Similar to the United States, Canada's laws require that motorists carry auto insurance to legally operate a vehicle. Personal U.S. automobile policies will generally provide coverage for individuals that drive into Canada; however, it is advised that motorists review policy information and/or contact the provider prior to heading north of the border. Additionally, Canadian provinces and territories have different laws and requirements that must be met and visitors may want to check see if current coverage would satisfy the requirement of the area(s) that will be driven through.

U.S. drivers may want to note that laws and penalties can be similar to that of their state if caught operating a motor vehicle uninsured and requirements can differ in various parts of Canada. For example, in the Yukon Territory, there is an automatic fine issued to visitors that are involved in an accident without being insured and the motor vehicle can be impounded.

Also, although the coverage purchased from an auto insurance company in the United States may provide a certain amount of financial protection following an accident, the documentation may not show that the limits satisfy what is required by certain Canadian territories. Not only does The Yukon Territory require that motorist have automobile coverage and the necessary documentation, third party liability limits must be at least $200,000. In most cases, state minimum requirements do not meet this amount and a motorist may need to make a policy adjustment prior to entering Canada.

A safer approach to ensure that Canada's car insurance coverage requirements are met is for a motorist to contact their carrier and obtain a Canadian Nonresident InterProvincial Motor Vehicle Liability Insurance Card. This is commonly referred to as a "Yellow Card" or "Canadian ID Card" and is accepted as valid proof of financial responsibility and could save a lot of hassle should a driver need to prove that a vehicle is insured.

Driving in Canada

Canada's driving laws are very similar to that of the United States with some variations. Travelers should be sure to understand the rules of the road, especially when operating a motor vehicle in another country. Fortunately, visiting motorists will simply need to operate in the same manner that is expected in the U.S., with some exceptions. The following driving rules should be obeyed north of the border:

  • Always obey the posted speed limit and remember that these will likely be posted in kilometers per hour (KPH) rather than miles per hour (MPH). Most speedometers on vehicles show both.
  • Most provinces and territories require the use of seat belts and safety restraints.
    • Children under a certain weight will be required to be fastened in a car seat.
  • Proof of insurance should be carried at all times and may be required.
  • Certain provinces and territories require that drivers keep headlights on at all times - both day and night.
  • Use of cell phones and handheld electronic devices may be prohibited unless a hands-free attachment is used that allows voice activation or one touch operation.
  • Motorists should not operate an automobile while under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol; punishments can be severe.
  • Other rules may need to be followed and the area that is being visited should be contacted for any type of clarification. This may be especially necessary if operating a recreational vehicle, towing items, etc.

Motorists involved in an automobile accident should contact the local police immediately and contact their auto insurance policy provider for instruction on what steps to take. Operating a vehicle in Canada is not much different than the United States, but taking the necessary precautions to understand any difference in laws and automobile coverage requirements is advised and can save a great deal of grief and doing so can be done quickly by contacting the appropriate parties.