Getting a Car and US Drivers' License

Factors to Consider- Getting a car

  • On- or Off- Campus: If you are staying On-campus, the parking permit for campus is very expensive.
  • Your Lifestyle: If you value convenience, time, and want to spend more time off-campus, a car will be a helpful tool in this!
  • Budget: Cars and petrol(gas) are relatively cheap compared to Singapore, but additional costs like snow tires, insurance, and parking increase that cost. Maintenance is also higher than in Singapore because of Ithaca’s hills, poorly maintained roads, and salt maintenance during Winter that can damage the car.

Factors to Consider- US Drivers' License

  • Cheaper: It can be cheaper to purchase and rent a car and to get insurance with a US Drivers' License as opposed to a Singapore license
  • You don't have a license yet: In the State of New York, the driving test is comprised of general driving, parallel parking, and a three-point (K)- turn. It can be a lot easier to pass driving here. 
  • It expires: Unlike the Singapore Drivers' License, the US Drivers' license needs to be renewed every few years. 
  • They'll take your Singapore license: If you already have your Singapore license, they will take it and shred it. 

What is the Process of Purchasing a Car?



Find a Car

You can do this through Maguire Dealerships or on websites like and Facebook Groups. New cars are about $23,000 USD while second-hand cars can vary between $3,000-$15,000 USD, depending on the car you buy.


Get Insurance

You must buy insurance to drive a car. Use the VIN number and personal details to get a quote. Your age, gender, college, and GPA all come into consideration. Insurance companies include Geico, Progressive, Allstate, and State Farm. Compare the prices and choose the best for you.


Register the Car

If you purchase a car at a dealership, they would have gotten all the paperwork for you. If you buy it off another student, you will need to register the car and transfer ownership at the DMV.

Singapore vs US Driving


  • Drive on the right-side of the road. The faster lane is on the left on the highway.
  • You can turn right on red, unless otherwise stated. (Stop at a red light, check for vehicles, then turn right).
  • Slow down and change lanes (if possible) when approaching a police vehicle at the side of the road.
  • All-way stops: At a four-way intersection where all approaching vehicles must stop for at least three seconds. It is first-come-first-go, and if you and another vehicle approached the intersection at the same time, the vehicle on the right has the right-of-way.




Get a Learners' Permit

Take a simple written test about road safety and laws at the DMV.


You may need a letter from Cornell ISSO that exempts you from having a Social Security Number if you do not have one. (You will only have one if you are employed in the US)


Practice and Take Pre-licensing Course

If you are over 18 years old, there are no minimum practice hours. There are driving schools in Ithaca which will teach you on a per hour basis.


You will also need to take a five-hour pre-licensing course that will go through road safety with you


Take the Test

You will need a car and your learners permit to take the test. Driving schools will let you use their car. They will test you on your three-point turn, parallel parking, and your general driving.