Driving in Canada can be a great way to get to know a new country. After all, there’s plenty of beautiful scenery to take in, from coast-to-coast. In order to legally drive in Canada, you’ll need a driver’s licence that is authorized by your local province or territory. For newcomers looking to settle in Ontario, here’s everything you need to know about obtaining your driver’s licence and some of the specific rules to keep in mind when you’re behind the wheel.


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Looking for more information on driving in Canada?
See Getting around in Canada: How to get a driver’s licence for licencing and driving rules in Canada, and whether to rent, buy, or lease a car.

An overview of licencing rules in Ontario

Ontario operates on a graduated licence system, as it helps to reduce the risks that new drivers face, especially driving in a province with ice and snow. In order to possess a full driver’s licence, drivers are required to complete the graduated licence system. In Ontario this means going from a G1 licence to a G2 licence to a full G licence. It consists of one written exam and two road tests. This system is designed to give novice drivers plenty of hands-on experience before they drive independently with little-to-no restrictions. 

Here are the three levels of driver’s licences in Ontario: 

1. G1 licence

A G1 licence is the equivalent of getting a learner’s permit or beginner’s licence. You must be at least 16-years-old to apply for a G1 licence and have passed an eye exam and written test about the road rules and traffic signs in Ontario. A driver with a G1 licence is not permitted to drive on their own. They must be accompanied by a person who has had a valid full G licence for a minimum of 4 years and has zero alcohol consumption. 

This type of licence has the most restrictions, including: 

  • Zero alcohol consumption and zero cannabis in their system 
  • No driving between midnight to 5 a.m.
  • No driving on 400-series highways, including the Gardiner Expressway, Don Valley Parkway (DVP), and the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW)
  • Seatbelts must be worn by all passengers at all times
  • Permitted to drive G class vehicles only

2. G2 licence

A G2 licence gives a driver more freedom, including the ability to drive solo and without any time restrictions, unless you are under the age of 19. In order to obtain a G2 licence, you’ll need to pass a G1 exit road test. Drivers are required to hold a G2 licence for a minimum of one year before they are eligible to take a G2 exit road test. 

Even with a G2 licence, there are some restrictions, including: 

  • Zero alcohol consumption and zero cannabis in your system 
  • All passengers must wear seatbelts
  • Only carry as many passengers as working seatbelts
  • Practice for a period of 12 months on any and all Ontario roads 

3. Full G licence

A G licence is a full driver’s licence and the last step in Ontario’s graduating licence system. While a G licence offers the maximum amount of freedom, there are still certain limitations to keep pedestrians, you, and other drivers on the road safe. 

They include:

  • Permitted to only drive a G class vehicle (for example, no motorbikes)
  • Cannot have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of more than 0.08 per cent (or 80mg) 
  • Drivers aged 21 years old or younger must have a blood alcohol concentration of zero 

How to get your driver’s licence in Ontario 

Visitors to Ontario who have a valid driver’s licence from another country are able to legally drive in Ontario for up to 90 days, provided the vehicle has proper insurance and they carry proof of vehicle ownership. For anyone who plans to settle in Ontario as a permanent resident (PR), you’ll need to apply for an Ontario drivers’ licence within 60 days of arriving in the province. New residents to Ontario with a valid driver’s licence from another province, state, or country are permitted to use it for the first 60 days after moving here. If you are moving to Ontario as an international student or forgeign worker, these rules may also apply. Contact the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario (MTO) to learn more. 

Applying for a driver’s licence in Ontario from scratch as a novice

If you don’t have an existing licence and would like to get an Ontario driver’s licence, you have to be at least 16-years-old to apply.

Steps involved:

  1. Prepare for the test in advance by studying a copy of the Official Ministry of Transportation (MTO) Driver’s Handbook.
  2. Book an appointment at a DriveTest Centre online in order to complete a written driver’s licence test. 
  3. A fee of $159.75 CAD plus taxes is required. This is the “G1 licence package” fee and includes the cost of sitting a written knowledge test, your first road test, which graduates you from a G1 to a G2 licence, and a five-year licencing fee. This fee is payable at the time of application. If you are booking online, you can prepay the fee, otherwise payment is made at all DriveTest Centres. 
  4. To apply, visit a DriveTest Centre or Travel Point (this is a temporary DriveTest Centre in areas of Ontario where there is no regional centre) at the day and time of appointment. 
  5. At your appointment, you’ll be required to show valid, original proof of your legal age, date of birth and signature. You’ll also be asked questions about your health to assess whether there are any medical conditions that would make it unsafe for you to drive and do an eye exam. 
  6. Take the written test. 
  7. Once you pass the written test, you will receive your G1 licence and are considered a beginner driver. 
  8. You then need to wait 12 months before applying for a G2 licence.

Tips Icon  Tip:
Most auto insurance companies offer a discount or reduced premium for new drivers who have completed a recognized driver training program. Some insurers also provide discounts for drivers who have taken a defensive driving course.

Applying for a new driver’s licence in Ontario based on previous driving experience in your home country

If you have previous driving experience and a valid licence in your home country, you may belong to one of the following categories:

  1. You’re moving from a country where Ontario has a reciprocal arrangement for driver’s licence 
  2. You’re moving from a country where Ontario does not have a reciprocal arrangement for driver’s licence: 
    • You have limited driving experience in your home country (less than two years)
    • You are an experienced driver in your home country (have been driving for more than two years)  

1. Moving from a country with a reciprocal arrangement for driver’s licence

Eligible countries: United States, Australia, Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain, the Isle of Man, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Switzerland, and Taiwan.

Process to get a local driving licence in Ontario: Exchange your existing licence from your home country. It is a relatively straightforward process; no need to take a driving test. 

Key eligibility criteria: You must have been fully licenced with two or more years driving experience.

Steps involved:
Apply in-person at a DriveTest centre or the ServiceOntario Bay and College Street location in Toronto and do the following:

  • Take an eye test
  • Bring an original of an acceptable form of ID that shows your legal name, date of birth and signature
  • Bring your original, valid foreign driver’s licence
  • Bring any supporting documents that show proof of your driving experience
  • Fill out an application form
  • Pay the fee: The cost of exchanging your driver’s licence from a country with a reciprocal agreement with Ontario is $90 CAD plus tax 

If you have less than two years of driving experience in a reciprocal country:

  • If you have a learner’s permit from any of these countries listed, you cannot swap it for an Ontario driver’s licence. However, you might still be able to fast-track getting your licence and get credit for previous driving experience. 
  • Additionally, you will need to apply to take the G2 road test once you have gained a full two years of driving experience (including the driving experience in your home country). 

2. Moving from a country with no reciprocal arrangement for driver’s licence

If you have limited driving experience in your home country

Length of driving experience Is a G2 driving exam required? Is a full G driving exam required?
Less than 12 months Yes. However, your mandatory wait time will be reduced with proof of experience. Yes. You must wait the full mandatory 12 months wait time.
More than one year but less than two years Yes. However, there is no wait period. Yes. You must wait the full mandatory 12 months wait time.
More than two years No. Yes. However, there is no wait period.

How to show proof of previous driving experience: 

  • For one year of driving experience: The government of Ontario permits individuals to self-declare one year of driving experience by showing a valid, original driver’s licence issued in another country. 
  • For more than one year of driving experience: You’ll need to provide an official letter from the agency that issued the licence confirming your driving experience. This letter is also known as a “driving extract.”

What should a driving extract include

A driving extract must be:

  • Written on an official letterhead
  • Written in French of English. If it is in another language, you are required to submit a translation of the letter
  • Written in the last six months or less

It must also provide the following information:

  • The date your licence was issued and the expiry date
  • The class of licence (e.g. learner’s permit or a full licence)
  • Confirmation the licence was valid for the relevant period of time for the purposes of establishing experience driving

Steps involved in applying for an Ontario driver’s licence:

  1. Study for the test by reading Ontario’s Official Driver Handbook (2020 edition). A copy driver’s handbook can be ordered online in French and English or purchased through a DriveTest centre of ServiceOntario Bay and College for $14.95 CAD plus tax. 
  2. Apply in-person at a DriveTest centre or the ServiceOntario Bay and College Street location in Toronto. 
  3. Show essential documents of identification: Proof of your name, date of birth and signature. All documents must be original and valid.
  4. Pay the fee (refer to the fee structure below).
  5. Take an eye test and a written test about the rules of the road and traffic signs.  

Next steps for those applying with less than two years of driving experience in their home country:

  • You will then need to take two road tests: a G1 test and the G2 test. You can book a G1 road test as soon as you pass the written test. 
  • Once you pass the G1, which will test you on simple things like turning left and right, stopping and parking, you will receive a G1 licence. This licence has certain restrictions attached. 
  • You must then wait until you have one full year of driving experience before applying for a G2 test; driving experience from your home country is considered. For example, if you have six months experience driving on a forgeign licence, you can take your G2 test after six months in Ontario. 
  • Once you pass the G2 test you will receive a full licence.  

Next steps for those applying with more than two years of driving experience in their home country:

  • Once you pass both the written test and eye test, you will need to take one G2 road test. You are eligible to book the G2 road test immediately, and do not need to wait. 
  • Once you have passed the G2 test, you will receive a full licence. 

What is the fee structure for a driver’s licence in Ontario

Effective July, 2019, the fee structure for an Ontario driver’s licence is as follows: 

Item Cost
Knowledge test $16 CAD
G1 licence package $159.75 CAD
Class G2 road test $53.75 CAD
Class G road test $91.25 CAD
Five-year Ontario licence $90 CAD

What you need to know about driving in Ontario

Even if you’ve been driving for over 20 years, it’s probably a good idea to familiarize yourself with the rules of the road in Ontario before getting behind the wheel of a car. The reason why is there are some rules that you may not be familiar with in your home country. 

Here are some common road rules for Ontario:

  1. You and your passengers must always wear a seatbelt while driving.
  2. Speed is measured in kilometres per hour. Where there are no speed limits posted, the maximum speed is 50 km/hour in cities, towns and villages, and 80 km/hour elsewhere. 
  3. Pedestrians always have the right of way.
  4. Cyclists must also follow the rules of the road, but drivers must be aware of them. 
  5. It is legal to turn right at a red light, as long as you come to a complete stop first and wait until the way is clear. At some intersections, there may be a sign prohibiting a right hand turn on a red light. 
  6. Come to a complete stop at a four-way stop and drivers take turns driving through in order of arrival at the stop. 
  7. If you are driving in Toronto, you must stop behind a stopped streetcar and stay at least two metres behind the rear doors to allow passengers to safely get on and off. You must also pass streetcars on the right, unless you are driving on a one-way road.
  8. Drivers are required to stop for stopped school buses with its red light flashing and/or stop arm activated. If the bus is stopped on a road without a median then traffic in either direction must stop and are not permitted to move until the red lights have stopped flashing and the stop arm is no longer activated. On roads with a median only traffic behind the school bus is required to stop. 
  9. At a pedestrian crossing or school crossing guard, you must come to a complete stop and allow pedestrians to completely cross safely to the other side of the road and onto the sidewalk before proceeding. 
  10. You are required to slow down and pull to the right if an emergency vehicle is driving behind you with their lights flashing and/or sires on. This includes an ambulance, fire truck, or police vehicle. 
  11. No distracted driving is permitted, including mobile phones.
  12. Driving while intoxicated is punishable by law. For drivers on a G1 licence, the maximum legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08 per cent. Even if you are caught driving between 0.05 and 0.08 per cent you could face serious consequences. This is commonly referred to as the “warn range.”
  13. It is legal to pass on the right or the left, but passing on the left is generally more common and predictable, making it a safer choice for passing.
  14. It is illegal to drive a car in Ontario without valid car insurance.

Tips Icon  Tip:
Another major difference you may encounter when driving in Ontario is snow and ice. If you are not experienced with winter driving, getting behind the wheel of a car during a snowstorm may feel like a scary experience. Depending on your comfort level, consider investing in some driving lessons with a professional instructor on winter driving. They can take you through common scenarios you may face in winter such as skid control, collision avoidance, rear crash avoidance, and braking on slippery surfaces.

The Canada Safety Council has some winter driving tips. Some important things to remember are:

  1. Make sure that your vehicle is prepared for winter driving.
  2. Consider investing in winter tires, which provide better traction under ice and snow.
  3. Drive smoothly and slowly.
  4. Don’t tailgate – this will make it harder to stop safely.
  5. Brake before you make a turn.
  6. Keep your lights on during snow to increase visibility.

Be sure to familiarize yourself with the process of obtaining a local driver’s license. Brush up on your road rules ahead of time and stay safe. Having a provincial driver’s licence will give you the freedom to commute to work, explore your new neighbourhood, even take a road-trip and see more of Ontario

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Disclaimer:
This article offers general information only and is not intended as legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or its affiliates.