International House (IHouse)

Obtaining A Vehicle

Obtaining A Vehicle

Driving Lessons

If you would like to learn how to drive, Durham is an excellent place to learn how. Although driving lessons can be costly, we STRONGLY recommend lessons from a private company as opposed to learning from a friend. It is well worth the money. For information about driving lessons, with some recommendations, please click here.

Getting A Driver's License

To get a driver's license, you first need to pass a written exam (computer based) at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). See the Driver Handbook for assistance with preparing for the exam, including practice tests.

After you pass the written exam, you will get a Learner's Permit. With a Learner's Permit, you can practice driving under the guidance of an experienced driver. Finally, you need to take a road test if you want to get a full driver's license.  In order to take the road test, you need to bring a car to the DMV and have automobile insurance in your name.

When you pass the road test, you will be issued a driver's license. You need to show your passport, proof of residency, and proof of auto insurance.  If you do not own a car and just want to get a driver's license, you will still need to get auto insurance. You can purchase a non-owner's insurance policy for around $180 a month.

For information about obtaining each NC state ID, including DMV locations, click here.

Purchasing a Pre-owned Car

Questions to ask yourself before purchasing:

  • How long will I be in Durham? (If you are here for a year or less, you may want to think about leasing or renting a car. For a list of rental companies in Durham, follow this link
  • Do I need a car? Would it be better to get a bike, or use public transportation like buses, taxis, shuttles, etc?
  • Where will I be driving and for what purpose?
  • What are the pros and cons to purchasing a car?
  • Where do I even start?

We have watched hundreds of international students purchase a pre-owned car. You can do it, too! It just takes some time, energy, patience, and of course, money! We have lots of tips and suggestions to make purchasing a car easier. Click here to view them.

Registration and Tags

Once you purchase a car, you must get it registered in your name.  To do so, you must have a North Carolina Driver's License OR a North Carolina Learner’s Permit OR a North Carolina State ID before you can register your car. 

For locations of DMV offices and more information on getting your car registered, click here.

Auto Insurance in North Carolina

In the U.S., all cars must be insured and you are required to purchase an insurance policy for your car before you can register it in North Carolina.

Automobile insurance companies charge a wide range of prices. Car insurance rates depend on the following: year, make, and model of car; residence location; how often your car will be driven; your driving record in the U.S.A., and the number of years of driving experience you have, etc. The best plan is to shop around to compare prices, coverage, and services. Make sure to ask questions if you do not understand.

For more information on auto insurance in general and companies, click here.

Auto Mechanics

In the U.S., finding a reliable automobile mechanic is a difficult process. Although many mechanics are extremely skilled and honest, some may be looking to take advantage of people, or are just incompetent. To protect yourself from these situations it is important to find out from the mechanic ahead of time what work needs to be done before s/he begins working.

Due to possible language barriers, ask the mechanic to write down each inspection or repair that the mechanic is planning to make. Remember that it is your car and your money!  Also, do not agree to let the mechanic do any work that was not discussed when you first took the car in. There have been situations where the mechanic will discover other problems with your car while fixing the original problem. 

Before purchasing a car, it is wise to have a mechanic inspect the vehicle to make sure there are no problems. You must call the garage for an appointment and fees.  For a list of mechanics, click here.

Disclaimer: We cannot guarantee any of these mechanics or the prices! The comments in quotes are from international students & scholars.

Speeding Tickets

There are various types of speeding violations in North Carolina. Depending on the speed limit that was violated and how far over the speed limit you are driving, the fines and consequences vary. Visit the NC Traffic Violations website for more details.