If you have to renew your car insurance any time soon, prepare for a possible rate increase on your renewal notice.
More than two dozen private insurance companies in Ontario have received permission from the provincial regulator to raise premiums in the coming months, and industry experts say the trend is likely to continue.
“I wish I had good news for consumers, but everything I’m hearing is that rates are increasing,” said John Shmuel, managing editor of insurance and financial website Ratesdotca.
“I really don’t know if many insurance companies right now are going to be able to keep their car insurance rates flat.”
Along with inflation rates that are the highest in decades, higher car insurance premiums would be another hit to the wallet of Ontario consumers. But the good news is there are ways to reduce what you pay.
Pandemic driving slowdown over
Over the last two-and-a-half years, car insurance companies processed fewer claims compared to the pre-pandemic period. Lockdowns and the shift to working from home meant fewer drivers on the roads and fewer accidents. Companies responded by decreasing rates, keeping them flat. Some even provided rebates to customers.
The Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario (FSRA), which oversees the car insurance market and is responsible for evaluating and approving any rate hikes, approved zero rate increases in 2020 and only one in 2021 — for 0.29 per cent. But this year, the FSRA has approved 31 rate increases, according to a public database on its website.
Companies are seeking to raise rates now because their costs are increasing as driving rates return to normal, Shmuel said.
“Anywhere you look in the system, there’s just more costs,” he said.
Inflation is driving up the cost of new, used and rental cars as well as car parts. Lingering supply chain issues are making it hard to get parts on time.
Some of the reasons for rising costs for insurance companies pre-date the pandemic, Shmuel said, such as how the increasingly complex design of cars has made it more difficult to repair them.
A recent spike in auto thefts across the Greater Toronto Area could also put upward pressure on rates as insurance companies pay out more to replace stolen vehicles, Shmuel said.
Mary Kelly, a professor of finance at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont., said the cost of providing health care to accident victims, such as rehabilitation and disability benefits, is another factor driving up costs for insurance companies.
“We know medical costs always increase [so if] the likelihood that you’re going to be in an accident is greater because we’ve gone back to pre-pandemic levels, then those costs are also going to increase,” Kelly said.
Kelly said whether or not your rates will increase depends on the company you get your insurance from, where you live and other characteristics that factor into your premium such as your claims history and the type of vehicle you drive.
Ways to reduce your rates
Experts say there are a number of things you can do to ease the pain of rising insurance rates.
Shop around and compare rates. Unlike other provinces across Canada that have a single, public insurer, Ontario has dozens of companies that offer car insurance. This makes it possible to compare plans and prices. Speak to an insurance broker or check out a price comparison website to find a rate that works for you. Kelly recommended young drivers seek out plans that charge based on the amount they drive — something that can lead to lower rates in months where they don’t get behind the wheel too often.
Choose coverage that fits. Drivers of older cars with little market value may want to consider not purchasing optional add-on coverage like collision and comprehensive coverage. For example, if you own a 15-year-old car that’s worth less than $500, it might not be worth it or even possible to replace it after an accident.
Bundle your insurance. Companies will often offer discounts to customers who purchase home, auto and/or renters’ insurance from the same company.
Increase your deductible. The deductible is the amount you pay for repairs or replacement before an insurance company starts paying out a claim. Most companies offer the choice of paying a $500 or $1,000 deductible. Choosing to go with a higher deductible will lower the premium you pay monthly, which could lead to big savings for drivers who go a long period of time without making a claim.
Install winter tires. Many insurance companies will offer a discount to drivers who purchase and install winter tires.
Check if you qualify for an affinity programs. People can often get access to discounts through organizations, associations, non-profits and clubs