Can You Drive in America with a UK Licence?

A holiday in America is something many families look forward to each year. Embracing the opportunity to see some popular tourist sights or immersing yourself in the best of American culture, a trip to the USA never fails to draw the masses year after year.

Once there, how you get around can really make your trip. A hire car is an obvious way to do this. No restrictions on where you go and able to enjoy it at your leisure, a rental car means you go at your pace all holiday.

One question remains, though – can you drive in the USA with your UK licence? Luckily, you can. An agreement between the two countries means your American adventure does not need to be compromised.

Read on to find out what you need to do to drive in America with your UK driving licence.

Can I use my UK licence in America?

Thanks to an agreement between the UK and USA, a UK licence holder can drive in the United States if a full and valid licence is held. As long as the licence has been valid for more than a year and is in English, renting a car should not be a problem.

That being said, rules between states and rental companies vary. This means in some cases you will need to be 21, and in others you will need to be 25. Being abroad means that you should of course have your passport with you, and any rental company will expect to see that too.

Furthermore, your time driving in the USA should not exceed 3 months. If this is the case, then you will not be able to use the UK licence for your remaining time in the USA.

How long can I drive in the USA with a UK licence?

If you are planning to stay in America for longer than 3 months, then your UK licence will no longer be accepted after this amount of time. Instead, you will have to apply for an International Driving Permit (IDP). These can only be obtained from your home country, so planning is important.

You’ll be able to get an IDP from your local post office; they cost just £5.50. There are currently 3 types of IDP available, so it is important you apply for the correct one. You can find out more by reading our International Driving Permit guide.

In some instances, it may be required for you to provide both your licence and an IDP. Before travelling you should check if the state you plan to visit has specific requirements to this end.

Will I need insurance to drive in the USA?

Before securing your hire car, you will not only need to make sure that you have a fully valid licence and/or IDP, but also that you are fully insured. American law states that all drivers must have the financial attributes to cover any damages or liabilities. This is best achieved through an insurance policy. In many states, it is compulsory, whereas in others, proof of assets must be declared. These assets would then be used to cover costs that may rise from an accident. If you were not to be sufficiently insured or have a suitable value of assets to cover these costs, you could face a driving ban and have to cover the costs of damages and hospital expenses.

Are there any specific requirements for driving in the USA?

If you have both your licence/IDP and insurance organised, there are just a few other things to be aware of before hitting the road.

As you will likely be renting a car rather than bringing your own, you may need to check whether the rental company has any specific requirements:

  • Most rental companies will want to see an IDP and a licence. Check before booking whether this is the case, as you will not be able to apply for one once you are in the USA
  • Sometimes proof of driving history is asked for. They may wish to see if you have ever been penalised for a driving offence. Again, this varies from company to company so is worth asking about
  • Be aware of the driving rules for the state you are in. America is large and rules vary from place to place. Having an understanding of them before hiring will stand you in good stead

Is there anything else I need for driving in the USA?

Even with insurance and the correct paperwork, you can find yourself needing a few additional things to not only stay on the right side of the law, but also to be protected from any additional costs.

For example, many countries stipulate that drivers must have certain safety accessories within their vehicles. Warning triangles are a requirement by law, so you should check with the rental company that they are provided. If not, you must make sure you obtain some.

Additionally, car hire excess insurance is a worthwhile extra to factor in for driving in America. This way should there be any additional costs to bear with your hire car, you are sufficiently covered.


At Direct Car Hire Excess, we look to help you enjoy your trip without the fear of added expense. Our policies cover you against a host of the common and not so common issues that can crop up when hiring a car. Contact us today for a free quote.

Worldwide car excess insurance policies can cost as little as £0.12 / €0.14 / $0.16 per day. Find out more now and keep your USA road trip going.

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