The good news for visitors to Canada, and particularly tourists from the United States is that you probably have existing car insurance coverage to protect you in Canada. However, it’s not guaranteed that you do, or that your coverage will be what you expect, so it’s important to look at your needs and check your coverage before you visit to ensure that you have no worst-case disasters. Here we examine three common visitors’ situations.
Driving Your Car into Canada
The U.S. and Canada have the longest common, undefended border between two countries in the world, so it’s natural that much of the visitor traffic in Canada is literally traffic – people driving their cars across the border. Your U.S. car insurance will most likely apply when you cross the border, but there are a few things to keep in mind.
Car insurance policies are not all the same. While most will cover you, it is important to check with your insurer to be certain that all aspects of your insurance apply when you’re outside the U.S. When you’re checking this, you can also ask your agent or broker to send you a Canadian Non-Resident Inter-Provincial Motor Vehicle Liability Card. Also called a yellow car or a Canadian ID car, this shows that your U.S. coverage supports your insurance protection in Canada. In practice, you will probably have no trouble if you don’t have this document. There’s no legal requirement to have one, but it simplifies things in the event of an accident or other incident.
Drivers from states with alternatives to mandatory insurance coverage should note that car insurance in Canada is mandatory everywhere, so you should seek adequate coverage while you’re in Canada.
Renting a Car in Canada
Your American personal automobile insurance may also cover you while you’re in Canada and renting a vehicle, but perhaps not as fully as it does when you’re driving your car. Again, check with your broker or agent to determine what coverage your policy covers. You may only have third party liability and medical cost coverage under your personal insurance, leaving you exposed to car damage costs unless you choose and pay for a collision damage waiver with the rental agency, which can add substantially to your car rental costs.
If you pay for your rental with a credit card, it may provide you with the collision coverage you need in place of that expensive rental agency waiver. Check with your credit card company. You may need to rent from an approved agency for this coverage to be valid.
Driving a Canadian Citizen’s Car
Many people have cross-border friends and family, so staying with a Canadian citizen and borrowing their car is a common occurrence. Their personal car insurance will cover you for incidental use. If you’re popping out to the store or taking a short sight-seeing drive, you’ll be protected by the car insurance in place on that vehicle.
If you’re planning to borrow a vehicle for an extended time or for a long drive, the Canadian you’re borrowing from should notify their insurance company. Additional charges may or may not apply, but if the company is not informed of your use of the vehicle, they may delay or deny insurance claims.