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Car Insurance in British Columbia

Whether you’re traveling from Vancouver to Tofino, driving on the Sea-to-Sky Highway, or heading up the Great Northern Circle Route the Coastal Circle, hitting the road in British Columbia can be a joy in itself. Unfortunately, driving in this big, beautiful province is also expensive.

Research shows you pay more for car insurance in BC than in any other province in Canada. However, don’t let this ruin your day. In this post, we discussed easy, practical, and effective ways that’ll help you lower your premium, whether you’re buying the basic plan from the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia or optional coverage from a private insurer.

We also listed all auto insurance coverages available in British Columbia,  explained how its insurance system works in straightforward language, and described the licensing process.

How Car Insurance in BC Works

Car insurance in Canada is mandatory, but coverage requirements vary from one province to another. In British Columbia, the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC), a provincial crown corporation, offers basic insurance to all drivers. In addition to the minimum coverage, drivers can purchase optional coverage from ICBC or private insurance companies.

For example, while the mandatory third-party liability coverage comes with a limit of $200,000, drivers can raise this amount to up to $5 million. Private car insurance companies in BC often provide better rates for optional coverages compared to ICBC, but we advise checking all options.

Which Auto Insurance Coverages Are Available in BC

Here is a brief description of available coverages in British Columbia.

  • Public Insurance – ICBC offers the mandatory basic auto plan, which includes third-party liability insurance, underinsured motorist coverage, and accident benefits.
  • Private Insurance – This includes car insurance policies sold by private insurers. In British Columbia, motorists can purchase optional coverage from private auto insurance companies or ICBC itself. If you are considering a private insurer for additional coverage, we recommend you first obtain a BC car insurance quote from several players and compare their offers.
  • No-fault insurance – BC has a tort insurance system. This allows the party that suffered the damage to sue the at-fault party. Nonetheless, the accident benefits portion works as no-fault coverage. This simply means that each driver will deal with their own auto insurer. Mind you, British Columbia allows a non-negligent driver to legally recover compensation from an at-fault driver for damages not covered by her accident benefits. This is one of the reasons why we recommend you to strongly consider obtaining optional auto insurance quote BC from private insurers or ICBC.
  • Third-party Liability Insurance – This coverage covers you in case you injure someone or damage their property while driving. Third-party liability insurance is mandatory in every Canadian province, though the minimum coverage amount varies. In British Columbia, it is set at $200,000.
  • Accident Benefits – It covers your medical costs in case you’re injured in an auto accident, regardless of who caused the accident.
  • Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist – It covers you and your passengers if you are involved in a no-fault accident with a motorist who doesn’t have insurance or insufficient limits. Uninsured motorist coverage includes hit-and-run scenarios. You’ll obtain this coverage even if you choose only the basic ICBC insurance quote.
  • Collision Insurance – It is a type of optional coverage that protects your car in the event of a collision with another vehicle or object, regardless of fault.
  • Comprehensive Insurance – This optional coverage provides protection against external events that are beyond your control and that may not be directly caused by another vehicle or driver, such as theft, riots, fire, vandalism, and natural disasters. You should consider adding comprehensive insurance to your car insurance quote in BC since it’s relatively affordable, and it provides much needed protection.
  • Specified Perils – This coverage provides protection against only those perils you selected. Perils for which coverage is generally available include theft, fire, riots, damage from lightning, hail, flooding, wind, explosions, earthquakes, and aircraft crash damage. This protection plan is a smart way to save if you do not need comprehensive insurance.
  • All Perils – It combines Collision and Comprehensive coverage and also provides protection against theft by an employee or someone living in your home.
  • Emergency Roadside Assistance – This coverage helps you quickly get back on the road when you’re stuck because of drained batteries, an empty gas tank, and flat tires, among other things.

Minimum Public BC Insurance

The British Columbia government requires all drivers to purchase the following minimum coverage from ICBC:

  • $200,000 in third-party liability insurance – It protects you in the event your vehicle causes injuries to another person or damage to someone else’s property. For claims in which bodily injury and property damage reaches the mandatory limit, the maximum compensation for property damage is set at $20,000.
  • Underinsured motorist protection (UMP) – This coverage offers protection when you’re involved in an accident with an at-fault driver who doesn’t have enough insurance coverage to pay for your property damage or medical expenses. The basic coverage from ICBC provides protection up to $1 million per person. For additional protection, you can purchase an extension from a private auto insurance BC company or ICBC.
  • Medical coverage – This is capped at $150,000 per person.
  • Hit-and-run coverage – It protects you in case you’re involved in an accident with an at-fault driver who has left the accident scene. The maximum amount under ICBC Basic Autoplan is $200,000.
  • Inverse liability coverage – This coverage sets in when you’re involved in an accident in parts of Canada and the US where local laws prohibit you from recovering losses from the at-fault driver.

How BC Auto Insurance Prices Compare to Other Provinces

In short, the answer is, “not well.” According to a recent report, British Colombians are paying the highest premiums in Canada.

The average annual car insurance premium in British Columbia is $1,680, nearly 14% higher than the next name on the list — Ontario ($1,445). Placed third and fourth on the list are Alberta ($1,251) and Newfoundland & Labrador ($1,132), while Manitoba rounds out the top five with an annual average premium of $1,080.

What Impacts Auto Insurance Prices in BC

Multiple factors influence auto insurance rates in British Columbia, such as the following:

  • Driver’s Demographics – Your age, gender, and marital status don’t impact car insurance premiums directly in BC. Instead, insurers rely on hard data. However, since historical data proves that men under the age of 25 have a higher accident rate than women, young men shell out more for auto insurance.
  • Where you live – Insurance companies in BC take your location into account while calculating your premium. As a rule of thumb, the higher the population density, the more you’ll pay. This is because a higher population increases the risk of accidents, theft, and vandalism.
  • Driving record – Auto insurers reward safe drivers and punish those with a poor driving record. Every at-fault accident or a traffic citation will put extra strain on your wallet.
  • Car make and model – If you are driving an expensive or high-maintenance car, your ICBC car insurance rate will go up. In general, insurers bump up rates for drivers with a new or sports car.
  • Driving activity – How much you use your car is a key factor in determining your insurance cost. Generally speaking, the more kilometers you put behind the wheel in a year, the higher your premium.
  • Insurance coverage – In British Columbia, every driver needs to purchase the mandatory coverage from ICBC. In addition, they can buy optional coverages, provided by both ICBC and private BC car insurance players. Naturally, the more optional products you add, the higher your cost of insurance.
  • Applicable discounts – An easy way to bring your car insurance cost down is by ensuring you tack on all available discounts. Low-kilometer discounts, anti-theft device discounts, safe driving discounts, and experienced-driver savings can all help shave precious dollars off your monthly bill.

How to Get The Cheapest Car Insurance in British Columbia

British Columbia drivers have it rough. They pay more for car insurance in BC than drivers of any other province. That said, not all is lost. Here are some tips that make sure you don’t pay a cent more than you absolutely have to.

Shop around

You are stuck with ICBC for basic insurance in British Columbia, like it or not. However, the same is not true for additional coverage. You can purchase an optional car insurance in BC from anyone — ICBC or a private insurer. So exercise your options and gather quotes from different insurers to find out who’s got the best deal.

Ask your broker about your rate class

ICBC uses a rate class system to reflect how drivers use their vehicles and adjust their premiums accordingly. However, there are different rate subclasses within an individual rate class as well. So share information regarding your vehicle usage with your broker or agent in detail. This will help ensure that you are put in the correct rate class and not charged extra.

Pay annually

You can save on car insurance in Vancouver and the rest of BC by paying annually rather than monthly.

Get the most out of discounts

You can pull down the cost of car insurance by taking full advantage of the discounts offered by insurers in British Columbia. Some of the common types of discounts available to drivers in this province are as follows:

  • Safety features discount – If your car comes with factory-installed safety mechanisms like autonomous energy braking and passive electronic immobilizers,  and they’ve been inspected by a qualified technician, you can easily qualify for cheap car insurance.
  • Low-kilometer discount – Do you log in less than 5,000 kilometers on your vehicle in a year? If yes, expect a substantial discount from ICBC and private insurers.
  • Seniors’ saving – ICBC offers discounts on policies where the vehicle is owned by a senior and used for pleasure.
  • Disability discount – If you have a disability, you might get a 25% off on your basic auto plan.
  • Fleet discount – ICBC and private BC car insurance companies hand out discounts to those who buy coverage for multiple vehicles.
  • Loyalty discount – If you stick with the same insurer for years, it might thank you with a dip in your premiums.

Increase your deductible

The deductible is the amount you pay in a claim before your insurer steps in. If you’re willing to raise your deductible, the insurer is likely to reply in kind by lowering the premium. However, think twice before you do this. Essentially, while the price may be lower, you’ll be getting a lesser coverage.

Maintain a good driving record

A pristine driving record can help you save on your Vancouver car insurance. On the other hand, car accidents and traffic violations stay on your insurance record for several years and can push the premiums up.

Getting a Driver’s Licence in British Columbia

Every new driver in British Columbia must pass through a graduated licensing program (GLP) to get a full license. The program comprises of three steps: learner’s license, novice license, and full license.

Before we look at the requirements for each level, it’s necessary to understand that you need a valid BC car insurance to drive in the province, regardless of the type of license you have. If you are caught driving without insurance, you might be slapped with a hefty fine.

Learner’s License (Level One)

You must be 16 years old or above to apply for a learner’s (L) license in British Columbia, and will have to clear a medical and knowledge test. Drivers with a learner’s license can drive only when a fully-licensed driver who’s at least 25 is accompanying them. Needless to say, the driven vehicle must be covered by a proper form of insurance in BC.

Novice License (Level Two)

After you hold the L license for 12 ticket-free months, you can appear for your first road test (Class 7). In case you clear the test, you will receive a novice (N) license, which allows you to drive a car on your own and has fewer restrictions compared to the learner’s permit.

Full License (Level Three)

After 24-months of ticket-free driving — or 18 months, if you participate in an ICBC-approved training program — you can take the second road test (Class 5). Joining a training program can also result in a cheaper BC insurance quote.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does it cost to insure a car in BC?

Car insurance is costlier in British Columbia than elsewhere in Canada. Drivers here pay $1,680 per year for auto insurance on average. That’s $235 higher than what Ontario drivers pay and $429 higher than Alberta’s average rate.

Is ICBC the only car insurance in BC?

In short, the answer is, “No.”

Every driver in British Columbia must buy the Basic Autoplan insurance from ICBC. However, if you want additional coverage, you can obtain a BC auto insurance quote from one of the many private companies operating in the province or ICBC itself.

What is the cheapest car to insure in BC?

According to recent research, Volkswagen Golf is the cheapest car to insure in Canada, followed by Volkswagen Jetta, Chevrolet Cruze, Toyota Camry, and Hyundai Elantra.

What do you need to insure a car in BC?

All you need to have is ICBC Basic Autoplan, which is mandatory for all drivers in the province. If you want, you can purchase additional coverage from ICBC or any private insurer.

Can you insure a car you don't own in BC?

In British Columbia, you’ll have to notify ICBC about the Principal Operator of your vehicle. That’s the person who’ll drive that vehicle most frequently, and usually, it’s the vehicle owner.

However, if you buy Road Star or Roadside Plus car insurance in BC, you’ll obtain coverage for vehicles that you rent but do not own in Canada and the US.

Sushant Mehta

Sushant Mehta is an auto insurance specialist and a contributor at Carsurance.net. He has a keen interest in insurance, tech, and finance, and he’s been covering these topics for several years now. When he’s not working, he likes to escape to the lower Himalayas with a book or two to keep him company.

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