Matt Hands, VP, Insurance and MoneySense
If you want to own and operate a vehicle in Canada, you need a valid car insurance policy in place. Car insurance varies across Canada, with each province having its own rules about how car insurance works and level of coverage you need. However, the different ways you can buy car insurance and the information you need to give your provider is generally the same, no matter where you live.
Technology has made life easier for all of us and that extends into auto insurance. Within in minutes you can compare quotes from Canada's top auto insurance companies all from your computer or mobile device. You simply need to provide some basic information about your vehicle, driving history, insurance history and basic personal identifiable details. This will give you access to multiple insurance quotes where you can seek to identify your lowest rate.
Once you've decided on a quote you can then proceed to request more information about the auto insurance quote provided by connecting with the insurance broker who represents the rate shown. If the rate being offered is from an insurance company directly (also known as a direct insurer) you will be able to proceed with finalizing the purchasing of the policy online through their portal.
Comparing car insurance quotes online and shopping the market is really only available to Canadian's living in private insurance markets like Ontario. Learn more below on how shopping for insurance varies by province.
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There are two different types of car insurance offered in Canada. Depending on which province you live in, you will buy car insurance from either a public or private insurer.
Public Car Insurance
The British Columbia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan governments each run a public insurance system. Every resident in these provinces needs to purchase their basic car insurance from a Crown Corporation. The base policies typically include the minimum third-party liability ($200,000 in those three provinces) and accident benefits that compensate you if you’re injured. For further insurance coverage, residents of these provinces can purchase add-ons through the public insurance system or through a private car insurance company – typically, whichever offers the best car insurance rate.
Private Car Insurance
Car insurance in Alberta, Ontario, Atlantic Canada and the territories offer private car insurance solutions. The advantage is residents can compare the best car insurance rates for their entire policy, compared to those in provinces with public car insurance systems. However, when looking at the cheapest car insurance provinces, while BC is the most expensive, Ontario is right behind them.
Quebec car insurance runs on a hybrid system, which is part public, part private. Its public insurance system offers drivers accident benefits (compensates you if you’re injured), but not third-party liability. For all additional coverage, drivers need to purchase private car insurance.
There are three methods to access car insurance in Canada, whether buying from a private or public system:
- Directly through a Bank or credit union who offer an insurance product which may be backed by a more extensive international insurance provider (e.g. Aviva underwrites RBC insurance).
- Some insurance companies sell their own insurance products direct to the consumer.
- Independent insurance brokerages sell on behalf of multiple insurance companies.
You will then buy car insurance through one of three people*:
- A direct writer works for one bank/credit union or brokerage and only sells its own products to consumers.
- An insurance agent, who works independently but typically only sells on behalf of one insurance company.
- A licensed insurance broker works independently from a bank/credit union and sells on behalf of many different insurance companies – similar to how mortgage brokers work in Canada.
*In BC, MB, and SK, basic car insurance is only available the public insurance system, but you can purchase it from any of these providers.
If you live in BC and walk into a bank to renew your car insurance, you would deal with a direct writer. The direct writer would sell you a basic policy through ICBC. They could then offer additional coverage, like comprehensive and collision, either with ICBC or the bank's own insurance company. You choose whichever one makes most sense for you.
If you live in PEI and buy a new car at a dealership, the dealership would call either an insurance broker or agent to help you get insurance. A broker would offer you multiple quotes from various insurance companies, whereas the agent would typically just offer one quote for the company they work for.
Suppose you're looking for Ontario car insurance quotes. In that case, you could go to a bank and work with a direct writer or visit an insurance company and get one quote from an agent. Alternatively, you can call an independent brokerage and get the best car insurance rate from their extensive list of insurance companies.
Want to buy car insurance online?
Start here - we'll help you compare quotes from multiple providers and connect you with a verified partner to further discuss your policy needs.
The first thing you need to do is gather some required information:
- They'll ask for your personal information such as your address, phone number, and birth date. Essentially, what you'll find on your driver's license.
- Write down the details of your vehicle, including the make, model, year, VIN number. Also, be prepared to answer and how you plan on using it (e.g. commuting or pleasure), and a range of how many annual kilometres you'll drive (e.g. 10,000 or 20,000)
- Finally, know your driving history - when you got your driver's license (including learner's permits or graduated licensing levels), any at-fault accidents, and any tickets.
It's critical to provide accurate and honest information at the time you purchase your car insurance policy. Don't leave out any information such as an accident or speeding ticket, and don't lie about your address. Withholding any details and your policy could be cancelled, or your claim may be denied.
When you're ready to buy your new car insurance policy, you can do so in-person or over the phone – and you can also start by getting a quote online.
Once you've picked the best car insurance policies for you, the insurance company is responsible for providing you with a certificate of automobile insurance to keep in your vehicle. The certificate lists details about the insured vehicle, your coverage, and the period for which you are covered. If you ever lose this certificate, you can get a new copy at no cost to you by calling your provider. Many providers now offer digital pink slips.
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Matt Hands, Business Director of Insurance
With 6+ years of experience at Ratehub.ca, Matt’s focus has been on growing its newest business unit, Insurance. He is a thought leader and a valuable resource to respected publications across Canada. read full bio
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