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Taking a Rental Car to Canada? 3 Things You Should Know

close-up of a car driving on a gravel road

When we decided to take a road trip up to Niagara Falls this past weekend we decided to save some wear and tear on our personal vehicles and rent a car. Taking a rental car across the Canadian border requires some research, but we’d done our due diligence and come up with the first two requirements.

Unfortunately our experience trying to rent with Avis taught us there was a third thing we should have done.

1. Let the Rental Car Company Know in Advance

You need to let the rental company know you plan to drive the car in Canada. Most, if not all, of the major rental car companies will have no problem with this.

2. Ask About Proof of Insurance

Canada will require a non-resident proof of insurance card. All rental car companies supposedly have them for free, but might require advance notice to provide it. If you take a rental car into Canada and get into an accident or can’t produce one when asked you risk fines.

3. Call the Local Rental Location Directly

This is where our trip went wrong with Avis. My friends had called Avis corporate a few weeks ahead of time to get details on what we needed to do. They assured us every location would have the necessary proof of insurance and we didn’t need to do anything else.

We showed up at a non-airport DC location ready to start the road trip adventure. But turns out that location didn’t have proof of insurance documents. They called around and another location 30 minutes out of our way did. But they didn’t offer to have someone bring them (and it would have added even more time to our trip if we went) and they couldn’t fax them because the fax machine was broken. And based on info I found on some websites, Canada won’t even accept faxed or emailed proof of insurance cards.

Avis wasn’t willing to do anything else to help us in the moment (or even later), despite preferred status and an expensive reservation. So we faced the decision of risking fines in Canada or scrapping the rental car idea, which is what we ultimately decided to do.

Had we known in advance that simply calling the rental location could have avoided this problem, the whole thing would have been easy and painless.

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  1. We drove a rental car into Canada from Manhattan without the insurance card. I never even knew this was something that I needed… Good to know for next time.

    1. KSC

      August 10, 2016 at 5:29 pm

      Couldn’t you have just stopped at an Avis location in route to Canada from DC?

      That’s what I was thinking!

    1. I just called Dollar Car Rental at Seattle-Tacoma Airport to confirm they have the form to go to Canada and they don’t; they advised me to get it from my US insurance company or buy their insurance (expensive).
      Does anyone have any info on other car companies at Sea-Tac airport?

  2. I rented in DC and stopped at BUF airport to obtain the insurance. Who better to readily have it then a location near the border, right?

    1. The same Canadian proof of insurance requirement applies to your personal vehicle. The agent who services your policy can provide it. Mexico requires that you purchase a separate Mexican insurance policy to drive on Mexico. Talk to your insurance agent before crossing either border with a vehicle.

  3. Recently drove from the Los Angeles area (!) in a rented Enterprise minivan to north of Vancouver, Canada. The guys at the rental place had no clue what to do with me, and just added a “CANADA OK” note on my rental agreement. Everything worked out great. I called Enterprise on the way up, and they said that they may ask for a proof of insurance on the way through the border, but no one asked for anything, both to the border and on the other side. Everything went totally fine.

    As far as getting this apparently hard-to-get document with insurance, is that not something that’s included on your own car insurance anyway? I booked my van with a Chase Sapphire card, which automatically gives Full Coverage to the car as well. So I printed out the info from Chase for the insurance.

  4. we hired a rental car from dollar at O’Hare wish to travel into Canada for 3 days to view falls.

    Can we do this?

    1. If you plan to visit the Canadian side of the falls you should contact the rental car company to notify them of your plans and make sure they have the forms you’ll need to show at the border.

  5. This is why we no longer rent with Avis. They are the least helpful of any of the major rental car companies. Don’t know how we ended up in a “fool me twice” situation but we did. Finally, learned our lesson. Most of the other major rental car companies will at least try to work with you.

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