Believe it or not, marital status is not a risk determination factor across Canada. Despite claims by the insurance industry that statistics support the fact that married people have fewer accidents, some provinces feel that individual rights are violated by these generalizations. In particular, Nova Scotia has this rule in place since 2004.

In Ontario, however, insurance companies can still use marriage as a risk factor. While that seems unfair to many single drivers, it is, for now, part of the Ontario system. Here we examine common situations that car insurance consumers encounter that involve spouses and auto coverage.

How does marriage affect car insurance?

In Ontario, yes, it does. Insurance industry analysis points to marriage as a significant factor that reduces risk of accidents and careless driving habits. While statistics for both men and women reflect this, men see a greater effect. Once the knot is tied, the rate of aggressive driving activities reduces.

Statistics indicate that a greater sense of responsibility toward both spouse and children emerges. A personal sense of invulnerability may take a back seat to an increased sense of the reliance of others on the individual.

Accompanying that, family-friendly vehicles reflect a change away from status and performance toward space and convenience. Coupe and sport versions of vehicles give way to the four-door sedan and minivan. With the popularity of these models through North America and with parts easily available, repair costs for mainstream models often prove less expensive. Since insurance companies regard expensive repairs as risky, cars more affordably repaired also come with cheaper insurance prices.

Another insurance factor that isn’t directly related to marriage is the age of the drivers. Experience and clean driving are the strongest individual factors in lowering insurance costs. When you consider that the average age of first marriage is climbing since the 1960s, it’s incidental that drivers have more experience behind the wheel when they marry. This could make it appear that there’s a greater car insurance saving because of marriage, when in fact it’s a combination of age and marital status.

At the moment, there’s no sign Ontario will follow Nova Scotia’s lead, but since the provincial government is under pressure to control insurance costs, there’s a chance they will consider this option to transfer the auto insurance burden more evenly.

Can I stay on my parents’ insurance after marriage?

Yes, you can. In fact, marriage has no effect on car insurance policies to which your name attaches. It’s reasonable to expect that your name will be listed on the policy of any vehicle which you regularly drive.

Note the word “regularly” in the previous sentence. There are situations where you no longer need to be named on a policy, though you might still drive a vehicle.

In the case of a newly married couple choosing to reside with one spouse’s parents immediately after the honeymoon, there may be some arrangement with the parents’ car. Perhaps one newlywed drives it to work or the young couple takes the car shopping every Saturday morning. This is regular use, and the driving spouse should be named on the policy.

Consider a married couple who sometimes help out with older parents. Perhaps one spouse drives her parents out to dinner now and then, using the parents’ car. Maybe they drive to the cottage together, again in the parents’ vehicle. In this case, the use is occasional and random. This changes the need to name the child on the parents’s policy, particularly if the child and their spouse have their own vehicle. Similarly, the parents could use the children’s vehicle for the family vacation, provided the vacation and car use aren’t regular and recurring.

Do I have to add my spouse to my car insurance?

adding spouse in car insurance

There’s no requirement for adding a spouse to a car insurance policy. The names on the policy should reflect the car’s use, however. A non-driving spouse is not named on any car insurance policy. The same holds true if both spouses have driver’s licenses, but only one spouse drives the family vehicle.

In practice, one-car families usually have both spouses on a policy, since it’s reasonable that both will use the car. It’s not always the case, however, particularly in families with more than one vehicle. In that case, “his” and “hers” vehicles, each insured in one person’s name, are certainly possible.

Multi-driver, multi-car families have insurance discount options with most insurance companies. When more than one driver and/or more than one car insure with the same company, they may qualify for that company’s multi-line discount options, particularly when the family home has insurance with the same company. Auto insurance is a product of P&C insurers — property and casualty insurers. These companies, separate from life insurers, offer primarily home and auto coverage. Some may have extended product lines, including motorcycles, recreational vehicles and boats. Adding insurance to any of these through the same insurer may add discounts to all policies.

Can married couples have separate car insurance?

Yes. As illustrated in the question above, there are a number of situations where each spouse may have their own insurance. It’s important to understand that personal car insurance attaches primarily to the car, not the driver. The names of the drivers on a car insurance policy may blur the lines between policies that are truly separate, as do multi-line discounts with one insurance company.

No matter what the situation is, whether both spouses have vehicles and policies in their own name or combined on family policies, there’s no statutory requirement for a particular arrangement. Every couple remains free to make the choice that’s right — and affordable — for their situation.

Often this means that combined solutions are best, particularly when taking advantage of discounts offered by insurers. For example, teachers have access to discounts on auto insurance through the Edvantage program offered by the Ontario Teacher’s Federation. Families may benefit when the teacher spouse uses this discount and others become named drivers on the policy.