Can I drive a car with temporary documentation into Canada?
June 9, 2014 7:32 PM   Subscribe

Last week, I bought a new car. Can I drive in and out of Canada with a temporary license plate, registration, and insurance card?

I am a US citizen and I live in Delaware. Last week, I bought a new car in Delaware. I am planning a four-day trip to Montreal before I'll receive permanent registration, license plate, or (probably) up-to-date insurance card for my car. Will anyone (i.e., Canadian Border Services, Canadian/Quebec law enforcement, or US Customs and Border Protection) care if I come and go with temporary documentation?

The car dealership provided me with temporary registration (which is a printed form completed by hand) and a temporary license plate (which has a hologram and printed numbers, but expiration and VIN handwritten in permanent marker). I have updated my insurance policy to cover the new car and to remove my old (traded-in) car, but I have not yet received a new insurance card which explicitly covers the new car (I can print off a "confirmation" that looks just like the insurance card, but it explicitly says that it's not a valid insurance card and should be replaced by the card the company is mailing me).

I've never driven into Canada or the United States, so I don't really know what to expect with regards to scrutiny about cars at the border crossings. Am I overthinking this or am I right to be concerned that it might be a problem at one or both border crossings? Would I be better off renting a car?
posted by ddbeck to Travel & Transportation (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Yes you can - I did just that a month after getting my current car. Just be sure to have the temporary registration on hand.
posted by joan_holloway at 7:35 PM on June 9, 2014

Best answer: You are overthinking this. I've done this before driving between Washington and BC, with the added wrinkle that I was a Canadian citizen residing in the US with a US car on temp plates. You are good to go.
posted by crazycanuck at 11:25 PM on June 9, 2014


A temporary registration is a valid registration, as long as it hasn't expired.
A temporary insurance card is a valid insurance card, as long as it hasn't expired.
A temporary license plate is a valid license plate, as long as it hasn't expired.

Laws are in place compelling all US states and Canadian provinces to recognize valid driver's licenses, registration documents and license plates from all other US states and Canadian provinces. I think that applies to Mexican states as well, but I'm not sure. This is why you can drive from Delaware into Pennsylvania or Maryland (for example) without getting Pennsylvania or Maryland plates and driver's licenses. This includes temporary plates.

Have the registration documents with you. Carry a COPY of the bill of sale or dealer receipt, just to be on the safe side. DO NOT bring the title or certificate of origin; lock that up and don't give it to anyone but the DMV when you go for permanent plates.
posted by tckma at 9:56 AM on June 10, 2014

Response by poster: I drove the car to Canada and back and it was not a problem. The Canadian border officer remarked that he hadn't seen anyone come from Delaware before, but didn't really care beyond that. The US CBP officer asked for the temporary registration (and for me to point out which field contained the plate number), but that was it. Thanks for the answers!
posted by ddbeck at 5:28 PM on June 17, 2014

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