Life in Buffalo
Driving in New York State and Buying/Insuring a Car
Information for International Students, Scholars & Employees
Before I travel to the U.S., what should I prepare if I want to drive in New York State (“NYS”)?
Bring your Valid Driver's License from your home country. You can drive in NYS if you have an unexpired foreign driver's license with you. However, some police officers and automobile insurers believe that you need a NYS driver's license (as U.S. drivers do). Therefore, we recommend that you obtain a NYS driver's license if you are eligible.
Get an International Driving Permit. An International Driving Permit is not required in NYS but it is helpful (especially if your license is not in English) because it informs authorities in several languages that you have a valid driver's license. By itself, the International Driving Permit is not valid for driving in NYS. You cannot obtain an International Driving Permit when you get to the U.S. so please bring one with you if you plan to drive in NYS.
Can I buy car insurance and register my car in New York State if I only have a foreign driver's license?
Yes, you can do both. HOWEVER,
- Car insurance, which is mandatory in New York State, may be more expensive if you don't have a U.S. license.
- Insurance companies often add a surcharge to the cost of your insurance if you don't have a U.S. driver's license (the "Inexperienced Driver" surcharge).
- Some automobile insurers believe that you need a NYS driver's license (as U.S. drivers do).
Therefore, we recommend that you obtain a NYS driver's license if you are eligible.
Will I be able to rent a car if I only have my foreign license?
Yes. But, rental car companies may have their own requirements (e.g. minimum age requirement of 25).
New York State Driver's License
When I get to the U.S., will I be eligible to apply for a New York State driver's license?
You will be eligible to apply for a NYS license if:
- Your I-20, DS-2019 or H-1B approval notice (I-797) AND
- Your I-20, DS-2019 or H-1B approval notice (I-797)
How do I apply for a NYS driver's license?
- Study the New York State “Driver's Manual”. This is the “rules of the road” book. When you drive in NYS, you are expected to know, and abide by, these rules. You can get a manual at the Department of Motor Vehicles (“DMV”) office or you can download it from the DMV website: www.nysdmv.com/dmanual/default.html
- Go to the DMV, fill out the application and pay the fee for the Driver's License. You must bring proof of your name AND proof of your date of birth to complete this application. See the requirements below.
- Take a written test and eye exam. The written test is based on the information in the Manual. If you wear glasses or contact lenses, please wear them for the eye exam.
- Complete a 5-hour “mandatory pre-licensing course”. Look in the telephone book under “Driving Instruction” to find out where you can take this course.
- Pass a road test. After you have completed steps #1-4, you may make an appointment for a road test when you are ready to be tested.
What kind of documents can I show that will prove my name?
With the increase in security requirements, the DMV frequently updates the list of acceptable proofs of identity and date of birth. Please consult their list of proofs and point values before going to the DMV.
To prove your name, you must show 6 points of identification from the following:
- (3 points) Passport. Your passport must be in English, and have your U.S. Visa and a valid I-94 card
- (2 points) U.S. Social Security Card. If you are not eligible for a Social Security number, you must get a letter from the Social Security Office (see below for link to directions) stating that you are ineligible for a Social Security number The letter of ineligibility does not have any point value, but is required. Note: The Social Security letter must not be more than 30 days old at time of application.
- (2 points) Photo Driver's License issued by another U.S. state (not expired for more than 12 months)
- (2 points) Your UB Student ID Card + transcripts from UB
- (1 point) Supermarket Check Cashing Card. The card must have your signature and pre-printed name on it.
- (1 point) Utility Bill (must have your name and address)
- (1 point) U.S Health Insurance Card
- (1 point) Cancelled check from a U.S. Bank (must have your pre-printed name on it)
- (1 point) Computer printed pay stub from a U.S. Employer
- (1 point) Valid Major U.S. Credit Card
- (1 point) Bank Statement (with your name and address on it)
- (1 point) ATM Cash Card (with your name preprinted and your signature)
- Note: If your U.S. Credit Card, Bank Statement and ATM Cash Card were all issued by the same bank, they only count as one point.
What kind of documents can I show that will prove my date of birth?
To prove your date of birth, you must submit one of the following:
- Your Foreign Passport, U.S. Visa and I-94 Card. Your passport must be in English, and have the visa and I-94 card attached. If your passport is not in English, you should get a certified translation from your country's Embassy or Consulate
- Refugee Travel Document (I-571)
Directions to the Social Security Office:
Please refer to the map at:
Buying a Car
Some Things To Consider
- You must purchase automobile insurance if you buy a car. This can add a substantial cost to car ownership. Please be sure to consider the cost of insurance when planning your car budget. .
- You must also register your car with the DMV every two years. There is a fee for the car registration. There are six items needed to register for vehicle: 1) Proof of ownership, 2) Proof of NYS sales tax payment, 3) Proof of automobile liability insurance, 4) Form MV-82 (Registration/Title application - this form can be found on the DMV website), 5) Proof of applicant/registrant identity and birth date (the 6 points of identification listed above), and 6) Sales tax and fee payment receipt. Please see the New York State DMV website for additional instructions: http://nysdmv.com/register.htm#register
- Consult the "buying a car" brochure from the New York State DMV website: www.nysdmv.com/broch/c18.htm
- Get tips about "Buying a Car" from AAA (American Automobile Association or "Triple A") at www.aaa.com or at www.edumunds.com
Buying a Used Car
- Get information about the market value of a used car at www.kbb.com or www.nyaaa.com
- Take the car for a test drive
- Have the car inspected by a reliable mechanic or AAA-approved repair shop before agreeing to buy it
- Be sure to get a receipt
- Get the “title” for the vehicle
- Be aware of New York State 's “Lemon Laws”:
New York State's new and used car lemon laws provide legal solutions for consumers who buy or lease cars. If a car does not live up to the written warranty and cannot be repaired--or if it has not been repaired correctly after a reasonable number of attempts--the consumer could receive a refund or replacement car.
For information and assistance concerning New York 's Lemon Laws, visit the
Office of the Attorney General website: www.ag.ny.gov/bureaus/consumer_frauds/lemon_law.html
What do I need to know about car insurance in New York State?
- There is a minimum amount of coverage that you must carry on your automobile. This is determined by the State of New York.
- This minimum coverage must be in effect as long as your car is registered in New York . (This means that, even if you are not driving the car for some reason, you must still pay your car insurance bills if your car is registered in New York).
- You must purchase an automobile liability insurance policy from an insurer licensed by the New York State Insurance Department and authorized to do business in NYS.
- The insurance must be in the name of the person who has registered the car.
- The cost for auto insurance is called the “Premium”. The amount that you must pay out of your pocket if you get into an accident is called the “Deductible." If you want insurance coverage for damage to your car, you will need to purchase "Collison" coverage as well.
- If you live in the "city", you will probably pay more than if you live in the suburbs.
- If you have a bad driving record or are a new driver in NY, your premium will be higher.
- You can reduce your auto insurance premium by taking a "Driver Improvement" course.
- ISSS organizes "AAA Driver Improvement" courses on UB's North Campus each semester. Please watch your listserv messages and check the ISSS website for dates and times.
- The American Automobile Association offers courses regularly at various locations in Western New York. Please check the AAA website for locations and contact information: www.aaa.com
- Please visit www.ins.state.ny.us/cauto.htm for specifics about New York State's minimum insurance requirements and for very helpful hints about insuring your car.
How do I find a good insurance company?
- Obtain recommendations of reputable companies from individuals whose opinions you respect.
- Choose a company that will be there for you if you have an accident.
- Call numerous agents or companies to compare rates (known as “premiums”) to see which company offers the best rate and customer service.
- Be aware that companies that advertise a lot may need to cut their costs in other areas (e.g. payment of claims.)
- Be wary of agents or companies that only want to sell you the NYS minimum level of insurance coverage.
How much insurance coverage should I buy?
- Buy enough insurance so that you will have adequate coverage if you have an accident.
- Be aware that you can usually increase your level of coverage beyond the NYS minimum requirements by paying only a small amount of additional money.
More Important Information
- Driving while intoxicated (“DWI”) is a very serious crime in New York State.
- Cell Phones: In New York State, you must have a “hands-free device” to use your cell phone in the car.
- Seat Belts: You must always wear your seat belt — it's the Law!
- Know what to do if you get pulled over by the police. For more information, pick up the brochure "What To Do When Stopped By the Police" in ISSS, Talbert Hall 210.