Nina Out and About contains affiliate links and is a member of the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. If you make a purchase using one of these Amazon links, I may receive compensation at no extra cost to you. See my Disclosure Policy for more information.

Renting a Car in Canada: 41 Important Local Tips & Tricks

One of the best ways to get around Canada is by car. With many cities not having strong public transportation and the incredible opportunities for road trips, you’ll definitely want to rent a car in Canada.

However, there are a few things you should be aware of before you hit the road.

In this guide, I cover everything you need to know about renting a car in Canada. From the laws and regulations that govern car rentals to tips for finding the best deals and renting safely, I’ve got you covered.

So whether you’re planning a cross-country road trip or just need a set of wheels for a few days, read on for everything you need to know about renting a car in Canada.

Looking to get around via car? Find the cheapest car rentals here!

Line of rental cars in varying sizes and colours in a parking lot in Canada

Best Car Rental Companies in Canada

Major Car Rental Companies

There are a number of car rental companies in Canada.

You can find private dealers, but the most common route (and the most reliable) is to book a car from one of the major rental companies.

My favourites are:

I haven’t used these, but they’re also big names in Canada:

Cheap Car Rental Companies

The cheapest car rental companies are:

I found Dollar to be the cheapest 3/5 times when I ran tests for different car rentals across Canada.

However, they have a reputation for adding fees after you return the vehicle and up charging significantly later on.

I’ve never had this experience personally, but a quick check into their reviews shows a lot of people who had issues. So be sure to check the car carefully and document its condition before you return it!

Online Price Comparison Sites

If you’re looking for the best price on renting a car in Canada, I highly recommend using an online price comparison site like DiscoverCars or Expedia.

These sites will scour all of the major rental companies and private dealers to find you the best deal on your rental. And since they aggregate so many different rentals, you’re sure to find exactly what you need at a price that can’t be beaten.

My favourite is Expedia – I’ve always found the prices to be very competitive, and they offer a large selection of rental cars to choose from.

Combine With Your Flight

If you’re flying into Canada, see if your airline offers any deals on car rentals.

Sometimes, booking your rental through your airline can net you a significant discount.

When you bundle them together through a provider such as Expedia, you can usually get a much better rate.

Since flights to Canada aren’t cheap, take advantage by saving some money on your rental!

Turo

If you’re looking for a more unique rental experience, check out Turo.

Turo is basically Airbnb for car rentals. You can rent cars from local residents who have made their own vehicles available for rental.

This can be a great option if you’re looking for something specific that the big rental companies don’t offer, or if you’re looking for a more local experience.

I’ve used Turo to rent fancy cars for my best friend’s birthday. So if you want a Porsche for a day, this is the best way to rent one!

Woman in a flannel jacket sitting on the window ledge of a rental car on a dirt road in Canada.

Requirements to Rent a Car in Canada

License Types

In order to rent a car in Canada, you’ll need to have a valid driver’s license from your home country.

If your license is not written in English or French, you will also need to carry an International Driving Permit (IDP).

The license must be the equivalent of a G license in Canada. That means no learner’s permits or temporary licenses. You must be able to drive on your own without restrictions.

Minimum Age

Although you can technically rent a car once you’re 21, you’ll incur MASSIVE fees.

25 is the minimum age to rent a car in Canada without having hundreds of dollars added on top of your charge.

Documentation Needed

When you go to pick up your rental car, you’ll need to bring:

  • Your driver’s license
  • The credit card you used to make the reservation
  • Your passport (if you’re not a Canadian citizen)
  • Your IDP (if your license is not in English or French)

Be sure to have all of your information organized and ready to go before you head to the rental office, as this will make the process much smoother and faster.

Tips for Booking a Canada Rental Car

Types of Rental Cars

When renting a car in Canada, there are a few different options available.

The most common car types are compact cars, sedans, and SUVs.

If you’re driving long distances or plan to go off-roading at any point during your trip, an SUV is probably your best bet.

However, if you don’t need the extra space or 4-wheel drive, a compact car will save you money on gas and is much easier to maneuver in the city.

Compact cars aren’t those two-wheel things that look like a children’s toy. They include 4-door vehicles, but they typically don’t have as much suspension to handle harder drives. They’re also smaller, so keep in mind that you can usually only fit two suitcases in them if you have 4 people in the vehicle.

Sedans and SUVs will cost you more both for the rental and in gas, as they tend to burn more fuel than compact vehicles. However, they are generally recommended if you’ll be driving on the highways for 3+ hours or going anywhere outside of the major cities.

For example, if you’re driving to Muskoka where there are dirt roads and the highways aren’t maintained in the same way, you’re better off renting an SUV.

Looking to get around via car? Find the cheapest car rentals here!

All Wheel vs. 4 Wheel Drive

If your rental car will be mostly driving on paved roads, an “all wheel drive” (AWD) option may not be necessary.

However, AWD is recommended in Canada at all times due to inclement weather in the winter. So most rental vehicles do come with AWD.

If you can, I recommend getting AWD as with rain and snow, you never know what could happen.

AWD means that all four wheels of the vehicle are being powered at all times, which can help with traction on slippery roads.

4WD is different in that it’s only engaged when you need it, such as when you’re driving off-road.

For most people renting a car in Canada, AWD will suffice. But if you have specific plans that require 4WD, make sure to request it when you book your rental.

All Season vs All Weather vs Winter Tires

If you’re driving in Canada between October and April, you will need winter tires.

There is no way around this.

Your rental car company may try to tell you that they have “All Season” tires, but these are not the same as winter tires.

All season tires are designed to perform in a variety of weather conditions, but they are not made for winter driving and will not provide the same level of traction and safety.

All weather tires are a step up from all season tires, as they are designed specifically for Canadian winters. However, they are still not as good as winter tires.

If you’re driving in Canada during the winter, you need winter tires.

Period.

You may be able to get away with all weather tires in the early fall and late spring, but as soon as there is snow on the ground, you need winter tires.

Most rental car companies will charge you an extra fee to add winter tires to your rental, so make sure to factor this into the cost of your rental car.

Extra Charges + Tax

Before you sign the contract and drive off with your rental car, make sure to check for any additional charges or fees that may be added on.

For example, many rental agencies charge a “drop-off” fee if you’re dropping off at a different location than where you picked up your car.

You also need to factor in gas and insurance.

Check if your credit card has insurance for booking rental cars. Mine does and it’s saved me literally hundreds of dollars in car rental insurance – which often doesn’t even have very good coverage.

Hidden Fees

Additionally, you’ll want to be careful for hidden fees that may be added.

These are things like charges for drivers under 25, additional drivers, etc.

Unfortunately, they can really raise the price of a rental car.

So make sure to read the fine print and understand all of the fees before signing any contracts.

Don't Forget to Pack the Essentials!

.
Money clip holding Canadian money, including a $50 bill, sitting on the dash of a rental car.

Pay in Local Currency

It’s a good idea to pay for your rental car in the local currency rather than with a credit card.

This will help you avoid any unnecessary foreign transaction fees or conversion rates that might otherwise be tacked on.

So make sure to request that the bill is run in Canadian dollars when you pick up your rental car. Sometimes the machines will automatically convert it to your local currency unless you make them specify it.

Get the lowest conversion fees with Wise.com!

One-Way Rentals

Keep in mind that if you’re planning on doing a one-way rental (i.e. picking up the car in one city and dropping it off in another), there will likely be an additional fee for this.

So factor that into the cost of your rental car when you’re budgeting for your trip.

To be honest, the cost is usually so astronomical that it’s just not worth it.

Cheapest Place to Rent/Return Cars

If you’re on a budget, the best place to rent your car is usually at the airport.

This is because there are often lots of rental agencies competing for customers in that location, and prices can be lower as a result.

However, some airports also have very high drop-off fees, so make sure to check this before you rent.

Always pick up and drop off in the same location when you can. Even dropping the car off at the train station location versus the airport where you picked it up can mean $50+ in fees.

Renting a Car in Canada as an American

Americans can rent cars in Canada as long as they have a valid US license and are over 21 (or 25 to incur no additional fees).

Hiring a car in Canada is much more expensive than in the US.

However, it’s also a great way to explore the beautiful landscape of Canada and experience the country from a local perspective.

But be prepared to budget for the different expenses.

Looking to get around via car? Find the cheapest car rentals here!

Renting in the US and Driving to Canada

If you’re renting a car in the US and driving to Canada, make sure to get insurance that covers you in both countries.

You’ll need to make sure that the rental agency allows this as well. Renting a car in the US may be cheaper, but if they charge fees for you crossing borders, it could increase the cost beyond a normal Canadian rental.

You’ll also need to factor in time at the border and wasting gas while you idle in the line up.

Hold Charges / Deposits

Be aware that when you rent a car, the rental agency will put a “hold” on your credit card for the amount of the rental + deposit.

This hold can sometimes be quite high – upwards of $500 in some cases.

So make sure you have enough room on your credit card to cover this before you rent a car.

Car Insurance

And of course, don’t forget to get your car insurance.

Many credit cards offer some type of coverage for rental cars, so be sure to check with yours before you leave on your trip.

If it doesn’t, I recommend that you invest in car insurance. The roads in Canada aren’t very good and it’s common to blow a tire on a pothole or chip your windscreen from loose gravel. And it can cost A LOT if you don’t have insurance.

👉 Find out how much it costs to protect your trip today with World Nomads travel insurance.

How Much Will a Rental Car Cost in Canada?

The cost of renting a car in Canada varies depending on the season, the type of car you want to rent, and how long you need it.

In general, expect to pay around $80-110 CAD per day for an economy car during the summer months.

This price will go up during the winter because of the additional cost of winter tires, even though the demand is usually lower. In winter, you’ll find a lower supply of SUVs, as most people prefer to rent these sturdier vehicles for driving in the snow.

For a rough estimate of how much it would cost to rent a car in Canada with all of the major retailers, I did some research. These are the average prices of the cheapest compact car and SUV for 1 day in Toronto:

Rental CompanyDaily Price for Compact/Midsize Car (CAD)Daily Price for Midsize SUV (CAD)
Dollar$130$174
Budget$126$163
Avis$163$178
Enterprise$135$153
Hertz$198$249
Thrifty$134$180
Alamo$135$153
Advantage$90$140
National$123$164

Looking to get around via car? Find the cheapest car rentals here!

Important Rental Car Tips

Navigation

Make sure you’re familiar with the GPS and how to use it before you leave.

Most cars do not come with GPS in Canada. It’s an add-on.

We get around this as locals by using our phone’s GPS, but if you don’t have a Canadian SIM card, that can be more challenging.

Renting a GPS is usually a flat rate and can be added on when you book your vehicle.

Book it ahead as they often don’t have extras lying around the day of to add on.

Inspect and Take Photos/Videos

Before you leave the rental lot, make sure that you thoroughly inspect your car to ensure that there are no dents or scratches.

Take photos and videos of any damage so that you have proof if they charge you for it later.

Do this again when you return the car so you don’t have to worry about them falsely claiming that you returned it with scrapes.

I take video of myself walking around the car slowly with good lighting. This gives it a date and time stamp in my phone’s library and also ensures that I didn’t miss a spot with my photos or that I just had an odd angle.

If possible, have the attendant check the car when you’re dropping it off to confirm that there are no smoke smells or anything that couldn’t be documented via a video.

Fill Up the Tank Before You Return the Car

Make sure that you fill up your car before returning it.

Many rental agencies charge outrageous fees if you return a tank of gas below half-full, so to avoid any surprises, just fill it up yourself when you’re on your way home from your trip.

You usually need to fill up within 10km of the station. I always ask them when I pick up the car where the nearest gas station is and save it in my phone’s GPS so worst case, I have one nearby to go to.

Keep the receipt so you have proof that you filled up the car and proof of how close the gas station is to the drop off location.

Crossing US / Provincial Borders

If you’re planning on crossing any borders with your rental car, make sure that you have all of the required documentation.

You’ll need things like your passport, driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance.

Most rental companies will require that you get their permission before taking the car across a border. They may also charge you an additional fee for doing so.

Check Credit Card 2 Weeks After Returning the Rental Car

I always recommend that people check their credit card statements 2 weeks after returning a rental car.

Sometimes, rental companies will charge additional fees after you’ve returned the car.

These fees can be for things like refueling, crossing borders, or damage to the vehicle.

If you see any charges that you don’t agree with, contact the rental agency FIRST.

Do not dispute it with your credit card company before checking with the rental agency.

Send them all the proof you have of the car’s state to refute any false claims. Typically, they’ll back off once they see they can’t scam you.

If they continue to stick with the costs that you didn’t agree to, then you can contact your credit card company to discuss disputing the fees.

Car dashboard showing the engine's rpms.

Canadian Driving Laws

Quebec Specific Laws

Quebec is unique in Canada.

In the rest of the country, you can turn right on a red light at intersections. But you can’t do this in Quebec.

In the French province, you MUST have winter tires to drive from November to March – even on a rental car.

This is why I often rent my winter rentals across the border in Quebec (since I live on the border). They don’t upcharge for these tires, as they’re required by law (and side note, but it’s crazy that they aren’t legally required in the rest of Canada, except maybe in southern British Columbia).

Speed Limits

In Canada, the speed limits are generally lower than you may be used to in your home country.

For example, the speed limit on most highways is 100km/hr. They are clearly posted on road signs.

Speeding is heavily fined in Canada, so be VERY careful. You can sometimes get away with 10km over the speed limit if you’re maintaining the flow of traffic, but cops can still legally ticket you.

I once got a speeding ticket for nearly $300 on a highway when I was actually the slowest on the road, but I was still technically speeding. So be careful!

On holidays, cops are out in swarms so you don’t want to exercise your lead foot and speed or you’ll face serious fines.

Every province has different laws for speeding, but typically anything over 40km above the speed limit will result in a drag racing charge, seizure of your vehicle, and an immediate suspension of your license.

Drunk Driving

Drunk driving in Canada is a serious offense, and the penalties can be quite severe.

On average, there’s one death per day due to drunk driving accidents – so it’s important to take this issue very seriously if you plan on getting behind the wheel of a car while intoxicated.

It’s a massive issue in more rural areas where it’s harder to get a rideshare.

Take a cab or an Uber instead of driving if you’ve had more than 1 drink. Otherwise, designate a sober driver.

Winter Driving Laws

There aren’t a ton of actual laws in place for winter driving that are different than summer, but here are some to keep in mind:

  • It’s illegal to drive with snow on your car. If you have big blocks of snow on the roof of your car, you MUST wipe it off.
  • Check your local area. Many towns and counties require winter tires during winter. However, this can vary from place to place.
  • Do not speed in winter. Cops are much stricter about this, especially when it is snowing or has snowed.
  • Clear all of your windows of frost and fog to ensure you can see everything.

Some interesting winter driving stats and tips:

  • According to CAA, 70% of Canadians use winter tires to drive from November to March.
  • They also report that 50% of drivers have a winter driving kit in their car. This usually includes a blanket, small shovel, sometimes kitty litter to melt snow, flashlight, some granola bars or snacks, extra warm clothes, and usual car safety items like orange cones and booster cables.
  • Turn your lights on at all times in the winter when it’s not a bright day.
  • GPS isn’t fully reliable in winter, as many roads close during the winter and it’s not always updated. Stay alert and make adjustments as needed so your route is safe.
  • Keep extra wiper fluid in the trunk so you can always melt the snow and ice on the windshields.
  • Keep your tank at least 1/2 full of gas to prevent it from freezing.
  • Prepare for trips to take longer. You’ll need to spend a bit of time preheating your car and melting the ice on your windshield.
  • When there are heavy snow days, you often can’t see the lane markers. One car will just sort of carve a path that everyone else will follow for the rest of the day. It’s totally normal to us, but it can be scary to not see the lines if you don’t expect it.
  • Black ice is a big problem. Brake well ahead in the winter so if you do hit a bit of ice, you have room to skid.
  • Skidding happens to most winter drivers in Canada at some point in their lives. Research what to do if you skid in your specific vehicle. Many have different required practices to keep you safe.
  • Do not use cruise control in winter.

Paid Tolls

There are a few places in Canada that have paid tolls, but they’re not too common.

The most notable place is the 407 in Ontario, which is a private toll road. You must pay to use this highway, and there are cameras that take photos of your license plate. If you don’t have an electronic payment system, the toll will be charged to you afterward.

In rental cars, this charge will be added to your final receipt.

Emergency Protocols

If you’re driving in Canada and you have an accident or emergency, here’s what you need to do:

  • Stop the car as soon as it is safe to do so.
  • Check for injuries. If anyone is injured, call 911 immediately.
  • Do not move any injured person unless it is absolutely necessary.

Canadian Politeness vs. Driving

Everyone around the globe assumes that Canadians are extremely polite drivers.

We have some practices, like putting up a hand to thank drivers behind us who let us in.

But Canadians can be proper hellhounds behind the wheel.

Just like any other country, we have drivers with road rage, who don’t let you in, who honk at you for no reason, and who drive too close to your bumper.

Don’t assume that just because we’re Canadian that we’ll be very nice on the roads.

What to Do if You Blow a Tire

When I blew a tire in a rental car in Ottawa, I had zero clue what to do.

So here are the steps so you don’t get stuck like I was:

  • Pull off the road. Don’t pull onto the side of the highway or onto the side of an on/off ramp as these are VERY dangerous spots.
  • Put on your hazards. If you have them, put out orange safety pylons.
  • Contact your rental car company FIRST. This is because they often have tow trucks they’re affiliated with who can repair the vehicle.
  • If they don’t answer, then call your insurance company to ask what company they recommend. Again, they may only cover certain tow trucks.
  • Wait in your car. Do not stand on the side of a high-trafficked roadway.

You may need to pay up front for the cost of the repairs (which, yes, typically require a tow truck as car rental companies secure the tires on with machines so you’ll be trying to get them off for hours). If this happens, keep your receipt to claim against your rental insurance later.

If your car has blown a tire, you will usually need to exchange it for another one so you aren’t continuing to drive on a spare. Your rental agency should help you arrange this for free over the phone.

👉 Find out how much it costs to protect your trip today with World Nomads travel insurance.

Two cars driving on a long stretch of highway beneath the Canadian rocky mountains.

Tips for Driving in Canada

Gas Stations

In Canada, most (but not all) gas stations are self-service. This means that you do it yourself.

We have gas stations at regular intervals along all major highways across the country. However, if you’re in a provincial or national park, they may be more sparse.

It’s best practice not to get below 1/2 a tank.

Also not all cities have gas caps. That means that gas stations can change their prices daily, hourly, and between locations.

I recommend the free GasBuddy app to find the cheapest gas near you. It can even help you find stations on your route!

Toilet Stops

There are plenty of public toilets along the highways in Canada.

In some cases, you’ll see a porta-potty at truck check stops. But ONroutes are more common, which are full service centres with food and indoor toilets.

If you’re desperate, it isn’t illegal to pee behind a tree on the side of the road. But try to get out of sight of strangers.

Parking Laws

Most cities in Canada have fairly standard parking laws.

You can’t park within 3 meters of a fire hydrant anywhere.

If you are looking for the parking regulations, check the nearest telephone tower for a sign with a green or red P with an x on it. These usually list the hours when parking is illegal. If they don’t list hours, then you can’t park there ever.

Most cities now have parking meters that you can pay via your phone, like the Green P app. This is super helpful so you never have to run out to feed the meter.

Extreme Weather Conditions

Canada is a large country with many different climate zones.

In the winter, we can get snowstorms that close down highways. If you’re driving in these conditions, make sure you have a full tank of gas and an emergency kit that includes food, water, and blankets.

But equally, you can get stuck in spring storms that can seem like a monsoon.

Whatever the weather is, if the conditions are too extreme, stay home.

Potholes

Potholes are an epidemic in Canada.

Because of the freeze/thaw cycle, our roads are notoriously horrible for bumps and potholes. And cities aren’t great about repairing them.

So drive with caution, as hitting one hard can result in a blown tire or a misaligned axel – and that’s costly to fix.

Gravel Roads

Outside of the major cities, there are many gravel roads.

Most rental car companies prohibit driving on gravel roads. Be sure to find this out if you plan to go anywhere with gravel.

If you drive on gravel when it’s banned, you could face hefty costs for car damages.

Wildlife

One of the great things about Canada is its abundance of natural beauty. But that means there’s lots of wildlife to watch out for on the roads.

Many cars hit deer or moose every year, so be sure to drive with caution and keep your eyes peeled at all times.

These animals can actually kill you if you hit them with a car.

In many cases, hitting a small animal won’t damage your rental, but it can be very dangerous, so always drive carefully and slow down near the forest or park areas.

Be especially careful on high speed highways and when driving at night.

Best Apps for Driving in Canada

  • GasBuddy – This app can help you find the best prices for gas across different regions of Canada.
  • ONroutes – This app provides a complete list of all the service centres along major highways in Canada, including parking, food options, and more.
  • Parkopedia – Whether you’re looking to pay with your phone or just find parking spaces, Parkopedia is a comprehensive guide.
  • Waze – Waze is a community-based app that offers real-time traffic updates, police alerts, and more.

Looking to get around via car? Find the cheapest car rentals here!

SUV parked on the shoulder of the road amongst fall foliage so the drivers can stop to take photos.

Best Time to Road Trip Across Canada

Although you can do epic road trips across Canada all year round, the best time to take a road trip is in summer or fall.

You’ll get the best weather with the most options for attractions to visit. From hiking trails to historic sites, everything is open at this time of year.

Late spring and early summer are also great times to hit the open road as the weather is ideal for driving and there’s lots of daylight.

The fall is also a beautiful time to see foliage across the country. Canada has the best fall in the world, so you can take advantage of it on an autumn road trip.

Winter can be brutal with extreme weather conditions, so unless you’re an experienced winter driver, it’s best to avoid the roads for long periods.

Looking to get around via car? Find the cheapest car rentals here!

Wrap Up: Should You Hire a Car in Canada?

Whether you’re planning a road trip across Canada or just exploring the cities, renting a car is an excellent idea.

With great weather and countless attractions to visit, Canada has something for everyone.

There are some important things to keep in mind when driving here, though. From extreme weather conditions to potholes and wildlife, there are a few hazards to be aware of.

But as long as you’re prepared and drive with caution, you’ll have no problem renting a car in Canada.

To get the cheapest rental car prices, I recommend checking out Expedia. You can bundle your rental with your flight and hotel costs, saving you money.

They also take the work out of shopping between car rental sites for you. And with their 24/7 customer service, you can always reach someone if you have any problems.

Now you’re fully prepared to rent a car in Canada!

FAQs

Can Americans rent cars in Canada?

Yes, Americans can rent cars in Canada.

You will need a valid driver’s license and then you can drive for up to 90 days in Canada.

How much to rent a car in Canada?

It depends on the type of car you rent, but on average, a car rental in Canada costs about $80-120 per day. Per week, they cost about $400 on average.

These prices have increased significantly since 2020. I’ve found that even renting compact cars is about $87 per day when you book for just one day.

It also costs more the less notice you give. So book far in advance when you can.

Can you drive in Canada with a US license?

Yes, as long as you have a valid US license, you can drive for up to 90 days in Canada.

Can foreigners rent a car in Canada?

Yes, foreigners from other countries can rent cars in Canada. However, each rental company may have different requirements for renting a car. You may need to provide additional documentation such as a passport.

You will definitely need a valid license that is the equivalent of a Canadian G license (aka. a full driver’s license, not a learner’s permit).

How much does it cost to rent a car in Canada for a month?

Costs will vary based on the car you rent, but it is likely that renting a car for a month in Canada will cost at least $1,500.

To get the best deals and find cheap rates, be sure to shop around and compare prices with several different rental companies.

When I rented a car for 1 month at the cheapest car rental company in Canada for a small vehicle in the off-season, it cost me over $1,700 for the month. But I didn’t have any deals or sales to take advantage of.

Is it cheaper to rent a car for a week?

Yes.

Almost every car rental company in Canada has weekly and monthly discounts.

If you need a car for 4-5 days, it’s usually cheaper to rent for a full week instead and just return the car early.

What license do you need to rent a car Canada?

You will need a valid license from your home country that is the equivalent of a Canadian G license.

Do you need an international driver’s license to rent a car in Canada?

No, you do not need an international driver’s license to rent a car in Canada.

If you have a valid license from your home country, you can drive for up to 90 days in Canada.


Related Posts:

Pin this for later!

rent car canada pin

Save this post for later!