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I plan a trip from NY City - Upstate NY - Buffalo - Niagara Falls - Toronto. When leaving the City I want to rent a car to get to the different locations, and since I will fly back home from Toronto, it would be great if I could just return my car there.

Is it possible to rent a car in the US, and return it in Canada?

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    Yes, but it will be expensive
    – Hilmar
    Commented Aug 1, 2022 at 10:09
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    One way rentals (even within country) are highly variable in price and availability. Sometimes (as I found) they'll even rent for no premium if you're willing to move a specific gas-guzzler to where they want it. Other times it's expensive, prohibitively expensive or unavailable. In my case I got a pickup truck rather than the compact I reserved. Commented Aug 1, 2022 at 17:32
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    Yes, but it is NOT necessarily expensive. Sometimes you get lucky and they have a surplus of cars they are happy to get driven elsewhere. Commented Aug 2, 2022 at 7:27
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    It seems that this question lacks basic research? What did you search before asking here? Commented Aug 3, 2022 at 21:05

3 Answers 3

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Is it possible to rent a car in the US, and return it in Canada?

Yes e.g. https://www.budget.com/en/help/usa-faqs/cross-into-canada:

Based on availability at each location, one-way rentals to Canada may be allowed. In order to check the availability of such rentals, renters should fill in an online reservation form and set their preferred pickup and drop-off locations.

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    I'm actually rather surprised to hear that this is a thing you can do. I would have expected the customs issues to be quite messy (i.e. you're technically importing the car, albeit on behalf of the rental company).
    – Kevin
    Commented Aug 2, 2022 at 17:03
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    Not importing, just having it go across the frontier. The rental company will either shuttle it back or have someone do the opposite travel.
    – Jeffrey
    Commented Aug 2, 2022 at 19:27
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    There are some customs law in the EU and around (e.g. the UK, Norway) that allows rental cars to be managed more easily from a customs perspective, I would believe there are some similar ones between the US and Canada
    – SztupY
    Commented Aug 3, 2022 at 14:49
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    @Kevin - you're not importing it at all. It's perfectly permitted for a (say) airline, truck company, taxi service, or whatever, to operate* vehicles in foreign countries. (Of course, there may be numerous regulations about that.) You may be thinking of the case where it is sold to someone in a new country, which would be an import.
    – Fattie
    Commented Aug 3, 2022 at 15:26
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    K - it's not staying in the country. It's just a piece of equipment that Hertz happens to be moving around internationally back and fore.
    – Fattie
    Commented Aug 3, 2022 at 15:32
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This is wildly, wildly, situational based on "du jour" market requirements of that rental agency.

As you might guess, demand for rental cars changes regionally throughout the year, and rental agencies often must re-position their cars. For instance, Vail Colorado uses a lot more cars during ski season than the rest of the year. Repositioning costs them money - they must pay 4 drivers to move 3 cars (the 4th car brings all back), or hire haulaway companies.

When they price one-way bookings, they account for that. If your one-way trip relieves them of the need to pay someone to reposition that car, you will get a favorable price. However if your one-way means they will have yet another car they'll need to reposition, the one-way fee will reflect the costs of doing so, and they may even turn your business down flat if they just don't have the capacity.

Of course, it is axiomatic that most people want to move in the direction most people want to move! So most of the time that one-way fee will be quite bad.

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    In the 1970s, our church congregation had a money-raising job to shuttle Hertz rental cars from Oxnard, California to Burbank, California almost weekly (58.2 mile trip). 6 to 8 drivers, one drove a passenger van to bring us back home. Lot of fun driving different cars. Unfortunately, no sports cars back then... Commented Aug 2, 2022 at 21:31
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Yes, I've done exactly that (with Hertz) a couple of years ago. Wasn't more expensive than usual.

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    Note that the expense depends heavily on what the start/end points are, which direction you're going, and the current distribution of rental cars. Rental car companies need to balance car availability at each location, and if there's currently an excess at your destination, then the company may need to "deadhead" your car to another location, which is an extra expense they'll work into the price. In contrast, if there's an excess at your start and a deficiency at your destination, you might effectively get a discount, as they now don't need to pay an employee to make the transfer.
    – R.M.
    Commented Aug 1, 2022 at 20:42
  • Yeah, that maybe true, but I didn't really research or investigate it at the time. I just booked online and that's it. Worked just fine. Similarly I was able to drive from Seattle to Vancouver, and on multiple occasions from LA to Vegas or from Vegas to LA (although this is domestically in the US - still one-way cross state lines). I believe the traffic in this areas is high enough for rental companies to be certain that there will be someone willing to take the car back soon enough.
    – littleadv
    Commented Aug 1, 2022 at 20:46

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