Preparing to go

Before you head off to America, it’s worth going through our checklist so you know what to expect.




1. Check your insurance policy before you go

Everyone driving in the USA must have insurance. For most people, this will be bundled in with their car rental. If you’re renting a car, you can also buy car rental insurance online, but first you should check if your current car insurance policy covers you for USA car hire as well. S

peak to your insurer before you set off to make sure you have the right level of cover. Don’t forget to take out travel insurance too, or your trip could prove more expensive than you anticipated.




2. Take the right documentation

To drive in the USA you must have a full UK drivers’ licence, so make sure everyone who is planning to drive the car has packed theirs.

It’s also advisable to take an International Driving Permit. The £5.50 permits are available to anyone who holds a full UK driving licence and can be bought from main Post Office branches. Some motoring organisations can also issue International Driving Permits, but they will charge you a fee.




3. Get a DVLA check code

For any car hire in the USA you will need to get a special code from the DVLA before you go. The code was introduced in 2015 when the UK abandoned the paper counterpart to the photo card driving licence. It is used by the American car hire company to check if you have any points or convictions on your licence.

You must apply for a DVLA check code within 21 days of your departure, as it only lasts for three weeks. It’s a free service and you can get your code online, or by calling 0300 083 0013.




4. Book your rental car

If you want to get a better deal, book your car online before you travel to the USA.

When you book, it’s worth knowing that most Brits drive a manual gearbox, but rental cars in America are normally automatics.

If you want a manual gearbox, you will have to specifically request it in advance.




5. Sort out your sat nav

Many car hire firms will give you the option of paying extra to rent a satellite navigation system.

If you have your own sat nav system, it should work in the US too, though you may have to download the right maps before setting out on your road trip.

Online map sites like Google Maps can also be used on a smartphone, but beware of data roaming charges.


Downloadable Guide


family with young child on tropical beach with palm trees

Swinton Travel Insurance

Explore our online exclusive single trip and annual multi-trip travel insurance policies and build a quote to suit you.

Explore your options

Insurance from Swinton

Driving abroad

Be sure to check out our other driving abroad guides:

Looking for something else?

Click to share


More about driving in the USA