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Can I Drive a Car in Ontario Without Insurance?


Simply, no, you cannot, not legally.

This is the same anywhere in Canada. If you have a vehicle on the road, you must have the minimum mandatory car insurance coverage to protect yourself from lawsuits and to ensure that anyone involved in an accident has access to funds for medical care and rehabilitation. Drivers caught without insurance face fines that start at $5,000 while complicating their ability to purchase insurance in the future.

The Most Important Reasons Why you Need Auto Insurance

speeding ticket

There’s no question that, in Ontario, car insurance is an expensive proposition. In the worst areas, even average drivers can pay over $2,000 annually. With a couple of speeding tickets or at-fault accidents, rates can soar sky-high. Those who may be new to the Ontario insurance market could ask if car insurance is even necessary, particularly at a cost that eats up over 5 percent of the average person’s disposable income. The answer to that question is yes, car insurance is required. It can be even more expensive to attempt to do without.

Penalties for No Insurance

Fines for operating a vehicle without insurance can reach $50,000. Drivers, owners, and those leasing vehicles can all be charged and fined. Licenses can be suspended and cars impounded for this infraction. This is just if a motorist is caught. Should an accident occur, an uninsured driver may be responsible for paying third party liability costs or may give up the right to sue if another driver is at fault. After a conviction for driving with no insurance, a motorist will be labelled a high risk driver, and obtaining further insurance will be difficult and expensive. Since insurance is required to register ownership and license a car, staying insured in the short term is much less expensive than the alternative.

Protection Against Liability

When a driver causes an accident in Ontario, the medical treatment and rehabilitation costs not covered by provincial insurance is paid for by the insurance company of each affected person. This is the no-fault portion of Ontario car insurance, sometimes called statutory coverage. However, the no-fault provisions do not mean that no one is to blame, or that lawsuits won’t be filed. The at-fault driver is exposed, or liable, for the damages they’ve caused. The minimum mandatory coverage required by the Ontario government includes third party liability insurance in the amount of $200,000. This amount will easily cover minor accidents, but more serious injuries could lead to settlements over $200K. At this point, the at-fault driver must make up any difference. For this reason, many Ontario motorists opt for additional liability coverage of $500,000, $1 million, or even $2 million in coverage.

Protection for Investment

Although a car is a depreciating asset, it remains a major expense for most. Auto insurance serves to protect that expenditure. Optional insurance coverage, particularly collision and comprehensive insurance, offset the risk of financial loss a driver faces after an accident. Repairs to a vehicle, when such coverage is in place, are billed to the insurer, minus the deductible amount that the owner pays. When the other driver is at fault, it’s possible that the deductible is paid by their coverage. Additional endorsements can protect even further. Vehicles under a few years old may qualify for replacement value coverage, so there is no shortfall between a settlement and the actual value of a vehicle.

How Insurance Fits in Car Ownership

Ontario has a private insurance system that blends no-fault coverage with traditional tort-based coverage. While medical, rehabilitation, and income losses are paid back by a driver’s own insurance company, regardless of which driver caused an accident, the responsible driver can still be sued by other parties for additional amounts besides immediate, post-accident care. This is what third-party liability insurance is all about, and the Province of Ontario requires a minimum of $200,000 protection for every car on the road.

This amount may not be enough to cover settlements or court-ordered awards. In the event of a settlement of $300,000, an at-fault driver with only minimum coverage could be responsible to personally cover the additional $100,000 owing. For this reason, most insurers suggest $1 million in third-party liability, and this is a common amount that motorists choose, though more coverage can be purchased for further security.

When a car is purchased in Ontario, ownership cannot be registered without proof of insurance particular to that car. Proof usually takes the form of the “pink slip” the driver receives from his insurer, which includes the vehicle identification number of the car in question. Insurance is unique to each vehicle. You cannot use a pink slip as proof of insurance for any other vehicle than the one identified, even if you have other cars listed on the same policy.

To purchase license plates and plate validation stickers, you must have the green Ontario ownership certificate, listing you as the owner. Since you cannot register ownership without insurance, you cannot buy plates without insurance.

Is Temporary Insurance an Option?

In Ontario’s insurance system, there is no temporary insurance product available, although you can purchase temporary 10-day vehicle permits. The shortest term for insurance is six months, though all insurers may not offer six-month policies. Typically, insurance is sold for one-year terms, though consumers have the right to choose to make payments monthly. Canceling a policy before the end of the year is subject to administration fees that may not be financially practical, particularly early in the policy’s term.

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