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.
- 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 Rules and regulations change all the time, and as such, this information may be outdated.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!
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:
- 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.
- For British Columbia, that would be the ICBC.
- For Quebec, that would be the SAAQ.
- For New Brunswick, that would be Service New Brunswick.
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.
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!