Along with all the fun parts of picking out and purchasing a new car, there is a ton of paperwork you need to take care of to make sure you’re covered before you take your new ride off the lot.
One of the most important things you need to do is get your new vehicle insured. Yes, it’s another fee out of your pocket each month and can amount to thousands of dollars annually, but driving without insurance is a risky move which has steep consequences.
While driving without insurance isn’t an offence under the Criminal Code of Canada, it is considered a very serious offence at the provincial level which is why auto insurance is mandatory for all vehicles.
Each province and territory in the country requires every motor vehicle to be insured with at least third-party liability coverage. This insurance will protect you against the claims of another driver in cases like fender benders or more serious accidents. Ontario, however, has additional requirements including uninsured automobile coverage, statutory accident benefits coverage and direct compensation/property damage coverage. If you don’t meet these requirements, the penalties, though varied from province to province, are harsh.
This is why dealerships won’t let you drive your newly-financed vehicle off the lot until you prove you’ve updated your insurance to cover the new vehicle.
How do I get insurance and how much will it cost?
This process is a little different in every province. Some places have provincially run companies, such as Manitoba Public Insurance, Insurance Corporation of British Columbia or Saskatchewan Government Insurance. Other places, like the majority of the Maritimes and Ontario and Quebec, have multiple private insurance brokers which allows you to shop around and find the best rate before you commit.
Whichever broker you choose, you’ll need to have some paperwork with you such as your personal information, details about the car you’re wanting to insure (make, model, year, VIN number and how you plan to use it), and your driving history including your driver’s license number.
Many things affect the actual price of your insurance. First, the car that you’re insuring is a major piece of the puzzle when assessing your auto-insurance rate. Some cars are just cheaper to insure than others due to the cost of potential repairs, the assessed value and theft rates.
Your age will also affect the rate you pay. Generally speaking, you’ll pay less the older you get because as a young driver, you haven’t had the chance to prove you’re a good driver, build up a clean record and earn your discounts for each year you drive without having an accident.
Your gender and (oddly) your marital status are also taken into consideration when figuring out auto-insurance rates. It may seem discriminatory and not all auto insurers will use it as a deciding factor, but for those drivers looking for insurance in Ontario, you better get hitched because married folks are viewed as safer drivers and are given a discount on their insurance.
Of course your driving history is also taken into account. If you have a spotless record, you could potentially be saving thousands of dollars annually on your insurance compared to someone who is an accident-prone driver.
Traffic violations, such as speeding tickets or running a red light, will also raise your insurance rate, and, as mentioned above, the way you plan to use your vehicle can change your rates. For example, there will be a difference between commercial and personal car insurance because your perceived driving needs are different.
Yet another factor is the area in which you live. If your neighbourhood is prone to car thefts or break-ins, that can have a drastic effect on your insurance rate. Unfortunately, you’re viewed as more likely to have these things happen to you and insurers give themselves a buffer by charging you a higher rate up front.
On average, annual premiums across the country have a pretty wide range, varying from $642 in Quebec on the low end to $1,445 in Ontario and $1,680 in British Columbia at the high end, as of 2018 stats.
The best thing to do is visit your local insurance broker, tell them what kind of car you’re planning on purchasing and fill them in on your driving history. They can give you a breakdown of what you can expect to pay for insurance.
What happens if I get caught driving without insurance?
This is the million-dollar question, or rather the thousands-of-dollars question, as that is what you’ll likely have to pay if you get caught driving without insurance.
If you get pulled over, you must show your insurance paperwork to the police, which is why you should keep it in your glove compartment (or somewhere in your vehicle). If you don’t have it with you, some officers will give you 48-hours to get to the nearest police station and show them your insurance card, but they have absolutely no obligation to give you that extra time.
The penalty fee for driving without insurance in Canada ranges from $600 to as much as $25,000 or $50,000 in some provinces. In addition, your driver’s license could be suspended for up to one year and your car could be impounded for three to six months. Depending on where you live, you may also be handed a victim fine surcharge in addition to the fine imposed by police and the court.
Here’s a province by province breakdown of what you could face if you’re caught driving without insurance across Canada:
Driving without insurance in British Columbia
If you’re caught driving without insurance in B.C., the fine is around $600. If you have insurance but didn’t have it in the vehicle with you when you were pulled over, you will likely still pay an $81 fine when you present your insurance information at a later time.
Driving without insurance in Manitoba
It is a traffic offence under the Motor Vehicle Act and the fine varies from $5,000 up to $25,000 with a suspension of your driver’s license. Police may also impound your vehicle.
Driving without insurance New Brunswick
You could face a fine amounting to anything between $500-$2,000, potential jail time and suspension of your license.
Driving without insurance in Newfoundland and Labrador
In Newfoundland and Labrador, you will get charged when driving without insurance. The first offence results in a fine of around $2,000-$4,000 while the second offence could be as much as $5,000.
Driving without insurance in Nova Scotia
Penalties are similar in Nova Scotia, with first-time offenders paying fines of $2,000-$4,000 and thereafter an increased amount of $3,000-$5,000. Your license may also be suspended and your vehicle could be impounded for up to 90 days.
Driving without insurance in Ontario
The first time you’re caught driving without insurance, the fine ranges from $5,000-$25,000, and after that, it increases to $10,000-$25,000. In addition, a 25 per cent surcharge may be added which you have to pay to the court and your driver’s license may be suspended for up to one year.
Driving without insurance in Prince Edward Island
Fines here range from $600-$2,000.
Driving without insurance in Quebec
If you’re caught without insurance in Quebec, you could face fines of a few hundred dollars, but if you’ve caused an accident which damages property in excess of $500, you may lose your license.
Driving without insurance in Saskatchewan
For driving without insurance in Saskatchewan, you’d face a minimum fine of $1,000 and could also have your license suspended.
Driving without insurance in the Northwest Territories
The fine ranges from $500-$5,000 and you could also spend some time in jail.
Driving without insurance in the Yukon
Yukon is quite tough on its uninsured drivers—you could face a fine around $400-$2,000, could spend up to 90 days in jail and they may impound your car for 30 days. And that’s just for a first offence. If it happens again, the fees go up to $750-$2,000 and the impound time increases to 60 days. For a third offence, they will impound your vehicle for 120 days in addition to fines and jail time.
Driving without insurance in Nunavut
You could be fined anywhere from $5,000-$50,000, have your license suspended, your vehicle impounded and be listed as a high-risk driver.
It is difficult to defend yourself if you are charged with driving without insurance. You can’t exactly make the argument you didn’t know your vehicle has to be insured, since it’s mandatory in all provinces and territories in the country, so it’s best to just face up to your penalties, pay your fines, and make sure you insure your vehicle so it doesn’t happen again.
What are the long-term implications of driving with no insurance?
Getting charged with something as severe as driving without insurance will impact your driving records going forward. This type of offence stays on your record for a few years and will be a red flag for future insurers who have access to your driving record and violations.
It’s almost certain your insurance premiums will go through the roof, which may mean you cannot afford to insure your car or you may be denied coverage altogether.
If you happen to be the cause of a fatal collision while driving uninsured, you could face a criminal charge and you could be charged with violating your province’s motor vehicle act, dependent on each region’s legislation.
In addition, if you are in an accident while driving without insurance, you are on the hook for all of those costs, which could be a financial nightmare that hangs over your head for years, and maybe even decades (depending on the extent of the damage).
In short, paying for insurance can be expensive, but it’s way better than getting a massive fine (or even going to jail) for driving without it. Insurance costs should be calculated into your overall car budget to begin with. If you budget accordingly, it shouldn’t be too much of a financial hit when it comes time to cough up the cash to make sure you are protected on the road.