Renting a Car in Canada

Renting a Car in Canada

How to Rent a Car in Canada

Photo by Viktor Bystrov on Unsplash
WRITTEN BYBryan Jacinto
PUBLISHED ONNovember 23, 2023

Ever dreamed of exploring Canada's stunning landscapes? You may have already booked your flight and are excited about your upcoming adventure. But have you thought about how you'll get around once you're there? Well, that's where renting a car can be a great option.

Let this guide help you navigate renting a car in Canada -- from choosing the right vehicle to understanding Canadian driving rules and finding the best deals on car rentals.

Age Limitations for Renting

You must be at least 20 years old to rent a car in Canada. Although many rental companies prefer drivers who are 23 to 25 years old.

Some rental companies might also charge you a 'Young Driver Fee if you're a younger driver. While not all of them do this, it's something you should know, just in case.

Requirements for Younger Drivers

  • Age: The minimum age varies by rental company, ranging from 20 to 25 years old.
  • Driving Experience: Experienced drivers often enjoy lower rates. So, your driving history can affect what you pay.
  • Extra Fee: The 'Young Driver Fee' may apply if you're under 25.

Requirements for Senior Drivers

Senior drivers can rent vehicles without extra charges, but there are some things to keep in mind:

1. You must possess a valid driver's license.

2. You should have a good driving record.

3. Your health condition must be suitable for driving.

How the Rental Process Works

Preparing for a trip to Canada? Renting a car can make your trip more convenient. We've broken down the general car rental process in Canada for you.

Step 1: Determining Your Needs

First things first, figure out what you want from your rental car. Here are the key things to consider:

  • Type of vehicle: You've got options, from compact cars to SUVs, pickup trucks, and even luxury rides.
  • Rental duration: Decide how long you'll need the vehicle, whether just a few hours, weeks, or even months.
  • Extras: Do you want add-ons like GPS, child seats, or extra driver coverage? These choices affect your total cost.

Step 2: Booking Your Car

Once you've nailed down your needs, it's time to book your car. You can do this in a few different ways:

  • Online: Booking through the rental company's website is usually the easiest and quickest option.
  • In-person: Alternatively, you can visit the rental company's physical location to make a reservation.
  • Through a Travel Agency: Sometimes, you can book your car alongside other travel arrangements, like flights or hotels.

Step 3: Picking Up the Car

When the big day arrives to pick up your car, ensure you bring:

  • Your valid driver's licence
  • A valid credit card
  • Your reservation confirmation, if required

Before driving in Canada, inspect the car for any existing damage. If you spot anything, let the rental company know.

Step 4: Returning the Car

Return the vehicle to the designated return location at the end of your rental period. Make sure it's empty of personal belongings and other stuff and in a similar condition to when you got it, considering normal wear and tear.

Financials: How Much Does it Cost?

Thinking of hitting the scenic Trans-Canada Highway but worried about car rental prices in Canada? The numbers seem intimidating, but the incredible adventure is worth every penny. Let's break it down and simplify things by looking at rental costs, daily averages, and what can impact them.

Average Daily Rates

Type of VehicleAverage Daily Rate (CAD)
Economy$30 - $60
Compact$40 - $70
Standard/Intermediate$50 - $90
Full-size$60 - $110
SUV$80 - $150

Factors Affecting the Price

Several things can make your final bill go up or down. Here are some important factors to consider:

  • Location: City centers or airports may charge higher rates than remote or suburban outlets.
  • Duration: Generally, the longer you rent, the lower the daily rate.
  • Type of Car: Bigger, more luxurious cars offer comfort but come at a higher price.
  • Season: Like airfares, car rental rates can skyrocket during peak tourist seasons.
  • Aged 25 or younger: Underage drivers could be charged an additional fee.

Understanding these financial factors can help you make smart choices and manage expenses. Using comparison websites and booking ahead is a good idea to lock in the best deals.

Car Rental Insurance

When renting a car in Canada, careful consideration of insurance is critical. It can bring you peace of mind and protect you financially in unforeseen circumstances. Here's what you need to know:

Should You Pay for Extra Insurance?

Deciding on extra insurance for a rental car in Canada involves understanding the different insurance types rental companies provide.

Most car rental places offer four types of insurance:

  1. Collision Damage Waiver (CDW): This covers the cost of repairs if the rental car is damaged in an accident or gets stolen.
  2. Supplemental Liability Insurance (SLI): This protects you from legal actions by third parties in case of an accident.
  3. Personal Accident Insurance (PAI): In the event of an accident, this covers medical and ambulance bills for the driver and passengers.
  4. Personal Effects Coverage (PEC): This insurance covers the loss of personal belongings from the rental car.

But guess what? You may already have coverage under your existing car insurance policy, credit card benefits, or travel insurance. So, additional rental car insurance may not always be necessary.

The Pros and Cons of Taking Additional Insurance:

More coverage equals less stress. You're fully protected if unexpected situations happen.Extra insurance can get pricey, especially on longer journeys.
There is no need to make claims or talk to your insurance company in case of damages.It might be redundant if you're already covered by another insurance policy, resulting in unnecessary expenses.

Supplemental Liability Insurance

Supplemental Liability Insurance, commonly known as SLI, is an optional coverage that you can purchase when renting a car. It provides an extra protection, covering third-party claims for bodily injury or property damage if you're found at fault in a car accident. This coverage typically takes effect when your primary auto insurance's limits are exhausted.

Whether you need SLI or not depends on a few key factors:

  • Your existing car insurance policy: If your current insurance offers high limits for liability coverage, you may not need SLI.
  • Your credit card benefits: Some credit cards offer rental car insurance as a perk. But, this often doesn't include liability insurance, so check the specifics of your card's benefits.
  • Your comfort with risk: If you're a cautious person but want additional protection, an SLI is worth considering.

Best Credit Card to Use

Many credit cards come with collision damage insurance, covering repair costs if there's an accident. Some credit cards also offer excellent reward programs, making them even more worthwhile.

Let's explore the benefits of some popular credit cards:

  • Visa Infinite Cards: These cards offer robust auto rental collision damage coverage. Plus, you can earn points for travel and shopping.
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: This card covers car rental collision damage and grants extended warranty protection and trip cancellation coverage.
  • The Platinum Card from American Express: The Amex Platinum Card provides insurance coverage for theft and damage for rental cars. And it comes with cool travel perks like airport lounge access and hotel upgrades.

So, before you get a rental car in Canada, look into your credit card perks. You may already have fantastic travel and rental insurance that can save you money and stress.

If you're thinking about renting a car in Canada, there are some legal requirements you'll need to take care of. Knowing these requirements will make the car rental process easy and hassle-free whether you're a local resident or visiting.

Driver's License

A valid driver's license is critical when you're renting a car. In Canada, they recognize licenses from different countries and every Canadian province and territory. But if you're coming from another country, having an International Driving Permit (IDP) with your home license is a good idea. Here's why:

  • An IDP translates your driver's license in multiple languages and is recognized globally.
  • If your license is not in English or French (which are Canada's official languages), getting an IDP is advisable.


Proof of car insurance is essential in Canada. Usually, the rental companies offer insurance, but you might already be covered by your personal car insurance or credit card benefits. Here's a quick overview:

  • Rental companies usually offer Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) and Liability Insurance. It's important to understand what these insurances cover before making a decision.
  • If you are using your own insurance, carry proof of insurance coverage. Remember to check with your insurance provider if your policy extends to rental cars.

International Driver’s Permit

You might be wondering if you need an International Driver's Permit (IDP) in Canada. Well, it depends on where you're from and the duration of your visit.

First off, what's an IDP? An International Driver's Permit is like a translation of your official driver's license into multiple languages. It helps if you ever have to communicate with foreign local authorities about your driving qualifications.

  • If you're a United States resident: Enjoy some perks of the close relationship between the U.S. and Canada. U.S. driver's licenses work in Canada, so an IDP is not required.
  • If you're visiting from another country: If your license is in English or French (Canada's official languages), you're good for visits under 90 days. But it's still smart to have an IDP, just in case.
  • If you're staying for more than 90 days: No matter where you're from, you'll have to check the rules in the province you're in. Some places ask for an IDP after 90 days, and some don't.

Remember, the IDP doesn't replace your regular license. But it would help if you always carried both when driving, especially in foreign territory.

Picking a Vehicle

Choosing the right vehicle is a big part of your Canadian car rental adventure. It's not just about looks or size – but what's best for your trip, comfort, and safety.

Before you choose a car, think about what you really need. Here are some things to consider:

  • How many passengers will you have?
  • Do you require child seats?
  • Will you have a lot of luggage or equipment?
  • Are you traveling long distances?
  • Will you be driving around the city or on rugged terrain?

The type of car you go for can make a big difference in how much you enjoy your trip. Here's a quick rundown of your options:

Vehicle TypeAdvantages
CompactEconomical, easy to park, suitable for urban driving
SedanComfortable, ideal for long journeys and highway cruising
SUVSpacious, good for groups, off-road capabilities
VanLots of passenger space, excellent for families or large groups

Choosing Rental Companies and Insurance Providers

Let's pick the right rental and insurance companies to make your trip smooth and worry-free.

Car Rental Companies

Canada has several car rental companies, each offering a range of vehicle options and services.

  • Enterprise: Famous for their great service and diverse car options.
  • Avis: Avis is known for flexible rental periods and frequent promotional offers.
  • Budget: As the name suggests, they focus on value-for-money options.
  • Hertz: Known for their ease of booking and availability across Canada.
  • National: They offer convenient airport locations, perfect for travelers on the go.

For a more detailed review of these companies, including the best deals and a comprehensive comparison, check out our piece on top car rentals in Canada.

Car Rental Insurance Providers

When planning to rent a car in Canada, having the right insurance is important to keep you safe. Luckily, some reliable insurance companies in the country have your back, especially when unexpected situations happen. Here are some top insurance companies you can consider:

  • Intact Financial Corporation
  • Aviva Canada
  • Desjardins Insurance
  • Sun Life Financial
  • Manulife Financial

Feeling overwhelmed? We've got a helpful article about the best car insurance in Canada to make your decision-making easier. It will help you get all the necessary information for a safe and fun driving experience in Canada.

Pick-up and Drop-off Locations

Figuring out where to get and return your rental car can be tricky. But don't worry; we have some handy tips to help you.

Consider your Travel Plans

First, think about your trip's itinerary. Would a pickup location in the city or at the airport be more convenient?

  • If you're heading straight to your hotel from the airport, it's smart to grab your rental car right there. That way, you can skip the taxi.
  • But if you're spending a few days in the city first and won't need a car, it might be easier (and possibly cheaper) to pick it up downtown.

Check the Operational Hours

Next, double-check when the pickup and drop-off spots are open. This is especially important if you're arriving late or leaving early. Some rental places only operate at regular hours. You want to be able to get or return your car, so make sure you know their operational hours before making your booking.

Additional Charges and Extra Costs

Car rentals in Canada might come with some extra charges you didn't see in the initial price. Knowing these can help you manage your budget and avoid surprises.

  • Late fees: If you bring back the car later than the agreed time, you might have to pay late fees. These can vary from company to company and can add up quickly. Try to return the car on time to avoid these charges.
  • Extra mileage fees: If your rental agreement includes a mileage cap, exceeding that limit could mean additional fees. Keep an eye on your mileage during the rental to avoid this extra expense.
  • Fuel charges: Most rental places want the car back with a full tank. If it's not full, you could be charged an inflated price for having them refill it. Save money by refueling the tank yourself before returning the car.
  • Additional driver fees: If someone else is going to drive the rental, you might have to pay extra. The cost depends on the rental company's rules.
  • Equipment rental: If you need extras such as a GPS, child seat, or ski racks, they'll usually cost you an additional daily fee. Check the prices before you decide to rent them.

It's a good idea to call the rental car company and ask about their policies, so you know what to expect. You can also ask them to explain any charges you need clarification on.

Money-Saving Tips

Getting ready to rent a car in Canada? It's important to keep your costs down. Here are some tips to help:

Compare Rates: Always compare the rates from different rental companies. This can help you find a good deal and save some cash.

Book in Advance: Prices for rental cars can hike up a lot during busy times or if you wait too long. So, it's wise to book your rental car in advance.

Size Matters: Consider what size vehicle you really need. Smaller cars are often more affordable to rent and consume less fuel.

Avoid unnecessary extras: Car rental companies often upsell additional services like GPS or extra insurance. If you don't need them, politely decline to save money

Fueling Protocol: When you get the car, it'll probably have a full tank. So, remember to return it with a full tank to avoid additional refueling fees.

Understanding the Rental Agreement

Understanding the car rental process in Canada is simple when you understand the rental agreement. It's important to know what you agree to, so let's review the important stuff before you sign anything.

  • Price Breakdown: Always look for complete price information, including base rate, taxes, fees, and any optional extras to avoid surprise charges.
  • Insurance Coverage: Understand what the rental insurance covers and consider whether you need additional coverage based on your travel needs.
  • Policy on Fuel: Some rental companies require you to return the car with a full tank, while others may charge you for refueling. Know the deal.
  • Kilometer Limit: Check if there's a limit to the distance you can travel with the vehicle without extra fees.
  • Damage Policy: Understand what kind of damages the rental company covers and what your responsibilities are in case of an incident.
  • Additional Drivers: Confirm their policy on additional drivers and the cost involved.

Types of Rental Contracts

Understanding rental car contracts is necessary when planning a Canadian road trip. Let's break them down for you.

1. Open-Ended Rental Contracts

This contract is the most flexible type. Open-ended contracts usually don't specify a set return date, offering you the convenience to drop off the vehicle at your discretion. But they typically cost more per day.

2. Fixed-Term Rental Contracts

With these, you have to return the car on a specific date. While they're less flexible, they are also often cheaper.

3. One-way Rental Contracts

A one-way contract allows you to pick up the car at one location and drop it off at another. Great for long-distance trips in one direction, although a one-way fee (also known as a "drop charge") usually applies.

4. Long-Term Rental Contracts

Long-term rental contracts are designed for those who need a vehicle for a prolonged period—typically a month or more. These are usually cheaper per day than short-term rentals.

Before you sign any contract, make sure to read and understand all the terms and conditions. The right contract for you depends on your trip, budget, and how flexible you want to be.

Exploring Must-See Places with Your Rental Car

Canada, the world's second-largest country, is famous for its stunning landscapes and diverse culture. When you have a rental car, you open up a world of possibilities for unforgettable road trips. Let's explore some fantastic regions and cities that come to life when experienced by road:

The Rocky Mountains and Banff National Park

Mountain Lake with Pine Trees and Snow Capped Peaks

Photo by Matt Thomason on Unsplash

Banff National Park, Canada's first national park, takes you deep into the heart of the Canadian Rockies. Having a rental car gives you the freedom to stop whenever you want for photos or to spot wildlife. Take advantage of must-see spots like Lake Louise, the Icefields Parkway, and Johnston Canyon. If the weather's nice, detour to the breathtaking Moraine Lake.

Vancouver Island

Arial View of Coastline with Foamy Waves Meeting Green Forest

Photo by Lennart Heim on Unsplash

Laidback yet full of life, Vancouver Island is a dream for road trippers. With a car, you can leisurely tour coastal rainforests, scenic vineyards, and charming seaside towns. Key stops include Victoria, Tofino, and Ucluelet.

Quebec's Countryside

Autumn Town by the Lake with Colorful Buildings and Mountain Backdrop

Photo by Naz Israyelyan on Unsplash

Quebec's countryside is famous for its vibrant fall colors. Road trips during autumn are perfect as the view turns into a stunning painting with rural villages, majestic mountains, and serene lakes. Must-visit places include Mont Tremblant and the Laurentian Mountains.

The Cabot Trail, Nova Scotia

Cabot Trail at sunset in Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia

Winding through the highlands and coastal communities of Cape Breton Island, The Cabot Trail offers an inspiring drive through Nova Scotia. Along the way, you can stop at Cape Breton Highlands National Park, the village of Chéticamp, and the skyline trail for some truly unbeatable views.

Final Thoughts

Canada is an incredible country, full of stunning sights and exciting adventures. When you rent a car, you're free to explore this amazing place at your own pace. Just be sure to check out different rental companies, understand what they're all about, and make sure you've got the right insurance.

Now, it's your turn! Have you ever rented a car in Canada? How was it? Do you have any extra tips for fellow adventurers planning their trip to Canada? We'd love to hear from you.

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