Driving in Canada

If you are thinking about commuting, public transport sounds like the best way to go. With cheap rates, you’ll be able to save by taking the bus, train or tram undoubtedly. This is also helpful if you’ve simply moved to a North American country from the USA or anywhere else, and you don’t understand your ways around just yet.

Getting to and from work or school should be enough for you to get started. However, with traffic slowly worsening by the day and the country’s population increasing, going by transit on a busy schedule can be challenging.

This could be the reason why over 26,000 Canadians choose to travel by automobile each day. That’s 74% of the country’s population. Although it would not appear practical to drive around North American country throughout your initial few weeks, it might not be a bad idea to get a car to travel around if you want to explore the city. Before you decide, here are many things you should understand when driving in Canada.

Getting a License

No matter what country you came from, the process of obtaining a driving license takes time and dedication. Jumping into it simply because you already know how to drive won’t work in your best interest at all.

As an immigrant, you must continuously keep in mind that the North American nation’s principles and culture are completely different from that of your birth country. Also, the provinces of the country have their own driving laws to abide by. Although the signs and rules are like most, brushing up your information knowing some Canadian driving rules wouldn’t hurt at all. In fact, this will help you prepare for obtaining that license.

For most provinces, you can drive around with a duplicate of your driving history from home. Together with this, however, you need to secure an International Driver’s permit (IDP) conjointly.

A certification that you can use in most countries, even as a tourist, the IDP doesn’t take the place of a license. As an immigrant, you must eventually secure your permit.

Depending on the province, you can drive around within the primary thirty – ninety days. After that, you can either have your license exchanged for the equivalent license within the province that you reside in or secure one from scratch. With that said, here are some principles for licensing in Canada’s three major provinces.


For new residents with valid foreign licenses, driving around Ontario is permissible for their arrival’s primary sixty days. After which, immigrants or international drivers must secure an Ontario driver’s license to man a vehicle.

Immigrants who have come from the US, Australia, Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain, the Isle of Man, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Switzerland and Taiwan are lucky because they can benefit from Ontario’s License exchange program. But if your foreign license doesn’t come from any of those countries, you need to apply for a brand new license within the province.

British Columbia

The local licensing authority of the Canadian province, otherwise referred to as the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC), permits newcomers to drive on their foreign license for a period of ninety days from arrival. Upon the end of this grace period, an ICBC-issued driver’s license should be secured to continue driving inside the province.

Like Ontario, the state of British Columbia additionally permits drivers to bypass the process of obtaining a brand new license with the province and instead have their license automatically exchanged for a British Columbia Driver’s License. That’s if they come from the following countries:

For Both Passenger Vehicles and Motorcycles

  • Austria
  • Australia
  • France
  • Germany
  • Isle of Man
  • Jersey
  • Ireland
  • Japan
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Switzerland
  • United Kingdom
  • USA

For Passenger Vehicles Only

  • South Korea
  • Taiwan


In the province of Alberta, it’s possible to drive on a foreign license for a ninety-day period. However, once 90 days have passed upon arriving at the province, one should get an Alberta driver’s license to continue driving around the state. Alberta provides five kinds of licenses that you can exchange as long as your foreign license has been secured from a country that falls underneath Alberta’s driver’s license exchange program. Here are the types of licenses and also the equivalent exchange per country.

  • Class 7: Learner’s license for cars and motorbikes
  • Class 6: Permission to operate motorbikes alone is granted with this license; this additionally acts as a learner’s permit for all category five motor vehicles
  • Class 5: Full driver’s license for two-axle vehicles (e.g. cars) and motorbikes
  • Class 5 GDL: This driver’s license is awarded to people who have passed the trial even if they only have lower than two years of driving experience. Also called the Graduated Driver’s License’ this has stricter penalties and restrictions.
  • Australia Class 5 and 6
  • Austria Class 5
  • Belgium Class 5
  • Germany Class 5
  • Isle of Man Class 5 and 6
  • Japan Class 5
  • Netherlands Class 5
  • Switzerland Class 5 and 6
  • Taiwan Class 5
  • Northern Ireland Class 5 and 6
  • England, Scotland and Wales Class 5
  • United States Class 5, 6 and 7

Existing licenses are given to receive the equivalent Alberta driver’s license. At the same time, you must submit proof of two years of driving to get a class five license.

If a foreign license isn’t from any of the countries mentioned, one must pass an information and road test to secure a category seven license. Obtaining your license is easy; however, keeping it isn’t so because strict rules and guidelines have made Canada earn its name as the toughest country once it involves rules of the road.

One of their strict rules is their tolerance towards drunk driving. While most people can settle for a Blood-Alcohol Concentration level of 0.08%, they demand zero concentration levels for novices and young drivers in Canada. With that said, there are many different rules you’ve got to acquaint yourself with if you would like to avoid having your license suspended.

Here are some of the basic rules of the road to take note of:

Speed Limits

Canada posts its limits units in metric units. Usually used are the fifty kilometers per hour and eighty kilometers per hour speed limit.

These are converted into thirty mph and 50 mph, respectively. If you purchased your car in Canada, you shouldn’t encounter any problems with this. However, if you brought your car straight from the US, it might be best to get a conversion bar to avoid getting in trouble. Most highways have speed ranges between 80 to one hundred kilometers per hour.

Although some places tolerate speeds of up to a hundred and twenty km/h, keeping your pace between those numbers would be safe. Despite these numbers being a lot or less equivalent. Throughout the different provinces, fines and penalties differ quite greatly.

A speeding fine of fifty km/h, let’s say, would be charged a maximum fine of $10 000; after having the automobile impounded in Alberta, they will charge you $25 000 for such an act. With that said, it’s important to take note of the signs that you come across.

Road Signs

The majority of Canada’s road signs are in English, even if it has a massive French-speaking population. Some provinces use the language as their medium once it involves road signages because of the majority of transport and multiple establishments’ proximity. There are multiple road signs in Canada that you might not notice anywhere else. Most of those signs are seen within public establishments, schools, bus stops, and tram stops giving you a hefty variety of traffic laws to brush upon.

Seatbelts and Cellphone

Some countries are quite tolerant once they involve seat belts and only require the driver and front passenger to use one. In Canada, though, every individual within the automobile is required to wear a seatbelt. Kids below forty pounds have to be strapped into a car seat. However, on cellular phone use, it’s permitted to call and drive on the condition that cellular devices be used “hands-free.”

Getting your First Car in Canada


If you’re planning on bringing a car with you to Canada, it’s not possible except if you’re moving to Canada from the US. What’s more, regardless of whether you can bring a car, a lot of people will tell you it’s not the ideal choice because you’d be paying additional charges compared to getting a car in the country.

With regards to bringing cars to Canada, customs are also very specific when it comes to the maker and model of imported cars. Even though getting a car may take a long process, there are actually tons of choices you can take to get a car in Canada.

You don’t have to worry if you’re still in your first few months because most provinces will allow you to drive with a foreign license if you just settled in. Before you buy a car in Canada, first you have to weigh your options just as you always have to do when making any big decision. With that said, here are some of the things you should take note of.


From preparing your movement papers, paying for the trip to Canada and leasing a loft, it all entails spending a lot of money. Thus, your spending plan must be at the forefront of your planning in your move to Canada. Besides vehicle costs, there are different things to consider like protections, month-to-month vehicle installments, and support and fix costs. After accounting for all these costs, you should now ask yourself what vehicle you can afford according to your budget.

To help you decide, here are a couple of car terminologies you should know about:

Used Cars

A used automobile may not be as decent as a new one. However, it serves the important purpose of getting you from point A to B.

It’s overwhelming to pick from a parking zone full of used cars. However, if you know what you’re looking for, it won’t take you very long because automobile dealerships typically set negotiable costs and probably give you a discount on your purchase. Make sure you test-drive your car first.

Thirty minutes of driving should be an ample quantity of your time for you to know whether or not it’s worth your buck, and while you do, make sure to check all the other features and determine all the additional fixes that might be required.

North American nations have a policy for automobile owners that allows them to get insurance liability coverage with their purchases. Still, to avail of this, you need to confirm that your car is in good operating condition. If you’re not too sure, ask the car dealership to conduct a pre-purchase examination on-site or if they allow it, you could take the vehicle to a freelance mechanic before you seal the deal.


Vehicles in this category are marked “Salvaged” but are still under repair. If you’re going to purchase a car under this category, you must ask the owner or seller to transfer the papers, photos and receipts received when the vehicle was damaged.


These are cars that have received a lot of damage and can no longer be driven. Although no repairs have been made, some insurance companies recommend that they can be repaired if the cost of restoring a functioning vehicle exceeds a certain percentage. Once the vehicle has passed all qualifications, only then will it be given the title “Rebuilt.”


Unlike salvaged cars, the damage done to these cars is way beyond repair. The only thing you can do to these cars is to sell off their parts for scrap. Flooded vehicles fall under this category.


These are vehicles that have been reported stolen and recently restored. Until the term “stolen” remains, the car cannot be legally sold or used on the street. Once it’s no longer considered stolen, the seller might sell it for a lower cost. However, if you really want to save money, it is advisable to have a licensed mechanic go through the structure and electrical system of the vehicle before purchasing it, as many of those that have had past claims tend to have extensive damage.

Renting a Car

If you are not ready to buy or manage a car, renting a car can be viable. This allows you to drive a new or old car for long term. However, the cost of repair and maintenance over time might amount to more than the price of buying a car.

Here are the benefits and risks of renting a car to help you sort things out:


As mentioned earlier, renting helps you to decide whether to buy a car or not. When you rent a car, you can drive or use multiple cars simultaneously, and it allows you to grasp the difference between various designs and models fully.

This saves you money because it helps you avoid depreciating the car’s value over time, even if you don’t drive that much. Another advantage of renting a car is you don’t have to worry about additional fees because the vehicle’s value does not affect the rental of the vehicle.

You can also avoid huge costs that could incur additional costs and monthly payments as long as you remain a careful driver and apply the limits set out in your agreement. With that said, if you’re a newbie driver, you might want to think things through before leasing out a car, especially if you’ve never tried driving around Canada just yet.


Costs may be low, but over time, renting a car might not be worth it. This is especially true if you find yourself stuck in the cycle of leasing and upgrading every 2 to 4 years.

If you’re determined to drive to work and other places, you’re better off buying your own car. Another thing to consider would be the terms and conditions stated within your contract. Mileage, which is usually set to an annual kilometre limit, can be extremely tricky.

Going past those limits might result in some steep charges on your end. That doesn’t even include any damages that you may incur along the way. Should you rent a car, it’s best to read through your papers and ask the dealer to explain anything you do not understand. On that premise, you could also consider looking into your renting options.

In Canada, there are four basic leasing options to choose from:

Standard Rental Leases

The most common or typical form, this deal, allows you to drive a new car once your credit score is approved. Once the term is over, you need to return the car to the dealer and renew the car rental on that vehicle or have it traded in for a newer or updated ride.

Rent to Own

Because this type of rental is often excluded from the rental process, sellers can offer them to customers with lower liabilities. In this process, customers need to make regular payments just like standard rental leases, but this payment may be counted as equity if you have decided to rent to own. Dealerships that offer this selection usually don’t offer brand new vehicles to choose from; however, this may help you get by if you’re on a tight budget and can’t afford to buy the automotive in full.

Car Lease Takeovers

This is done when an individual continues paying for a lease started by someone else. If you decide to take over someone else’s lease and that previous one has given a large down payment to lower the rent for the car, you’ll continue to have the benefit of the low monthly payments without having to pay for a new down payment.

Though it’d look like a good deal, rather like the other legal agreement, you need to bear any required details totally; otherwise, you might find yourself inheriting mileage overages or a vehicle that’s in a dangerous condition.

Renting Used Cars

This is often the choice most people would take when buying a car that looks out of their reach. In summary, this process is getting a second-hand car on a payment set up by its leasers.

Car Insurance

Car insurance offers financial protection for you and your family from losing or distributing monumental amounts of cash once accidents, loss or damage have befallen your vehicle.

While mandatory, it’s quite helpful, and therefore every driver is needed by law to own automobile insurance in Canada. Although most provinces require automobile owners to have coverage for liabilities, bodily injuries and accident benefits, some could ask for more.

With that said, if you’re determined to migrate or have already secured the immigration documents, you may need to look into obtaining collision or comprehensive insurance as well. It might mean extra costs; however, you’ll avoid paying for more if you perceive how Canadian automobile insurances work.

If you’re confident in your driving skills and your driving record, then go for premium insurance. But be careful if you have high historical repair costs because insurance providers will charge you for more.

This is true in most scenarios; however, if you find yourself in the province of Quebec, Saskatchewan, British Columbia or Manitoba, you may be in luck. Whereas all other Canadian provinces have privatized auto insurance companies, these provinces actually offer automobile insurance within the public sector.

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