To legally drive a car in Canada, you will need a driver’s licence. In Canada, provincial and territorial governments issue drivers licences. With a licence you can drive anywhere in Canada. You must have it with you whenever you are driving.
If you have a valid licence from your home country, you will probably be able to use this to drive in Canada for a short period after you arrive. Check with your provincial or territorial government for details. If you plan to use a foreign driver’s licence in Canada, you should get an International Driving Permit (IDP) in your home country. An IDP will give you a translation of your licence into French and English.
The process for getting a driver’s licence in Canada depends on the province or territory in which you live and on your driving background. You may need to pass a written examination on the rules of the road (study guides are available) and one or two driving tests. You may choose to pay for driving lessons to prepare for the driving tests (you can search online for lessons). Once you have a licence, it will have to be renewed periodically (see the expiry date on your licence). See the transportation department in your province or territory for more information on driver’s licences, exams and driving lessons.
Provincial and territorial departments that issue driver’s licences:
- British Columbia
- New Brunswick
- Newfoundland and Labrador
- Northwest Territories
- Nova Scotia
- Prince Edward Island
It is strictly illegal to drive without car insurance in Canada. If you own a car, you must get insurance coverage. If you regularly drive a car that belongs to a relative or friend, you should make sure you are listed on their automobile insurance plan.
There are different types of car insurance plans available. Some insurance plans cover only the costs of damages and injury to others if you are at fault in an accident. Other plans also cover injuries to yourself and damage to your car. The cost of car insurance depends on the insurance plan you choose and
- your age;
- driving experience;
- driving record; and
- where you live.
The cost also varies between insurance companies. For this reason, you should contact a few companies for information on the price of their insurance plans. Before choosing an insurance plan, you should make sure you understand what it covers.
Driving laws and rules
You must follow Canada’s driving laws. Before you start driving, you should take time to learn the laws in your province or territory. For a full list of laws and rules about driving, get a copy of the driving guide issued by the department that regulates cars and driving in your province or territory. These guides are usually available at service centres, online and in stores.
Driving laws are strictly enforced in Canada, and penalties for breaking the law are generally heavy. Read about some of the most important laws to know.
If you have an accident with another vehicle or hit a pedestrian, it is a serious crime to leave the scene of the accident. Use the emergency number (911) to call the police and an ambulance (if necessary). Wait until the emergency services you called arrive. If the accident involves another vehicle, you must exchange the following information with the other driver:
- telephone number;
- licence plate;
- driver’s licence numbers;
- insurance company name; and
- insurance plan number.
Buying or leasing a car
You can buy a car new or used from a car dealer. You can also buy a used car from another person who is selling his or her car. You can get more information and help with buying or selling a car from the department that regulates cars and driving in your province or territory. For information on consumer issues related to buying a vehicle, consult the Canadian Consumer Handbook or contact your provincial or territorial consumer affairs office.
Instead of buying a car, many people in Canada lease a car from a car dealer. A lease is a legal agreement between you and the dealer in which you agree to pay them a fee to use the car for a specific period of time (usually several years). After this period ends, you must return the car to the dealer in good condition. Since a lease is a legal agreement, make sure you understand the terms and conditions of the lease before signing.
If you only need a car for short periods, you can rent a car from one of the many car rental agencies in Canadian cities and towns. Make sure that car insurance is included in your car rental agreement.
In some cities, there are car-sharing programs that let you use a car without buying, leasing or renting one. You may want to research this option to see if it meets your needs.
You can search the Internet or call the local transportation ministry in your city for more information on car dealers or car rental agencies.
Visit the Canada Safety Council’s website for information on what drivers can do to improve road safety in Canada.
Snow and ice are major driving hazards in most parts of Canada. You should become familiar with safety issues related to winter driving. The most basic tip is to drive slowly in snowy and icy conditions. It is also a good idea to buy special winter tires for your car (this is mandatory in some provinces).