With the Covid situation this is probably going to have to wait until 2022, but I can lay some groundwork for the preparations...

I'm trying to sort out my options for travel in Canada when my wife and me are finally able to go there for a big holiday, combined with family visits. We are looking at 5 to 6 weeks in August/September, flying from the Netherlands to either Calgary or Vancouver, travel around by car and then returning from either the same city or from the other city.
We will be visiting relatives living in the Calgary, Prince George and Vancouver areas, staying a few days with each and traveling from hotel to hotel for the rest of the time.

As I see it there are basically 3 options to get a car in Canada:

  1. Rent a car. The most obvious solution.
  2. Buy on arrival, sell it on departure. Is this possible for Dutch tourists and how about insurance?
  3. Have a Canadian relative buy the car (we would cover the cost obviously) and borrow the car from him during our stay. Again: How about insurance and is it legally permitted for a Canadian to lend a privately owned car to a tourist?

Scenario 2 and 3 would most likely give us more options in choice of cars and would (apart from the insurance of which I have no idea) probably be cheaper as the car will be sold afterwards, recovering a large part of the purchase price.

Can anybody clarify if options 2 and 3 are viable at all in Canada?

P.S. My Dutch travel-insurance will cover accidents and liability if I drive a rental or a borrowed car in Canada (scenario 1 and 3). But it is unclear to me if that is sufficient to satisfy Canadian law.
My travel-insurance will not cover scenario 2. Any car owned by me needs to be insured on my regular car-insurance and that only accepts cars registered in the Netherlands.

  • All your cities are on the rail system, have you considered combining rail and short term rentals?
    – Willeke
    Commented Apr 23, 2021 at 13:34
  • @Willeke That might be an option. But we would loose a lot of flexibility in our itinerary. I also have no idea how comfortable and frequent passenger trains are around those parts. And my wife doesn't really enjoy train-rides, especially long ones.
    – Tonny
    Commented Apr 23, 2021 at 13:47
  • 1
    Canadian long-distance trains can be beautiful...but it's not really something people use to get from city to city, you take trains because you want to take a train. And it's almost never on time (delays in terms of hours are not unusual).
    – xngtng
    Commented Apr 23, 2021 at 14:06
  • Trains in this part of Canada are long distance, as all distances are huge for our Dutch eyes. I do remember them as comfy, but it was back in 1992 I was in them the last. seat61.com/Canada.htm for if you want to have a look anyhow.
    – Willeke
    Commented Apr 23, 2021 at 14:11
  • @xngtng I was in Canada before in 2015. The only passenger train I have seen sat at the platform in Jasper for at least 16 hours. My hotel had a view of the station. The train was already there when we arrived at 18:00 and left the following morning around 10:30. Lot's of very long freight trains. Very few passengers trains. Views from the train must be spectacular though.
    – Tonny
    Commented Apr 23, 2021 at 14:28

2 Answers 2


It's unlikely option 2 will work. You can certainly buy a car, if you bring enough cash, but you will not be able to insure and subsequently register it without taking residence in Canada.

Option 3 might be feasible: typical car insurance in Canada covers not only the car's owner but also "occasional drivers" using the car with the permission of the owner. There's a caveat though: it's unclear if the insurer will treat you as a valid occasional driver of a car owned by a Calgary, Alberta resident if you get into trouble in Vancouver, British Columbia. Insurance works across provincial borders for the owner for sure. Another caveat -- the owner cannot charge you for the use of their car, unless they are willing to obtain commercial insurance, which will cost a lot more. (You can of course compensate them "under the table".)

Another thing to keep in mind is that, if you have an accident as an occasional driver, the car owner will likely have their premium increased for several years, because they will be now deemed a higher risk. You probably don't want to put your relatives in such a spot.

All in all, I would recommend going with option 1 and renting a car (or multiple cars at different locations). It might be a minor inconvenience to you, but you will avoid inconveniencing your hosts to a larger extent. As you can imagine, buying a car for your temporary use and organizing insurance for it requires noticeable effort.

  • As I understand it if the owner has an "interprovincial insurance card" (not sure about the exact name) and I carry a copy of that and a signed letter by the owner that I have his permission to drive his car that should (in theory) cover the insurance part. Additionally I can get such a card issued via my travel-insurance provider as well. My wife (who visits Canada for work several times a year) has had such a card in the past. Makes rentals a lot easier as it shows the rental agency you have Canadian equivalent insurance.
    – Tonny
    Commented Apr 23, 2021 at 16:07
  • Typical auto insurance policies in Canada are interprovincial.
    – mustaccio
    Commented Apr 23, 2021 at 16:33
  • Provincial jurisdiction usually doesn't matter a lot for a clear non resident. What matters though is an occasional driver becomes not so occasional after a threshold (IIRC BC for example the threshold is less than two weeks per year)
    – xngtng
    Commented Apr 23, 2021 at 17:23

Passenger trains in Canada are not as efficient as in Europe.

Rent a car.

It will make your travel more free and fun.

You can then plan your itinerary and add stops in places you want to go and see that trains do not go; you can stop for pictures and lunch and see things.

Make certain you can drop off the car at any dealers, for example, you don't want to drive all the way back to your starting point (and take a train).

(some) Car Rental companies offer long (multi-weeks) term rentals deals.

You probably need to contact rental companies and see what they offer.

  • One way rentals can cost considerably more than returning to the point of origin, and can vary greatly from one company to another and from one pair of end points to another. Well worth shopping around. And my experience is a bit spotty- you might get a vehicle that is much larger and less fuel-efficient than you wanted since you are paying for the gas to transport it where the rental company wants it. Commented Apr 23, 2021 at 22:45

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