Last Updated on July 24, 2021 by Michael

driving-rental-car-to-canada

Planning a trip where you’re going to drive a rental car across the border into Canada? Beginning August 9, 2021, American travelers who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 may enter Canada.

Maybe you’d like to test drive a certain make of car. Or perhaps you’d rather not put hundreds of miles on your own car. Whatever your reason, it’s easier to find rental company that lets you drive to Canada than to Mexico.

Want to pick up and return the car in the U.S.? Not a problem. But finding a rental car that allows one-way rentals from the U.S. to Canada is more difficult.

Requirements to Cross the Canadian Border

Have your papers in order. Any time you cross an international border, everyone in your group will need valid ID. For American citizens, that means a passport book or passport card. In effect, the same rules apply whether you’re in your own vehicle or a rental car.

Beginning August 9, 2021, American travelers will also need to download the free ArriveCAN app, which allows them to upload passport information as well as proof of Covid-19 vaccination and Covid test results. Once you enter your information, the ArriveCAN app provides a receipt with a QR code that must be shown at the Canadian border. 

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Have your rental car contract handy. Look in the glove box and find the car’s registration and insurance documents, just in case you need them.

Have proof of insurance. Of all the major companies, only Budget refers to the need for a Canadian Non-Resident Insurance Card on rentals. To be safe, ask the rental agent to provide this basic document as proof that you are insured.

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U.S. auto insurance is good in Canada, so long as the driver is a tourist and not a Canadian resident. If you are relying on your auto insurance company for coverage, make sure your policy extends to Canada. If not, you may have to pay for supplemental coverage through the rental agency.

Will Your Rental Car Company Let You Drive into Canada?

Avis

Top-tier Avis allows a limited set of vehicles to cross the border.

With advance consent, Avis will allow US residents to drive some rental cars from the U.S. and Canada. A Canadian non-resident insurance card may be required and is available at the Avis rental location. Call 800-230-4898 for more information.

Budget

Avis’s sister company, Budget, is far more lenient.

If you are a U.S. resident, you may drive a Budget car into Canada. However, when you pick up a U.S.-registered vehicle, you must advise us that you plan to drive to Canada. For insurance purposes, we will issue a Canadian Non-Resident Insurance Card. This free card serves as proof of insurance.

Payless

Inconsistency and Payless go hand in hand. Driving across the Canadian border requires a permission slip from the rental station manager.

Drivers may not drive a rental vehicle across the border of Canada or Mexico without written authorization from the renting location. If the renting location grants permission, additional rental qualifications may apply.

Enterprise Holdings (Alamo, Enterprise and National)

This big player has the most consistency across all three subsidiaries: Alamo, Enterprise and National

Vehicles rented in the US can be driven throughout the US and Canada. Vehicles rented in Canada can be driven throughout Canada and the US.

Hertz Global Holdings (Dollar, Hertz, and Thrifty)

The umbrella company has no corporate-wide published policies. In addition, rules vary state to state. For example, these are the rules for airport-based rentals out of Nashville:

  • The renter will need to advise the rental counter if they intend to drive into Canada.
  • You must have a valid license and rental contract. Rentals from this city do not require presentation of Liability Protection Letters, Certificates or Stickers at Customs for driving into Canada.
  • Canadian law requires that everyone entering the country have a passport, so everyone in the vehicle must have the proper identification.
  • Additional and/or different restrictions may apply in certain states. See your Rental Agreement for additional information, at the time of rental.

Sixt

Vehicles rented in the state of Washington can only travel to the Canadian province of British Columbia. In general, you can drive a rental car into neighboring states but not into Canada.

Can You Return Your Rental Car in Canada?

Returning a car in Canada is hit or miss. Not all rental company locations are equipped for cross-border rentals. This means that you typically must return a car to a major airport in a gateway city near the U.S. and Canadian border.

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More tips:

  1. Call ahead. Remember, the rental car company confirms your reservation based upon the rules at the time of booking. If you want to drive across the border, you need to confirm in advance.
  2. Be ready for a limited choice in cars. Sometimes this is due to climate. After all, a rental car company doesn’t want you driving a convertible from Miami to chilly Halifax. In addition, a law may restrict some vehicle types. For example, 15-passenger vans are commercial vehicles in Canada and will be stopped at the U.S.-Canada border.
  3. All bets are off if you’re heading to Alaska. We’ve never seen a valid quote for a reservation from the contiguous 48 to Alaska, despite being a U.S.-to-U.S. rental. The Alaska rental fleet is tricky, with lots of choice during the four-month peak season and scarcity in the winter.
  4. Follow the rules. Driving a gravel highway or an ice road in Canada would violate every rental agreement. Keep in mind, rock chips in the windshield are easy to spot at the time of return.

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