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Snowmobiles, All-Terrain Vehicles and Other Off-Road Vehicles

Here are a number of dos and don’ts when it comes to off-road vehicles—whether you are enjoying winter on your snowmobile, or hitting the trails on your all-terrain vehicle.

What qualifies as an off-road vehicle

  • SnowmobilesA self-propelled winter vehicle that is designed to travel primarily over snow or ice and may or may not be equipped with a ski or steering blade.
  • The following motorized all-terrain vehicles:
    • quad bikes
    • recreational off-road vehicles
    • all-terrain motorcycles, including motocross bikes
  • Other motorized all-terrain vehicles designed or adapted to be operated on uneven or unpaved terrain or terrain that is difficult to access, especially surfaces covered with snow, ice, earth, sand or gravel, as well as in wooded areas and other natural environments.

Off-road vehicle legislation

Driver’s licence requirements and vehicle registration, vehicle equipment and protection for you and your passengers, the minimum age to drive or carry a passenger, speed limits, alcohol—everything is clearly regulated by the:

Fines and other penalties are also spelled out in detail in the applicable legislation.


You must be at least 16 years old to drive an off-road vehicle

  • To drive an all-terrain vehicle or a snowmobile, you must be at least 16 years old.
  • If you are 16 or 17 years old, you must hold a training certificate.
  • To operate a recreational off-road vehicle, or to carry a passenger on a quad bike that has been modified by the addition of an add-on seat, you must be at least 18 years old.

To obtain a training certificate

The training certificate is issued upon successful completion of a mandatory course.

For snowmobiles

The Fédération des clubs de motoneigistes du Québec has mandated the ConduiPro network of driving schools (website in French only) to provide this training and issue the certificate.

For all-terrain vehicles (quad bikes, all-terrain motorcycles, etc), with the exception of recreational off-road vehicles

Training is given by the certified monitors listed on the Fédération québécoise des clubs quads website.

Note that for complementary information on the rules you must follow when riding a trail bike in parks and on trails, you can contact the Fédération québécoise des motos hors route or refer to their website. The Fédération can also let you know which of Québec’s federated trails you can ride on with your trail bike.

For recreational off-road vehicles

A training certificate is not required to drive a recreational off-road vehicle because you can only drive that type of vehicle if you are 18 or older.

Driver's Licence

To operate an off-road vehicle on a public road, trail or any other area of use that is not covered by the Highway Safety Code, you must hold a valid driver’s licence.

You must hold a valid driver’s licence or probationary driver’s licence of any class, or hold a valid learner’s licence and abide by its conditions and restrictions. A Class 5, 6A, 6D or 8 licence, for example, is perfectly fine.

If you never drive on public roads and only drive off-road or on trails, you don’t need to have a driver’s licence.

In addition, drivers who are 16 or 17 must hold a training certificate.

Driving on Public Roads

Driving on public roads is prohibited, other than in the few exceptional cases provided for by law. 

You may cross a public road or drive on it – for no more than 1 km – only if a road sign allows you to do so.

The purpose is to reach a trail, service station or another public area that is accessible only by the public roadway.

Vehicle Registration

You must register your off-road vehicle, even if you only use it on designated trails.

The licence plate must be affixed to the vehicle.

Refer to the procedure for registering an all-terrain vehicle or snowmobile.

Just because your vehicle is registered doesn’t mean you are covered in the event of an accident

If you have an accident that doesn’t involve an automobile (if you run into a tree, for example), you are not covered by the SAAQ for your injuries. The fact that you paid the registration fees for your off-road vehicle doesn’t change that fact.

However, if you have an accident involving an automobile or any other vehicle operating on a public roadway, you may receive compensation for your injuries. For more information, see the section on the automobile insurance plan.

Civil liability insurance is mandatory!

You must hold private civil liability insurance for at least $1,000,000 to ensure compensation for any bodily injury or property damage caused by your vehicle.

Proof of insurance may be requested by a police officer, trail patrol officer or provincial officer. You must always have your proof of insurance with you; otherwise, you face a fine.

Trail Permits

A valid trail permit is required if you wish to drive your snowmobile or all-terrain vehicle on trails maintained by off-road vehicle clubs.

Trail permits are sold on the websites of the Fédération des clubs de motoneigistes du Québec and the Fédération Québécoise des Clubs Quads.


Offences committed under the Highway safety code or the Act respecting off-highway vehicles

Offenders face:

  • fines
  • demerit points

Impaired Driving

Driving a snowmobile, an all-terrain vehicle or any other off-road vehicle while impaired by alcohol, drugs or medication is prohibited. The Criminal Code also applies to the operation of off-road vehicles.

If you commit an offence under the Highway Safety Code on a public road, trail or any other area that is not covered by this Code, the same penalties apply as for a driving offence while at the wheel of any other type of motorized vehicle.

Documents to always have with you

When operating an off-road vehicle, you must always have the following with you:

  • proof of civil liability insurance
  • the vehicle's registration certificate
  • a document that can attest to your age
  • a valid driver’s licence
  • your training certificate, if applicable
  • the trail permit, if applicable

Mandatory Equipment

For you and any passengers

  • A helmet
    The driver and any passengers on a snowmobile or all-terrain vehicle must wear a protective helmet that complies with at least one of the following manufacturing standards:
    • DOT FMVSS 218 (United States Department of Transportation)
    • Snell Memorial Foundation
    • ECE Regulation 22 (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe)
    • CAN-3-D230 (Canadian Standards Association)
    • Specifications for Protective Headgear for Vehicular User Z90.1 (American National Standards Institute)
    • British Standards Institute 
  • Protective goggles, if the helmet does not have a visor
  • Closed footwear (boots or shoes)
  • Any other equipment prescribed by regulation

Strongly recommended accessories

  • A chest protector (especially for quad bikes and all-terrain motorcycles, including motocross bikes)
  • Flat-heeled, anti-skid boots that cover your ankles
  • Protective clothing
  • Gloves that completely cover your hands and wrists
  • A survival kit that includes:
    • a set of basic tools and an extra key
    • spark plugs, a drive belt and antifreeze
    • a first aid kit and manual
    • a sharp pocketknife
    • a nylon rope that can be used for towing (about 10 metres)
    • a trail map and a compass
    • waterproof matches, a flashlight and a whistle
    • an aluminum-treated emergency survival blanket

For your vehicle

  • A white headlight
  • A red taillight
  • A red rear brake light
  • A rear-view mirror firmly attached to the left side of the vehicle
  • An exhaust system
  • A braking system
  • A speedometer
  • Any other equipment determined by regulation

Safety and Traffic Rules

These rules are governed by the Ministère des Transports (this section of the website in French only).


You can carry a passenger when driving an off-road vehicle, provided that the vehicle is designed to carry two or more people.

If you own a snowmobile or quad bike that was originally designed to carry one person and that has been modified by the addition of an add-on seat, carrying a passenger is only permitted under certain conditions:

  • the seat must be installed in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions;
  • the weight limit specified by the vehicle manufacturer must be respected;
  • the person driving the quad bike must be at least 18 years old.

Speed Limits

The speed limit is 70 km/h for snowmobiles and 50 km/h for any other type of off-road vehicle, unless a lower speed limit is posted.

Be Visible

Keep your headlights on at all times in order to help other drivers see you.

Respecting Property

You must drive on trails that are marked and maintained by off-road vehicle clubs, while taking care not to cause any damage.

You must obtain the owner’s authorization before driving on private property. Offenders face a fine.

Driving on Frozen Bodies of Water

If you must drive your snowmobile or all-terrain vehicle across a lake or river in winter, stay on the marked trail and do not venture into areas that are not patrolled by a club to avoid falling through the ice and drowning.

Crossing a body of water in early or late winter is particularly risky, especially where there are no markers.

Snow-covered obstacles, such as wharves, may also pose a deadly threat, especially at night.

Check ice conditions before snowmobiling on a frozen body of water, and be careful!

Every year, nearly a third of all snowmobile fatalities are caused by drowning.

Last update: May 17, 2022