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Know Your Rights: Auto Insurance

Understanding Auto Insurance & How Bad Credit Impacts It

If you drive a vehicle, you must have valid auto insurance to do so legally. Although auto insurance is such a big part of everyday life, very few people are aware of their rights when it comes to this insurance or the ways in which good and bad credit can impact their ability to obtain valid auto insurance or how much they will pay for it.

That’s because while your vehicle insurance is in force your insurance company can review your credit report at any time and makes increases to your insurance premiums if they deem you a risk – that could even mean refusing to renew your insurance coverage when it is due if they feel you might be insolvent.

Auto Insurance is Required by Law in Canada

Each province in Canada requires drivers to have auto insurance. However, the only mandatory type of insurance required is liability insurance. Liability insurance is designed to protect others from damage caused by a driver operating a vehicle. In Canada, liability insurance also includes coverage that protects drivers from financial losses due to medical costs and loss of income due to injury. The minimum insurance amounts required will vary by province.

It is important to note that in case of a collision, it is not only the driver who is responsible but also the owner of the vehicle. This means vehicle owners will need to ensure they only allow licensed and competent drivers to operate their vehicles.

Collision Coverage is Not Required

Collision coverage is insurance that provides financial compensation for vehicle damages that occur because of a motor vehicle accident or collision. The cost of this insurance depends on the driver, the type of vehicle, and many other factors. This insurance is not required to legally operate the vehicle, but many drivers prefer to have this coverage.

Penalties for Driving Without Insurance

Penalties for driving without valid insurance vary from province-to-province. For example, in Ontario, the penalty for driving without valid auto insurance varies between $5,000 and $50,000. In addition, you may have your driver’s license suspended (seized) for a set period or your vehicle impounded (removed and stored) if you are caught driving without valid insurance.

Furthermore, if you are found to be “at fault” in an accident that causes injury or death, you could be held personally responsible if you do not have insurance. This means you may end up having to pay the person’s medical costs and other costs out of pocket or run the risk of having your paycheque garnisheed by the court if you do not pay as required.

Some Provinces Offer Public Insurance Plans

Public auto insurance is offered in British Columbia, Manitoba, Quebec, and Saskatchewan. Each province uses different insurance models. Drivers in these provinces also have the choice of buying additional private insurance to enhance public insurance coverage. In all other provinces, insurance must be purchased from a private insurance company.

High Risk Drivers

Drivers who are considered “high-risk,” such as drivers who have a history of accidents or collisions, or those drivers who have had their policies cancelled due to unpaid premiums, may be refused insurance by an individual private insurance company. A high risk driver can even be someone with a bad credit history.

However, since holding auto insurance is mandatory, there are options for high-risk drivers, such as specialized insurance companies that are in business for just this purpose. There is also an association known as the Facility Association that makes insurance available to those who are otherwise unable to be insured. This association operates in provinces that do not offer public insurance to make sure that everyone can get the required coverage. This association does not offer insurance itself, but it works with specific insurance companies to arrange insurance coverage for at risk drivers.

Buying Auto Insurance

Depending on your province, you may be able to purchase third-party auto insurance from:

  • An insurance broker
    • Brokers sell insurance on behalf of different insurance companies and can give you the best rate from these companies. However, they do not represent every company. You have the right to ask your broker to provide you with the names of the companies they represent
  • An insurance agent
    • This is a person who typically only represents one insurance company (for example, Desjardins)
  • Directly from an insurance company
    • You may be able to buy insurance right from the company itself

Insurance may only be sold by a licensed agent, company, or broker

Auto insurance companies, agents, and brokers are not allowed to force you to consent to a credit check before providing an insurance quote but they are known to access credit reports after insurance is purchased and can penalize you with higher premiums if your credit rating is poor.

What You Need to Know About Auto Insurance

If you have private auto insurance, it is essential to remember that not all insurance companies are the same. This means that premium costs will vary between companies and level of insurance will vary as well. However, due to acquisitions in the insurance industry over the past few years there are now only a small number of companies offering vehicle insurance, resulting in fewer affordable choices for drivers.

Many people find it important to shop around. You may find slightly different costs if you contact several auto insurers. However, it is important that you compare the level of insurance coverage as well. One insurer may offer a lower cost, for example, but it also may not have the same comprehensive amount of coverage. That could leave some gaping holes in your coverage that you may, if an accident occurs, find you desperately needed.

There are some aspects of basic auto insurance policies that are standardized, but it is still important to read the terms of each policy when shopping for insurance.

Getting Help When You Need It

If you are dealing with bad credit and feel your credit report is making it tougher for you to obtain affordable vehicle insurance coverage it could be time to give us a call. We are here to listen – and to help. We can help you deal with any debt or delinquent bills you might have so you can rebuild your credit rating and qualify once again for a competitive insurance premium rate.

Please click on the FREE CONSULTATION button, below, or give us a call today. We are here to help!