Drivers from outside of Canada here for a visit or for permanent relocation can drive legally using the driver’s license from their originating country. However, there are some things to make the transition smoother, and there are restrictions you may run into. If not with your license itself, there may be limitations on other car and driving related scenarios.
Driver’s License and International Driving Permit
The International Driving Permit is not, in itself, a drivers’ license. It is a multi-language translation of your original driver’s license intended to make your status easier to identify when you’re travelling to another country. The IDP is not valid unless it is accompanied by your original issue driver’s license. If you’re coming to Canada from an English or French-speaking country, an IDP is probably not necessary. If your driver’s license is in another language, an IDP could be invaluable in helping aid communication.
Moving to Ontario
Your original driver’s license can be used for up to 60 days once you arrive in Ontario. In some cases, you can simply switch your original license for an Ontario license. It is a simple exchange if you’re coming from:
- Another Canadian province or territory
- Anywhere in the U.S.
- Great Britain
Other countries without exchange agreements with Ontario may require testing, but there are ways to get credit for previous driving experience. The Ontario government provides more complete information here.
Can I Buy a Car with an International Driver’s License?
Buying a car is a more complex issue. There is not a requirement to have a driver’s license of any sort to buy a car. However, there are registration steps that will secondarily make a car purchase difficult. When you buy a car in Ontario, you need to register as the owner of the vehicle to purchase license plates or renewal stickers to activate the license plates. A requirement of registering for ownership is providing proof of insurance.
To obtain insurance in Ontario, you need to contact an insurance company or broker and provide information about yourself, your driving history, your car and how you intend to drive it. If you have only your original country’s driver’s license, insurance companies may not offer you a standard policy. Without a policy, you can’t register, so it’s best to obtain your Ontario driver’s license first.
Other Insurance Issues with International Driver’s Licenses
In Ontario, the driving experience is a major factor used by insurance companies to assess your risk as a driver. Despite your previous experience elsewhere, insurers may class you as a new driver for Canadian driving purposes. This can cause insurance premiums to skyrocket in a province that is already expensive to insure for motorists. Note that you cannot be refused insurance completely by the insurance industry if you’re legally able to drive. The Facility Association will provide insurance for anyone who can’t obtain coverage through standard means. The cost of insurance arranged this way is usually even more expensive. You may be able to bring documents from your previous insurer and a driver’s abstract from your originating country. Not all insurance companies have the same rules about issuing policies.