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How car insurance coverage works in British Columbia

Car insurance is a requirement across Canada and each province has their own coverage requirements. For British Columbia drivers, basic auto insurance is provided through the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC), a public insurance company. There also is optional, and highly recommended, coverage available through both ICBC and private insurance brokerages and directly from insurance companies (i.e. Aviva Canada). For instance, mandatory third-party liability coverage through ICBC has a minimum limit of $200,000. A driver then has the option to increase their liability coverage up to $5 million either through ICBC or a private insurer. Be sure to view the table below for more explicit details.

Here is an overview of the available car insurance coverages in British Columbia:

Coverage Description
Public Insurance

Basic auto insurance coverage provided by the Bitish Columbia governement (ICBC). This generally includes liability, accident benefits and uninsured motorist coverage.

Available: Yes
Required: Yes

Private Insurance

Auto insurance policies created & sold by private insurance carriers. Though these carriers must still abide by Federal and Provincial regulations.

Available: Yes
Required: No

No-fault insurance

Having no-fault insurance doesn’t mean you can’t be found at fault. This coverage means you must first deal with your own insurance company for all claims, whether you’re at fault or not. But, British Columbia will allow a no-fault driver to sue an at-fault driver for additional damages and costs that are not covered by their accident benefits.

Available: Yes
Required: Yes

Third-party Liability Insurance

Protects against damage caused by you while driving and includes injury and death to others and property damage. This is the only insurance coverage that is mandatory across Canada. Minimum coverage for British Columbia is $200,000.

Available: Yes
Required: Yes

Accident Benefits

Covers your medical benefits if you’re injured in a crash, whether you’re at fault or not. The coverage includes your medical costs, while also paying for additional recovery costs, such as rehab, income replacement, and payment for and attendant care, if needed.

Available: Yes
Required: Yes

Direct Compensation-Property Damage (DCPD)

Covers damage to your vehicle and its contents, and for the loss of use of your vehicle when damaged – if another person was at fault. This coverage only applies if the crash occurs in a province where DCPD is mandatory, if two or more insured vehicles are involved, and if both insurers are licensed within that DCPD province.

Available: No
Required: No

Uninsured Motorist

Uninsured motorist coverage protects against injuries you and your family members sustain in a crash caused by an uninsured motorist. It can also cover your vehicle damages, if the uninsured driver is able to be identified.

Available: Yes
Required: Yes

Collision Insurance

Protects against damages sustained in a collision. This insurance covers you if your car is damaged in a crash – in both cases whether you crash into another other car or whether you crash into a stationary object.

Available: Yes
Required: No

Comprehensive Insurance

Protects against any losses a car owner may suffer, from events not related to driving. Such losses could include theft or damage from attempted theft; vandalism; environmental damage to a car from floods, fallen trees, and hail, etc.

Available: Yes
Required: No

Specified Perils

Covers your financial losses for damage caused specific perils – but only for perils chosen specifically for your policy. Available coverages are for theft; fire; damage from hail, lightning, wind, or flooding; earthquakes; explosions; riots; aircraft crash damage; and damage sustained during any transportation relocation.

Available: Yes
Required: No

All Perils

This combines the coverages you get with collision and comprehensive insurance. Additionally, all-perils also covers you if an employee, or someone who drives or services your car, steals it. It also covers you if someone you live with steals your vehicle.

Available: Yes
Required: No

Emergency roadside assistance

This service covers you for roadside callouts for emergencies such as dead batteries, towing, flat tires, keys locked in your car, empty gas tank, etcetera. Many insurance companies offer roadside assistance either included or in addition to other coverages.

Available: Yes
Required: No

*Table information sourced from http://www.ibc.ca (2017)

Historical British Columbia auto insurance rates

Any proposed car insurance rate changes from the ICBC must first be approved by the British Columbia Utilities Commission (BCUC). Auto insurance in B.C. has a significant problem with injury claims and legal costs reaching an all-time high. On April 1st, 2019 ICBC will increase accident benefits and limit pain and suffering payouts for minor injury claims. They’re calling this a balance in an attempt to limit the otherwise +51.7% average rate increases in basic car insurance coverage. The current state of auto insurance in British Columbia puts them in 2nd place, only behind Ontario, for the most expensive premiums in the country. The historical data trend for rate increases paints a realistic picture that B.C. drivers could conceivably be paying the highest auto insurance prices in Canada in the near future. The historical rate changes shown below are based on all the drivers insured each year by the ICBC.

Average Car Insurance Rate Change By Year

*Information and data sourced from https://www.icbc.com/about-icbc/company-info/Documents/Affordable-and-Effective-AutoInsurance-Report.pdf

Factors that impact your British Columbia car insurance rates

It pays to shop around to find your best car insurance rate. Even though a car insurance application is standardized, you may find that private auto insurers offer different rates based on their existing users, the volume of claims currently on their books, and their own tolerance for risk. Here are seven factors auto insurance companies consider in British Columbia:

How to get cheap car insurance in British Columbia?

If you’re trying to lower your monthly cost of insurance, it’s best to speak to your broker, agent, or private insurer to see what options are available. Also, make sure to check your claim rated scale level provided by the ICBC. Plus, if you’ve previously held insurance in another jurisdiction you may be able to apply for additional discounts. Here are some more tips to help you save:'

Shop and compare

Research which car insurance company provides the best value for you and your vehicle. In British Columbia, rates change four times a year, but lucky for you comparing rates with us is free.

Stay with your current insurer

Some auto insurance companies will give loyalty discounts to drivers who remain active with them for years. Especially if they add family members or multiple vehicles to their policy.

Bundle Your Policies

If you use the same insurance company for both your home and auto insurance needs, your insurer will often thank you with a dip in premiums.

Increase your deductible

Your deductible is the portion you pay when settling a claim before your insurer will pay the rest. If you’re willing to double your deductible, it could save you money.

Ask about discounts

If you’re a member of the BCAA, a large corporation, union, or a school alumnus, it could help you get cheaper car insurance.

Pay premiums annually, instead of monthly

Paying monthly adds administrative costs to your insurer, so if you’re able to pay in full annually you can lower your premiums.

Maintain a good driving record

If you’re a safe driver, obey the rules of the road and drive according to road conditions you can reduce your chances of an accident. Car crashes stay on your insurance record for up to ten years and can result in higher premiums.

Take a course

If you’re new to driving, a driver’s education course will save money. Your car insurance provider will think of you as a safer driver if you’ve been trained by professionals.

How to get a British Columbia driver's licence

British Columbia puts new drivers through a graduated licensing program (GLP) requiring each driver to progress through a 3-step educational program in order to be considered a fully licenced driver. If you are moving to B.C. and you have an existing driver’s license, you have 90 days to switch your valid out of province license to a B.C. driver’s license. You can read more about how to transfer a driver’s license to B.C.on the ICBC website.

The graduated licensing program in British Columbia operates as follows:

Learner's licence (or level one) eligibility criteria:

  • Must be 16 years old and have a parental consent if you’re under 19

  • Provide proof of legal name, date of birth, and signature. (e.g. Passport, birth certificate)

  • Pass a vision screening test

  • Pass a written knowledge test about the rules of the road

  • Pay the associated written test fees

  • Can’t consume alcohol and drive

Novice licence (or level two) eligibility criteria:

  • 1 year of practice with a supervisor

  • Pass the Class 7 road test at any driver licensing office

  • You must pay an administrative fee

  • Can’t consume alcohol and drive

Full licence (or level three) eligibility criteria:

  • 2 years of safe driving (or 18 months, if you took an ICBC-approved driver training course)

  • Pass a Class 5 road test at any driver licensing office

  • Pay another administrative fee to pay

Frequently Asked Questions about British Columbia auto insurance

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