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Getting Around: Guidelines for Owning a Car
in the United States

For many students owning a car brings many advantages. There are also significant responsibilities and obligations. As an international student you need to be sure you learn about the US federal laws and the state laws that govern driving, and owning a car,before you start driving on the road.

You also need to consider all the costs associated with owning a motor vehicle (car purchase, maintenance and repair, fuel costs, parking passes, auto insurance and New York State Department of Motor Vehicle fees).

NYS Laws Governing Owning a Car

Buying A New or Used Car? Which choice is best for you?

Although a new car will most likely give you fewer problems than a used one, it will also prove to be far more expensive. If you buy a new car and sell it 12 months later, you can expect to face a rather substantial financial loss. It is generally not recommended that you buy a new car if you will be in the United States for a relatively short time. As soon as your drive a new car off the sales lot, there will be a major loss the car's financial value.

Buying a Used Car - Research is the first step

While there is always some risk in buying a used car, it's value decreases far less than that of a new car over the same period. Consumer Reports provides information on quality used car types and provides information on models to avoid.

When buying a car make sure it is in the price range you can afford. You can buy a car directly from an individual owner (ads can be found daily in the local newspaper, Press & Sun Bulletin); you can also find car ads for your zip code online at sites such as You can also buy from an established car dealer. Buying a car directly from a dealer may offer you the opportunity for a full guarantee on the car. Thus, if anything goes wrong, the dealer may potentially repair it at a minimal cost to you.

Additional Suggestions

Renting a Car

You can also consider is renting a car for the specific period you plan to travel. While this will not allow you to have a car available at all times, it will provide you with transportation when you need it and may cost far less in the long run. Cars may be rented by the day, week or month from companies that are listed below.

In order to rent a car as a foreign visitor you will:

List of Major Car Rental Companies

Binghamton University also offers Hertz 24/7, a car-sharing service for students, faculty and staff. Three new vehicles are available that drivers 18+ can rent for low, by-the-hour or by-the-day rates. Cars are conveniently located right on campus next to the parking garage on campus. Register now.

Leasing a Car

Many car dealerships offer the option to lease a car for one or two years. You will need to have an international driver's license or a NYS driver's license. Check with the car dealer to learn what they require.The cost of leasing will vary depending on:

Most leases will run for a minimum period of two years.Leasing a car is not necessarily the best choice. When you compare the costs of purchasing a car to leasing a car it may appear that leasing will cost you less money. However, those costs may not be realized if the company leasing you the car insists on greater auto insurance coverage than you wish to purchase if you were buying the car.

When you lease a new car, you generally receive a new car guarantee covering major parts and labor. Accident (liability) insurance is not usually included in this fee. You will need to check with the car dealer, about the level of auto insurance coverage required.

Please Note: Since you are not a permanent resident of the United States, you may be asked to pay all or part of the leasing fee in advance.

After You Buy a Car - What You Need to Do Next

If you purchased your car with cash (not with a loan):

If you purchase a used car from a dealership, they will have to provide you with the Title. Most New York State automobile dealers send the application for your State vehicle registration and title certificate to the DMV (they may charge a fee for this service).

If you purchase a used car from an individual, the proof of ownership is the Title Certificate that the previous owner has to sign in order to transfer the ownership to you:

Arranging for Auto Insurance: A Legal Requirement When You Own a Car

The owner of a motor vehicle registered in New York State must purchase auto insurance coverage for the motor vehicle before the vehicle can be driven. You must also register the vehicle with the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) before the vehicle can be driven.

Certain categories of drivers are required to have auto insurance that costs more than auto insurance for other drivers:

Documents You Need to Purchase Auto Insurance

In order to purchase an auto insurance policy, insurance companies require that you present the following:

Information About Insurance Companies

Below is a list of insurance companies to consider. The purpose of this list is tosimply to give you information. It is your choice to make regarding the insurance company you purchase auto insurance with:

What Type of Auto Insurance Coverage Do I Have To Buy?

The level of auto insurance coverage you purchase is up to you. At minimum your auto insurance must include the following:

You can also purchase additional, optional auto insurance coverage:

The Department of Motor Vehicles will suspend (cancel) your registration if you have a lapse of auto insurance. The DMV may also suspend (cancel) your driver's license. It is required that you have current auto insurance information in your vehicle at all times.

For more information on insurance-related regulations, click here.

Helpful Tips for New York State Motorists

Register Your Car with the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles

In order to register your car with New York State, you need to visit the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) where a representative will examine your application and documents.The address of the NYS DMV office is: 80 Chenango Street Binghamton, NY. You can check on office hours by calling: 607-778-2337 or online at

Information on what documents you will need to bring to the NYS DMV officecan be found here.

Click here for information on how to determine what the cost will be to register your vehicle.

Dealing with Car Repairs

At some point, your car will most likely need repairs for some reason. It is suggested that you arrange for roadside assistance either through the car dealer when you buy a car or with a private company like the American Automobile Association (AAA). University staff will not be available to rescue students whose cars have broken down.

You can find out about roadside assistance service from your car dealer or from AAA.

What You Need to Do IF You Have an Accident

Unfortunately, driving a motor vehicle means you may someday have an accident. You will want to review the information here so you know what you are legally required to do if you are involved in a motor vehicle accident. The laws apply to accidents in parking lots, the BU campus, on roads or any highway.

You will be asked to provide proof of identity and proof of auto insurance coverage in the event of a motor vehicle accident.

Avoid Trouble With the Police - NYS Traffic Laws You Must Obey!

Alcohol Consumption:

Cell phone use:

Seat Belt Use:

If Stopped By the Police:

Web Pages You May Find Helpful

NYS DMV Internet Office

NYS Attorney General

Consumer Reports

(Information included on this webpage is derived from a variety of sources: NYS DMV, NYS Attorney General, NYS Insurance Board, New York Central Mutual Insurance Company, Syracuse University Lillian and Emanuel Slutzker Center for International Services, SUNY Buffalo International Student Services, and NAFSA: Association of International Educators)



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Last Updated: 7/3/14