, because they will guarantee a car is in good shape and may be able to help you with needed repairs.

Before you buy, make sure you:

  • Do not pay anything until you get the car's title
  • Try to find a car that has had a special rubberized undercoating treatment. This keeps your car from rusting.
  • Take the car to a trusted mechanic before you buy. If the car has problems, the mechanic can tell you how much repairs will cost and you can ask for a lower selling price. Avoid buying cars with major problems.
  • Check the guarantee, make sure you know what is and what is not covered and compare dealers' guarantees.
  • Negotiate the price. 
  • Once you have found one or more cars that interest you, check the dealership's ratings with the Better Business Bureau. Be very cautious about buying a car from a dealer with a record of complaints.
  • Use the car's 17-character VIN to check its history on Carfax. The VIN is on the car's dashboard and title documents. The information may include title information, including salvaged or junked titles, flood damage, accident history, odometer readings, emissions inspection results, number of owners and service records. The check will require a $40-50 membership fee. Do not buy a flood-damaged car.

Renting a car

If you only need a car occasionally, consider renting a car only for those times. Cars may be rented by the day, week or month. Prices vary based on the type and size of the car, as well as how long you will keep it. Remember that paying for gas is your responsibility.

To rent a car, you will: 

  • Need an international driver's license, or a license from your home country and an international driving permit
  • Pay a portion, or all, of the cost in advance 
  • Need to pay with cash, a check from an American bank or a major credit card. 
  • Need to be at least 25 years old
  • On a day-to-day rental, a car will cost (without insurance) $14 and up for a used car and $40 and up for a new car. A month's rental of a car will average around $575 (not including insurance or a security deposit). For a smaller car, prices will range between $300 and $600 per month (not including insurance or a security deposit).

​Popular rental companies are: Avis, Budget, Enterprise and Hertz.

Leasing a car

You may also lease a car for a year or two if you have an international driver's license or a New York driver's license. Dealers may require additional information or paperwork.

The cost of leasing varies, depending on:

  • Dealer
  • Car model, including if it is new or used
  • Your credit rating
  • Required car insurance

​​Most leases are at least two years and new car leases usually cover major parts and labor. Leasing can be more expensive than it appears at first glance, because of insurance requirements and fees. Check with the dealer to make sure you understand what insurance coverage comes with the car and what it will cost. Since you are not a permanent U.S. resident, you may be asked to pay all of the leasing fee in advance.

After you buy a car

If you did not use a loan to buy your car, make sure you get the title of ownership from the previous owner. This proves the car is yours. Do not pay anything until the title is signed over to you. Make sure you get a written reciept for the car's purchase from the seller. If you bought the car with a loan, the title will go to the loan provider.​

Arranging for car insurance

You are legally required to have car insurance before you can drive it. You must also register the car with the state Department of Motor Vehicles. 

There are different levels of car insurance. The minimum is liability insurance, which is used to cover accident-related payments for someone other than yourself. Car insurance can be expensive and anyone who drives your car must be covered under your insurance policy.

Before you buy, ask the insurance company:

  • If they are authorized to do business in New York
  • If friends or family who drive your car need to be on your policy 
  • If you need to have a U.S. driver's license 
  • If you will have to pay more if you use an international driving permit and your home country driver's license

​Some popular car insurance companies are: 21st Century Insurance, Allstate, Amica, Geico, Progressive and State Farm.

Documents you need to buy car insurance

  • Driver's license numbers for yourself and anyone who will be listed on your insurance policy
    • ​If you use an international permit and your home license, you may pay a higher fee.
  • ​Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), located on your vehicle registration card and on current car insurance documents, or on the driver's side windshield or dashboard
  • Title of ownership
  • Payment 
  • Social security card
    • A social security number is required by some credit-based companies to verify your insurance application 
    • If you do not qualify for a Social Security Card, contact eh Social Security Administration for a letter of ineligibility to send to the insurance company 

Types of car insurance

New York law requires the following coverage:  

  • Bodily Injury Liability: Minimum coverage must be $25,000 per person and $50,000 for bodily injury to all persons
  • Property Liability: Minimum coverage is $10,000 per accident
  • Personal Injury Protection (called No-Fault) refers to medical insurance for yourself and your passengers and the minimum protection is $50,000 per person 

These types of coverage are optional:

  • Collision insurance covers any accident that involves your car
  • Comprehensive insurance covers losses other than collision (fire, theft, vandalism, etc)

The state Department of Motor Vehicles will cancel your registration if you let your insurance coverage lapse and may suspend your driver's license. Keep your insurance cards in your car at all times.

For more information, visit the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Tips for motorists

  • If you receive a suspension letter from the Department of Motor Vehicles, immediately contact your insurance company.
  • If you change insurance companies, make sure the cancellation date and the start date of the two policies are the same.
  • Do not remove liability insurance from your car you have turned in your license plates to the DMV.
  • Make sure the name on the registration and insurance policy is the same.
  • If your vehicle or license plates are stolen, call the police and submit a copy of their report to the DMV. 
  • If you add, replace, or delete a vehicle from your insurance coverage, be sure your insurance company sends you a change the endorsement form
  • Check your vehicle identification number (VIN). The VIN on your vehicle, registration, ID card and policy must be the same.
  • You or your car dealer must register your new car immediately. The DMV will not accept an insurance ID card as proof of insurance if the effective date is not current. 
  • When you move out of the state, you need to get insurance in your new state as soon as possible. Cancel your New York insurance and surrender your plates after the new policy is in place. 

Registering your car

You must register your car in person at a Department of Motor Vehciles office. The closest office to SUNY Maritime is at 1350 Commerce Ave, Bronx, NY. Check office hours or make a reservation online.

A checklist of forms you need to bring and other information is available here. There will be several fees you need to pay to register your car.

Before you go to the DMV, make sure you have the right documents necessary to prove your identity. You will need to bring several types, and there are specific requirements. Check them here. Without the proper identification, you will not be able to register your vehicle.