For Americans, taking a trip to Canada combines the exotic nature of visiting a different country with the familiarity of the same language and similar customs. Like the United States, the vast expanse of Canada is best enjoyed by renting a car and striking out on your own. However, although there are many similarities between renting a car in the U.S. and renting one in Canada, there are a few things you need to know before you rent a car north of the border.
1. Check on insurance before you depart. Many American car insurance policies cover drivers when they rent a car in the United States. However, fewer cover drivers for rentals in Canada. Although you don’t want to buy coverage from the rental car agency if you are already covered by your insurance policy, it’s a good idea to check with your insurance company before you get to the counter.
2. Ask about border crossings. If your itinerary includes going back and forth across the U.S./Canadian border, you need to tell your car rental agency ahead of time. Most agencies, but not all, allow you to do this. Some charge an extra fee.
3. Fill up that tank. While it’s always a good idea to return your rental car with a full tank of gas, this is especially true when you rent in Canada where the price of gasoline is higher than in the United States. You’ll pay top dollar if you return the car with an empty gas tank and have the car rental agency’s union-wage workers fill the tank. Click here to find more info on car rentals in Canada.
4. Don’t waste money on an international driving permit. Your U.S. passport and your American, state-issued driver’s licenses are all of the documentation you need to rent and drive a car in Canada. You don’t have to buy an international driving permit.
5. Familiarize yourself with Canadian driving rules. As in the U.S., Canadian traffic moves on the right hand side of the road. However, this doesn’t mean that everything is the same. For instance, if you’re planning to drive in Quebec, be advised that the road signs will be in French, not English. In addition, some provinces, including Ontario, have banned smoking in a car where there are minors present. The Canadian DUI laws are also more strict than U.S. laws. It’s best not to drive at all if you’ve had a drink.
Renting a car in Canada is a great way to see the 10 provinces and three territories that make up America’s neighbor to the north. However, make sure your experience is a positive one by checking your insurance in advance, familiarizing yourself with Canadian driving regulations and remembering to return the vehicle with a full tank of gas.