You don’t want to find out after arriving in Toronto, that you can’t insure a car in Ontario unless you have an Ontario driver’s licence. Planning is the key and knowing the different laws between provinces is important.
There is no better way to travel in Canada than having your own wheels. Owning a vehicle lets you explore places off the beaten track. You save money on tour operators, buses, and domestic flights. Cheap accommodation is guaranteed if you camp on the way.
If you travel solo, bus, train and plane travel might work out better for you. Hitchhiking is another option if you really want to rough it and your travel budget is minimal. And don’t forget about Ride Share in Canada., another option to consider.
Buying a car in Canada instead of renting a car makes sense if you come to Canada for a longer period of time, like on a working holiday visa. In my opinion, you have to stay at least two months to make it worthwhile. For a shorter time than that, you are probably better off to chose some other options. Make sure to read all the car buying tips for tourists and also check out the official provincial websites for current information.
Car rental prices can be reasonable if you just want to rent a vehicle for a couple of weeks. Look out for private car rental places where you pick up and drop off the car at the same place. Of course, this doesn’t work if you want to drive across the whole country.
I hope the following car buying tips will help you with your car purchase.
Buying A Car In Canada As A Tourist
First, decide how much time you have for your Canada road trip and which provinces you would like to see. How easy it will be to buy a car, get insurance and resell it before leaving the country will depend on the location.
It is important to know that each province has its own regulations and they vary tremendously.
It is totally legal for a foreigner to purchase a vehicle in Canada, even as a tourist. Getting car insurance is another matter. Some provinces let you drive with a foreign driver’s license for three months, and other provinces for a year.
In Ontario and Alberta, you can’t get insurance unless you have a Canadian driver’s license. Make sure to check out the appropriate website for the province of your choice.
What Vehicle Are You Looking For
This is one of the most important car buying tips. Do some research and get an idea of what you want. The type of vehicle to buy will depend on what roads you are planning to travel and whether you want to use it for sleeping. You have many options. Cars, trucks, vans, and RVs, all have their advantages and disadvantages.
Think about the distances you are planning to drive.
Do you NEED a 4WD? (if you are travelling to the Northern Territories I would suggest you do)
Are you looking for a campervan or a small SUV, or a truck with a canopy?
Do you want a vehicle you can sleep in?
What is your budget?
Tips For Finding A Vehicle
There are lots of resources available to find used vehicles. Many of us drive our cars until the car floors are rusted through and it gets too expensive to repair. Because we are allowed to drive the old wrecks, there are lots of old cars out there for sale.
Check the local newspaper – in the classified section, you will find lots of vehicles for sale.
Autotrader.ca – This is Canada’s largest auto classifieds site for new and used cars for sale.
Kijiji.ca – Free classifieds Marketplace in Canada with a large ‘Vehicles For Sale’ section.
Bulletin boards – Backpacker hostels and ski resorts. Somebody might want to sell a car in a hurry and you might find the perfect bargain.
Buying a vehicle privately can save you money. You can try to make a lower offer and some sellers will accept it. It just depends on how desperate the seller wants to sell. With private sales, you won’t get any warranty and you are buying “as is”. If the vehicle breaks down a few days later, the seller can’t be held liable.
Another option is to go to a dealership. This way you might get a limited warranty, and the dealer will assist you with all the paperwork. However, buying a car from a dealership will definitely be more expensive.
How Much Do You Have To Spend
Car buying tips on prices: You might be lucky to pick up an old rig for $1,000. Unless you are mechanically inclined it might not be a good choice. Our towns are far apart and to get a tow truck could be a long wait, and a big expense.
Spending between $3,000 and $6,000 will get you a decent vehicle and probably much fewer headaches. In this price range, you can find reliable cars or vans in good condition.
Transfer Of Ownership
Once you find the perfect vehicle, ownership has to be transferred to your name. Most times the seller has the appropriate form already, otherwise, you can get it from the provincial road registry (ICBC, MTO, SAAQ, etc) or any Autoplan broker. You also will get a bill of sale from the seller.
Both the seller and buyer have to fill out the transfer/tax form and sign it.
You will have to pay tax on the amount you purchased the vehicle for and fill in the purchase amount on the transfer/tax form. It seems to be normal practice to put down a lower purchase price on the transfer form to save some money on the tax. However, this might affect the amount of money you receive from the insurance if you ever have to make a claim.
To complete the transfer, take these documents to an Autoplan broker. I strongly recommend going together with the seller.
In British Columbia, you can get the vehicle registered, licensed and insured by the brokers at the same time. For British Columbia, check out the ICBC website. For other provinces inquire about the steps to take.
Vehicles from different provinces might need to go through a safety inspection before you can register them. The inspection really should be done by the seller before he is trying to sell it. An inspection might also be required for vehicles which haven’t been registered for a while. In this case, you might be required to do some costly repairs to the vehicle before you can drive it. Be sure to check this out before you buy!
In British Columbia’s Lower Mainland (Vancouver) and Fraser Valley, vehicles also need to undergo emissions testing. A very old vehicle may not pass this test. In this case, you may want to go to a rural place to register.
In Canada license plates don’t come with the vehicle and belong to the seller. If you let the car insurance expire, you can keep the old plates and you will get new ones when you get new insurance. That’s why you see all these old license plates pinned to walls and Canadian Outhouses.
This means the seller will take off his license plates and you will get new plates when you go to register the vehicle.
Car Buying Tips on Insurance
Vehicle insurance is mandatory in Canada. Each province has their own insurance providers and prices vary. For the bare minimum, you will need third-party liability insurance. Options for collision and comprehensive can be added to that.
One of my favourite car buying tips I give to tourists is:
Think about starting your trip in British Columbia and buying a car will be nearly hassle-free. Like in all the other provinces, you will need a local address. Consider volunteering as a WWOOfer for a few weeks at the beginning of your trip. I’m sure the hosts will let you use their address in exchange for your hard work.
British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Quebec insurance providers are government agencies.
In British Columbia, you can get car insurance with your home country driving license. If you have the claim history letter from the auto insurance company in your home country, you can get a discount on the insurance. In British Columbia, you can buy a 3-month, 6-month or 12-month insurance policy. You can cancel the policy and you will get a refund minus the cancellation fee.
That is different in Ontario. You might abandon the idea of buying and insuring a car in Ontario when you find out that in order to insure a car in Ontario you need an Ontario driver’s licence and the process is more complicated. For more information check out this Ontario Website.
Alberta has a similar policy; go to the AMA website for detailed information.
Be sure to check out the official website for the province of your choice.
Each province has its own licensing procedures. You can drive a rented car in all of Canada for a certain amount of time if you have an International Driver’s Permit (IDP) issued in your country.
After that, you have to apply for a local driver’s licence from the province you are in (not necessary where the vehicle is registered). In some provinces, you can exchange your foreign driver’s licence for a provincial one, but you won’t get your foreign licence back when you leave Canada.
In British Columbia, you can drive with the driver’s licence of your country as long as it is in English or French and you don’t need to have an IDP. There might be other provinces that accept your home country’s driver’s licence, I didn’t check on that.
Check the vehicle before you buy
Just because you think that you are getting a good deal doesn’t mean the car will survive the road trip you planned. Before you buy, I suggest checking some basics.
Tire tread – Bald tires are not safe. Good quality tires are a priority on Canada’s roads.
Spare tire, wheel wrench, and jack – Make sure they come with the vehicle.
Colour or exhaust fumes – black smoke means it’s burning oil.
Oil level – Check using the dipstick prior to buying.
Coolant levels – If the coolant is low, the engine has been running hot, and that’s not good.
Headlights – Low and high beams – both have to be working, you will need them.
Breaks – Test how responsive they are and listen to grinding sounds. Bad news!
Turn signals and hazard lights – Make sure they work.
Leaks – Check the place where the car was parked for wet spots.
Kilometres – Old vehicles in Canada have lots. Whether this is a problem depends mostly on the type of engine. My previous Toyota RAV4 had over 250,000 km before I headed out on another road trip adventure, which ended up being long and rough! (I trust my Toyota!)
Loose belts – Check for tightness and cracks.
If the vehicle passes this checklist, you might have found a good one. It is always a good idea to take your new vehicle to a mechanic for a tune-up and oil change. It will cost some money, but you might save money and headaches down the road.
Driving in Canada
Driving in Canada might be more relaxing than what you are used to in your home country. Make sure you learn about Canadian driving practices before hitting the road.
Be prepared to drive long distances in this huge country of ours. The distance from the east to the west coast is more than 7,000 km. Can you imagine!
The winter climate in Canada can be brutal, road conditions terrible and temperatures freezing cold. I don’t suggest road-tripping and living out of a van during the winter months between November to March. Unless of course, your vehicle is built for it with excellent insulation and a heater to keep you from freezing at night. Winter tires are required and could set you back financially a few hundred dollars.
Time your road trip in Canada to avoid winter. The only road trip I suggest you do in winter is to the Yukon or Northwest Territories to see the Northern lights and travel on ice roads for a once-in-a-lifetime arctic experience.
Wildlife is a common cause of accidents in Canada. Canada is home to large numbers of wild animals and hitting one can be very dangerous. People are killed every year because Moose run into their vehicles. Watch out for wildlife when you drive, slow down and keep safe on your Canada road trip.
Learn about our wildlife before you start your journey. Make sure you know the difference between grizzly bears and black bears and act accordingly if you encounter one.
Break Downs And Road Assistant
Car buying tips for safety: I recommend signing up with CAA (Canadian Automobile Association) for their roadside assistance program. In British Columbia it is BCAA. The premier membership is what you want. You only have to call them for help once, and your membership is paid for. It is totally worth it.
If you stop by their office you can get free maps. I highly recommend it!
Keep the following numbers handy, you will use them if you ever get stranded.
1 800 CAA HELP / 1 800 222 4357 FREE or *222 on your cell phone (CAA Emergency Roadside Assistance). If you are a member, costs won’t be an issue. CAA will tow your vehicle to the closest shop.
How to find a mechanic
Breaking down in a foreign city can be frustrating. Here are a few tips for you:
If you are a CAA member, ask them where you can find a mechanic.
Call ‘0’ on any touch-tone phone to speak to a local operator, or dial ’00’ for a long-distance operator. They should be able to help.
Check the Yellow Pages. Look under automotive or mechanics, to find businesses willing to help. If it’s a weekend or public holiday you will be out of luck and have to stick around for a few days.
Try a gas station if you can get there. They sometimes can find someone to help out. Canadians are generally friendly and helpful!
Selling Your Vehicle After The Trip
Your Canadian road trip adventure is coming to an end. You made it and so did your car, and it’s still in reasonable shape. Selling a car is similar to the buying process, only this time you are the seller.
Be fair with the price, especially if you don’t have a lot of time left before your flight out. Don’t expect to get the same amount you paid, be realistic. Selling the car for half of what you paid is still a good deal for you. You have put a few thousand kilometres on it, so the money you lose on the car is your transportation cost.
Give yourself at least a couple of weeks to sell the car.
Important Note: If you bought the vehicle in a different province, it might need a safety inspection before it can be registered again. Make sure you check on that.
Attach a “For Sale” sign to the car window. Make a poster with details and sale price and hang it on bulletin boards in hostels and coffee shops. Post on Facebook and social media. Advertise via autotrader.com and local online websites.
What do you do if you don’t find a buyer?
Well, you have two options:
Take it to a scrap yard and if you are lucky they will give you some money for it.
You can offer it to another traveller for FREE (or super cheap). This way I’m sure you will find a taker for your car.
When it’s all done be happy and don’t be a prude about the money you lost on the vehicle. Think about your amazing Canada road trip and how it was totally worth it and that it was money well spent.
Just remember that bus companies and airlines don’t pay any money back, there are no refunds. Buying a vehicle is kind of nice that way, there is a chance to get some money back.
I hope that my car buying tips will be of some help to you!
Do you have any additional car buying tips to share with tourists? Leave a comment below!
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Yrene lives in the Okanagan, British Columbia, Canada, and is the founder of BackcountryCanadaTravel.com. She was born in Switzerland, lived and worked on different continents and has travelled the world. Yes, that's me, an Entrepreneur, wilderness nut and animal lover who prefers off-the-beaten-track places. I write about things I love. Mostely.
Hello, thinking about buying a Van! What are the best makes ( in Case you brake down, which brand easiest and cheapest to get parts for? Toyota, dodge, GMC, ford …?
Hello Christophe, I would have to know a bit more what you are looking for, how old a car, and how much you want to spend. Dodge, Honda, GM, they all have pretty good names in Canada and most of them are all All-Wheel-Drives and easy to get parts for. Good tires are very important! Would be advisable to have it checked by a mechanic before you buy. Let me know if you need more advise.
Hi! I just wish to offer you a huge thumbs up for your excellent info you’ve got here on this post.
I am returning to your website for more soon.
Thanks Adolfo, I’m trying my best to offer some useful travel information.
Hello Adolfo, I’m glad you find the article useful. Keep on checking in for new articles and make sure to sign up for my newsletter and feed. Thank you!
I wish we’d come across this 4 years ago when we bought our vehicle in Alberta. Never try to insure a vehicle in Alberta!. It’s cost us the best part of $3k every year since to insure it and the insurance operator (not mentioning any names here) gets more unhelpful each year. This year we are registering our car in BC as that’s where our holiday home is and we’ll just leave the car garaged when we’re not here. In BC, the local ICBC office couldn’t have been more helpful and didn’t need loads of paperwork to insure our car. This year our insurance quote was a third of the price and has been so easy to arrange – we were treated like human beings in BC and every member of staff we spoke to with our questions was knowledgeable and helpful. The info on this site is accurate, even down to the 3, 6 or 12 month insurance options that BC offer. Thanks for providing such accurate info and making the minefield of car insurance in Canada very easy to follow.
Thanks so much to take the time and tell us about your experience. It keeps me inspired knowing that my information is helpful to travellers. Where in BC is your vacation home?
Those are some really helpful info, thank you for the amazing job.
I am currently studying in Ottawa and plan to make a road trip across the USA and Canada once my classes are done. I found a camper van in Montréal and could use an address in the province of Quebec as my permanent address. Would it be possible for me to buy it even if I don’t have my International Driver’s Permit yet?
I’m glad you find the information helpful, that keeps me inspired.
To use the licence from your country it has to be either in English or French, otherwise you will need an International Driver’s permit to register the car. I wouldn’t rush into buying a car in another province, before you talk to an insurance company for details. Buying a car and transferring ownership is usually not the problem, but you want to be sure that you can get insurance for it.
Thank you for your helpfull information.
I guess the rules will also aply for a camper?
Do you know if it is possible to lengthen your insurrance if you in the united states.
Our plan is buying a camper in bc drive around for 3 months(because of the visa) then cross border to the us and drive around there for a year(aparently it is impossible to buy a camper in the us as a foreigner) and after that year go back to canada and sell the camper(if it survives the trip) in bc.
So we need probably insurance for 1,5 years.
Lookin forward to your answer.
Now i will first enjoy your other posts 🙂
I’m glad you find my information useful, which inspires me to write more articles. As far as I know the rules also apply for campers. I suggest you buy insurance for 3 months for travelling in Canada and renew with ICBC for one year before leaving for the US, and renew again when you come back to Canada. Renewing your policy with ICBC has to be done in person or with an authoriziation signature. Can you get a 1-year visa for the US?
thanks so much for these helpful information. We’re planning to travel from Vancouver to Chile. Do you know if it’s possible to buy and insure a car (an old volkswagen t3) as a tourist in Vancouver even though you won’t return to Canada again with this car?
Insuring the car should be no problem, as long as you get the transfer papers signed and have an address in Canada you can use. How it works with getting rid of the car in Chile I don’t know. Just let the insurance expire when you’re there. Confirm with ICBC in Vancouver.
Have an amazing trip!
We’re almost doing the same trip but than from Canada to Argentina. We fly to Vancouver on the 18th of July. I find it quit hard to sort everything out from registration to insurance. That’s why I was curious how far you guys are?
Hi Yrene, thank you very much for these informations!
We’re planning to buy a van where it’s the most easier in Canada as foreigners. We will register it, insure it and after a long trip through Canada from east to west, we’ll head to the south. We have some friends in Québec who might help us for the address and furthermore, we’ll have to spend time to convert the van into a camper before leaving Montreal. Knowing this, what would be the best option for us? Should we buy, register and insure a van in Québec? Or is there a better advice you can give us?
All the best from France!
Thanks you for contacting me. Each Province and Territory has its own regulations. I know for sure, that BC is the easiest place to buy a car as a tourist. You can exchange your driver’s license for a Canadian one to get cheaper insurance. Insurance from Canada also covers the US. I suggest you get your friends in Quebec to find out details for you. Buying and selling in the same province is recommended, out of province you need to have a vehicle safety inspection done. I hope this helps!
Thanks a lot, Yrene!
You are very welcome! please let me know how it goes.
I’m glad I could help. Please let me know how it goes!
Good morning. We are a family of 4 looking to travel canada, states and cntrl &sth america. It looks easier to purchase a rv in canada, so we will. My question is, to buy a rv in BC do we need a permanent address? If, how do you, ahem, aquire one? Thx for your information, you saved our trip! Your blog is the only uptodate info i could find and lets just say when we fly i to the US 20 jan 2018 we will be heading straight for Canada! Thx janine
Yes, you will need an address in BC to insure any vehicle. Do you know anybody in BC? Maybe you’ll book an Airbnb or some other accommodation while you are looking for an RV and they will let you use their address. I can’t see this being a problem, Canadians are a friendly and helpful folk.
This is such a helpful blog, thank you! I am planning on driving across canada with my working holiday visa – I just have one question about licenses, if I bring my UK license and buy a car and insurance in BC, do I need to exchange my UK driving license for a BC one, and is that then valid across other provinces? Or would my UK one be valid across other provinces too? Thank you!
Hello Holly, I’m glad the information is useful. If you’re a visitor, you can drive in B.C. for up to 6 months with a valid driver licence from your country. If you stay in Canada longer than 6 months you will have to get a Canadian Driver’s licence. The easiest way to do this is to exchange your UK Licence for a BC license, but you won’t get your licence back when you leave the country. As long as you have a BC address and insuranse on the car you won’t have problems travelling across other provinces. But note, every province has different regulations and they vary a lot. Selling a car in a different province can be a problem. When you register the car find out all the details and tell ICBC your plans. If you do change your licence to a BC licence you will get cheaper insurance. Also, bring along your insurance records from home.
I just started a Backcountry Canada Travel Facebook Group; please join the group and you can ask any Canada related questions. https://www.facebook.com/groups/backcountrycanadatravel/
I hope this helps!
We are flying into Vancouver in the Summer and driving to Ontario. My wife is Canadian and has a Ontario driving licence, I am British with a German Driving licence. We come to Canada regularly and have rented for years, but we think it would be better to get a nice car and keep it after this road trip. Can we buy it in BC and register it in Ontario? or would it be better to register it in BC and then change it to Ontario when we finish our trip?
Also we have friends in Nelson BC, can we use their address even if we buy the car in Vancouver?
Thanks for the help
I think the easiest would be to use your friend’s address in Nelson and get BC insurance. To get the car insured in Ontario later on, you most probably have to get a car inspection done because you bought it out of province, so that might cost you a bit. If you can bring an insurance paper from home to proof your driving record, you can save some money. Insurance will be more if you don’t have a BC licence. You could exchange your British one (and apply for a new one when you get home).
Yes, you will be able to use your friend’s address.
I hope this helps, otherwise get back to me.
Hi! I’m from Brazil and I’m planning to travel through Canada for 6 months and maybe more 6 months through a part of USA. The information is very divergent on all the sites I’m looking for, could you help me with some questions?
From what I understand it is possible to buy a car in Canada being a foreigner but the insurance is complicated, right?
1 – The British Columbia is the least complex and cheaper province of Canada for a foreign person buy and insure a car? If not, what Province do you recommend?
2 – To insure the car I need a local Canadian address, a valid driver’s license in English?
3 – Do you have any idea about how much I’ll spend with the car’s documents and insurance for 6 months, considering a cheap used car?
Every province in Canada has its own car insurance policies which makes it difficult to give specific answers. British Columbia ICBC is a government operation, in Alberta and Ontario, it is private. The car buying process in BC seems to be pretty easy and for registration and insurance, you only have to go to one office (ICBC). The cost of the insurance will depend on your age (expensive under 25) and your driving record if you can bring it from home. Yes, you will need a Canadian address. Please read my blog for suggestions. If your driver’s license from home is not in English, bring an International Driving Permit along with your license and you will be fine.
This article is exactly what I’ve been looking for to help me plan my 5 month roadtrip around North America! Thank you so much!
Thanks Laura, I’m glad the article was useful!
I have only had my drivers license for 2 months. Do you know if this will be a problem buying a car as a tourist?
That shouldn’t be a problem. Bring your licence plus an International permit just in case. The insurance will be very expensive if you’re under 25. Good luck!
This is very helpful information, thanks so much!
I wondered whether you could advise me on the time it takes to get a Canadian drivers license?
Here in New Zealand it takes 10–14 days for the licensing authority to send you your physical license in the mail once you’ve sat the test and completed the paperwork etc. Should I expect the same wait time in Canada?
I plan on staying in a hostel while I get these things sorted out so I’ll need to factor in enough time when I book accomodation. Thanks a lot 🙂
Thanks for the note. If you bring our NZ driver’s licence you will be able to exchange it to a Canadian one. You will get a temporary licence right away and the official one they will send by mail. At least in BC and Alberta it’s like that. Might take a week or two I guess. You always can leave a forwarding address (Main Post Office of a town you go to) at the hostel and I’m sure they will send it on to you. As long as you have the temporary licence you will be fine. I always suggest to bring an International licence as well.
I hope this helps.
That’s an amazing article for the people who are confused about which car to buy and from where to buy while planing a trip to Canada. I would definitely recommend this article to my friends.And this article will help me a lot in future as i as I am planning a trip to Canada.
Hessen in Toronto
I’m a German citizen and living in the GTA right now and have just got my license swapped. You need a paper from the embassy, a translation and 90 Dollars to get a license swapped into a full G license here. I was car hunting by time to time and wrote to people on Kijiji to buy a car. Then a few weeks ago, I managed to get my foot down on an used Jetta. The thing with Ontario is that the car needs to be certified that it runs and is safe to drive. These are really rare. Some are sold “as is”. Car insurance hunting is a good task for a broker. Most webforms are useless for foreign buyers. You can waste your time with getting quotes from a call centre. Get. A. Broker.
Well. Vehicle transfer requires a lot of paper work. Be prepared to pay a lot of money at service Ontario for just transfering and getting a plate and stickers.
Hi Hessen, I appreciate your update on Ontario rules and the hassle involved in buying a car over there as a foreigner. This is very useful for my readers, thanks!
If I purchased a Canadian car that has a rebuilt title,would I be able to tour Canada then cross the border into US and carry on touring?
I looked at the US border site and I don’t think you can import a car with a salvage or rebuilt title, but if you own the car, can you still use in US for personal use while there?
thanks for any replies Mal
Hi! Is it possible to take over a lease with an international driver’s lisence?
Hello Judith, I’m not quite sure about this but I doubt it. How long for and where did you get your licence? Renting yes.
Hello Yrene, We come from Holland and bought a car in BC. How does it work to get my own car plates? Can i write my own letters? Can i take them to Holland afterwards? We will travel 2 months and need to sell it afterwards. This information is very usefull, thank you.
Best way to keep your licence plate is to let the insurance expire, so you don’t need a refund and you just keep your plate. The person you sell the car to will have to get his own plate anyway. A personalized plate costs $100 and ICBC where you insure the car has a form available for that.
I hope this helps!
jelle de bock
Brilliant page and great info! Thank you! I have got friends in BC, could I buy a car and have it registered en insured on their name? In other words; can I drive a car registered and insured on someone else (local) name? And would that be cheaper than on my own name?
Yes you can do this, but it means you’re using your friend’s insurance and if you have a claim, his insurance will sky rock, so maybe not a good idea. Depending on your age, your friend may need additional insurance to cover you, but BCAA will tell you about all this. I wouldn’t go this route, unless it’s only for a short trip. If you decide to do it anyways, make sure to write up a contract between yourself and your friend.
I’m a tourist in Toronto for the summer time. I would like to buy a car from Toronto but I have International driver licence only. Do I am able to buy a car and drive it with international driver licence only.
I have a feeling that you also will need an original driver’s licence from the country you are from, which you may have to exchange for an Ontario licence to get insurance. Please find out at an Ontario brokers office to be sure.
i am selling truck and camper to German citizen in Alberta and they go traveling one month or more in Canada.
they can use my address.
to obtain registration in Alberta they need also Alberta short insurance.
My Question is where Is possble get insurance in Alberta for visitors?
I’m travelling to Canada pretty soon and plan on buying a car in Montreal to road trip to Vancouver. I don’t have a permanent address however and was wondering if I could still get insurance. Also, do I have to get the insurance before registering?
Thanks for a very helpful article. I was wondering if you could recommend a province (as Easterly as possible!) that is easiest to buy (and insure) a vehicle as a foreign citizen (United Kingdom), as it seems that Ontario is the most painful! I am on the 2 year Work Visa and am flying into Toronto having planned to do a 2 month East to West road trip, ultimately ending up in BC where I intend to find work and settle.
At the moment, I am reluctantly looking at renting a vehicle for the trip and then buying in BC, which is going to be costly/prohibitive considering I want to be able to live in the vehicle during the trip. If I were to pursue buying a vehicle, I presume I would be unable to buy a car in Ontario and register and insure it in BC?
Any help with this conundrum would be greatly appreciated!
Ontario is definitely not the easiest place to buy a car and get car insurance. To “import” it to BC will cost you extra and you will have to put the car through a certification test in BC and fix everything they tell you before you can register and injure it here. Find out details once you arrive in the country and then decide. Bring all your insurance history from home.
Nick, just use the address of the hostel or hotel you’re staying at when you arrive. As long as you have an address that should work. Before you can register your vehicle and get your license plates or temporary permit you most probably must purchase car insurance. Find out the information once you arrive and let us know in the comment section how it went. Good luck!
Thanks for your great article ! We hope to buy a motorhome next year in Vancover and travel for 3 to 6 months exploring Canada and USA. We have just completed 2 months this year in a motorhome that we purchased in England as well as 3 months the previous year 2017. Most of the time it was wild camping and it saved us a fortune. Will follow your site from now onwards ! We are from South Africa.
Thanks for your comment. I’m working on a blog about wild camping in Canada. Please look out for it!
Hello!You wrote a wonderful note !!! thank you for this material! I have a question for you, I lived in Toronto as a tourist for 6 months, got a driving license in Ontario G2, after extending my tourist visa I moved to Vancouver, and if I understood correctly, here to exchange my driving license from Ontario to local driver’s license I can not, becouse I need to have a status( PR or wirk, study permit) if is it a true what driver’s license can I drive? what can I use in BC -G2 driving license or driving license from my country? could you comment on this, please? is it true that I can not exchange my driving license from Ontario to the local being in the status of a tourist? and the second question is if I can not do the local Vancouver driving license can I buy a car with Ontario driving license and ride them or already for the driving license from my country? The catch is that I’ve been in Canada for more than 6 months now! thank you in advance for your response, sorry about my English
Wow thx a lot. Me and my girlfriend are planning to move to Canada next year and buy a school bus, convert it into a motorhome and travel thru Canada and USA. This info is very helpful.
Good luck to you, this sounds like a real adventure. Make sure to join our Facebook group to ask any questions you may have.
Having recently completed a 50,000km road trip through 30 countries from Australia to the UK, we’re now planning the next stage of the journey, a 6 month circumnavigation of North America, this time in an EV. Starting out in April somewhere on the west coast (Canada or US) we plan to drive north as far as we can through BC and Yukon, to Alaska if possible, then across Canada to Newfoundland and Nova Scotia before heading down the US east coast to Georgia and across to New Orleans and the canyons of Arizona and Utah, returning to LA (or BC) in late October. Whilst the initial plan was to ship my ICE car from Sydney it would be way more cool although somewhat more challenging to do it in an EV.
As we are as yet unfamiliar with the practicalities of Tesla ownership, and contemplating a trip well beyond the supercharger network, any advice as to logistics would be very much appreciated. For example, assuming no one will be foolish enough to rent us a Tesla for the trip, if we were to buy, say, a used 3-4 yo S85 from Tesla in BC with say 50-60km, and then sell it again six months later when it might have 90km, what sort of net cost might we be looking at? Are the sales taxes in BC really a straight 15-17% which would make it totally prohibitive to buy in Canada?
How dependable are L2 public or private charging points shown on OCM, especially in remote locations. Obviously we wouldn’t want to get to ones such as those in Whitehorse, Yukon, Fermont, Quebec or Fairbanks, AK with only 10% charge left only to find they’re abandoned, out of order or non-existent.
How practical is it to use power in RV parks, small workshops or motels and what sort of connectors/adaptors would we need to take to give us maximum charging flexibility?
We plan to make use of a number of ferries, eg Port Hardy to Prince Rupert, Argentia NF to Sydney NS etc. How far in advance do these need to be booked, can we get by with a one or two days in advance outside of peak holiday times?
All advice gratefully received.
After I visited Toronto I had a problem selling my car. I listed for 2 weeks on Autotrader and Kijiji and got flooded with emails and lowball offers. I kept my phone number and address private because I didn’t want to receive calls and visitors.
So, I replied to all emails but all complained about something. I even had people asking 80% discount or request me to bring the car to their house in Barrie or Mississauga. Long story short I sold it into a car buying service, sellmycar.ca. I got less than asking price but my time and privacy are very important. Easy to buy but not that easy to sell. Live and learn.
This is such a great article! There is so much contradictory information online about all of this. I still have a few questions before my trip this Summer. If the FB group is still active could you accept my request to join?
Thanks again, if only I’d found this earlier I wouldn’t have had to have read through so many posts and sites of uninformed guesswork!
Thanks for the article! I’m a UK resident with full UK driving license, considering a very specific plan: To purchase a specific vehicle (already identified) in Quebec, and drive it from there over the course of 2 or 3 weeks to New York, where I’d be arranging for it to be shipped permanently to UK. I’m just starting to look at what paperwork would be needed for (i) the Quebec purchase and registration, (ii) insurance to drive it in Canada and US, (iii) the ability to take the vehicle from Canada to the US, and (iv) the permanent export to UK. I guess the latter would be handled by the international shipping agent, but I need help with the first three: Purchase and registration, insurance, and the right to take it (permanently) out of Canada via the US. Not a simple transaction! Any advice on where to start?
I will be working in British Columbia from October, and have sourced an old vehicle to purchase and use during my time working over winter and then to use for a road trip over summer. I have a full UK drivers license, I was curious as to if there is a way you know of to get an insurance quote before committing to buying the vehicle? As if it is too much in comparison to the van I won’t buy it.
I don’t suggest to by an old vehicle before you arrive in BC. There are many used vehicles around once you get here, but of course, this is just my opinion. I assume that you can get a quote beforehand by contacting ICBC directly at https://www.icbc.com/about-icbc/contact-us. I hope this helps.
Marcus D. Gordon
Our data shows that February and August are typically the cheapest months to buy car insurance. This could be because fewer cars are bought, due to people holding off for the new vehicle plates that are issued in March and September.
Dear Yrene Dee, first thanks for your time in replaying to us. Second i honestly envy you on your life style in the nature and travel (My Dream).
i live in Qatar (middle east)
I would like to buy a new car (2020/2021 defender 90) and export it to my country, however I am not sure will the Canadian government will charge me a tax on that car or not ? do you have idea can that happen
Yes, federal Goods and Services Tax (GST) is charged at a rate of 7%. Provincial sales tax (PST) is also charged on top of that, the amount depends on the province where you make the purchase. Your best bet is to contact a dealer in Canada. Cars in the US are cheaper.
Hi Yrene, thanks for the information, I live in the UK and retire soon and plan to spend 6 months per year in BC, we have a recreational property in Kimberley bc. Don’t want to rent a car on a long term basis so have the idea of shipping my 25 year old VW campervan to Canada permanently for use when visiting. Liverpool UK to Halifax NS seems to be the cheapest route to ship the vehicle over to and then 5 day adventure driving across beautiful Canada to our house in Kimberley. My questions for you are what are your thoughts on my plan? Would l be able to drive on my UK plates to BC then what would be the procedure and time frame to have the VW registered in BC. Insurance is a worry can I get it before registering it in BC and once insured registered and inspected would the basic insurance cover me for us trips? Protracted post I know but want to be fully compliant insured and legal. Really would appreciate your considered thoughts. Regards Chris
Chris, I will contact ICBC to find out details about your plan and get back to you. It’s definitely possible but there will be import costs involved.
Chris, I talked to someone at ICBC this afternoon and was told the following:
Find out whether the UK insurance covers you in Canada. If this is the case you can drive to BC where you can have it inspected, registered and insured.
If the car arrives here without insurance, the best way would be to have it shipped to your BC address and do the procedure from there. You can’t register or buy insurance in advance and you will have to be there personally and they want to see the van.
Without having a BC driver’s licence, the insurance will be very high. They used to consider the driving history from the home country but not anymore. Tourists pay full insurance costs.
Unless you are extremely attached to your VW campervan I would suggest buying a vehicle when you arrive in BC. It will be less hassle.
I hope this helps. Good lucK! Let me know what you decide.
Yrene, than you so much for your help, I have been doing some enquiries myself and the insurance does seem to be the stumbling block if going to Halifax NS I know that there is a possibility to get insurance for the interim period from Halifax to BC from a US firm called progressive insurance however the cost would probably be offset by the adde cost to just ship to Vancouver and that my vehicle can be registered and insured in BC on arrival. There is also a question that has come to mind that if I am not a Canadian citizen would the vehicle be allowed to stay in BC albeit secured in my property in Kimberley BC and all taxes and import fees paid. Regarding buying a vehicle in BC I have thought of doing that however the VW campervan I have is as rare as hens teeth and really wanted to use it to it’s full potential in your lovely Country when I retire. I will keep at it, next enquiry I guess is with CBSA to ask them. Thank you for all your help all the best Chris
I’m in the USA and bought a travel trailer that is permanently located in an RV park in BC. Canada considers it a vehicle and requires registration and insurance, but they require that I go in person to the agency to do that. I can’t get into the country now! How do I get it registered and insured to me without going there?
Is it just a trailer or an RV? Didn’t you do the transfer when you bought it? Do you have the transfer paper from the seller? I don’t think insurance is required for a trailer in an RV park. Yes, for insurance you have to be there in person. Where in BC?
My wife and I are looking to move to Canada in the near future. My wife is a Canadian citizen, but has been in the UK for the last 30 years (apart form family visits), and so I would look to gain PR in due course.
However, before that we want to do a 6-12 month RV trip across Canada to see where we would like to relocate to. We are looking to purchase an ex-rental Canadream (2651 CDWS – for all seasons). Reading the comments I think we would be better buying in BC and starting our trip there. Questions which come to mind are:
1. Where would we register the RV – we would not then have an address.
2. Can we get insurance – again we would not then have an address.
3. As we are unlikely to be in any province for more than 60 days do we need to change our UK licence (we can get an IDP).
Once we decide where to settle we can then register there once we have a ‘bricks & sticks”.
Hi Yrene, thanks for the information‚ i live in Germany and plan a Trip for 3 months to canada. I land in Toronto by plane and then I‘d like to rent a car to do a roadtrip around canada, but I‘m too young and probably I should buy a car for this period. But then I have the problem with the insurance. Do you have an advice for me how it could be possible to get these insurance in Ontario?
I’m so sorry Neele that I didn’t see your comment until just now. Maybe you found a solution in the meantime. Renting a car for 3 months would be extremely expensive, especially if you are under 24 and you would be limited in what kind of car they would let you rent. Buying a car should be possible but again, insurance will be expensive. I’m in BC but will see whether I can find out more about Ontario rules. If I do, I will send you an email.
Hallo Yrene, I would like to know if you can tell me if I need a territory Z insurance if I want to travel around a couple of weeks and go from BC to US/ California. I start in Vancouver with the working holiday permit but want to work at the end of the trip. Do you heard from the so called pleasure insurance?
the biggest problem is that I have my driving permit since February 2022, so when I change my drivers license after 90 days in BC I am not allowed to drive alone. Is it really necesssery to change the drivers license or can I be just a tourist for the first months? do you have any ideas?
cheers and thanks Becky
Becky, as much as I know, you can drive in Canada with an international driver’s license for a year, but it has to be issued in your home country. Being a new driver, I’m not so sure how this works. You should be able to drive with your license from your home country for 3 months in Canada. As long as the license is in English or French. In some provinces it is one month. For driving in the US the license has to be in English or you will need an International permit. The problem will be age, if you are under 24, insurance will be horrendous. If I find out more, I will add it here. Good luck!
Junk Car Dealer Calgary
Thanks for sharing the great article and useful Information.
Hi Yrene. We are from the UK. We are spending 3 months in BC house sitting. Our son lives in Calgary and has bought us a car locally – with our cash! We are trying to find the best way to register/insure the car. We are coming up against Alberta regulations which are precluding us from insuring the vehicle in our name. Primarily it seems we can’t register the vehicle without a Canadian Resident? We have IDPs. Could we use our sons insurance to drive to BC where we are staying and re-register the car there and get insurance? We are literally picking the car up in Calgary and driving the next day to BC and repeating in reverse at the end of the three months. Any ideas/thoughts/solutions much appreciated.
I’m so sorry for my late reply. I have been on the road for a few weeks with limited online connection. I hope that you got to figure it out in the meantime. I assume that the best way would be that your son would insure it and put you on as a driver as well. Or you officially buy the car from your son (on paper anyway). You are able to buy a vehicle here as a tourist and insure it. Please let us know how it went in the end.
Calgary Cash For Junk Car
Thank you Yrene, for sharing the great blog regarding the tips that every tourist have to take care while buying car for their trip in Canada.
junk car dealer calgary
It’s very good article! For sharing content and such nice information for me. I hope you will share some more content about. Please keep sharing!
Very useful article, thank you.
If you could help me with some info, I’d very much appreciate it.
The situation is this:
My sister ( Canadian citizen ) is gifting a car to my mother who is a tourist here, in Quebec, and my mother doen’t have a driving license.
I want to register the car on my mother’s name and my name as well, I’m a Canadian citizen who has a license; I’ll drive my mother around when she’s here.
Do you know if SAAQ accepts to put my mother and me on the same Registration?
I already talked with an insurance broker, they accept the fact that my mother doesn’t have a license and is a foreign citizen, and that I’m the only one who is going to drive the car.
Only me on the car registration – I DON’T want to do it, for personal reasons.
I’ve been searching the SAAQ website for days, I couldn’t find something that relates entirely to my situation.
Some links if you have WOULD BE A GREAT HELP. ( even if they are not from SAAQ website )
Thank you very much!
I found the following contact number for SAAQ 1 800 361 7620. Hopefully, you will get a real person to talk to. I do have a feeling that co-owning a vehicle will be possible.
Please let me know once you find out so I can add it to the blog. Good luck!
Hey thanks for all the amazing information. One thing that wasn’t quite clear was the exact timelines. You make British Columbia sound very easy.
Is it possible to meet someone on Monday morning to see a car, buy it, go with them to autoplan that afternoon and get it registered, licensed and insured. Then drive off into the mountains Tuesday morning having everything you need?
If so that’s amazing. But I’m skeptical and it’s not 100% clear from the article if there would be extra steps.
Thanks so much!
Yes, to my knowledge this should work. You always can phone an ICBC office and confirm with them. 1-800-663-3051 (toll-free in Canada and the U.S.) or at 604-661-2800 (Lower Mainland).
Please let us know how it goes. Good luck!
I want to know the procedure to buy a new car in Toronto, Ontario. I’m a new comer in Canada with valid work permit visa, and had a valid International Driving Permit and license issued from Saudi Arabia.
Please clarify below:
1. Is it possible to buy a new car (like GMC Cars) with my valid work permit and IDP license, even I don’t have an employment yet in Canada? Any issues finding finance, insurance and registration, please clarify.
2. How long I can use, In case I can rent a car and drive with my IDP license in Ontario (IDP issued from Saudi is valid for one year)
Thanks in advance for your response.
We are travelling to Vancouver in July – hope to buy a car there and sell again in september. However I was wondering if you knew about this statement that is on the british columbia website.
“Tourists don’t have to register and license their vehicles if they’re only using them for touring purposes for less than six months.” https://www.icbc.com/brochures/Pages/moving-to-BC.aspx
How does this work? You can buy a car but not register it? I assume that makes it difficult to get insurance?
Thanks for reaching out. I have not seen that paragraph on the ICBC website before. I will stop in at an ICBC office to find out what exactly it means and let you know.
Hi again, I dropped in at an ICBC office today and they confirmed, that you as a tourist will also need registration and insurance just like anybody else. Apparently, the paragraph means, that with BC registration and insurance you will be able to travel all over Canada (and US). I hope this helps. Save travel!
Firstly, really helpful article! Reading the comments and answers also clear up a lot of my questions. I hope you can help me with my specific questions.
I am a student (21 years old) from the Netherlands and in November I am going study and travel for a year in the US and Canada. I have to follow multiple courses in Idaho and I am planning to go to British Colombia in between the courses. I have to travel a lot so owning a car for that year would be perfect. I have a Dutch driver’s license. I was wondering if you think it is possible for me to buy a car in British Colombia, get a Canadian car insurance and travel back and forth to Idaho. Let me know your thoughts on this idea. I am especially curious about the insurance. Would it be more interesting to register the insurance on one of my parents for example due to my age? What do you think the difficulties will be?
With kind regards,
Thanks for the positive feedback. Driving between Canada and the UA with Canadian car insurance is not a problem. For drivers under 25 years old, insurance rates are expensive in Canada. Getting your parents to insure it, if they are residents in BC would be an option with a risk. If you have an accident, it will go on their records. The vehicle registration would have to be in their name as well. If you have an address in the US, maybe check out US rules as well. Cars usually are cheaper across the border and insurance might be as well. I hope this helps. All the best!