How does Auto Insurance Work in BC (British Columbia), Canada: 2020 Guide

Want answers to- how does auto insurance work in BC? In this article, you’ll learn:

Did you just move to British Columbia (BC)? Perhaps you just got your first car, and now you’re wondering: How does auto insurance work in BC? Fortunately, this article covers the answer to that question. Every province across Canada has their car insurance coverage requirements. If you are a BC driver, the ICBC (Insurance Corporation of British Columbia), a public insurance company, will offer you mandatory basic insurance. You can also purchase additional coverage from private insurance companies. Is that all you need to know? Far from it! This article provides more explicit details on car insurance in British Columbia, including how you can get the best and cheapest rates. Let’s start! 

How does Auto Insurance Work in BC?- Introduction to the ICBC Autoplan Insurance

Auto insurance in BC is compulsory for everyone. You buy this insurance from the ICBC (Insurance Corporation of BC). ICBC’s Basic insurance provides accident benefits to anyone injured in a crash and covers others’ damage by the collision. Although every insurance policy in BC must include ICBC Autoplan basic car insurance, you can also buy additional insurance from private insurers.

What is the Difference between ICBC Basic Insurance and Private Insurance?

Now that you know a little about ICBC basic insurance and private insurance let’s differentiate the two. Shall we?

The ICBC has been operative since 1973 and has been the primary insurer of all BC drivers since then. Despite this, private insurance is still accessible. There are vital differences between these two types of coverage that you have to know before filing a claim, and we’ve explained them below:

ICBC Insurance

You can’t answer the question- how does auto insurance work in bc? without discussing ICBC. The ICBC insurance coverage is so prevalent because they are compulsory. Any British Columbia driver who wants to register or drive a vehicle must first get an ICBC insurance plan. The plan covers the bare minimum level of insurance.

The basic autoplan mandatory for every driver provides up to $200,000 coverage for bodily injury and property damage for third-party liability. This plan covers claims from third parties due to your negligence. These basic plans also offer underinsured motorist protection to cover medical bills caused by underinsured drivers.

Also, on medical coverage, the basic policy offers up to $150,000 of medical coverage for each person. After a hit and run accident, ICBC also offers up to $200,000 in coverage.

ICBC provides the first source of compensation after an accident, but you can still have private insurance policies that supplement your ICBC coverage.

Private insurance

Private insurance is nonmandatory in British Columbia, but there are several scenarios where you can benefit from additional coverage. You have the option to buy additional policies like comprehensive or collision coverage from a private insurance company or as an add-on to your ICBC basic policy.

Some of the unique benefits of private insurance are:

  • Private insurance is often more flexible regarding lower premiums versus higher deductibles. Sometimes, this coverage costs lesser than adding more ICBC coverage.
  • Private insurance offers some compensation that is not available through the basic ICBC plan. They cover everything from property damage like a laptop to the cost of your injured pet’s veterinary bills.

However, there are some disadvantages to private car insurance coverage:

  • Two insurers mean twice the trouble, and private insurance policies usually involve more paperwork. It also means you’ll have to pay two separate bills for insurance every month.
  • The most significant disadvantage is having to deal with the two insurers after an accident. You have to inform both insurers after an accident occurs even if you do not file a claim with one carrier, causing you additional stress.

What does the ICBC Basic Autoplan Insurance Cover?

The ICBC Basic Insurance has five primary coverage:

  • Compulsory third-party liability coverage – It protects an insured bc driver and/or car owner who is at fault for an accident that caused injuries, property damage, or death to another person. The medical benefits are restricted to $150,000 per person. 
  • Accident benefits –  It covers the cost of injury treatment, medical bills, and loss of wages or benefits.
  • Under-insured motorist protection – It provides coverage when the person who caused a crash does not have enough insurance coverage to cover the losses.
  • Hit-and-run and uninsured motorists protection – It provides coverage up to a limit of $200,000.
  • Inverse liability coverage – This is a coverage option in Canada where the law limits the loss recovery from the driver at fault.

What are the BC Vehicle Insurance Coverage Options?

There are several vehicle insurance coverage options. How does auto insurance work in bc with all these options? Let’s discuss them one after the other.

Vintage Car Insurance Coverage

If your vehicle is over 30 years old, with original components parts maintained close enough to the original condition, you may qualify for a vintage car insurance coverage or vintage plate. 

Collector Vehicle Insurance

You may qualify for collector car insurance coverage or collector plates if your vehicle is over 25 years old, in excellent condition, meets the original manufacturer’s specifications, and is only used for pleasure. Some limited-edition vehicles that are up to 15 years old may also qualify. Your collector plates make you eligible for considerably lower premiums as long as you have another licensed non-collector vehicle. If you have more than one collector vehicle, you can get a multi-collector plate.

Excess Special Equipment Endorsement

If you have permanently attached equipment to your vehicle such as a precious car stereo, a custom paint finish, etc. you should consider buying additional coverage for the permanently installed non-manufacturer’s equipment.

 The Excess Special Equipment Endorsement provides coverage for non-manufacturer’s equipment worth more than $5,000 or sound and communication equipment worth more than $1,000. The policy does not replace costs, but it increases the fundamental $1,000/$5,000 limits for stereo and other non-manufacturer’s equipment to the limit that you state.

OFF Road Vehicles Insurance Coverage (ORV Insurance)

An off-road vehicle is engineered for use off-highway and does not meet safety requirements for use on the highway. These are vehicles like snowmobiles, dune buggies, ATVs (all-terrain vehicles), snow vehicles, and other ORVs. You now need $200 000 third party liability coverage to use your off-road vehicle on forest service roads. 

Vehicle in Storage Coverage Policy

The vehicle in storage policy includes most of the same coverage provided by Collision, Comprehensive, Third Party Liability Coverage, Accident Benefits, and Extended Third Party Liability policies. This policy does not cover any vehicle used as living accommodation.

Other options include Insurance for a rental vehicle and Luxury Vehicle Coverage. A rental vehicle insurance policy and a Special Risk Own Damage Policy can protect you, respectively, if your car falls under this category.

How does Auto Insurance Work in BC?- A Brief Description of the Available Car Insurance Coverages

Insurance CoverageBrief Description
Public InsuranceAvailable
Necessary

Public insurance is the basic auto insurance coverage the British Columbia government gives(ICBC). It covers accident benefits, liability coverage, and uninsured motorist protection. 
Private InsuranceAvailable
Not Necessary

The auto insurance policies are put in place and sold by private insurers. However, they must still maintain federal and Provincial regulations.
Third-party Liability CoverageAvailable
Necessary

It covers damages caused by your negligence while driving, including property damage, injury, and death to others. Third-party liability insurance is the only compulsory insurance coverage across Canada. The lowest coverage for British Columbia is $200,000.
Direct Compensation-Property Damage (DCPD)Available
Not Necessary

If the accident happened due to another driver’s negligence, DCPD would cover the damage to your vehicle and its content. It will also cover the loss of use of your vehicle due to the damage. However, this coverage only takes effect if the accident happened in a province where DCPD is mandatory if the vehicles involved are insured with insurance companies licensed within that DCPD province.

Accident BenefitsAvailable
Necessary

It provides you with medical benefits if you sustained injuries in an accident, whether the accident was your fault or not. It covers your medical bills, recovery bills like income replacement, rehabilitation, and payment for attendant care services. 
No-fault insuranceAvailable
Necessary

No-fault insurance doesn’t absorb you of your fault. What it means is you have to deal with your insurer first for all your claims, irrespective of if you were at fault or not. Although, British Columbia allows a no-fault driver to sue the driver at fault for extra damages and costs that the accident benefits do not cover.
Uninsured MotoristAvailable
Necessary

It covers injuries you and your relatives sustain in an accident caused by an uninsured motorist. It can also cover damages to your vehicle if you can identify the uninsured driver.
Comprehensive InsuranceAvailable
Necessary

It covers any losses you may suffer from events other than driving like vandalism, attempted theft, and environmental damage. 
Collision InsuranceAvailable
Not Necessary

It covers damages incurred in a collision. It protects you if your car became damaged in an accident, whether you crashed into a stationed object or another vehicle.
Emergency roadside assistanceAvailable
Not Necessary

It covers you for sudden roadside emergencies like flat tires, towing, empty gas tanks, dead batteries, etc. Some insurance companies add roadside assistance to other coverages.
Specified PerilsAvailable
Not Necessary

It covers financial losses you incur from the specific perils selected for policy. The available coverages include fire, hail damage, lightning damage, wind or flooding damage, theft, earthquakes, riots, explosions, air crash damage, and any damage incurred during transportation relocation. 
All PerilsAvailable
Not Necessary

All Perils service combines your coverages with collision and comprehensive insurance. It also covers you if your employee, driver, your auto mechanic, or someone living with you steals your car. 
How does auto insurance work in BC?- Car insurance coverages. **

How Does Auto Insurance Work in BC When Driving for a Ride-Hailing Service?

ICBC will sell a blanket insurance certificate to Uber, Lyft, or any ride-hailing company you will be driving for. The blanket basic coverage is compulsory, and it covers accident benefits up to $1,000,000 third party liability.

This means the company’s basic insurance policy will cover your passengers from the moment you accept a trip through the app, driving to pick up the passenger, and conveying the passenger. You can purchase optional coverage as an add-on to extend your insurance coverage.

Factors that Affect British Columbia Car Insurance Rates

Driver’s Statistics

According to British Columbia’s historical data, young men under the age of 25 get involved in more car accidents than their female counterparts. Therefore, young men that fall into this age demographic pay more for car insurance coverage.

Type of Vehicle

The car’s manufacturer, model, year of manufacture, down to the engine size will affect your insurance rate. You will get lower insurance rates for vehicles with higher safety ratings, while expensive cars which are stolen more frequently will require higher premiums. The insurance company will also use the replacement and repair costs of your vehicle to determine its rate.

Driving Record

Your rates or any discount you will get on your rate will depend on your driving record, past claims, and whether the insurance on your other vehicles are canceled or unrenewed. 

Your Territory

If you drive in British Columbia, your territory or where you live will play a major role when determining your rates. Major cities like Vancouver with a high population density are prone to accidents, theft, and vandalism. Therefore, if you reside somewhere like this, you will pay more on your premium. 

Driving Activities

The more you drive, the more you pay for car insurance coverage. The distance from your home to work and your yearly kilometers driven will affect your premiums. If you can reduce the time you spend in your car through public transit or riding a bike, it can help you bring down your car insurance rate.

Type of Insurance Coverage

To drive in bc, you need mandatory coverages such as third-party liability, accident benefits, uninsured motorist protection, and direct compensation for property damage that you need to have. In addition, you can also add optional coverage provided by the ICBC or private insurers.  The most common optional coverages are comprehensive, collision, and largely third-party liability coverage.

How Does Auto Insurance Work In BC When You Renew Your Insurance?

You can’t renew your insurance online in BC yet; you would need to reach out to an insurance broker. The process is easy:

  • Go along with your current insurance papers or the renewal notice in your mail.
  • Present your current driver’s license or any other primary photo identification.
  • Make sure you are with a void cheque for automatic withdrawals or if you have new account information.
  • Pay all due bridge tolls.

How Does Auto Insurance Work in BC- Average Yearly Rates

How does auto insurance work in bc.
How does auto insurance work in bc?-average yearly rates. Source: ratehub.ca

8 Ways to Get Cheap Car Insurance Coverage in British Columbia

  1. Do proper research and shop around to compare rates. This will make it easier for you to judge which car insurance company will offer you and your vehicle the best value. 
  2. Stay with your present insurance company. Several auto insurance companies give loyalty discounts to drivers who stay active with them for years, especially those who include family members or multiple vehicles to their policy.
  3. Bundle your policies with the same insurance company. Your insurance company will likely lower your premiums if you use the same insurer for both your home and auto insurance coverage.
  4. Paying your premiums annually rather than monthly can bring down the total annual cost of your insurance.
  5. Increasing your deductible will reduce the money you pay on premiums.
  6. Maintain a clean driving record. Car accidents stay on your insurance record for up to ten years and can lead to higher premiums.
  7. If you’re new to driving, taking a driving course will save you money. Your insurer will see you as a safer driver and reduce your rates. 

How to Get a British Columbia Driver’s license

To become a fully licensed driver, you have to progress through a 3-step educational program under British Columbia’s Graduated Licensing Program (GLP). If you are relocating to B.C. with an existing driver’s license, you will have 90 days to switch to a B.C. driver’s license. 

The British Columbia driver licensing program operates this way:

Learner’s license (level one) criteria:

  • You have to be at least 16 years old and have parental consent if you’re below 19. If you fall into this category, you’ll also find 7 strategies on how to lower car insurance premiums for young drivers helpful.
  • Bring proof of legal name, date of birth, and signature. 
  • Undergo and pass a vision screening test.
  • Write and pass a written knowledge test about the rules of the road.
  • You are not allowed to consume alcohol and drive.
  • Pay the fees associated with the written test.

Novice licence (level two) criteria:

  • You must have gone through one year of practice with a supervisor.
  • Take the Class 7 road test at any driver licensing office and pass.
  • Pay an administrative fee.
  • You are not allowed to consume alcohol and drive.

Full licence (level three) criteria:

  • You must have a record of 2 years of safe driving (or 18 months, if you took an ICBC-approved driver training course)
  • Take a Class 5 road test at any driver licensing office and pass.
  • Pay another administrative fee.

The Driver’s Tests

Before you can get a BC driver’s license, you must be familiar with British Columbia’s driving rules. There is a free guide for this: Learn to Drive Smart. It’s available online in English and French; you can also get it from driver licensing offices in English only. 

  1. After studying the booklet, you’ll have to take a computer-based knowledge test. You can take knowledge tests in many languages. To pass the test, you must get the answers to at least 40 out of the 50 questions right. To prepare ahead of the test, you can take the practice test online. If you need a language translator for the test, you can check to the driver licensing office.
  2. After you take the knowledge test, you will also have to take a vision test. If you wear glasses, wear them while taking the test. 
  3. A year after passing the knowledge test, you can proceed to take the road tests. For the road test, you’ll drive your car with an ICBC driver examiner to how safe your driving is.
  4. After passing the first road test, you’ll get a driving license. The first license will be a novice license with some restrictions. You’ll use the novice license for 24 months, after which you can take another road test to receive a full license.
  5. If you fail any of the tests, you can practice and re-take it.
  6. Knowledge tests, road tests, and getting the driver’s license attracts fees.

Impaired Driving

How does auto insurance work in bc for an impaired driver?

BC has adopted a specific method of combating impaired driving to deal with the local legal system’s backlogs. With both provincial and federal laws, police officers can suspend an impaired driver’s license after he or she fails a sobriety test. Offenders will have to pay to reactivate their license, but there will only be court dates if the police proceed with criminal charges. If an impaired driver causes an accident or injury, it will be prosecuted to the law’s fullest extent using the Criminal Code. 

10 Points That Answer – How does Auto Insurance Work in BC?

The article has discussed and given many details on auto insurance in British Columbia. These are 10 points that can help you reaffirm these details:

  1. As said earlier, you can’t answer how does auto insurance work in bc without mentioning ICBC. That is because ICBC Basic Autoplan insurance is compulsory for all BC drivers. It makes sure that all BC drivers, including you, are protected with a basic insurance coverage level.
  2. You have the chance to purchase additional optional coverage. You can buy it from ICBC or other private insurance companies. Most people decide to get extra coverage beyond the ICBC basic coverage for peace of mind and full protection.
  3. If you bundle your policy with the same insurance company, you might be offered a discount on your rates.
  4. If you are purchasing a used car and don’t have the auto insurance and registration papers, ask the person selling the car to you to meet with an autoplan broker and do another vehicle registration. If you can’t reach out to the seller, you can contact ICBC to help you with a records search. Just write a signed letter to the address below explaining that you need to find the last registered owner. 

Include a photocopy of your purchase proof, e.g., Transfer Form, Tax Form, notarized statutory declaration, or a bill of sale form and a $7 cheque to ICBC. 

Address: 

Driver Testing and Vehicle Information
143 – 151 West Esplanade
North Vancouver, BC V7M 3H9

  1. If you caused an accident while driving a car that doesn’t belong to you, you can’t claim your insurance. The costs of a claim in BC are covered by the licensed and registered car owner’s insurance policy not by the driver’s policy. However, the crash will be on your driving record, not the car owner’s. This can impact your insurance policies and premiums.
  2. You may have to pay a deductible even when the crash wasn’t your fault. Deductibles are standard in the insurance world, and they make insurance policies affordable. When you purchase comprehensive and collision coverage, you will choose a deductible that you will pay before the insurance company pays for the rest of the repairs.
    If the accident is the other driver’s fault, and ICBC insures him, your deductible might be returned or waived. However, if the other driver is not insured by ICBC, you or your insurance adjuster will have to ask the other driver’s insurer to reimburse your deductible
  3. ICBC measures fault based on the available information. The law requires every BC driver to report an accident within a fair amount of time. If the other driver caused the crash and fails to report it, your insurance adjuster will call or send a letter to him or her before your claim appointment. After two weeks, ICBC will send a second letter requesting to do so within ten days. If he fails to report it during the stipulated time, ICBC will assess the fault based on the available information.
  4. If you have additional coverage with a private insurance company, report to them if you damaged only your vehicle in a crash. However, if there was any injury or another car was involved and damaged, you will have to report to ICBC as well. It may take a longer time to settle your claim in this case because an ICBC adjuster may have to negotiate with the other company’s adjuster.
  5. ICBC would decide if you contributed to a passenger’s injuries by considering the passenger’s age and abilities, conditions of the crash, and if you made sure the passenger wore seatbelts.
  6. If you want to drive for a ride-hailing company, the ride-hailing company will purchase a blanket insurance coverage from ICBC to cover your passengers.

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions on How does Auto Insurance Work in BC

One point has been reiterated throughout this article – every car you drive in British Columbia must have basic autoplan insurance.

If you just moved to BC and had no prior insurance claims, you can get a discount on your auto plan insurance. Just ask your insurer to write a letter about your claims record. You’ll take this letter with you when you purchase your insurance and voila! you get a safe driving discount.

There you have it. Now you can answer the question: how does auto insurance work in BC? Do you have more auto insurance questions? For more exciting car insurance content and tips, sign up for our newsletter below.  

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