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Car Insurance for Tourists In Canada

5 minute read Published on Oct 21, 2022 | Last updated Oct 25, 2022 by BrokerLink Communications

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Are you planning a trip to Canada? If you want to drive while visiting, it’s important to consider car insurance. Car insurance is mandatory for all drivers in Canada. However, the rules work a little differently for tourists. Keep reading to learn more about car insurance for tourists in Canada, including if you need it and how BrokerLink can help you find it.

Tourists travelling to Canada from the United States

The United States of America, or Canada’s neighbour to the south, is where the bulk of tourists originate from. In fact, pre-pandemic, millions of Americans travelled to Canada each year. Many of these tourists drive their own vehicles into the country, entering via a land border. Those who drive their own cars usually have auto insurance coverage through their personal policies. While this is almost always the case, it’s worth checking with your insurance provider before entering Canada. If your insurer does not cover international road trips, you may be able to purchase additional coverage from them.

Typically, due to the close relationship between the two countries, extra car insurance is not required to travel from the U.S. to Canada (and vice versa). In fact, roadside assistance in one country often protects you in the other, and the same goes for auto insurance. However, the same cannot be said for tourists from other countries around the world.

Tourists travelling to Canada from other countries

If you’re travelling to Canada from another country and plan to drive, then you likely fit into one of two categories: Either you are shipping a vehicle from your home country to use in Canada or you are renting a car in Canada.

Please note that in Canada, car insurance follows the car, not the driver. As a result, whether you borrow a car from a friend or rent a car, the owner’s insurance covers you to the extent that is mandatory by provincial law. This is ideal for tourists who may find it easier to borrow or rent a car when they arrive in the country rather than trying to import their personal vehicles from home (which is expensive and complicated).

When borrowing or renting a car, make sure you have a copy of the vehicle owner’s small pink form that contains pertinent information on the car and the policy owner, as well as the green vehicle ownership form. These forms must be presented if requested by a police officer, and failure to present them can result in a fine, even when driving a vehicle that isn’t yours.

Renting a car is another option for tourists travelling to Canada from other countries. Rental car companies typically offer a specific type of protection known as a collision damage waiver. This waiver is not the same as car insurance, however, it exempts the renter from financial responsibility should the rental car be damaged in their possession.

Collision damage waivers are written by each rental car company and therefore unique to each company. Make sure you carefully read through the conditions before purchasing. Tourists will need to budget for collision damage waivers, which can be expensive (in some scenarios, they cost more than the daily rental rate of the car). It may also be a good idea to check with your credit card provider in case they provide any rental car coverage, as some do.

Do international drivers need auto insurance in Canada?

Yes, international drivers are required to carry valid auto insurance policies and driver’s licences at all times. Driving without car insurance is a serious offence and can lead to hefty fines, licence suspension, and even jail time, depending on the province. Before hitting the road as a tourist in Canada, make sure to read up on mandatory car insurance requirements.

How do you get a car insurance policy as a foreign tourist in Canada?

The answer to this question varies. In some cases, your personal auto insurance policy from your home country may cover you while driving in Canada. This is the best-case scenario. If, after speaking with your insurance provider, you discover that you are not covered as a foreign tourist in Canada, you may need to obtain auto insurance from a rental car company (if applicable) or a Canadian insurer. For the latter, you will first need to get a Canadian driver’s licence, which is recommended if you plan on staying in Canada for an extended period (or eventually immigrating there).

How to get a Canadian driver’s license as an international driver

First, if you are travelling from one of the following countries, you can legally exchange your current, valid licence for a Canadian driver’s licence:

  • United States
  • Japan
  • Austria
  • Korea
  • Belgium
  • Switzerland
  • France
  • Germany
  • United Kingdom

Please note that you may be required to complete a written exam or vision test to successfully exchange your licence from one of these countries.

If you are not from one of the countries listed above or do not have a valid driver’s licence from your country of origin, you will need to start at the beginning and go through the same process as all other drivers in Canada. Driving systems vary by province. For example, Ontario uses a graduated licencing system with three levels: G1, G2, and G.

What documents do you need to show to an insurance company?

To obtain car insurance as a foreign tourist in Canada, you will need to show the following information:

  • The make, model, and registration number of the car you want to insure
  • Your driver's licence number (and the licence number of everyone in your household that will use the vehicle)
  • Any relevant driving safety certificates that you've received in the last three years
  • A record of your driving or claims history (if you have a clean record, this can help you obtain better rates)

How much does auto insurance for tourists cost in Canada?

The cost of car insurance for tourists in Canada varies. As with car insurance for local residents, insurance companies will consider many factors when calculating premiums. A tourist can expect a Canadian insurance company to consider the following when determining their rates:

  • Your age
  • Your insurance history
  • Your driving experience
  • The location that you’re visiting or moving to

Generally speaking, auto insurance for international drivers tends to be more expensive than for local residents, especially if you cannot provide your driving history with a verified record. That said, there are ways to keep costs down - like working with a broker at BrokerLink! We can help you find the best coverage at the lowest rate in Canada.

How long does an auto insurance policy last for a tourist?

Most auto insurance policies in Canada are annual, lasting 12 months. However, tourists may be able to find short-term policies lasting just six months.

Get in touch with BrokerLink to receive a free car insurance quote

Want to learn more about car insurance for tourists in Canada? At BrokerLink, we can explain how car insurance works for international drivers in Canada and ensure you have the coverage you need to safely (and legally) get behind the wheel. Give us a call or use our online quote tool to request a free auto insurance quote now.

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