Canadians not allowed to drive U.S. rental cars?

I’m a Canuck living in the U.S., and I’m trying to rent a car so I can drive to Montreal.

However, some companies tell me that I won’t be able to cross the U.S.-Canadian border with a car rented in the States.

Does anyone know what the actual law on the books is? Does it apply to all citizens, or are there exemptions for those of us living in the south long-term on visas (or permits, if you want to get technical)?

I think it has more to do with the contract between you and the rental car company, rather than any law about where your license is from.
FTR, here in So. Cal rental contracts do not allow travel into Mexico. Different countries, different laws = not worth the hassle for the rental car co.
Or there could be a law that says don’t trust the Canuck, he will trade the car for a couple of beaver pelts, and some maple syurp. :smiley: (Ducks and runs)

I wish I had a better site, but this is from National Rent A Car’s website.

I’ve never seen a car rental company which allows Canadian citizens to take a car from the US back across the Canadian border. I believe US residents are also prohibited from doing the same thing, but don’t have a site for it.

Depends on the branch, and as you say, the further from the border, the better. Hertz Nogales, for example, won’t let a car cross into Mexico. Hertz Phoenix Airport, though, will let cars cross.

You should check your contract and ask your insurance company also. I have on repeated occasions (two) rented cars in the U.S. and driven to Canada. Once I got the car in Bellingham, Washington and crossed over at Blaine and the other time I got the car in Detroit and crossed over in Windsor.

Wasn’t a problem either time.

However, these were both before 9/11, so YMMV.

I’ve gone the other way on quite a few occasions—rented a car in Vancouver and driven it into Washington and Oregon. The last time, though, was about 8 years ago.

You might check with the rental company to see if it is a matter of the insurance. Maybe the rental car companies’ insurers won’t cover a car taken out of the US. That would mean that the car has no liability insurance while being driven in Canada and the Canadian or Provincial government probably doesn’t allow that.

If that is the case find out if you can buy private liability and collision insurance to cover the car while you are in Canada.

I’ve driven a US-based rental car into Canada and back with no more than a shrug from the rental agent. I understand US insurance is generally good in Canada too.

Typically, rental agencies will NOT permit their US cars to be taken into Mexico, though.

I don’t mean that Canada refuses to honor US insurance but that the US insurance co. might for some reason not insure a rental in Canada.

Mexico refuses to honor US insurance so you have to get Mexican insurance if you want to drive your car there. If you are a foreigner in Mexico and have even a minor fender bender your car might be impounded. They want to make sure that you don’t leave the country before the liability question is settled. Wanting to avoid any possible hassles, rental companies just refuse permission to take their cars there. As Barney Fife would say, “It’s best to nip problems in the bud.”

Moral of the story: look around, even within the same company.

From the link posted by dalej42:

This seems to be the crux of the issue from the OP’s perspective. Does anyone have a cite for the specific Canadian law referenced here?

No, but from my previous post, “When a Canadian resident rents a U.S. car in the U.S. and drives into Canada, he/she must obtain a Traveler’s Vehicle Permit from Canadian Customs, Form E50B. Then the renter must go directly to a Canadian Hertz location and exchange the U.S. car for a Canadian car within 24 hours.”

So it’s not entirely prohibited, but you need permission and better get rid of the thing quickly.

I wonder if it’s the same thing backwards? When the minivan I was driving broke down in Ontario, I rented a Suburban with Canadian plates from Hertz. No mention about not taking it into the 'States. Border guard didn’t even seem to notice. It was several days before I took it back. Actually the Canadian immigration guy was the bigger questioner: you’re American? Why the Ontario plate? Herz? Do you work for them? And so on.

I’ve spoken with people at the local consulate, and was eventually directed to talk to Canada Customs at the border.

As it was explained to me, Canadian residents are only allowed a one-way rental with a U.S-based car: U.S --> Canada. However, Canadian non-residents can rent a car in the U.S. and drive to Canada and back. So even though I have a Canadian license, because I live south of the border I should be fine.

I’d still like to see what the actual law on the books is, but navigating through the justice dept’s website is guaranteed to infuriate.

I’m bumping this in case any legal scholars can provide a link to the actual law in question.

I doubt this is a legal issue. If you are a Canadian national living in the US, I can’t see why the Canadian customs would care. Years ago, as a US citizen I travelled into Canada with a car rented in the US. This was perfectly legal with the rental contract. While I couldn’t enter Mexico with that car, Canada was specifically allowed. At the Detroit/Windsor border, the customs agent on the other side didn’t even flinch. Which makes sense, as a US national renting a car in the US is hardly suspicious.

I find it hard to imagine that Canadian customs would allow a foreign alien to do this, yet discriminate against a Canadian citizen like you. You stated you have a long-term visa to stay in the US. If you show this visa at the Canadian frontier, this should be adequate assurance you are likely to return to the US. It might be different if you entered the US as a tourist.