Renting a Car in Banff
- Renting a car in Banff is a great way to see all that the park has to offer. Not everywhere is served by the Roam Transit and there aren’t many taxis floating about.
- RentalCars.com is the best site to find a good deal in the Canadian Rockies
- Most rental cars in Canada have an automatic transmission.
- If arriving by plane it’s best to pick up your car at the Calgary International Airport.
- Take pictures of the vehicle (inside and out) before driving away from the lot. You’ll want to note any damages.
- Driving in Banff is pretty straightforward, just pay attention to road conditions in the winter.
- The Best Restaurants in Banff
- The Best Hotels in Banff
- The Best Airbnbs in Banff
- The Best Hikes in Banff
- Best Time To Visit Banff
Is it a Good Idea to Rent a Car in Banff?
The first time we visited Banff we rented a car in Calgary. It was a great decision and allowed us to visit the destinations we wanted to visit on our own time. We were able to get to some places off the typical tourist trail that the buses would not go. It was also winter, so public transport was a lot more limited than in the summer. That’s not to say that it’s impossible to see the sights without your own car, because it definitely is possible in Banff, especially if you plan on staying downtown most of the time, but having a car rental is certainly more enjoyable.
How Do I Rent a Car in Banff?
RentalCars.com searches all the big car companies and finds the best price for you. The most common place to rent a car for traveling around Banff is at the Calgary International Airport. Under pickup location select YYC. For a lower price, you can also just select “Calgary” which will search for car rental pick up and drop off locations in all of Calgary. While this is a cheaper option, sometimes it’s more of a hassle to land in a new destination and have to take a taxi to the car rental location in the city. I find it easier and simpler just to rent from the airport even if there is a surcharge.
There are also car rental locations in both Banff and Canmore, but they are limited and typically cost more. Plus you will spend quite a bit on getting yourself to Banff or Canmore from Calgary on either the Banff Airporter or public transport. My favorite company to rent a car from in Canada is Enterprise, we have always had good experiences with them.
Car Rental at the Calgary Airport
For airport rentals you can reserve through RentalCars.com or Discover Car Hire is another good one. The Calgary Airport is one of the most chill, quietest airports I have ever been in, which is amazing for such a large city. To navigate your way to the car rental section of the arrivals terminal is easy and stress-free. These desks are well-staffed, friendly, and almost never yield a line.
What Rental Car Companies Rent Cars at the Calgary Inernational Airport?
Avis, Enterprise, Thrifty, Dollar, Budget, and National are some of the major car companies available to rent a car from at the Calgary International Airport.
Car Rentals in Banff and Canmore
Enterprise, Avis, and Hertz are the main car rental companies in Banff. They are all located downtown and easy to get to once in Banff. Enterprise is the only car rental company in Canmore.
Should I Rent a Car if Driving in the Winter in Banff?
If you are not experienced with driving in winter conditions you may want to reconsider driving in Alberta in the winter. Road conditions can change fast, and you don’t want to be caught out in a winter storm in the mountains. If you plan on driving in the winter in Banff winter tires are a must on your rental.
When booking a rental car in Canada it’s extremely important to pick one that is suitable for the time of your visit. If you are visiting Banff, or any mountains in Canada a 4×4 vehicle should be considered. Four-wheel drive vehicles cost more, but they can be necessary for road trips in the mountains.
If you don’t want to rent a 4×4 at the very least get a car with snow tires in the winter. Remember that just because you rent a car in Canada in February doesn’t mean you will be given snow tires. You have to specifically request these from the rental agency and they may carry an additional fee. Some provinces in Canada, like British Columbia, actually require that you have snow tires on your car when traveling in the winter.
In the summertime, a normal sedan will work fine just about anywhere in Canada.
Do I Need Winter Tires to Drive in Banff?
If you are visiting Banff between November and April you 100% should have winter tires or at least all-weather tires. The province of Alberta does not make it mandatory to be equipped during the winter months, but regardless of this you should be equipped. The roads can get very gnarly and dangerous as the snow falls and you’ll want to have tires with improved traction and control.
If you are driving into British Columbia at all you need to do your research based on where you going. Winter tires or chains are required on most routes in British Columbia from October 1 to April 30.
Should I Get Car Rental Insurance in Banff?
Damage Waiver (DW) insurance is always offered at the time of rental for an additional daily charge. Damage Waiver is there to reduce your liability if you damage, or lose the rental car. You don’t have to purchase DW, it is optional, and usually costs between $10-30 CAD per day of rental.
If you have a US credit card, it’s possible you already have DW insurance and don’t know it! It’s worth it to check your documentation and call your credit card to find out. It’s even worth considering signing up to a new credit card that does offer this.
If you’re already covered, take a copy of paperwork as proof, though we have never been asked for this proof. Every time we have rented a car in Canada we decline any extra insurance knowing our credit card will cover us. The rental car agency never pushes back and sends us on our way!
Bringing me to my next point – credit cards with primary rental insurance. The Chase Sapphire Reserve is my favorite travel credit card for many reasons, but the primary rental insurance is one of its best perks (including Priority Pass membership). When you put your rental car on your Chase Sapphire Reserve card you get primary coverage around the world up to $75,000.
How Much Does it Cost to Rent a Car in Banff?
Depends on the season and what type of vehicle! In the summer your rental car will likely be higher than in October and winter seasons.
We’ve scored great deals in Canada, but also paid quite a bit during times. Our last rental cost us $25 CAD a day in the winter, but I’ve seen them go above $75 in the summer. Some tips to save on car rental prices in Canada:
- The sooner you book, the better
- Do searches on AutoEurope, RentalCars.com, and Discover Car Hire.
- Go with well-known companies like Enterprise and Alamo. The smaller unknown ones are more likely to nickel and dime you.
Is Driving in Canada like Driving in the United States?
Being an American that moved to Canada I would say driving in Canada is exactly like driving in the United States. Cars drive on the right side of the road, with the steering wheel on the left side of the car. All traffic laws and rules are almost identical. So if you are an American visitor you shouldn’t have any trouble driving in Canada.
3 Reasons Not to Rent a Car for Banff
- You are visiting in the winter and not comfortable with winter driving.
- You plan on spending most of your time in downtown Banff which is all walkable.
- You plan on doing more tours and fewer individual trips. Most tours include hotel drop off and pick up.
7 Reasons Renting a Car in Banff is Awesome
- So you travel on your own schedule and see sunrise and sunset at some of the most epic spots in Banff.
- So you can stop when you see something beautiful, which happens often.
- So you can visit the neighboring town of Canmore.
- So you can drive the Icefields Parkway and get out for a hike when you fancy.
- So you can go hiking in Banff on your own time.
- So you can drive into Kananaskis Country.
- So you can drive up the Spray Valley Road.
Top Tips for Driving in Banff
- Always obey the speed limits posted. Not only is this for your safety, but the police are out en force especially on the Trans Canada at the end of the month. The speed limit on the Trans Canada when driving through Banff is 100 km per hour, but people speed all the time, about 80% of the time it is a tourist.
- Be prepared. Conditions can change quickly in the mountains.
- Cell phone service is unreliable in the mountains, and often unavailable.
- If you see wildlife on the side of the road, please reconsider stopping, especially if you are on the Trans Canada. If you are in a safe spot away from traffic pullover to shoulder, remain in your car, and stay only a few minutes and then move on.
- It’s best to book a car in advance for lower prices and to make sure what you want is available.
- If you need a larger car for a family then it’s important to book in advance, especially in the summer.
- Always inspect your rental car before taking it and note any damages with photos
- A US license will let you rent a car easily in Canada, as well as an Australian licensee, EU license, and almost any license that is in English or French.
More on Renting a Car in Banff in the Winter
Canadian winters can be extremely harsh and dangerous for driving. If you are not an experienced winter driver and are planning on a magical Canadian winter trip you should take caution.
First, it’s important to get the right kind of vehicle for winter travel. A four-wheel drive truck or SUV might seem excessive – but there is a reason everyone has them here! If you don’t feel comfortable renting a larger car at least make sure your vehicle has winter tires.
Pay attention to road closures in the winter. Avalanches and high mountain passes pose a serious threat and if a road is closed there is always a reason.
If conditions are poor don’t tailgate cars in front of you. Maintain a safe distance and only drive as fast as you are comfortable with. We’ve seen way too many accidents in the winter here.
If it is snowing too heavily and you don’t feel comfortable driving pull over and wait out the storm. Better yet – don’t leave your hotel! Getting in an accident is not worth your life so better to bundle up by the fire with a hot chocolate.
Drinking and Driving in Canada
This should go without saying, but drinking and driving is a grave offense in Canada. In Canada, the maximum legal BAC is 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 milliliters of blood (.08). If you get caught driving with a BAC over this limit it will likely result in a DUI and being hauled off to jail.