When your car’s unavailable for a road trip to Canada or the US, it doesn’t mean that you’re limited to taking the bus or flying on a plane. Rental vehicles can be used to drive through the US-Canada border. Now, customs officials are always on the lookout for stolen cars. Or, people who might be trying to get out of paying duties and taxes for their newly bought vehicle. So, be prepared to answer questions and show documents that will prove you are doing neither of those things. Below are some tips that can help ensure that your trip across the border stays smooth:
- You’ll need to inform the rental agency that you wish to drive the car across the US-Canada border. Some rental agency locations will allow this while others will not. For example, Fox cars that are rented out of Florida cannot be driven outside of the state. You should also check for geographic restrictions that may apply to the car in Canada. Some cars are restricted to certain Canadian provinces only. For example, Budget vehicles rented out of Salt Lake City, UT may not be used to travel to Canada and several states in the US. In any case, they will need to include their consent into the rental agreement which will prove to the border officials that you aren’t doing anything hinky.
- While the difference between traffic rules and regulations between the US and Canada are few, you need to make sure that you understand the differences. Rental agencies will not be responsible for tickets, fines, legal fees.
- Make sure that you inquire about how the mileage rates will work because distance is measured in kilometers in Canada while the US uses miles.
According to Canada’s Motor Vehicle Safety Act, Canadians can drive US-plated rental vehicles into Canada provided that they can meet the following criteria:
- out of the country for a minimum of 48 hours
- the vehicle is for non-commercial use
- the vehicle will be returned in 30 days or less.
Canadian residents can only drop off a US-plated rented vehicle at a Canadian rental location if they have written consent from the US rental agency.
US citizen driving a rental car into Canada
If you wish to drive a rental vehicle into Canada, you’ll need to inform the rental agency of your intent. As mentioned earlier, some rental agency locations have restrictions on where their cars are driven. Below are some other tips that will help you cross the border smoothly.
- Make sure to check location specific policies that may affect your travel into Canada. For some agencies such as Hertz, you will need to have a rental record before you can be allowed to take a rental car into Canada. Depending on the location, you may be required to present Liability Protection Letters, Certificates or Stickers before you are allowed into Canada by Customs officials.
- US auto insurance is allowed in Canada if you’re not a resident there. You can use the rental agency’s insurance or your own as long as you are issued a Canadian Non-Resident Insurance Card. If you are using your own insurance, make sure that your coverage includes Canada. If not, you may need to shell out some money for supplemental coverage.
- While most rental agencies do not allow one-way rentals, you can still request for one. Just keep in mind that you may be required to deliver the car to an agency located in a Canadian city near the border. Also, additional fees may apply.
Canadian driving a rental car into the US
To drive a rental car into the US, you will be required to present written consent from the rental agency that you are allowed to drive the car into another country.
Information for Canadians driving a rented car less than 48 hours US stay
If a Canadian citizen has been out of the country for less than 48 hours and is driving a rental vehicle back into Canada, he or she will need to pay weekly GST/HST taxes for the first 30 days the vehicle remains in Canada. The rates are fixed according to the type of vehicle:
- $200 for cars or motorcycles
- $300 for pickups or sport-utility vehicles
- $1000 for motorhomes
If you’d rather borrow someone’s car rather than renting one to enter Canada, you’ll need to bring a letter from the owner that states you have his or her permission to take the vehicle out of the country. Below are some other reminders to keep in mind:
- No one else can drive the car but you.
- The vehicle cannot stay in Canada beyond the period of your temporary stay.
- The car cannot be sold or gifted to anyone in Canada.
If you are driving a borrowed vehicle into the US, you will have to present a notarized copy of the permission letter, AND it should be addressed to the “Officer In Charge of Customs and Border Protection.”
Important info about loaned vehicle of another person
Before you drive another person’s car out of the country, you’ll need to make sure of the following:
- that you have a copy of the registration and proof of insurance in the glove compartment.
- that the car owner’s insurance is up-to-date. Some states will require primary coverage from the car owner’s insurance and not the driver’s.
- that all important functions of the car such as signals and brake lights are functioning.
Permission letter for border crossing
The permission letter from the owner of the vehicle should clearly state that you are allowed to bring the car into another country. Having it notarized will make it even more authentic in the eyes of the border officials. What else should your letter contain?
- Model and make of the vehicle along with its identification number
- Name of the person borrowing the car and his or her relationship with the owner
- Driver’s purpose for driving a borrowed car
- Dates on which he or she will be driving the car outside of the country.
- Owner’s contact information
- Owner’s signature which should match what’s listed on the car’s ownership certificate.
What happens at the crossing?
Crossing the border should be a breeze if you have all the proper documentation. Border officials in Canada are not as strict as the US. You only need to show proof of citizenship and proof of identity (a government-issued ID with photo). However, keep in mind that if you’re going to be returning to the US, you will have to comply with their required documentation. Visit our Documents Needed for Crossing the Border page for more information.