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Which Canadian Provinces Allow Vehicle Registration as a Tourist?

We bought and registered a campervan in our name in Canada, even though we are from the Netherlands. It was a long process for us, but only because we made some mistakes along the way. This post will hopefully prevent you from making these same mistakes.

There are 3 Canadian provinces that allow you to register a vehicle in your name as a tourist:

  • British Columbia.
  • Quebec.
  • New Brunswick.
These blue provinces are (from left to right) British Columbia, Quebec, and New Brunswick.

The information in this post was collected in February 2022, when we bought and registered our campervan in Canada! Rules and regulations change all the time, and as such, this information may be outdated. Please do your own research and confirm by calling the offices yourself!

Also, please read this comment under this article if you’re looking to register a vehicle in Quebec!

Provinces that allow vehicle registration as a non-resident

When we started planning our trip across Canada and the USA, we researched where we could buy and register a campervan for a full year.

Each province in Canada has its own set of rules, so the process of finding out the details quickly becomes complicated!

Most provinces won’t allow you to register a vehicle in your name as a tourist and are therefore not a suitable option to buy your campervan. These provinces don’t allow tourists to register a vehicle:

  • Ontario.
  • Alberta.
  • Saskatchewan.
  • Manitoba.
  • Nova Scotia.
  • Prince Edward Island.
  • Labrador and Newfoundland.

Why don’t these provinces allow tourists to register a vehicle? What it comes down to is that most of them require either a Canadian driver’s license or a more permanent visa such as a student visa.

If you’re like us and you want to travel through Canada and the USA for a year on the basic ETA and ESTA visas, then you’re out of luck.

So your options are British Columbia, Quebec, and New Brunswick.

Depending on where you’re planning to start your trip, I suggest you narrow your search down to British Columbia and New Brunswick?

Why not Quebec, then? I’ve discussed that in full detail in this article.

You can still buy a vehicle in any province you want

Here’s where it may get complicated.

Buying a vehicle is not the same as registering a vehicle. During my research, I was told many times that anyone can buy a vehicle. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Canadian citizen, a tourist, or a 5-year-old.

So, if you’re a tourist planning to go to Canada and buy a campervan, you can still travel to – let’s say – Ontario to start looking for a good deal. The only issue here is that you’ll have to drive it to a province where you can register it.

This doesn’t have to be a problem, though. Canadians buy out-of-province vehicles all the time.

If you want to go this route, you’re going to need to acquire a temporary registration form. Depending on which province you’re in, this is a form that allows you to drive an (unregistered) vehicle for a number of days for the sole purpose of driving it to a province where you’ll get it registered as soon as possible.

This is what we ended up doing with our campervan. We bought it in Trois Rivieres, Quebec. We then got a temporary registration permit that allowed us to drive it for up to 10 days without registration. We then drove our campervan to Fredericton, New Brunswick, and registered it in our name there!

So in theory, you can buy a campervan anywhere in Canada. You’ll just need to figure out if you want to go through the hassle of driving it to another province just for the sake of having it registered there.

Requirements for registering a vehicle as a tourist

Let’s say you bought a vehicle and you and the previous owner want to complete the transfer of ownership. What do you do?

Depending on which province you’re in, you need to go to the provincial office that oversees vehicle registrations.

In all cases, you would need to personally get to one of their offices with all the required documents.

These required documents are:

  • The transfer form. Depending on where you are, you need to bring a signed document that states that the seller is transferring the ownership of the vehicle to you, the buyer. You should arrange this document with the seller.
  • The bill of sale. In Canada, you will pay a sales tax on vehicles, even when you buy them from another civilian. You need to bring a bill of sale so that the proper amount of tax can be paid.
  • Proof of residency. When you go to register a vehicle in your name, you’ll need to provide a residential address. The agent behind the counter will require proof of this residency.

How do you get such proof of residency?

Initially, this freaked us out as it makes no sense. Why would a tourist have to provide proof of residency when they are clearly just traveling around the country?

Nonetheless, the registration of your vehicle needs to include an address. This address matters a little, as you will get a letter there when your registration expires. So long story short, you’re going to need proof.

Luckily for you, I wrote an entire article on how to find a residential address for your vehicle registration as a tourist.

Why you should buy your vehicle in British Columbia

We registered our vehicle in New Brunswick, as we wanted to start our trip on the East Coast of the continent.

But ever since, we’ve been asked multiple times what we would do if we could do it all over again.

If you are thinking of buying and registering a campervan in Canada as a tourist, I would advise you to focus on British Columbia.

The reasons are simple:

  • British Columbia makes it easy to register and insure your vehicle (this is handled by the same entity: the ICBC).
  • This makes it easy to find insurance for your vehicle. It was impossible for us to find (decent) insurance in Quebec and New Brunswick simply doesn’t have many options. If you want more info, here’s our article on how we found insurance for our campervan as tourists.
  • British Columbia has the mildest climate, meaning that you can buy and sell your vehicle year-round. In Quebec, most campervans and RVs will be winterized and stored indoors from November until March.
  • Since B.C. is so popular amongst travelers, you’ll find the most active market for campervans here.

Wrapping up

If you want to buy and register a vehicle in Canada as a tourist, you’ll be able to in British Columbia, Quebec, and New Brunswick. You can still buy your campervan in any province, you’ll only need to then drive it to one of these 3 provinces in order to have it registered in your name.

Sounds like a lot of work? Maybe, but I hope this post helped explain what your possibilities are! Traveling through Canada on a simple ETA visa with a campervan will 100% be worth the trouble!

Have you gone through the same process recently? Or do you have a question that you need an answer to? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

24 thoughts on “Which Canadian Provinces Allow Vehicle Registration as a Tourist?”

  1. Good norming from Granada Spain!
    Great to know about you and very good the information posted. I am trying to do the same in the USA and it is far more complicated there although there are som options. I am going to start right now with the British Columbia deal and see how it goes.


  2. Very good article. We are also having the same issues as foreign tourists. Are you able to let us know what company helped you with your insurance and registration

  3. Hi Hugo,
    Thanks for your invaluable articles on this topic. My partner and I are trying to go through the same process (although our travel plans are more modest, limited to just Canada over 5 months). We hit a wall with trying to get insurance in Quebec and are now trying in New Brunswick. We’ve been told by Guy R Day insurance that the only potential insurer suitable for our plans is the ‘facility’ group for high risk drivers, which are notoriously expensive. Do you remember if this was the provider of your insurance? Thanks

    • Hi Kieran,

      I don’t know if our info is still relevant, but our insurance got handled by Nordic Insurance. It was a pretty expensive ordeal, still, much higher than what we’re used to in the Netherlands. But I would gladly take their insurance again, as it offered us the ability to see the entire continent with our home on wheels. 🙂

  4. Hi Hugo
    We have just completed our Purchace of a van in New Brunswick
    We are an older couple from Australia .
    We pretty much followed your advice all the way through the process of buying our van Down to flying into Fredericton with the sole purpose of buying on your advice Getting an address and using the insurance company you suggested. It all went smoothly and we were on the road within 6 days. The sellers were very accommodating which helped as well.
    We are on our second night now in PEI !! Going all the way to BC eventually
    Thank you so much for writing the article in so much detail It was an enormous help and would love to buy you a beer !
    Thanks Scott and Gael

  5. Wish we had read this first!! We have brought a car in Nova Scotia and are now having all the trouble trying to get insurance. They require us to surrender our Aussie drivers license and get a Nova Scotia license not to mention all the other paperwork they require. I hope others read you article first and don’t do what we have done . Thanks Kim and Guy

    • I’m sorry to hear! But hey, we thought we had it all figured out by purchasing in Quebec, only to find out we couldn’t get it insured there as well.

      Maybe driving it to New Brunswick is an option for you guys?

  6. Hugo:
    Thanks for sharing your knowledge, he was very useful for me, I just bought a 2007 minibus in BC. On the same day, the registration and insurance were completed there. I drove him and took my family to the Rocky Mountains in the afternoon.


  7. Hugo,
    Really informative post. I’m from NS but living (resident) in Norway. I have a cottage in Cape Breton. Your experiences fit our way forward with getting a vehicle that we can have parked there for our visits. ….. 1. Roughly the insurance rate you paid? 2. Was it monthly, yearly? 3. When you registered the vehicle in New Brunswick, was there a requirement for a MV inspection to be done on the vehicle?


    • You’re very welcome, Paul!

      This post contains the information about our insurance, including what we paid. And as for the MV inspection: Yes, we had to have the van inspected in New Brunswick in order to get it registered there!

      Good luck with your plans!


  8. Thanks for this awesome article. Do you ever drive the van over the border into America and are you given any trouble when you do so?

    • Absolutely! We crossed the border multiple times (as you can read here). We even crossed the border to Mexico, where we sold the van to other travelers.

      We never experienced any issues with border crossings, although I must say we really kept good track of our papers etc. 🙂

  9. Hi there,

    the article/Blog is very helpful indeed, but I have to correct you on Quebec: I‘m currently living on ETA in Montreal, being on a sabbatical, and my daughter goes to school here. After 3 months of rentals and everyone suggesting that I should buy car, I actually did so because it seemed as if it was possible and a good idea.
    But there are countless obstacles! You can’t register a car as a tourist in Quebec, only in theory. It was NO problem for me to get insurance, I have insured my car with BelairDirect and I got a very decent price. I bought the car at a dealership, got an inspection and even the brakes and everything done, it’s a fine car and I found it on CarGurus.
    I now have all the required documents as stated on the SAAQ website, but they just won‘t let me register. I was at three different service points, even in Dorval, the SAAQ main service outlet, every time they want something different which I don‘t have. Mostly they ask for a third piece of ID (Licence and passport are not sufficient), they want a governmental paper, e.g. a visa, which I don‘t have.
    Now I‘m about to try New Brunswick, with your tipps and tricks. If this doesn’t work I will have to sell the car again!

    I can not advise any tourist to register a car in Quebec, maybe if you speak fluently French, that might help. The officials are generally more forthcoming if you speak French here.

    • Hi Anna-Lena,

      Thanks so much for chiming in! I would have not expected reality to be so different from the theory…

      I will update the article and add a reference to your comment.

      For what it’s worth, an acquantance of ours has successfully registered and insured a vehicle on his name in Quebec, as a tourist on the ETA. However, he was helped because he had distant family members in Montreal who spoke French and helped him out with everything. So if I understand correctly, there’s a bit of a grey area in Montreal when it comes to registration…

      I hope you will have better luck in New Brunswick! We certainly did. 🙂

  10. Hey! Thanks so much for all your blogs about this, we are currently trying to plan something similar. We’re a young couple from Australia, hoping to buy a van in Canada soon and do 2 months Canada (July/Aug) & 2 months USA (Sep/Oct).
    If we buy, register and insure the van in Canada, BC as suggested, how do we go about driving into the USA? Are there any hiccups in border crossing? Is it fine to not have the vehicle registered or insured in USA to drive it around there? If it’s insured and registered in BC, Canada are there any complications when we go to sell the van in the USA?
    Thanks so much!

    • Thanks Joel! That sounds like a great adventure.

      As for your questions, entering the USA should be no issue at all, as long as you have insurance and registration (which you can get at the ICBC). As far as I know, they offer insurance that also covers the United States. If you’re looking to go further down South, to Mexico, you may need Mexican insurance, though!

      As for selling, the question is really about whether or not your buyer will be able to register the vehicle. This really depends on a lot of factors. Are you planning to sell to a US national? If so, then that person will have to import the vehicle, which likely results in lots of paperwork. Selling to another traveler has similar challenges, with the added hurdle that the buyer won’t be a resident in the US. I think it would be easiest if you drive it back up to Canada and sell it there!

      Good luck!


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