Indeed you can drive your car when moving to Canada from the US as long as you are admissible for entry at the border, have a valid passport, NEXUS Card or the necessary documentation, and a visa if you need one. In recent times, Canadian borders are open to all US citizens who qualify and are looking to enter the country irrespective of vaccination status.
According to reports, fully vaccinated travelers are not expected to make available a negative COVID test for entry but will need to use the ArriveCAN app to submit the necessary entry information, including proof of vaccination, at least 72 hours before arrival.
If you don’t qualify as a fully vaccinated traveler, you’ll be expected to quarantine for 14 days, take a molecular COVID test, and register for a COVID test immediately after you come into the country. Note that the easiest way to cross the U.S./Canadian Border is with a government-issued passport and there are over 100 land border crossings between the U.S. and Canada.
Your wait time at each of these borders will differ massively, and the duration and wait will depend on the time of day and the day of the week. Some crossings tend to have little to no delay at off-peak travel times, while some like Buffalo, New York, are known to have wait times of around 40 minutes.
Crossing borders, especially the US-Canada border, requires certain paperwork and processes, and it is not something you should consider at the very last minute. If you intend to drive across the US-Canadian border, you must get yourself prepared by understanding what to expect at the border and the paperwork you are expected to have.
While the U.S. and Canada are friendly neighboring countries, they both have guarded borders with a varying set of laws. However, to ensure you can successfully move to Canada by car from the US, consider these tips.
Tips for Moving to Canada With Car from the US
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Choose which point of entry to take
Note that there are at least 10 points of entry for crossing between the United States and Canada, and wait times at the border vary depending on some factors including traffic, time of day, and the season. Owing to that, ensure you make a worthy decision when choosing the exact point of entry or bridge to cross by checking the Peace Bridge Traffic Web Cams before traveling.
You should also consider checking the CBSA website or CBP website to see what their posted wait times are. While traveling, visit mobile.peacebridge.com on your web-enabled mobile device or call 1-800-715-6722 to get the wait times for international bridges. These options are updated hourly.
Know your entry eligibility
One very critical thing to do is to verify that you’re eligible to enter Canada. Although most US citizens won’t have any issues, have it in mind some things can make you inadmissible (such as criminal convictions, serious health issues, and other similar circumstances).
Take your time to check your eligibility status for Canada and also read up on policies that may impede your travel. If you’re a Canadian resident returning home, you’ll only require a valid Canadian passport to re-enter the country. If you don’t have it with you, you can use your temporary passport or any other documentation that ascertains your identity and citizenship
Keep vehicle registration and proof of insurance available
On each side of the border, you must have the right vehicle’s registration and proof of insurance. If you’re traveling in a rental car, it is recommended you have the paperwork you need to drive the car across international borders. Customs and Immigration agents on both sides of the border are law enforcement officials who take their duties very seriously.
Ensure you have all stipulated documents and also remember to approach inspection booths slowly and follow signage instructions.
Consider getting a NEXUS card and E-ZPass to expedite your border crossing
Have it in mind that NEXUS fastens the border clearance process for low-risk, pre-approved travelers into Canada and the United States. You can find NEXUS dedicated customs inspection lanes at some points of entry, which can only be used by NEXUS holders.
In addition, the NEXUS card can be used in place of a passport when traveling between the U.S. and Canada. Meanwhile, the E-ZPass is an electronic toll collection technology that guarantees easier traveling, helps reduce traffic congestion, and saves you money at some entry points by reducing fuel consumption and saving you 10% off the cash toll rate.
Be prepared to answer questions
You should expect border patrol agents on either side of the border to ask you a few questions to verify your citizenship status, the aim of your visit, and the items you’re bringing into the country. Since you will be traveling in a car, expect the border agents to search you or any person in your vehicle, the inside of your vehicle, and all passenger belongings. To make your experience at the border easier, consider this advice:
- Turn off all radios, cell phones, and other electronic devices
- Have all paperwork in hand to expedite the process
- Roll down all windows to ensure agents can view everyone in the vehicle
- Adhere to all instructions from border agents
- Answer all questions sincerely
What Documents Do You Need to Move to Canada With Car from the US
Anyone looking to enter Canada including citizens of the US will have to verify they have the necessary travel documents. Most often, this entails having a valid passport. Citizens of the United States do not need a visa to enter Canada, as long as they have a valid passport, but admission is only granted for a temporary stay of up to 180 days.
If you are looking to emigrate, then it is recommended you speak with appropriate authorities and maybe seek legal advice. Note that children up to 15 can travel by land with a certified copy of their birth certificates, but if they intend to fly into Canada, they will still need a passport.
Since you will be traveling in your car, you will need your vehicle’s registration and proof of insurance. Also note that a good number of states can have alternative paperwork that can replace the need for a passport including the NEXUS Card, Enhanced Driver’s License, or FAST cards.
If you are the holder of a passport from another country, it is recommended you verify before time as many countries including those in Europe allow visa-free travel to Canada. You may only have to complete an online Electronic Travel Authorization form before you travel through. It’s more or less the same as the U.S. ESTA program and most often this is just a formality.
If you have a criminal record, especially if the criminal record has any serious crimes on it, you may most likely be turned back at the border. Howbeit, note that they may consider excusing certain circumstances or cases where the offense dates back a long time, but you may want to seek legal advice on how you can get a visa to guarantee you are admissible.
Pros and Cons of Moving to Canada By Car from the US
Moving to Canada by car from the US has a lot of notable benefits, but you also have to consider the drawbacks before deciding if it is the right choice for you. To ensure you make the right decision, weigh these considerations.
You Are in Charge
Truth be told, moving to Canada by car from the US gives you utmost control over your departure time, arrival time, itinerary, and stops along the way. Note that you won’t have to bother about train schedules or airline routes. In addition, once you sight something interesting on the side of the road, you can stop and take a look.
Have it in mind that freedom and flexibility is more or less the biggest benefit of moving to Canada by car from the US, and their value can’t be overstated.
You Have More Privacy And Comfort
Moving to Canada by car entails that you can move with your friends and don’t have to sit next to strangers for hours. Depending on how many people are on the trip and how big your car is, you will also have enough space to stretch out than you would on a plane or coach.
Without doubts, traveling by car remains one of the most comfortable modes of transport. You will feel more at ease and can sleep without worrying about someone stealing your belongings.
You Can See And Explore More Places
Note that you can see so much more of both countries when you move by car rather than by air. Also, note that you can strategically plan your route to incorporate many scenic spots along the way. You can also stop off in small villages to get a taste of the local life and experience the country’s culture. Meandering through the countryside is a great way to relax and find out what it’s like to live in a particular area.
You Can Pack Anything
Moving to Canada by car from the United States also means that you can pack and travel with as much luggage as possible without having to pay extra. The size of your car is the only restriction, but if you’re renting a car for this trip, you can go for a vehicle that is spacious and roomy. Just make sure you have a safe way to lock up valuable items. A car that appears to be overflowing with goods can be an easy target for theft.
Driving is one of the slowest ways to travel between two points, especially since both countries have good rail and airline services. Spending hours in the car each day can take up your energy, even if you’re not the one driving. Consider taking regular stops to stretch your legs and plan short walks at scenic viewpoints to reinvigorate yourself.
Can Be Expensive
Depending on where in the United States you will be driving from, moving to Canada by car might not save you money, especially when you take into consideration factors like gas, tolls, parking, meals, and lodging along the way.
Truth be told, depending on the length of the trip and where you stay, note that your journey may end up being exorbitant when compared to other forms of transportation. Even if you make a strict budget, there are certain unexpected costs such as vehicle breakdowns that can throw you off balance.
You Have to Do All the Work
From route planning and getting your car ready to navigation and spending hours behind the wheel, you have to do all the work when moving to Canada with your car. Have it in mind that such planning is genuinely a big task, and will most often require more forethought and organization.
Note that it is tiring to be behind the wheel for hours at a time, especially if you’ll be on the road for days. Howbeit, having multiple drivers in the car can help deal with this and also ensure that you can share the responsibilities.
Wear and Tear on Your Car Costs Money
Aside from just breakdowns, when moving to Canada with a car from the United States, you will also have to bother about the general wear and tear on your car. Note that long trips can do damage to a vehicle, especially if it’s an older model. Owing to that, it is imperative you first check to verify that your car is up for the journey. If it is not, then you might be better off renting a vehicle instead.
Is it Risky to Drive to Canada from the US?
No! To drive to Canada from the US, all you need is to pick a crossing and drive to it. Note that you may be waved right through, stopped for a more extensive check, or go through a full-on vehicle inspection. You may be asked to leave your vehicle so that it can be searched and you may be searched yourself.
There are currently 119 official land crossings and 9 ferry terminals at which you can drive into Canada from the United States, and almost all are safe and well-maintained. However, note that some areas are narrow and winding, and if you intend to travel the Cassiar Highway out of British Columbia, then know that at least 10 percent of this highway is still unpaved.
But just as with any kind of travel, being prepared is paramount. You must have a general emergency kit with you, coupled with a small can of extra gasoline. If you choose to move in early spring or late fall, a set of chains is something you have to consider, especially since snow during these times of year is not strange, and can make for questionable road conditions.
How Long Will It Take to Get to Canada from US Major Cities
This will most definitely vary depending on the vehicle used, rate of speed, and other factors like traffic and the conditions of the routes. Howbeit, according to well-detailed reports, this is how long it will take to drive to Canada from US major cities.
- Los Angeles, California to Toronto, Canada: 36 hours, 30 minutes
- New York, NY to Toronto, Canada: 7 hours, 55 minutes.
- San Diego, CA to Toronto, Canada: 37 hours, 23 minutes
- San Antonio, TX to Toronto, Canada: 25 hours, 10 minutes
- Phoenix, AZ to Toronto, Canada: 33 hours, 6 minutes
- Philadelphia, PA to Toronto, Canada: 7 hours, 53 minutes
- Chicago, IL to Toronto, Canada: 8 hours, 3 minutes
- Houston, TX to Toronto, Canada: 23 hours, 19 minutes.
- Las Vegas, NV to Toronto, Canada: 32 hours, 34 minutes
- Boston, MA to Toronto, Canada: 8 hours, 31 minutes.
How Much Will You Spend on the Way from the US to Canada?
While there is no fee for crossing the US/Canadian border as a US citizen, have it in mind that the exact amount you will spend on the way from the US to Canada will vary based on the following factors;
Where you choose to drive from can have a drastic impact on your budget and how much you spend. Have it in mind that someone driving from San Diego will have to spend more on fuel, food, and drinks than someone moving to Canada from New York City.
Gas will make up a huge part of your expenses. After all, you can’t drive a vehicle without gas, and regular gas costs around $4.91 per gallon. If you fill your tank with unleaded gasoline, the carbon emissions will be around 383 lbs. CO2.
This is equivalent to 174 kg CO2e or 0.17 tons of carbon dioxide equivalents. These numbers may change depending on the exact make and model of your car. If your vehicle uses diesel instead, the CO2 emissions will be around 449 lbs CO2, which is equivalent to 204 kg CO2e or 0.20 tons of carbon dioxide equivalents.
Food will make up a good part of your travel expenses. Therefore you must decide how much you want to spend and stick with it. Along the highways, you’ll come across gas stations, shops, service stations, restaurants, and accommodations every 25 to 50 miles (40-80 km). Most services are open year-round.
Where you choose to stay will indeed impact how much you spend on your trip. Although a campsite might cost $10 a night, note that a luxury hotel might cost hundreds of dollars a night. There is no right or wrong option for accommodation and there is an abundance of camping along the way at commercial and government locations. Also, note that you can call ahead for reservations.
Tolls for Bridges Along the US Canada Border
Have in mind there are 21 bridges or tunnels between the United States and Canada and a good number of them charge a toll. Most often, bridge tolls can be paid in either U.S. or Canadian dollars. You can also use credit cards but keep in mind that you may pay a foreign transaction fee.
Even if your car is in great shape, it is recommended that you plan for the worst and hope for the best. Truth be told, you never can tell when you’ll get a flat tire, have an accident, or unexpectedly break down, therefore it is imperative you set aside some “just in case” money in your budget for emergencies.
Just as was noted above, the key to successfully moving from Canada by car to the US is adequate preparation. However, don’t forget that the rules of the road are different in Canada so ensure you understand the speed limits and differences in some of the terminology before you travel.
Also, note that there are some very critical differences like not being able to turn right at red traffic signals and if you’re driving in Quebec, don’t forget that the road signs will most definitely be in French.