How to Buy Car Insurance
If you want to own and operate a vehicle in Canada, you need to have a valid car insurance policy in place at all times. Car insurance varies across Canada – each province has their own rules about how car insurance works and what coverage you need. However, the different ways you can purchase it and the information you need to give your provider is generally the same, no matter where you live.
Types of Car Insurance
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. These “basic” policies typically include the minimum third-party liability ($200,000 in those three provinces) as well as 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
All other provinces and territories only offer private car insurance solutions. The advantage to this is residents are able to compare the best car insurance rates for their entire policy, compared to those in provinces with public car insurance systems who are all required to pay the same base rates.
Car Insurance Providers
There are three main car insurance providers in Canada:
- Banks/credit unions, who sell on behalf of the public car insurance system and/or operate their own insurance company.
- Insurance companies, who sell their own products, and sometimes also sell on behalf of the public car insurance system.
- Independent insurance brokerages, who sell on behalf of multiple insurance companies, including the public car insurance system.
You will then purchase your car insurance through one of three people*:
- Direct writer, who works for one bank/credit union or brokerage and only sells its own products to consumers.
- Insurance agent, who works independently but typically only sells on behalf of one insurance company.
- Licensed insurance broker, who works independently from a bank/credit union and sells on behalf of a number of 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 types of providers.
Three examples of how this works: 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, then offer additional coverage through either ICBC or the bank’s insurance company – and you could choose whichever one made 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 insurance agent to help you get insurance on the car. A broker would offer you multiple quotes based on multiple insurance companies, whereas the agent would typically just offer one quote for the company they work for.
If you live in Ontario and want to renew your car insurance, you could either go to a bank and work with a direct writer, go to an insurance company and get one quote from an agent, or visit an independent brokerage and get the best car insurance rate from the long list of insurance companies they work with.
How to Buy Car Insurance
The first thing you need to do is gather some information that will be asked of you:
- Your personal information.
- Details about your vehicle including the make, model, year, VIN number, and how you plan to use it.
- Your driving history including driver’s license number, when you got your driver’s license (including learner’s permits or graduated licensing levels), any at-fault accidents, and any tickets.
It’s important to provide accurate information at the time you purchase your car insurance policy, because your policy could be canceled, or your claim may be denied, if your information is inaccurate, or even if you left something out by accident.
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. We shop the most competitive insurance companies to bring you the best car insurance rates in Canada. Enter your postal code, click “Get Quote” and we’ll give you the best car insurance quotes available in your area.
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 vehicle that’s insured, the coverage you have on it and the period of time which you are covered. If you ever lose this certificate, you can get a new copy at no cost to you.
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