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Driving in Canada with US License – Important Tips & Info 2024

Are you planning a road trip to Canada? Wondering if driving in Canada with a US license is ok? The answer is yes; for the most part anyway.

As a family who just loves a good road trip, one of the things we face often in our travels is the decision of whether or not to drive in a foreign country.

Whether you are just renting a car, or road-tripping across the border in your own vehicle, there are many things to consider when driving abroad.

And because Canada shares the longest land border in the world with the US, a common question that comes up has to do with the legality of driving in Canada with a US license.

So whether you are thinking of visiting Canada, or are possibly planning to move here for work or school, you will definitely want to look into the requirements needed for driving a car in Canada.

That said, this article discusses everything you should know about driving a car as a visitor in Canada.

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Is Driving in Canada with US License Allowed?

Yes. You can drive with your Us driver’s license in Canada as long as you also have proof of car insurance.


What Do You Need to Drive a Car in Canada?

If you’re visiting Canada from the US, you don’t need to get an International Driving Permit (IDP) or obtain a Canadian license to drive.

Your US driver’s license and proof of auto insurance are all that you need to rent a car and drive here.

Car Insurance Rules in Canada

All drivers in Canada, both locals and visitors, are required to carry insurance. The mandatory minimum liability insurance can vary by province or territory, so it is up to you to check specific requirements based on where you are going in Canada.

It is also important to note that while driving in Canada with a US license is allowed, you will need to check if your US auto insurance is acceptable. For the most part, your existing policy will cover you, but it’s always a good idea to call your insurance provider to make sure.


How Long Can I Drive in Canada Using My US License?

Depending on the province or territory, you can use your US driver’s license in Canada for between 60 and 90 days. If you are staying in Canada longer, you will then need to acquire a Canadian driver’s license.

For example, in Ontario, the maximum is 60 days, while in British Columbia, it’s 90 days.

What is the Age Limit to Drive in Canada with a US License?

Can I drive in Canada with a US license at 16? Yes. 16 is the minimum age to legally drive in Canada.

However, if you are looking to rent a car, you must be at least 20 years old. And just a heads up, drivers under the age of 25 will have to pay a young driver’s fee.


Driving in Canada vs US

For the most part, driving in Canada is very similar to driving in the United States. You may find some slight differences in the rules of the road when driving in Canada vs US, as well as minor differences from one Canadian province to another.

Driving in the Winter

One of the things worth noting when driving in Canada is that the winters can be quite challenging. There are several areas in Canada that experience extreme winter conditions which you, as a resident of the US, might not be used to.

So, if you are planning to drive in Canada during the winter, you will need to be prepared. From black ice to heavy snow, white-out conditions and blizzards, driving during the Canadian winter is not for the faint of heart.

The best place to start is to prepare for the worst. Make sure that your car is equipped with emergency necessities like water, blankets, winter tires, sand or kitty litter and a shovel. In Some parts of Canada, like the Icefields Parkway, anyone wanting to use the road must have chains on their tires.

We outline all the things you need to know for driving in the Canadian Rockies during the winter, in our Icefields Parkway Driving Guide.


Driving Rules in Canada

The basic rules for driving in Canada are very similar to those of driving in the US. This is why Americans feel pretty comfortable on our roads, and vice versa. For those who are new to Canada, and even some Canadians travelling across the country, you should be aware of some traffic laws that vary across the provinces.

For example, in Montreal, you cannot make a right-hand turn at a red light. However, these turns are allowed elsewhere in Quebec as well as in other provinces.

We have put together a list of the basic rules for driving in Canada.

1. Speed Limits

One of the major differences between driving in Canada vs US is that Canada uses the metric system for its measurement. This means that our speed signs are shown in Kilometers per hour instead of Miles per hour.

For reference, most highways have a speed limit of 100km/h, and within cities and residential areas, it’s usually around 50km/h.

2. Road Signs

French and English are Canada’s official languages. So depending on which province you visit, expect to see signs containing one or both of these languages.

Speaking French will be very beneficial when visiting Quebec, as the signs are only in French. If you are visiting the Maritimes, signs will include both languages. Signs will mostly be in English throughout the rest of the country.


3. Seats and Seatbelts

Seatbelts are compulsory at all times when driving in Canada, regardless of age. The same applies to all passengers in the vehicle.

Children under the age of 9 or shorter than 145 cm must use the appropriate car seat. You can check this guide to make sure you are using the correct seat.

Most car rental companies will provide a carseat upon request, at an additional fee. But this would be something you may want to reserve in advance, as many rental companies only have a small number of carseats to rent out.

4. Smoking

Although smoking isn’t technically against the law in vehicles, most provinces make it illegal to smoke in a car when a minor (15 and under) is present. The law is in effect in Ontario, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Saskatchewan, Yukon Territory, Prince Edward Island, and British Columbia.


5. Cell Phone Use

Canada has a distracted driving law which is in effect in all provinces. It states that while you are driving, including when you are stopped in traffic or at a red light, it is illegal to use a phone or other hand-held wireless communication device to text or dial. The only exception is to make a 911 call in an emergency.

6. Carpool or High Occupancy Vehicle Lanes

In order to keep traffic moving more efficiently, especially in urban areas, some provinces have implemented carpool or High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes. This lane is reserved for cars with at least two people in them.

Most of the time, these lanes are free to use, as long as you have two or more people in the vehicle with you. You will find signs and clearly-marked lanes that designate these as HOV lanes.

The exception to this rule is for vehicles with the “Green” licence plate. They are permitted to use the HOV lane with any number of occupants.


Green plates are available to people operating eligible plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and full-battery electric vehicles.

7. Toll Roads and Bridges

Unlike the US, there aren’t many toll roads in Canada. We do have several bridges that require tolls (like the Confederation Bridge going to Prince Edward Island), especially the ones you encounter when to and from the United States.

The one exception, in Ontario anyway, is Highway 407 ETR (Electronic Toll Road). The way this highway operates is that it takes a photo of your license plate when you enter and exit the highway.

The system will then send the bill to the registered owner of the vehicle, which for most visitors, would be the rental company. The rental car company will then add those fees to your rental bill.

The fees are calculated according to the time of day (prime or off-peak hours) and mileage. If your vehicle does not have a transponder (most rentals do not), you can also expect a video toll charge added to your bill.

Unlike the US, Canada’s toll roads are pretty expensive to use!

Icefields Parkway - Roadway with yellow leaves

One last thing worth mentioning in this category is that many main highways, like the Trans-Canada Highway, will actually run through some of our National Parks. Unfortunately, this usually means you will need to purchase a day-use Parks Canada pass to use the road.

For example, this is the case when travelling along the Icefields Parkway in Alberta. The Highway passes through both Banff National Park and Jasper National Park, requiring payment at the gate prior to entry.

8. Drugs and Alcohol

As in many countries, it is a serious offence to drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol in Canada. If you are caught with a blood alcohol concentration above 0.08%, or with illicit drugs in your system, you could be arrested, have your car impounded as well as have your driver’s license suspended.

As a visitor, or someone driving in Canada with a US license, you could have your stay in Canada shortened. And most likely, you will not be able to return to Canada in the future.


And let’s not overlook the fact that even a lower blood alcohol concentration can get you into plenty of trouble (temporary driver’s license suspension and impound of your vehicle). So, it’s better to completely avoid drinking and driving.

Driving in Canada for Visitors – FAQs

Can I drive in Canada with a foreign driver’s license other than US?

Although an American driving in Canada can use their US license, those coming from other countries will need to obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP) and get insurance in Canada to drive a car.

The IDP especially applies to people visiting Canada from a country whose official language isn’t French or English. In other words, if their driver’s licence card is written in a language other than English or French, they will to to obtain an IDP.

Can I have both a US and Canadian driver’s license?

In order to prevent the issuance of two driver’s licenses to one person, the States and Provinces have an agreement. You are only allowed to have a license in the state/province where you physically reside.

Can I rent a car in Canada with US license?

Yes. You can rent a car in Canada with a US driver’s license. You will not need an International Driving Permit (IDP).

If you are looking to rent a car in Canada, we highly recommend using Discover Cars Canada. Discover Cars is like a search engine that will sift through all the major rental car companies and show you the best rates and car insurance.

Discover Cars is what we use when searching for a rental car either at home or abroad.


Final Thoughts on Driving in Canada with US License

All in all, driving in Canada for Americans couldn’t be easier. As long as you are only staying in the country for under 90 days, and you have the required car insurance, then driving in Canada with US licence is pretty straightforward.

Just be sure to go over the Canadian traffic laws, and use caution when driving in the winter, and you are all set!

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