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Overview of Renting Cars in Canada

With epic road trip potential spanning over 6.2 million square miles, having access to rental cars enables fully experiencing Canada’s diverse cities, landscapes and hidden gems at your own pace. Major providers like Enterprise, Budget, Hertz and newer entrants like Turo all operate nationally alongside local agile startups. While public intercity buses and trains connect most hubs affordably, tour buses and guided excursions greatly limit flexibility in this second largest country globally. Thankfully securing rental cars in Canada’s provinces proves straightforward for unlocking freedom behind the wheel anywhere from towering Vancouver to quaint Quebec City's European aura to the eastern coasts’ inspiring surf and seafood scenes.


Benefits of Renting a Car for Traveling Canada

Renting a car provides numerous advantages for fully immersing in Canadian adventures vs group bus tours, passenger trains or rideshares:

  • Complete flexibility and freedom to make your own schedule, change plans spontaneously, and create custom itineraries that match your interests from food to hiking and more.
  • Access secluded natural attractions, small towns, and remote outdoor activities that may be hard to reach on public transportation.
  • Self-guided experiences cruising routes like the Sea to Sky Highway, Cabot Trail or Icefields Parkway through national parks at your preferred pace.
  • Convenience traveling in groups with lots of luggage - rental cars easily accommodate groups splitting costs and provide ample space for bags and gear.
  • Privacy and comfort stopping anytime needed for restroom breaks, snack stops, photo ops or pet needs.

Popular Car Rental Companies in Canada

Canada hosts all the major international agencies alongside local brands offering competitive pricing and loyalty perks:

Enterprise Rent-A-Car

With over 350 locations across Canada, Enterprise accepts foreign drivers licenses and provides a large inventory of vehicle classes from econoboxes to premium SUVs, minivans and pickup trucks. Enterprise loyalty members earn points towards free rentals.

Car Rental Deals with Enterprise

  • One-way rentals between cities often discounted
  • Free upgrades to higher car class when available
  • College student and military discounts
  • Occasional fee-waived deals for underage renters

Why Choose Enterprise

  • Over 350 Canadian locations with widespread availability
  • Huge range of vehicle sizes including trucks and passenger vans
  • Free pickup and drop off services for local rentals
  • Excellent loyalty program rewards frequent renters

National Car Rental

Part of Enterprise Holdings, National Car Rental offers airport and neighborhood branches Canada-wide with streamlined booking, Emerald Club rewards and overall great customer satisfaction ratings. Their website highlights one-way rental deals between cities.

Car Rental Deals with National

  • Last-minute hot deals on website for 20%+ off rental base rates
  • Partnerships and convention codes for corporate discount rates
  • Specialty vehicles like convertibles, BMWs, Audis and Mercedes available

Why Rent with National?

  • Luxury focus with high-end exotic vehicles accessible
  • Emerald Club loyalty perks like choosing car model, skipping counter
  • Clean, well-maintained fleet maintained to high standards
  • Amazing customer service reputation

Avis Car Rental

An internationally recognized brand, Avis touts 70+ years of experience and provides rental kiosks at all major Canadian airports and city centers. They consistently offer promotions like weekend deals, discounts for early booking and reward point bonuses.

Avis Car Rental Discounts

  • Quoted price drops further at checkout revealing hidden discounts
  • Seasonal sales around major holidays and peak vacation times
  • Promo codes offering percent-off rentals when available
  • Deals for extended rentals - weeklong and monthly rates

Why Choose Avis?

  • Renowned brand with 70+ years of experience and expertise
  • Airport rental kiosks provide convenience right off the plane
  • Free cancellation on most reservations if plans change
  • Support renting with debit cards and cash

Budget Car Rental

The value-focused brand of the Avis Budget Group, Budget Car Rental combines affordable pricing on a young fleet of vehicles with economies of scale. Their app simplifies renting and includes options for adding extras like GPS and roadside assistance.

Budget Car Rental Deals

  • Advance booking discounts applied automatically online
  • Lowest Price Pledge guarantees they'll match competitors
  • Special business program rates for small and enterprise needs
  • Partnerships like CAA provide member discounts

Reasons to Rent Budget

  • Focus on affordable pricing for savvy travelers
  • Fastbreak loyalty speeds pickup and earns free days
  • Allow renters 18+ at most Canadian locations
  • Rental add-ons like GPS navigation and WiFi available

Hertz Car Rental

Hertz provides signature service, an immense range of luxury, sports and hybrid vehicles alongside everyday economy models that can be booked conveniently on their easy-to-use website. Hertz Gold Plus Rewards membership gives exclusive perks and the quickest rentals.

Hertz Car Rental Deals

  • Last minute deals offer deep discounts on limited inventory
  • Specialty car packages bundled with travel perks and price breaks
  • Promo codes may waive young renter fees, GPS charges, etc
  • Gold Plus Rewards members access exclusive offers

Why Choose Hertz?

  • Massive worldwide brand with top tier recognition
  • High quality fleet including many luxury vehicle options
  • Gold Plus Rewards program provides fastest rentals and perks
  • Rental car availability in over 150 countries

Dollar Rent A Car

Part of Hertz's portfolio, Dollar Rent A Car aims to be the most affordable brand while offering responsive customer service before and during rentals. Dollar Airport Locations provide shuttle services to their lots. Joining the Dollar Express Rewards program provides members-only deals.

Dollar Car Rental Discounts

  • Weekend and weekly rates can offer 25-35% off versus daily
  • Prepaying rental totals locks in lowest rates upfront
  • Loyalty program accumulates rewards points for free days
  • Key corporate and membership codes apply discounts

Why Rent from Dollar?

  • Focus on best value rentals company-wide
  • Airport shuttle services offered for convenience
  • Young renter program available to those 20-24 years old
  • Excellent customer service reputation

Thrifty Car Rental

Also owned by Hertz, Thrifty focuses heavily on value positioning through low rates on both airport and local rentals to savvy shoppers who comparison shop. They also offer student and military discounts.

Thrifty Car Rental Deals

  • Last minute hot deals offer deep discounts on limited inventory
  • Seasonal and holiday sales with rental promo codes
  • Bonus loyalty points or upgrade offers for renting frequently
  • Extended rentals over 7+ days have lower rates

Why Choose Thrifty?

  • Concentrates on budget-friendly cost savings
  • Wide selection of vehicle classes and sizes
  • Streamlined reservations and pickup through mobile app
  • Accommodating policies like allowing debit card rentals

Turo

This person-to-person carsharing app allows locals and visitors to rent out personal cars. Turo often offers lower rates than big agencies and has pick up locations throughout major Canadian cities. Just snap photos documenting the car's condition at pickup.

Saving with Turo Car Rentals

  • Local owner vehicles often 30-40% below agency prices
  • Non-airport locations save on taxes and fees
  • Booking in advance grabs lowest daily rates
  • Longer rentals over 7 days have reduced prices

Why Rent through Turo?

  • Unique selection of hosts' cars - classics, sports cars
  • Airport valet delivery options in major cities
  • Host reviews help choose top rated owners
  • Seamless app experience rivals bigger brands

Where to Find Car Rentals in Top Canadian Destinations

Canada’s biggest cities make convenient places to start road trips given their transportation infrastructure and proximity to attractions. Rental cars can be found at airports or downtown locations.


Vancouver

This lively West Coast seaport blends dynamic cosmopolitan energy with access to incredible natural landscapes like Stanley Park's giant coastal rainforest and year-round skiing in the North Shore Mountains. All major agencies are available downtown or at Vancouver International Airport.


Calgary

The center of Alberta’s ranch country at the foothills of the majestic Rocky Mountains, Calgary hosts rental counters at its busy international airport or stations around downtown for cruising routes into Banff National Park or to Edmonton. Smaller local agencies sometimes offer discounted July rates during the Calgary Stampede.


Montreal

As the second largest city in Canada, charming Montreal dazzles visitors with European inspired architecture, summer festivals, a thriving food scene and lively nightlife primarily in French. Downtown depots are plentiful and Montreal-Trudeau International Airport also hosts rentals from all providers.


Toronto

Toronto's vibrant patchwork of distinctive neighborhoods spanning Chinatown to Greektown make Canada's largest city exciting to explore. Convenient downtown rentals are found near the CN Tower and Union Station while Toronto Pearson International Airport has counters operated by all major brands.


Understanding Car Rental Insurance in Canada

While basic insurance legally must be included nationwide, key policy differences exist to be aware of when booking to avoid surprise charges:

  • Third Party Liability – Automatically covers injury to passengers and others plus property damage in accidents but excludes the rental car itself.
  • Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) – Provides comprehensive protection for the rental car if damaged but can be prohibitively expensive for luxury vehicles. Many credit cards provide CDW coverage when you decline the rental company's policy.
  • Additional policies like Personal Effects Coverage insure items stolen from the car, Personal Accident Insurance provides medical coverage for driver and passengers and roadside assistance protects from breakdowns or lockouts especially in remote areas.

Choosing the Best Rental Cars for Canada's Diverse Seasons

Canada's dramatic seasonal variations from hot summers to bitterly cold snowy winters means renting vehicles suited for the conditions:

Spring & Fall – Compact hatchbacks and midsize sedans like Toyota Corollas offer space for shoulder season trips focused on wildlife viewing, fall colors tours or east coast adventures.

Summer - Convertibles and sporty two-doors enhance cruising backroads on Vancouver Island, through Quebec's countryside or visiting summer festivals.

Winter – Only all-wheel drive SUVs with ample ground clearance can reliably handle snowstorms. Test winter tires and handling navigating to ski resorts like Whistler or icy Nova Scotia coastal routes.


Saving Money on Car Rentals in Canada

Maximize savings using these car rental tips:

  • Joining rental company loyalty programs provides special offers and accelerated rewards points for free rentals
  • Pay entirely with travel points credit cards to redeem for vouchers covering all or partial rentals
  • Book well in advance to get the lowest rates before prices increase closer to travel dates
  • Opt for airport rentals with return drop-offs to avoid surcharges on downtown locations
  • Seek package deals bundling rental cars into overall flight and hotel reservations
  • Consider Turo by-owner rentals from locals often 40% below standard rental costs
  • For groups, share larger vehicles like minivans and SUVs which cost marginally more than cars

Best Times of Year to Visit Canada

Given Canada's northerly position, travel seasons vary dramatically across the second largest country on earth. Plan for optimal weather, festivals and activities by region:

Spring (April - May)

  • Western Canada – Mild weather and blooming wildflowers in Vancouver and national parks. Some lingering snow at higher elevations.
  • Central Canada - Maple sap flowing for Ontario maple syrup festivals. Changing fall foliage colors begin in Nova Scotia and PEI.
  • Eastern Canada - Whale watching expeditions commence on the Atlantic coasts. Ski resorts close after April.

Summer (June - August)

  • Western Canada – Warm sunny weather for exploring cities like Calgary and national parks in the Rockies.
  • Central Canada – Pleasant weather in Toronto and Montreal with many summer festivals and events.
  • Eastern Canada – Beach season begins at destinations like Prince Edward Island sand dunes and Newfoundland fishing villages.

Fall (September - October)

  • Western Canada – Cooler temps and fall foliage in Vancouver's forests. Mountain trails become less crowded at parks like Banff.
  • Central Canada – Brilliant displays of fall color across Ontario and Quebec's countryside.
  • Eastern Canada – Cape Breton's Cabot Trail features peak fall foliage scenery. Mild weather lingers into October.

Winter (November - March)

  • Western Canada – Cold, snowy conditions at destinations like Whistler ski resort but cities remain warmer on the coast.
  • Central Canada – Frigid temps and heavy snowfall, especially January through March. Outdoor winter sports abound.
  • Eastern Canada – Snowy conditions. Some rural areas become isolated until spring. Popular for winter sports.

Top Things to Do on a Canadian Road Trip

No matter the season, these experiences highlight the diversity of Canada's provinces when exploring by rental car:

  • Drive through Banff, Jasper, Yoho and Glacier National Parks surrounded by the epic Rocky Mountains.
  • Follow the Cabot Trail loop around Cape Breton Island’s stunning coastal landscapes and small fishing villages in Nova Scotia.
  • Visit Niagara Falls then sample local wines, maple products and seasonal harvests across Ontario’s countryside.
  • Spot humpback whales, puffins and icebergs off Newfoundland’s rugged eastern shores and along the remote Viking Trail.
  • Indulge in Vancouver’s thriving food scene blending Asian flavors and fresh local seafood while enjoying the vibrant metropolitan energy on Canada’s west coast.
  • Marvel at UNESCO World Heritage sites like Quebec City’s charming colonial architecture and fortifications constructed in the 1600s.

Important Car Rental Policies and Rules in Canada

While each company varies, common rental rules and requirements for Canada include:

  • Drivers must be at least 21 years old in most provinces with a valid license for 1+ years. Extra under 25 fees often apply.
  • Present a valid driver’s license from your country plus passport at pickup. International licenses are accepted.
  • Major credit card required for deposit hold and insurance reasons. Debit cards generally not accepted.
  • No crossing provincial or U.S. borders unless permitted and insured for the destination zone.
  • Child safety seats are legally required for kids under age 8 or 80 lbs. Rental seats range $5-$15/day.
  • Returning with a near empty tank leads to expensive refueling charges - aim to refill prior to drop off.
  • Smoking and pet transportation banned in rental vehicles to avoid steep cleaning fees.
  • Off-roading prohibited unless explicitly allowed by rental provider for certain 4x4 and pickup vehicles.

Helpful Tips for Renting a Car in Canada Under 25

Renting under 25 in Canada can prove challenging but achievable with a few strategies:

  • Compare companies' underage requirements – some let you rent starting at age 20 while others are 21 and up. Budget and Avis have lower minimums.
  • Look for deals where the underage fees get waived if paying a higher daily rate. Enterprise offers this occasionally.
  • If booking separate parts of the trip, the under 25 policy and charges are applied based on the accident location. Plan accordingly.
  • Check with your credit card company - some cards like Bank of America cover underage rental surcharges when booking entirely on the card.
  • Consider having an older companion over 25 join as the primary renter to avoid extra costs if possible. Just pay for their portion.
  • Peer services like Turo base eligibility on driver history not age. Under 25 accounts with great ratings on the platform get approved.

Exploring Canada's Natural Beauty and Urban Treasures

Few places on earth offer more stunning and diverse landscapes to road trip through. Here are must-see attractions by region:

Western Canada Road Trips

  • Whistler & Vancouver - Sea to Sky Highway connects lively Vancouver to Whistler’s spectacular mountain resort.
  • Canadian Rockies - Icefields Parkway spans Banff and Jasper National Parks through jagged mountain peaks.
  • Vancouver Island - Meander along the rugged Pacific coastline near surf town Tofino then visit Victoria's historic sites.

Central Canada Road Trips

  • Niagara Falls - Cruise the Niagara Parkway following the Niagara River from Lake Ontario to the breathtaking falls.
  • Muskoka - Navigate this lakeside Ontario wonderland with charming small towns, Provincial Parks and amazing autumn leaves.
  • Prince Edward County - Taste award-winning wines, farm-fresh produce, artisanal cheese and more just 2 hours from Toronto.

Eastern Canada Road Trips

  • Nova Scotia - Admire surfing towns, historic Lunenburg and Peggy's Cove Lighthouse along the South Shore.
  • Cape Breton Highlands - Loop around Canada's east coast on the mesmerizing 185 mile Cabot Trail with ocean vistas.
  • Bay of Fundy, NB - Marvel at the highest tides in the world creating dramatic seashore views and phenomena.

Comparing Car Rental Prices in Canada

Rental costs vary considerably by location, vehicle type, season and booking window. On average across Canada expect to budget:

  • Economy cars - $45-$65 CAD per day
  • Compacts - $50-$75 per day
  • Midsize/Standard - $60-$85 per day
  • Full-size/SUV - $80-$150+ per day
  • Vans - $100-$200+ per day

When possible, book 1-2 months in advance for lower rates. Last-minute rentals will have much higher daily charges. Airport locations generally cost more than neighborhood branches. Prices spike in peak summer and holidays then drop November through March excluding ski resort blackout dates.


Signing Up for Rental Car Loyalty Programs in Canada

All the major agencies operate free loyalty programs providing incentives like:

  • Hertz Gold Plus Rewards - Earn point bonuses towards free rentals plus skip lines with expedited booking and car selection.
  • Enterprise Plus - Special members-only offers, accelerated reward points and expedited service at the counter.
  • Avis Preferred - Skip lines, choose car type/model and earn free days faster plus access member-exclusive offers.
  • Budget Fastbreak - Priority service, points towards free rentals and instant rewards for signing up.
  • National Emerald Club - Choose car type and space number, earn free days fast plus skip the counter.

Even renting occasionally, joining 2-3 programs nets sign-up perks, seasonal promotions and builds rewards for free rentals down the road. Be sure to give your loyalty number when booking.


Helpful Digital Resources for Planning Canadian Road Trips

Handy sites and apps for mapping routes, finding attractions and planning details:

  • Google Maps - Excellent for turn-by-turn directions, route planning and estimating drive times in Canada. Offline download regional maps.
  • GasBuddy - Find lowest gas and diesel prices convenient to your route. View price heat maps.
  • Canada Parks App - Navigate national and provincial parks with trail maps, permits and campground booking.
  • Roadtrippers App - Build custom road trip itineraries integrating attractions, accommodations and booking links.
  • AllTrails App - Detailed trail guides for day hikes, backpacking, biking and more across Canada.
  • Yelp, TripAdvisor, Lonely Planet - Discover top-rated restaurants, hotels, sights and activities along your route.

Must-Have Road Trip Accessories and Gear

Enhance comfort, safety and convenience on Canadian road trips with:

  • Offline GPS navigation device in case outside cell service
  • Dash cam to record scenic drives and document any incidents
  • Phone mount and charger for navigation and hands-free abilities
  • First aid kit - bandages, medications, ointments
  • Emergency roadside kit - flares, reflectors, jumper cables
  • Trash bags and wet wipes for tidy cleanups
  • Tire pressure gauge and portable air compressor
  • Emergency blankets, coats, hats, gloves and snow scraper during winter
  • Picnic blanket, towels, water bottles, cooler for rest stops
  • Hiking shoes, backpack, binoculars, camping gear to fully experience parks and nature

No matter which tantalizing destinations inspire, renting a car makes traveling Canada convenient, affordable and fun. Follow this comprehensive guide to choose the right rental car, save money and explore both iconic and off-the-beaten-path treasures across this amazing country!

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