Canadian snowbirds from Ontario, Quebec and the Atlantic provinces make their way to the southern U.S. every winter to escape the cold. And while California, Arizona and Texas are hot spots for snowbirds, Florida remains a top destination.

According to a January 2022 Fox News report, Canadians make 3.5 million visits to Florida per year. And Canadians who have second homes in the Sunshine State might be wondering how to register their cars in Florida so they don’t have to drive them back and forth.

Canadians can get a driver’s license in Florida and may register their cars there as well. Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about Florida auto registration for Canadians.

Key Highlights
  • If you want to register and insure your vehicle in Florida, you will need a Florida driver's license.
  • Canadian citizens may retain their Canadian driver’s license and get a Florida license.
  • Vehicles with out-of-state registrations are required to be registered within 10 days of the owner becoming employed, putting kids in public school or establishing residency.

How can a Canadian get a Florida driver’s license?

According to the Florida of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV), visitors to Florida who want to drive in the state are required to have a valid driver’s license in their name from their home country. If you have a valid international license, you’re not required to get a Florida license unless you’re going to become a permanent resident.

Canadian citizens may retain their Canadian driver’s license and get a Florida license. But if you choose to keep your Canadian license, you must pass written and driving exams. Alternatively, if you surrender your Canadian license, you’ll be exempt from the exams. If you want to register and insure your vehicle in Florida, you will need a Florida driver's license.

According to the FLHSMV, you must provide proof of Canadian citizenship to be issued a Florida driver license by presenting the following documents:

  • Proof of identity: Canadian passport, Canadian birth certificate, Canadian naturalization certificate or Canadian certificate of citizenship
  • Proof of Social Security: Original Social Security Card, W2 or 1099, letter from Social Security with full name and Social Security Number. However, proof of Social Security is not required if no SSN has been issued.
  • Name change: If name is different from primary identification.

Canadians must show proof of residency for the original license issue or address change with the following documents:

  • Rental agreement
  • Vehicle/vessel registration
  • Utility bills
  • Bank statements
  • Self-certification affidavit

How can Canadian snowbirds get auto insurance in Florida?

Once you have your license, it should be easier to obtain Florida auto insurance and register your vehicle. Florida requires any part-time or seasonal resident living in the state for 90 days or more during the year to obtain a Florida personal injury protection (PIP) and property damage liability auto insurance on their vehicle.

The FLHSMV notes that all out-of-state residents must have proof of Florida insurance before obtaining a Florida license plate or getting their car registered. Florida insurance is required to meet the requirements of Florida statutes.

The insurance requirements in Florida are as follows, according to the FLHSMV:

  • Possess Personal Injury Protection (PIP) and Property Damage Liability (PDL) insurance at the time of vehicle registration with the minimum limit of $10,000 in PIP and a minimum of $10,000 in PDL.
  • Maintain continuous coverage even if the vehicle is not being driven or is inoperable. Surrender the license plate/tag before canceling your insurance.
  • Purchase the auto insurance policy from an insurance carrier licensed to do business in Florida. If you are new to the state, you may ask your agent to transfer your current insurance to a Florida policy.
  • Maintain Florida insurance coverage continuously regardless of the vehicle’s location. Military members stationed out-of-state/country may be exempt.

Read more about the Car Insurance for Non U.S. Citizens and Foreign Drivers in the United States

What are the requirements for registering a Canadian vehicle in Florida?

Once you get Florida auto insurance, you can take your policy, your original out-of-state title and the VIN (vehicle identification number) verification form (completed on an HSMV form that is available on their website) to a local Florida county tax collector's office. This state agency should then be able to help you obtain Florida registration and license plates for the vehicle you plan to keep in Florida.

In Florida, a vehicle must have valid registration to operate on the state’s roads. Vehicles with out-of-state registrations are required to be registered within 10 days of the owner becoming employed, putting kids in public school or establishing residency.

Valid registration must include the following:

  • A metal plate. The number on plate must match the number provided on the registration and decal and must be attached to the vehicle in the designated area.
  • A registration certificate in the possession of the operator of the motor vehicle or carried in the vehicle at all times, per section 320.0605, Florida Statutes.
  • The registration decal that’s affixed in the square provided in the upper right-hand corner of the Florida license plate.

For the months that you're not in Florida, you must continue to maintain insurance on your vehicle. Do not cancel auto insurance in Florida until you’ve registered your vehicle in another state or surrendered plates/registrations to a Florida driver license office and motor vehicle service center or Tax Collector’s office.

Learn more about whether you can buy and insure a car in one state if your license is from another state

Final thoughts: Driving in Florida for Canadians

Make sure you maintain the required insurance coverage throughout the vehicle registration – or your registration and license could be suspended for up to three years. And if you move out of Florida, make sure to surrender your license plate before you cancel your insurance.

– Michelle Megna contributed to this story.

Sources:

  1. Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. “Insurance Requirements.” Accessed August 2022.
  2. Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. “Visiting Florida Frequently Asked Questions .” Accessed August 2022.
  3. Fox 13 Tampa Bay. “Florida, eh? Why snowbirds in Canada love heading south.” Accessed August 2022.
  4. Lee County (Florida) Tax Collector. “Document requirements.” Accessed August 2022.
  5. Lee County (Florida) Tax Collector. “Out-of-state/out-of-country driver licenses.” Accessed August 2022.