How to ensure coverage when crossing the border
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The United States shares a long land border with its northern neighbor that is easy to traverse by car. Before you drive across any international border, though, it is important to understand local regulations for auto insurance. This article explains how to make sure your U.S. car insurance complies with Canadian requirements.
Before even considering car insurance, you must ensure you can legally visit Canada. Fortunately, if you are a U.S. citizen, all you need is a valid passport and a clean criminal record — no visa required.1 You can stay for up to six months without any paperwork.
However, with current COVID-19 restrictions, it’s a good idea to check before you travel, since requirements can change rapidly. For example, as of early 2022, you need to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination in order to enter the country.2
Nearly all American car insurance policies extend their coverage to Canada. A reciprocal agreement between the U.S. and Canada has led to mutually recognized insurance benefits.3 This means that, in most cases, your U.S. insurance will protect you with the same coverage, limits, and liabilities when you visit Canada.
Your American policy is valid as long as you have tourist status in Canada. U.S. citizens can stay in Canada as a tourist for as long as six months. This means that you can drive in Canada with your U.S. insurance for up to half a year. After that point (such as if you have decided to move to Canada), you should purchase a Canadian policy.
It is always crucial to review your policy before driving to Canada to ensure that your coverage does indeed apply. You should also review the rules of the road in Canada. While they are largely the same as in the U.S., there are some slight differences. For instance, Canadian speed limits are measured in kilometers rather than miles per hour. If you don’t know the difference, you could be caught speeding and face steep penalties.
As in the U.S., you need a valid driver’s license, proof of insurance, and vehicle registration in order to drive in Canada.4 You should carry proof of citizenship, like your passport. We also recommend carrying a full copy of the declarations page of your insurance policy that lists your complete coverage information. Additionally, it is worth knowing how to contact your insurance provider from abroad.
A bit of additional paperwork can prevent major headaches if you get pulled over or into an accident. You should request a “Canadian non-resident inter-provincial motor vehicle liability card” from your insurer.5 This document serves as official proof that your U.S. policy covers you, with adequate coverage limits, while you are visiting Canada. Your insurance provider can issue such a card, so reach out to your agent for more information. Alternatively, your insurer could write a letter stating that your policy extends to Canada, but it is typically easier to request an official card.
These additional documents are not required but could make your life much easier if you interact with Canadian authorities. We highly recommend obtaining them before you leave on your trip.
You can request official documentation from your insurance provider to prove that you have coverage when driving in Canada.
As in most parts of the U.S., car insurance is required by law to drive in Canada. However, you should understand some differences in required coverage before crossing the border.
Minimum liability insurance coverage in Canada is higher than in many U.S. states. For example, Canada requires you to carry at least $200,000 (CAD) in liability coverage in every province except Quebec, where the amount is $50,000.6
You may need to modify your liability limits before arriving in Canada to comply with local regulations. If you think you may have insufficient coverage to drive in Canada, call your provider, who can help you adjust it to your specific needs.
Always review your policy before traveling to Canada to ensure that your liability coverage complies with Canadian regulations.
If it’s available, it’s also a good idea to purchase travel insurance through your provider. This can cover unexpected issues that arise while you’re abroad, such as medical emergencies or lost luggage.
Most major U.S. car rental companies allow you to enter Canada in a borrowed vehicle. If you plan to drive a U.S. rental car into Canada, make sure to tell the rental company that you will cross the border. You may need to purchase supplemental insurance from either the rental company or your personal insurance provider to ensure coverage. The rental company will likely give you a non-resident insurance card as proof of coverage for Canadian authorities.
Renting a car in Canada as a U.S. citizen is equally easy. If you are over age 21, you just need a valid driver’s license and a credit card. You will also need liability coverage, which you can purchase directly from the rental car company, or use secondary coverage from elsewhere, like a credit card or your personal insurance.
Most major U.S. insurance providers will cover you when you drive in Canada, thanks to the reciprocal agreement between the countries. Here are our reviews of a few top U.S. insurance companies that offer coverage in Canada, including property damage and bodily injury coverage:
Remember, if you plan to move to Canada or stay there for the long term, then you should purchase insurance from a Canadian provider. This is only possible once you have a Canadian address.
From an insurance perspective, driving in Canada as a U.S. visitor is easy seven days a week. As long as you do your due diligence to ensure that your coverage will apply there (and it should), you can focus on enjoying your visit and getting around safely.
The United States and Canada have reciprocal auto insurance laws, which generally mean that your car insurance will protect you in Canada the same way it does in the U.S.
Canadian law requires U.S. drivers to have proof of insurance in order to drive in the country. This can be just your insurance card, but it is best to have your entire policy declaration that confirms Canadian coverage.
If you are moving to Canada or plan to be there longer than 90 days, then you should purchase a Canadian auto insurance policy.
If you rent a car in the U.S. and plan to drive it to Canada, check with the rental car company about additional coverage you can purchase.
I am an American citizen. What do I need to enter Canada? Government of Canada. (2021, Sep 29).
COVID-19 vaccinated travellers entering Canada. Government of Canada. (2021, Dec 15).
Commercial Drivers License Reciprocity With Canada, Notice and Technical Amendment to Part 383. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. (2022).
Driving in Canada. Government of Canada. (2018, Oct 9).
Canada Non-Resident Inter-Province Motor Vehicle Liability Insurance Card. (2022).
Private Passenger Automobiles. Canadian Council of Insurance Regulators. (2022).