Auto insurance quotes 101: Your guide to getting a car insurance quote

When is the best time to get a car insurance quote? You might look for quotes to switch your car insurance at renewal, or when major life events happen, since big changes like moving houses or getting a new car can affect your insurance rates. Like many, you may just want to find a better deal. Or maybe you’ve bought your very first car and aren’t sure where to start. The good news is, these days if you need a quote for auto insurance it’s faster and easier than ever. We’ve got you covered with this guide to getting car insurance quotes, wherever you’re at.

How does car insurance work in Canada?

In Canada, the way you quote for car insurance will be different based on where you live. Provinces have either private or public auto insurance – and one even has both!

Getting a quote in provinces with private car insurance

Ontario, Alberta, Québec, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick all have private insurance. Private insurance companies compete against each other for your business. As a customer, you can shop around for quotes and choose which one is most in line with your needs. This means comparing coverages and customer service – and who’s got the best price, of course.

Québec’s car insurance plan is a hybrid plan between public and private insurance. The Société de l'assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ) public insurance plan covers all Quebecers for personal injury if they are in an accident. Everything else – like coverage for damage to your actual car – has to be bought from a private car insurer (like the provinces listed above).

Getting a quote in provinces with public car insurance

British Columbia, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan have what’s called public insurance. Why is it public? Because the provincial governments run it, along with other services. Basic coverages are government regulated and must be bought through the provincial plan. But, you also have the option to add extra coverages the basic plans don’t offer.

Live in one of these provinces? Here’s where to go to look for more info about how to quote for and buy your car insurance as well as any add-on coverages:

  • British Columbia: ICBC
  • Manitoba: MPI
  • Saskatchewan: SGI

How do you get a car insurance quote in Canada?

There are a few ways to get an insurance quote for your personal vehicle in Canada – often it is through a direct writer, or through a broker. What you choose will depend on your insurance needs.

Get a quote online or over the phone with a direct writer

A direct writer is an insurance company that underwrites and sells its own policies. They also employ their own insurance agents who are experts in everything from coverages to billing, and they’ll have an internal claims department. When you’re speaking with an agent, you’re speaking directly to the insurance company.

A driver who wants to save time and money might consider quoting online for car insurance through a direct writer. If your needs aren’t complex or you’re one of the 90% of drivers who only need a quote for one car, getting a direct quote online could be your best bet.1 Unlike calling in for a quote, doing one online is near-instant. By entering a few key pieces of information, an insurer can securely pull your data without you having to enter the info yourself. Quoting online is fast, easy and only takes minutes!2

Of course, many insurance companies do give auto quotes over the phone (unless it’s a direct digital insurer). Just dial in and get your car quote with one of the company’s licensed agents. If you want to buy the policy, you can do so with the agent.

With many insurers, you have to call in to purchase after getting a quote online. Other companies have state-of-the-art platforms that let you purchase online right after quoting – no phone call needed! In general, it only takes about 24 minutes to quote, buy and get fully insured from start to finish when you do it all online.3

Did you know? Online insurance is becoming more and more popular, since it’s so easy to use! In fact, 52% of current home and/or auto policy holders have gotten an insurance quote online in the past.4 But it’s not just easy to quote and buy. After purchase, just set up your online account in a few simple steps. With 24/7 access to your account, you can get your documents immediately, update your coverages and payment method when you need to, and even file a claim online.

Get a quote with a broker

Connect with an insurance broker if your insurance needs are more complex. Brokers are helpful if you need more than just your basic car and home, condo or tenant insurance quotes – like if you run a business from your home or own vehicles like classic cars, RVs, ATVs or snowmobiles and even boats. They work with a number of different companies who pay them commission, and they can source your insurance from the places that have the right products for you.

Heads up! There are situations where a personal car insurance policy won’t cover you. If you’re insuring a commercial vehicle or fleet, you’ll need some kind of commercial policy. The same goes if you use your car for business, ridesharing or deliveries (including food delivery). Renting your car out using a car sharing service isn’t usually covered under most policies, either. If you drive a company car, your workplace likely takes care of the insurance. But, you might want to let your insurer know you’re driving it anyway. Electric cars can usually be covered under a personal policy.

Beware of car insurance seller scams!

Insurance seller scams are on the rise across the country. Scam artists will pose as a fake broker – or ‘ghost broker’ – offering really cheap insurance rates online or in the newspaper in order to prey on innocent drivers. They often target seniors and people who are new to Canada.

These scammers take money for insurance upfront (usually in cash or money transfer), provide fake proof of insurance and then disappear. Put simply, they ‘ghost’ you. So, you’re not only left without insurance, you’ve probably lost a lot of money – but that’s not all. If you get into an accident you won’t have coverage. You could even be charged by police for not having proper insurance. And you could also have a lot of trouble getting insurance down the line.

This is just one of the ways fake brokers try to take your money. Learn how to spot all the signs of insurance seller fraud before it happens. You can also visit your provincial regulator’s website to view a list of licensed insurers. In Ontario, FSRAO will have that list. Car insurance fraud costs Canadians well over $1 billion every year.5 You can be part of the solution by knowing how to prevent other types of car insurance fraud, too.

What do you need to get a car insurance quote?

When you’re getting a quote for car insurance, an insurer needs to know as much as possible about you and your car. You should have the following info handy:

  • Personal info, like your address and date of birth
  • Driver’s license numbers and dates licensed for every driver in your household
  • Years of prior insurance
  • Vehicle details including the year, make and model of all vehicles (if you’re doing a multi-vehicle quote)
  • Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), even if it’s a new car you haven’t bought yet
  • Coverages and deductibles for all cars on your current policy
  • The distance of your daily commute and the distance you drive annually for each car
  • Out of province experience letters and driver’s abstracts (if applicable)
  • Details for any tickets from the last three years, or accidents in the last ten years
  • Who will be driving each car

Did you know? Without your personal information and vehicle details, insurers can’t properly calculate your auto insurance premium. Some places will give you a quick car insurance quote with no personal information, but it will only be an estimate.

What coverages should you choose when getting a car insurance quote?

Imagine all the things that could happen involving your car. From accidents that cause damage and injuries, to hitting a telephone pole or even a deer, to a tree branch crushing the roof of your car, we’ve seen it all. And the fact is, repairs and medical bills can cost a lot of money. Auto insurance exists to help you financially so you can get back to good if certain things happen to you, to others and/or to your vehicle. That’s why you need to make sure you choose the right coverages starting at square one so you’re protected from the get-go.

Mandatory car insurance coverages

  • Liability. Sometimes called third-party insurance, liability coverage protects you and other drivers financially in case of an accident where you’re at fault. It covers damages, injuries or losses experienced by another driver or individual.
  • Accident Benefits. Your auto insurance policy comes with accident benefits that include medical care and income replacement. These benefits are available if you or someone listed on your auto policy is injured in a car accident. (Required in all private provinces except QC and Newfoundland and Labrador.)
  • Direct Compensation Property Damage. Many provinces require you to have DCPD. With DCPD, a driver is compensated directly through their own insurer for no-fault car accidents. This means you don’t have to go after the other driver’s insurer to get them to pay you for damages to your vehicle.
  • Uninsured Motorist Coverage. Uninsured motorist protects you if you’re involved in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver. (Required in ON, N.B., N.S., and P.E.I. only.)


Optional car insurance coverages

  • Collision. If you hit another vehicle or object (like a street sign or fire hydrant) or roll your vehicle, Collision will cover you for the cost to repair or replace your vehicle.
  • Comprehensive. Comprehensive has your vehicle covered for damage from other things like falling objects, vandalism, fire, theft, lightning, windstorm and earthquake.
  • All Perils and Specified Perils. Although they’re a less common choice among drivers, you also have the option to select All Perils or Specified Perils.

Did you know? If you’re one of the 37% of car owners leasing or financing a vehicle, you’ll probably be required to have All Perils or both collision and comprehensive coverages, and a minimum deductible, too.6

  • Accident Forgiveness. Clean record for the last 6 years? Your rate won’t be raised due to your first at-fault accident. You’ll be able to add this again if after another 6 years you’ve got a clean record. (Keep in mind that policies will still be subject to any overall rate changes or increases.)

Heads up! If you change your insurance, your new provider will rate for that at-fault accident – your accident forgiveness doesn’t carry over.

  • Ticket Forgiveness. Protect your squeaky-clean history and your rate. When it comes time for renewal, your minor ticket won’t impact your premium.
  • Rental car bundles. These two coverages are often packaged together. They can also be bought separately.
    • Non-Owned Car Coverage. This covers you for the loss or damage to a borrowed or rented vehicle. Sometimes this could be included as part of a rental car package.
    • Transportation Replacement. This provides a rental car after an at-fault collision or during a comprehensive claim (that’s not theft). The rental car must be comparable to your own. (Unavailable in Québec).

Did you know? If you need to rent a U-Haul or moving truck, your auto policy probably doesn’t cover it. Ask your insurer what is and isn’t covered when it comes to renting heavy vehicles.

Other optional coverages

Here are a few more add-ons you might consider:

  • Depreciation Waiver. A depreciation waiver (sometimes called new/used vehicle replacement) is an optional endorsement. With it, your car insurance policy will replace your vehicle without any adjustment for depreciation.
  • Roadside Assistance. You’ll be reimbursed up to a certain amount for some emergency expenses.
  • Hit-and-Run Deductible Waiver. Your deductible will be waived up to a certain amount in the event of a hit-and-run. It must be reported within a reasonable time (like a day).

If you’re ever in doubt about coverages, it’s best to review your policy with your insurer directly to find out exactly what coverage you need.

How to compare car insurance quotes

On average, people research three insurance companies when they’re shopping around for car insurance.7 But, it might be worth checking out a few more with all the choices that are out there. By doing multiple auto quotes with a bunch of different companies you’ll find the best deal and the right coverage for you. Here are some tips to help with your auto quote comparison:

  1. Review your current insurance policy (if you have one). Reviewing your auto policy will give you a chance to re-evaluate what you have now. Plus, you can flag coverages you could be missing or limits you want to raise.
  2. Provide identical and accurate information. Be consistent with the details you provide in your quotes. The great thing about online insurance is you don’t have to spend hours double-checking if your quote info is correct – they do the work for you by pulling your data directly! If you prefer to quote over the phone, keep handy a list of all the info we listed earlier to speed up the process.
  3. Select the same coverage across the board. The coverages and limits requested on every quote you get should be the same, so you know you’re comparing apples to apples (unless there are things you want to change).
  4. Find out what is and isn’t covered by each policy. It’s normal to see exclusions like general wear and tear, tires and mechanical breakdown. But, companies can also deny certain other important coverages based on their own rules. Carefully review what is and isn’t included so there are no surprises.
  5. Verify the claims process. A seamless, struggle-free claims process should be top of mind when you’re looking for insurance. Investigate how each company’s claim process works. If you have to file a claim, you want it to be managed with care.
  6. Read up on their customer service. How does each company treat their customers? You want to be helped and heard when you’re dealing with a stressful situation, like roadside assistance or a claim. Check out Trustpilot for reviews to help you choose.
  7. Make sure the quoted premium is accurate. Some providers only give you an estimate. Be sure you’ve got the correct price so there's no sticker shock when you get the real premium at purchase time (or even after you buy).

How to save money on your car insurance quote

Every car owner must have car insurance – but that doesn’t mean you have to be stuck paying more than you should. When comparing car insurance quotes, you should look for ways to maximize your savings so you can put your money where you really want it (like finally buying your dream home!). Here are the best ways to get the lowest rate on your car insurance:

  • Bundle with your home insurance. If you package your home and auto insurance together as a bundle, you’ll often get a discount on both. Bundling also makes things easier for you since you’re only dealing with one insurer.
  • Take advantage of multi-vehicle savings. Insuring more than one vehicle with the same insurer could qualify you for a multi-vehicle discount.
  • Be claims free for nine years and ticket free for three. We know that not every accident is preventable. Neither is every incident (like a hailstorm that could damage your car). But, the easiest way to save money is to stay accident- and ticket-free. It’s simple – driving safely saves you money on insurance.
  • Look for group and association or professional discounts. You could be eligible for exclusive savings on car insurance through your employer, union, association, or university.

Did you know? 34% of insured drivers have a university degree, and 14% have a postgraduate degree.8 Check if an auto insurance discount is offered for graduates or students of Canadian universities.

  • Review and update your coverage. Reviewing your policy often will ensure you have the best protection and that you’re only paying for coverage you need. For example, if you have an older car and won’t be replacing it if something happens, you might consider removing collision.
  • See if there’s a vehicle partnership. Certain insurers pair up with auto brands to offer insurance savings if you drive one of their vehicles. This could mean more savings for you.
  • Consider usage-based insurance. If you’re driving less than you used to, think about switching to usage-based insurance. It charges you according to how much you drive, and rewards you for driving safely.
  • Other discounts. Insurers could also offer a senior’s discount or a winter tire discount (in Ontario).

How do you decide which car insurance quote to choose? A good price is what usually clinches the deal, but it’s important to ensure the company you go with has the right coverage for you alongside top-notch customer service and claims experiences. If you have any questions, ask an agent or broker for help.

1 Source: Sonnet book of business and Sonnet website data (2022)
2 Source: Average time from start quote to quote is just under 6 minutes based on Sonnet’s 2021 online quoting process
3 Source: Total time from start quote to purchase is 24.5 minutes based on Sonnet’s 2021 online quoting process
4 Source: Sklar Wilton, Sonnet Consumer Segmentation and Brand Growth Study for Sonnet, 2021
5 Source: http://www.ibc.ca/bc/resources/media-centre/media-releases/vigilance-is-key-in-fighting-insurance-fraud
6 Source: Sklar Wilton, Sonnet Consumer Segmentation and Brand Growth Study for Sonnet, 2021
7 Source: IMI International, Sonnet Category, Brand and Product Insights Research, November 2020
8 Source: Sklar Wilton, Sonnet Consumer Segmentation and Brand Growth Study for Sonnet, 2021