Brampton advances to first place thanks to accelerating accident claims
Insurance rates in Brampton are historically the highest in the province. Not only is the number of claims per capita elevated, but the most commonly filed claim also tends to be the most expensive kind.
“If I was to pull someone’s history in Brampton, I’m far more likely to see injury claims,” says Ivans. “[Insurers are] not worried about the car repairs. They’re worried about accident claims.”
An accident settlement is the most expensive type of claim an insurance company can pay. Standard accident benefits in Ontario include medical bills for treatments not covered by OHIP, lost wages, personal support workers, and more. The total payout for an individual can amount to tens of thousands of dollars.
A common observation among experts contacted by RATESDOTCA is that GTA drivers appear to be more likely to draw on their accident benefits and file civil suits.
There’s no pat answer for why it happens, though numerous possible explanations exist. One hypothesis goes that urban dwellers are subjected to more advertising from accident lawyers. Drivers in rural settings are also more likely to personally know the person they collided with. Ivans believes differences like these contribute to urban drivers being “more detached” from their neighbours and surroundings.
“In the big city, expenses are high, and money is the utmost,” says Ivans. “When people find themselves in an incident, they’re thinking, ‘How do I get money out of this?’”
Meanwhile, Vaughan falling from first place to fifth this year doesn’t surprise Ivans.
“My observations as a broker for 15 years are that Toronto and Brampton have always been the most expensive cities for auto insurance in Ontario. The GTA tops the list. Sometimes outliers find their way to the top, Vaughan being an example of this in 2021,” says Ivans.
The Golden Horseshoe is home to Ontario’s highest auto insurance rates, and each city within it faces roughly the same issues. Indeed, the order of the Insuramap rankings changed in 2023, but the composition of the top 10 is mostly the same year after year.
A few of the main challenges facing drivers in the Golden Horseshoe are congestion, longer daily commutes, and higher average vehicle prices. The region also has a concentration of new drivers since most newcomers first settle in this part of Southern Ontario — a demographic that often faces higher rates due to a lack of insurance history in Canada. All these factors combined mean that insurance companies expect a lot of claims activity from the clientele in the region and, in turn, hedge their financial position by raising premiums across the board.
According to the Insuramap survey, 168 of the 187 cities surveyed have premiums below the provincial average. Eighteen of the remaining 19 cities are located in the core Golden Horseshoe region.
Non-GTA cities remain below the provincial average, but drivers everywhere should gear up for more rate increases
Not all places are being clobbered by rate hikes. Increases in communities outside of the GTA, like Ottawa, have been mild to date.
Auto insurance in Ottawa — which, for the purposes of our survey, includes its suburbs — increased year-over-year by 5%, from $1,257 to $1,321 annually. (Ottawa proper increased by 14%, from $1,257 to $1,437: still well below the provincial average.)
Of the individual insurance policies she has handled, Ottawa-based insurance broker Claudia Fortin says some premiums in the GTA are “more than double” what drivers pay in the nation’s capital.
There are a few reasons for this. Insurance companies base premiums on how likely someone is to file a claim based on three broad risk factors:
- Individual risk (which insurers base on age and gender)
- The type of vehicle in question
- Geographic area
The latter means that even drivers with a perfect record are surcharged simply because of which city they call home. Insurers get even more granular with their risk assessment, basing rates on forward sortation area (FSA), the first three characters of a postal code.
“[Ottawa] is less populated. There’s one major highway, the 417, and that’s it. Past that, it’s barely a highway. You have a lot less action going on in a pretty vast area,” says Fortin. Meanwhile, street-level activity looks markedly different elsewhere in southern Ontario. “You have small cities in the GTA where it’s all super tight.”
Fortin’s prediction for auto insurance rates in 2023 includes further rate hikes for Ottawans, but none as drastic as the ones coming for drivers in regions like Toronto.
Insurance prices in Ottawa will likely continue being insulated from the worst effects of a hard market for a while yet. “If one day Ottawa gets a super, super amount of claims, we might see it, but I doubt it,” says Fortin.
Bigger cars and more thefts are driving insurance rate increases
However, communities where SUVs and pickup trucks are the dominant car type face significant increases.
Monique Marcotte, an account executive for McDougall Insurance in Sudbury, says insurance rates for people who drive these vehicles are way up due to car theft.
Marcotte’s brokerage is putting in two or three comprehensive claims per week for drivers who have had their vehicles stolen. “Before, we might get two or three a year,” she says.
“I’m seeing larger rates for the Dodge Ram, and for a Lexus SUV, the premium is skyrocketing. You can’t even get around it with those types of vehicles,” says Marcotte. “We’re not seeing anything as crazy with a sedan.”
The premium estimate for Sudbury is based on a person driving a sedan and amounts to $1,321 per year, which is $63 higher than 2021 Insuramap estimates. But for customers with off-road vehicles, increases of $150 to $200 are more typical this year, says Marcotte.
Faced with these unwelcome trends, more drivers are warming to the idea of installing a GPS device on their car to track its location if it’s stolen, she says, adding that she herself is a convert. “When I go down south, I throw my AirTag under my seat.”
Telematics and usage-based insurance (UBI) also offer flexibility and savings on driver insurance rates. Both terms refer to technology that allows an insurance company to track a person’s driving habits in exchange for discounts. Telematics has been available in Ontario from select providers for a while, but uptake has been slow. Marcotte says insurance companies are campaigning to win people over, sending out letters to Sudbury clientele about the potential benefits of telematics, including discounts for good driving behaviour and GPS monitoring. She notes that attitudes towards the technology have changed in the face of unprecedented vehicle thefts.
“It’s not 100%, of course, but for the most part, people are buying into it,” she says.
How to lower your auto insurance premium, regardless of the economy
Drivers have options to lower their auto insurance premium — though some are more advisable than others. Next year, the province will offer the option for drivers to remove a standard coverage that pays to repair or replace their vehicle when they’re not at-fault for a collision with another car, also known as direct compensation property damage (DCPD).
While removing DCPD will indeed lower a driver’s insurance premium, Ivans says drivers who feel they need the monthly savings also stand to suffer the most if they get into an accident. “If saving $150 a year is so material to you, then not having that coverage will be devastating.”
Instead, drivers can try many other tactics to lower their rates. The following especially make a large impact, according to Ivans:
- Maintain a conviction-free driving record. “The first one is pretty obvious and easy: Practice safe driving habits,” says Ivans. The longer you are without an incident, the lower your rates will be.
- Sign up for UBI or telematics. Most major insurance providers now offer usage-based insurance programs powered by an app that monitors driving behaviour. Good driving habits translate into discounts at renewal time. “A lot of companies are qualifying customers for discounts of up to 20% based on the driving habits they exemplify using the app,” says Ivans. Some telematics programs also offer something akin to pay-as-you-go insurance. For example, CAA offers cheaper rates for drivers who log 12,000 kilometres or less per year. You’re charged for every additional 1,000 kilometres you log.
- Combine your policies. Insuring your home or any other vehicle in your household with the same insurance company could net you discounts of anywhere from 20% to 40%. This tactic is often referred to as ‘bundling.’
Finally, compare car insurance quotes. It’s one of the most efficient and immediate ways to save hundreds of dollars.
Your car insurance premium could be lower
Keep an eye on your insurance costs by comparing your premium to the average estimate for your postal code. If you notice your rate deviates significantly from the average estimate shown, it may be time to compare rates from several different providers, especially if your policy is up for renewal soon. In fact, the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario and the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada recommend shopping around for car insurance before locking into a policy.
Our methodology and how to interpret RATESDOTCA Auto Insuramap data
Here’s how we found the estimated prices for Ontario cities.
The RATESDOTCA Auto Insuramap is an interactive online map that lets users search by postal code for the estimated auto insurance rate in a city or neighbourhood.
All estimated premiums are based on a 35-year-old male who drives a 2019 Honda Civic four-door sedan with a claim and conviction-free driving record (gender becomes less of a concern for insurance providers after about age 30). Our persona also purchased two optional insurance coverages, collision and comprehensive insurance with a $1,000 deductible.
Another thing to remember is that the premiums displayed are based on RATESDOTCA’s data. While broad, our roster of insurance companies in our digital marketplace dictates the prices offered.