Can I Drive My Car in Canada? – Here’s what you need to know


Driving in Canada

With many minds now set on long-overdue traveling, it’s no surprise that our northern friend, Canada, has become a popular consideration for drivers. As a relatively close-by international tourist hotspot with an abundance of landscape diversity, this country alone can help tick off many bucket list tallies. Driving to Canada certainly, seems like a logistical possibility, but are there any special considerations to take into account on your trip?

There are almost no restrictions regarding driving your car into Canada. If you can gain legal entry into the country, you are clear to drive your car for the duration of your stay. Regardless of whether it’s leased, financed, or owned, you will find no issues driving your car to or in Canada.

For those choosing to take a rental car into the Great White North, there might be some unique restrictions that you’ll have to look out for. However, those possible limitations would come from the rental car company, if you decide on a rental car, rather than the Canadian Government itself.

Below you can find further explanation regarding your specific situation and how it pertains to your eligibility of driving in Canada.

How Long Can I Drive a U.S. Registered Car in Canada?

There are no special requirements for your U.S. registered car as a visitor to Canada. As a Canadian tourist, you will be able to drive your car in the country for as long as you are allowed to be there yourself. During your visit, the Canadian Government classifies your car as a “temporary import” and places the following restrictions.  

Your vehicle cannot:

● be sold or otherwise disposed of in Canada

● remain in Canada longer than the limit on your work permit, visa, or other customs document

● remain in Canada if you’re staying longer

In short, you can drive your U.S. plated vehicle in Canada for as long as you are allowed to be in the country. For the most part, visitors will be able to stay in Canada for a maximum of six months before needing to leave, in which case you would have to take your car back with you. 

Can I Drive My Financed Car to Canada?

Driving to Canada in a financed vehicle places no additional restrictions. As long as all legalities are met, you’re free to drive into and through Canada with no issues. You do not need to contact or notify your lender of your travel plans. 

Can I Drive My Leased Car to Canada?

Similar to a financed car, there are no restrictions placed upon a leased car going to Canada. However, one should note that most leases will have restrictions on how many miles can be placed on the vehicle within your contractual agreement. When planning a road trip to Canada in a leased vehicle, keep your allocated milage in mind. 

Can I Drive My Rental Car to Canada?

Neither the government of Canada or the United States prohibits a rental vehicle from crossing the border. From a legality standpoint, you are allowed to drive a rented vehicle into Canada. 

You will however have to take the extra step of confirming regulations with your rental company of choice. While most will allow you to cross into Canada with a rental vehicle, some will place specific restrictions for certain classes of vehicle. Further restrictions could come about if you are planning to drop off the vehicle and end the rental period while in Canada rather than returning it to its country of origin.  

Tips For Canadian Travelers 

While the highways and streets of Canada should be familiar to anyone driving from the US, you will notice a change when looking at road signs. While Canada uses both the metric and imperial system, road signs and gas stations use kilometers and liters. 

Canada road signs

Constantly converting from mp/h to km/h could make keeping under the speed limit difficult. Thankfully, most vehicle speedometers also have km/h listed in smaller numbers on the dial. 

Gas prices will be written in dollars per liter instead of dollars per gallon, so don’t get too excited when you see gas prices under $2. 

If you are traveling in Quebec, you will notice that some signs are also written in French instead of, or alongside English.

Driving in the Snow Tips

As our northern neighbor, Canada tends to experience harsher winters with a significant amount of snowfall during those colder months. For those inexperienced with driving in the snow, you should familiarize yourself with these tips before taking on the deep Canadian winter highways. 

● Winter tires: This sits at the top of the list for a reason. If you are driving up to Canada with summer tires, you might have some issues. Winter tires are designed to be more pliable than other compounds and come with deeper grooves allowing for better traction in looser conditions. Ice patches and extreme conditions will still bring troubles, but it’s still better than having tires ill-prepared for snowy conditions.

● Windshield Wipers: During the cold weather, your windshield wipers will more than come in handy. Not only will they have to sweep away snow, but they will also have to deal with tougher stints of clearing ice. As such, you should make sure your wipers aren’t dull. 

● Wiper Fluid: If your driving adventure takes you towards extremely low temperatures, consider replacing your windshield wiper fluid. Certain fluids on the market have been designed specifically to prevent freezing when you need it most.

● Drive modes: If you are lucky enough to have a vehicle with different drive modes, you should enable the option intended for snowy conditions. Typically found on SUVs, this will prime the vehicle to monitor which wheels need power in tricky situations preventing you from getting caught in a snowy ditch.

● Energy usage: Keep in mind that vehicles are less efficient in extreme temperatures. With all the extra heating that is required and overall less smooth terrain, don’t be surprised if your car is getting worse fuel efficiency than it usually does.

John Cunningham

John Cunningham is an Automotive Technician and writer on Rustyautos.com. I've been a mechanic for over twenty years, I use my knowledge and experience to write articles that help fellow gear-heads with all aspects of classic car ownership, from tires to roof aerials and everything in between.

Recent Posts