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What You Need to Know About Taking Your Car to Canada

Following the 2016 presidential election, the Canada’s immigration site went down temporarily, as their southern neighbors all weighed their options of staying or leaving. While of course this was a reactionary event, the fact is that US citizens cross the border with Canada all the time. That is a lot of cars going back and forth. However, most people, especially those visiting Canada for the first time, aren’t aware of the differences in traffic laws and car maintenance. Whether you are taking your new ride for a joy ride, or shipping the family across the border for the holidays, you should be aware of the differences between driving in the USA and Canada.

Driver’s License

One of the most asked questions is if you’re United States driver’s license is valid in Canada? For the most part, yes. In fact, in most English speaking countries, a valid US driver’s license should be fine. If you are the type that does not like taking chances however, you might want to consider getting a International Driver’s Permit (IDP). An IDP doesn’t require any additional tests so long as you have a valid US driver’s license, but it does translate all the information on your driver’s license into 10 different languages so you can go anywhere in the world and be covered. It’s probably not necessary if you are only going to Canada, but it doesn’t hurt to have one either.


If you are a tourist, just visiting Canada for a short period of time, a US based insurance is accepted as valid proof of insurance. However, if you are moving to Canada, either permanently or on a work permit, obtaining a Canadian car insurance policy is mandatory. Proof of insurance is mandatory so don’t wait until something happens to purchase yours.

Metric Units

Unlike the USA, Canada uses metric units for their speed limits and other signs. This can be a tricky problem for Americans who do not have kilometer-per-hour markings on their car. In general, the kilometer-per-hour speed limits will be higher than their equal mile-per-hour speed limits, because a mile is longer than a kilometer. Still, the speed limits are all around the same. For example, most major highways in Canada have a speed limit of 100 km/hr, which is 62 m/hr.

Driving in Snow

Driving in snowy conditions is something many Americans are unused to. Unless you live in the Northern half of the country it is unlikely you have had many experiences driving in snowy or icy conditions. The best advice is to take it slow, especially if you are unsure about weather conditions. Chains for your tires and avoiding unplowed streets are usually good places to start. Even the most experienced of winter driver’s will tell you how hazardous it could be. Black ice and white-out conditions can both catch drivers off guard. Using caution and asking for help should keep you safe and sound.