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Does car insurance cover visiting Canada and Mexico?

You may need extra liability coverage, depending on which country you're headed to.

Updated

Fact checked

If you’re planning to drive across the northern or southern border, you’ll want to make sure you have all your papers in order — that includes insurance coverage for your car. Many US policies claim to provide coverage for Canada and 25 to 75 miles within the Mexican border. But you’ll need more than that to avoid being held liable after an accident.

What do I need to drive in Canada or Mexico?

Before you pull into a border crossing station, make sure you have your paperwork in order.

Canada

  • US driver’s license. You’ll still be required to show your US license if you’re pulled over or get into an accident.
  • Permission to drive. If you’re driving a rental car, you need a copy of the contract. If you’re driving a borrowed car, you need a letter of permission to drive from the owner.
  • Proof of insurance. Your standard insurance card should be enough, but if you have a copy of your policy showing that your coverage extends to Canada, that would be even better.

Mexico

  • US driver’s license. Your US driver’s license is valid in Mexico.
  • Proof that you’re driving your own car. By law, the owner of the car must be inside the vehicle no matter who is driving.
  • Proof of legal US citizenship or resident status. Mexican citizens without proof of US citizenship or Legal Permanent Resident status aren’t allowed to drive US-registered vehicles.
  • Car insurance that’s valid in Mexico. While your US policy covers damages to your car within a certain number of miles into Mexico, it won’t cover liability. Because of this, you are required to buy a Mexican personal liability policy from a licensed Mexican insurance company or a US broker working directly with a licensed company.
  • Temporary vehicle importation permit. If you’re driving your car or a rental car over the border, you must have this permit. You can apply for it with your passport and a $200 to $400 deposit at Mexican customs, on the Banjercito’s website or at a Mexican consulate in the US. When you leave Mexico before the expiration date on the permit, your deposit is returned.
  • Valid license plate. Your license plate must have a valid registration sticker. You probably won’t be admitted if you have a temporary or paper license plate. If your registration is expired or your plate is invalid, the authorities will impound your car, and you’ll have to pay a fine equal to the value of the car to get it back.

What does car insurance cover when I visit Canada or Mexico?

  • Canada. Your US policy should cover you to the extent of your normal coverage throughout the Canadian provinces.
  • Mexico. Damage to your car may be covered by your US policy, but only a valid Mexican insurance policy will cover any liability claims.

What’s not covered?

In Canada, radar detectors are banned in many provinces and will be confiscated. You’re also no longer considered a tourist after six consecutive months in Canada, and won’t be covered by your policy if you stay beyond that time.

In Mexico, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol invalidates your insurance.

Compare car insurance for driving abroad

Name Product Roadside assistance New car protection Accident forgiveness Safe driver discount Available states
Progressive
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30%
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Discover coverage that’s broader than competitors, valuable discounts up to 30% off and perks like shrinking deductibles that reward no claims.
Clearcover
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AZ, CA, IL, LA, OH, TX, UT and WI
Get instant online support and score a low rate thanks to online data that sets premiums automatically.
The AARP Auto Insurance Program from The Hartford
Optional
Yes
All 50 states & DC
Drivers over age 50 can enjoy low rates and perks designed for mature drivers, plus freebies and AARP member perks like free replacement cost coverage.
Allstate
13%
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Your dedicated agent can help you find the best savings with multiple discounts and rewards programs.
EverQuote
EverQuote
Optional
Yes
All 50 states
Roll in a variety of car insurance quotes from top insurers despite a high-risk driving profile, and view possible discounts while you’re at it.
Esurance
40%
All states except AK, DE, HI, MT, NH, VT, WY
Take advantage of this online company's low base rates and mobile tools like app-based telematics and teen safe driver programs.
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What should I do if I get in an accident abroad?

If you’re involved in an accident, follow the steps below to report the accident.

Canada

  1. By Canadian law, you must never leave the scene of the accident, even if it’s a minor incident.
  2. Call 911 to report the accident and to request an ambulance if someone is injured.
  3. Exchange information with the other driver, including contact details, license plate, driver’s license number and insurance info.
  4. Follow the police officers’ instructions when they arrive.

Mexico

  1. Call 911 for any driving emergencies. In a nonemergency accident on a toll highway or any other major highway in Mexico, the State Department suggests that you dial 078 to contact the Green Angels, a bilingual truck fleet.
  2. Follow the officers’ instructions when they arrive.
  3. File a police report and get a copy for your records.
  4. Exchange information with the other driver and get copies of any of the documents requested by your Mexican insurance policy.

Is my rental car covered?

You need to inform your rental car company if you’re planning to take the car across the border to be sure the company’s insurance covers you in Canada.

If you rent a car in Mexico, the mandatory basic personal liability insurance is part of your rental price. If you’re renting in the US and driving into Mexico, you still need to purchase Mexican insurance from a licensed Mexican insurance agent.

Is my borrowed car covered?

To drive a borrowed car in Canada, you need to have a letter from the owner giving you permission to drive it. You also need to check and make sure the registration and insurance are up to date and that your insurance extends to a borrowed car.

If you’re headed south, you still need to purchase Mexican car insurance before you cross the border. You also can’t drive a borrowed car in Mexico unless the car’s owner is in the car with you.

Am I covered for a bike if I have car insurance?

If your bike is stolen or vandalized, many homeowners policies cover the damages, even in foreign countries, but you’ll want to check to make sure yours does. If you get into an accident while riding, most car insurance covers bike collisions.

But, as with cars, your car insurance doesn’t cover liability. If you cause harm to a third party while riding your bike, you’ll need Mexican insurance to cover liability expenses.

How do I file a claim for an accident in Canada or Mexico?

Follow the advice below to make sure your accident claims are addressed.

Canada

  • Call your insurance company. Every insurance company has a different set of policies. Once you’ve called the police and everyone is safe, call your insurance company for the next steps.
  • Get a copy of the police report. Make sure you have copies of all the information you’ll need for your records.

Mexico

  • Make your claim in Mexico. If the damage is minor and you decide to wait until you get back to the US to make the claim, it will most likely be denied. Most Mexican insurance policies require you to make the claim while you’re still in the country.
  • Call the helpline. Call the insurance company’s helpline to register your claim as soon as possible. The company will send someone to assess the accident and damages and make arrangements for your defense if necessary.
  • Get a police report. Make sure to get any documentation needed by the insurance company, including a copy of the police report.
  • Follow the fine print. Be sure to read your policy and follow directions on how to get reimbursed for any out-of-pocket repairs you make.

How much will it cost to buy Mexican car insurance?

Typically, on a tourist stay you’ll pay between $10 and $40 per day. But as with any insurance policy, the price of your Mexican insurance policy depends on several factors.

  • The length of your stay. The longer your stay, the less you’ll pay per day.
  • The amount of coverage. Straight liability coverage is cheaper than full coverage. Keep in mind that the only mandatory insurance is basic personal liability coverage. You may want or need more depending on what you can afford and if your rental company requires it.
  • The type of car you drive. If your car costs more to repair or poses a greater risk on the road, your premium will be higher.

Bottom line

Knowing you’re covered is the best way to make sure your trip across the border is safe and stress-free. Be sure to purchase at least a liability auto policy from a licensed Mexican agent, and to double-check your US policy so you know your coverage limits in Canada. And, as always, if you want better coverage no matter where you drive, take the time to shop around and compare the policies available.

Frequently asked questions about driving in Canada or Mexico

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