Insuring a Vehicle in Canada

General information on the types of Canadian vehicle insurance available: details on insuring a vehicle (options from third party to all risks) and making a claim in Canada...

Car insurance is required by law in Canada and all drivers must have third party liability insurance. The minimum amount of liability insurance in the country is $200,000, except in Quebec where it is $50,000. Additionally, every province and territory in Canada (except Newfoundland and Labrador) requires drivers to have insurance coverage for their own medical expenses and any loss of income which may be incurred as a result of driving related injuries.

Types of Car Insurance

  • Third party liability: compulsory in Canada and provides insurance cover up to a certain amount which will cover any damage (due to the fault of the insured driver) to any other party's property, or to pay compensation for a third party's personal injury and/or death.
  • Collision: covers damage to the insured's own car, should an accident occur which is their fault
  • Comprehensive: protects against theft and vandalism as well as collision and third party liability

Car Insurance Companies

In provinces and territories across Canada except British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, car insurance is provided by private companies. In BC, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, it is provided by government-run insurance companies (for the statutory insurance coverage) and private and government insurance companies (for additional insurance requirements). In Quebec, a government-run system administers claims relating to personal injury or death for Quebec residents, while private car insurance companies deal with damage to property. Regulation regarding car insurance is set by provincial laws, government agencies and some federal laws. Provincial car insurance rates and regulations are regularly reviewed by provincial boards and federal and provincial regulators. The Insurance Bureau of Canada has more information on theĀ car insurance requirements in each Canadian province and territory The General Insurance OmbudService (GIO) is an independent federal dispute resolution service.

Insuring a Foreign Vehicle

All imported cars must meet strict safety standards, comply with the Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations and be officially registered. Visitors and tourists who bring their vehicles into Canada temporarily do not have to comply with the Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations. This exemption applies if the vehicle is used exclusively by the visitor or tourist. The vehicle cannot be sold in Canada and cannot remain in the country any longer than the time specified on the visitor's visa or work permit. US car insurance is accepted in Canada for people travelling from the US on a tourist visa. Most US car insurance policies offer an option to include insurance in Canada, as well as the US. Insurance for other foreign vehicles for drivers from outside the US must include an International Insurance Policy which covers Canada. US insurance companies offer insurance to international drivers in the US and Canada but premiums are often higher and an international driving licence is required. It is hard to find any Canadian insurance companies which will provide insurance for visitors to Canada driving a foreign vehicle.

Insuring a Canadian Vehicle

Car insurance is expensive in Canada and many companies will not insure people without a full (G) Canadian driving licence. To obtain car insurance in Canada it is necessary to:
  • Have a Canadian driving licence. Most Canadian car insurance companies will only insure drivers with an international licence in exceptional circumstances.
  • Provide name, address, driving licence details and driving record
  • Provide information about the vehicle: its make, model, mileage and registration number
  • Provide details about past and current insurance providers
  • Provide an official letter from any previous insurance company detailing previous insurance records and any no claims bonuses which may be taken into account by the insurance company
Generally, more experienced drivers have lower insurance rates. Insurance companies are not obliged to take into account any information from foreign insurance companies, for example no-claims bonuses. It is often possible to purchase insurance over the telephone, although some companies may demand that official documents are signed before coverage can begin. Once insurance has been purchased, the company will send the relevant documents to the insured driver's address. This should include a wallet-sized pink card which is the "proof of insurance". The card should be kept with the driver at all times when driving. If stopped by the police without the "proof of insurance" card a fine may be incurred; this can also affect future insurance rates.

Making a Claim

In the event of an accident or damage to a vehicle, the insured person must:
  1. Contact the car insurance company as soon as possible. Some companies specify that this must be done within seven days. By law, insurance companies must be informed about any collision that has been reported to the police, or that is going to be claimed for under the insurance policy.
  2. Provide the insurance company with all the necessary details. Most insurance policies require that a written declaration stating "proof of loss" must be made within 90 days of the accident.
  3. Wait until the insurance company has agreed to pay for repairs before going ahead with them. Some insurance companies have preferred repair shops.
  4. Get an official receipt for repairs, as this may be required by the insurance company to claim back any costs.
When making a claim against another driver, contact their insurance company personally and as quickly as possible (usually within seven days).