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Cheap British Columbia Car Insurance Quotes

Learn more about B.C. car insurance

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Written By Alexandra Bosanac

Updated

How British Columbia auto insurance works 

Since 1973, drivers in B.C. have purchased auto insurance from the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC).

ICBC is a Crown corporation and the sole provider of basic auto insurance in the province, known as Basic Autoplan.

Basic Autoplan covers third-party liability, accident benefits, and underinsured driver protection.

Drivers can purchase optional insurance coverages to enhance their protection through the ICBC or private insurers.

Private insurers operate in the province but can only sell optional coverage like collision and comprehensive coverage.

The province's estimated 900 Autoplan brokers are your gateway to purchasing basic and optional coverages. They are independently licensed insurance brokers and usually offer other forms of property insurance, like home and commercial insurance.

No-fault car insurance in British Columbia 

B.C. became a no-fault insurance province in May 2021.

No-fault insurance means drivers in B.C. don't have to sue another driver for compensation after a collision and wait for a payout from their insurance company. Instead, your insurance company pays for your liability and medical costs, regardless of who caused the accident.

If you're not at-fault (or only partially at-fault) for causing an accident, your insurance company will even pay to have your car repaired or replaced.

Another feature of no-fault insurance is strict controls around lawsuits, specifically an injured person's ability to sue for excess damages like pain, suffering, and economic loss.

Before 2021, B.C. took a no-fault approach to physical damage but had a tort approach for injuries. Today, B.C. residents cannot sue for damages following an accident.

Once notorious for having the country's highest insurance premiums, premiums decreased on average by $400 per driver after the province introduced the no-fault system.

Car insurance in British Columbia is mandatory

Holding insurance is mandatory for anyone operating a vehicle in B.C.

Under Autoplan, coverage follows an individual, not the car; anyone who gets behind the wheel is held accountable.

For that reason, Autoplan offers Unlisted Driver Protection, which provides coverage for those off-times when a friend uses your car. It’s free unless an unlisted driver causes an accident with your vehicle; only then will you be charged for it.

Mandatory and optional coverages in British Columbia

Coverage name  Designation  Description 
Enhanced accident benefits  Mandatory  Part of Basic Autoplan. Covers medical costs with no overall limit. Ninety percent of income is replaced, up to $105,500 (higher earners can purchase Top-Up coverage) 
Basic vehicle damage  Mandatory  Covers the cost of repairing or replacing your vehicle if it’s damaged in a collision you’re not at fault for, up to $200,000 
Third party liability   Mandatory  Provides coverage if you damage someone else’s property (that isn't a car) with your car.   Also provides coverage if you get into an accident in a province or state that does permit other drivers to sue for damages.  
Underinsured motorist protect   Mandatory  Provides compensation up to $1 million if you make a third-party liability claim against a driver that does not have enough insurance to cover your costs.  
Inverse liability protection  Mandatory   Covers you if you get into an accident in a province or state that doesn’t let you claim against the person who caused the crash.  Vehicle repair costs are covered up to 100%, but only if you’re 100% not at fault.  Compensation is deducted according to your percentage of the blame (for example, if you’re 50% at fault, you will only get 50% of costs covered) 
Unlisted driver protection  Optional  Provides collision forgiveness for the first crash that an unlisted driver gets into with your car.   Also ensures that the crash doesn’t go onto your record, but rather the unlisted driver’s.  Free to add to your policy. Charges apply if an unlisted driver gets into an accident with your car. 
Collision  Optional   Pays to repair or replace your car when you're at fault for causing an accident. Damage from a hit-and-run driver is also covered by collision insurance. Towing charges are also reimbursed. If you have a track record of being at fault for collisions, you may be charged a higher-than-normal deductible, or you may not qualify for this coverage.  
Comprehensive   Optional  Pays to repair or replace your car if it’s damaged by something other than a collision with another car. Covered scenarios include theft, vandalism, fire, flying or falling objects, weather, or collisions with a wild animal.  
Specified perils  Optional  Provides coverage for perils insured by comprehensive insurance, but only for ones you name in your policy; if it’s not in your policy, you’re not covered for it.  
Hit and run   Optional   Pays to repair or replace your car if it’s damaged by an unidentified driver who doesn’t stay at the scene. If you have collision insurance, you likely don’t need to buy hit and run coverage.  
Income top-up  Optional  Increases your income replacement amount that’s part of Enhanced Care coverage. 
Extended third-party liability  Optional  Increases your liability coverage beyond the $200,000 mandatory minimum. Policy limits can be increased to up to $5 million.  
Loss of use   Optional  Covers temporary transportation expenses when your car is out of commission due to an event covered by ICBC.  
Luxury vehicles   Optional   Enhanced Basic Vehicle coverage for cars that retail for $150,000 and over.  
Rental vehicle coverage  Optional   Provides liability, accident benefits, underinsured motorist, collision, comprehensive, and loss of use coverages to a rental car. 
New vehicle protection   Optional   Pays to repair or replace your car even if you were at fault for the collision. Covers the full replacement cost (depreciation is not deducted) and is indexed for inflation. 
Vehicle Travel Protection Optional Helps cover unexpected expenses due to a claim while travelling. Included in Roadside Plus and Roadstar packages.
Emergency Roadside Expense Repayment Optional  For vehicle emergencies like breakdowns, locked-in keys, and flat tires. Included in Roadside Plus.
Theft Deductible Waiver   Optional Pay no deductible if your vehicle is stolen or shows obvious signs of attempted theft. Included in Roadside Plus.
Destination Assistance Optional Reimburses you up to $100 to help you get where you're going after a collision, theft, or vandalism incident. Included in Roadside Plus.  
Lock rekeying Optional If your keys are stolen, this will pay to alter your car's lock mechanism so the old key will no longer work. With Roadside Plus, up to $1,000 is covered, and there's no deductible. With Roadstar, expenses up to $500 are covered, and a deductible applies.

How much does car insurance cost in British Columbia? 

Once home to the highest auto insurance premiums in Canada — it had been increasing by about $100 a year — the average auto insurance rate in B.C. fell 23% to $1,199 annually in the 2021/2022 fiscal year, according to ICBC.

The price drop is credited to B.C.'s switch to the no-fault system, meaning people can no longer sue for damages like pain and suffering.

ICBC's Relief Rebate, a pandemic measure, offered $396 million to eligible policyholders, further reducing the average premium.

Average car insurance rates for British Columbia (2012-2021)

Year Avg. premium
2021/2022 $1,199
2020/2021 $1,566
2019/2020 $1,544
2018/2019 $1,444
2017-2018 $1,364
2016-2017 $1,280
2015 $1,196
2014 $1,153
2013 $1,130
2012 $1,100

Source: ICBC 2021/2020 Annual Service Report

Above is B.C.’s average annual premium since 2012, according to ICBC. Banning people involved in car accidents from suing for damages is credited with bringing down insurance rates in the 2021/2022 fiscal year. The ICBC's Rebate Relief program, a pandemic initiative, is also believed to have aided the decrease; a total of $396 million was given back to drivers in 2022. In addition, the provincial corporation declared a two-year freeze on insurance rates.

Factors that influence your British Columbia auto insurance premium 

The ICBC says the following things affect your auto insurance premium:

Driver experience  

Older, more experienced drivers receive the lowest insurance rates in B.C. Younger people and inexperienced drivers pay more for insurance because they have yet to develop a driving history.

On the upside, ICBC says it extends discounts to this class of drivers. Plus, for every year of driving, the ICBC grants you a discount for a maximum of 40 years (before the recent insurance overhaul, ICBC had capped it at nine years).

Driving history 

The ICBC says that collision history is a key metric for determining your auto insurance premium. According to the ICBC, crashes stay on your driving record for 10 years.

Who drives your car  

In B.C., the crash history of any other listed drivers will affect your premium.

If a listed driver does get into a crash, it will go on their crash history, not yours. But if they're not listed on your insurance, it will go on yours.

That's why listing drivers on your policy is essential: it ensures fault is reflected accurately on your driving record. Unlisted Driver Protection is blanket coverage for one-off instances when someone borrows your car. It's free until an unlisted driver gets into an accident.

Where you live  

Like anywhere in Canada, where you live impacts your insurance rates.

However, unlike other provinces, B.C. doesn't rely on postal codes to define geographical areas to pool customers.

Instead, ICBC has divided B.C. into 14 territories that share characteristics.

The reason location matters? Hazards differ based on whether you live in rural or urban areas.

In urban areas, you are more likely to be in a collision or have your car stolen. Rural areas are more likely to suffer damage due to road conditions or weather.

The type of car you drive  

The age, make, model and features of the vehicle you drive, and its repair costs affect your optional premiums.

How you use your car 

The ICBC classifies drivers into four groups:

  • Pleasure: People who use their car to drive kids to school, run errands, and do day-to-day activities. They don't commute to work frequently and use their vehicle for vacationing purposes.
  • Commuting: They drive daily to work or school while also using the car for the activities associated with the pleasure class. Sub-categories within the commuting category separate drivers based on how many daily kilometres they log.
  • Business: They use the car to meet with clients for business activities only. You only use the vehicle for errands related to your job.
  • Delivery: There are different rate classes depending on the type of vehicle, what it delivers, and the distance travelled.

The amount of coverage you buy 

Adding optional insurance coverages to your Basic Autoplan will increase your premium.

Eligibility for discounts  

ICBC offers discounts to people who log less than 5,000 km or less per year on their car.

Some of the other discounts offered through ICBC:

  • Low-kilometre discounts
  • Autonomous emergency braking (AEB) discount
  • Experienced driver savings
  • Enhancing your car's security features
  • Senior discount
  • Anti-theft discount
  • Fleet discount
  • Disability discount

Deductible amount  

The deductible is the amount you pay before your insurance provider pays the claim. If you offer to pay more than what insurance requires, it will lower your premium.

Frequently asked questions about car insurance in B.C. 

Here's what else you need to know about B.C. auto insurance.

How is British Columbia’s auto insurance rate calculated? 

B.C. has a baseline that every insurance policy starts at, which is currently $1,063. The rate is then increased or decreased based on the driver’s profile. 

The two major factors that ICBC says it bases driver ratings on are crash history and the length of time they’ve been driving.

These metrics are combined to create a score known as the ‘driver factor.’ It’s a three-decimal point number representing how much risk you present to insure.  

The ICBC allows you to access your score to know where you stand.  

Most of your premium is based on your driving factor, but 25% of your premium is based on the driving histories of anyone else listed on your insurance policy, specifically, the highest-risk driver on your list of listed drivers. This metric is combined with your driver factor to create a combined ratio.  

If one of the drivers is lower risk than you (the principal driver) and is a household member or an employee, your premium will be discounted.  

Will British Columbia car insurance decrease or increase in 2023? 

When the province moved to the new no-fault system in 2021, rates fell by 15% overall (20% for people with basic and optional coverages). 

After not changing rates in 2022, ICBC announced a two-year freeze starting in April 2023. 

In the meantime, the agency is building a fund that will be used to subsidize the insurance market, keeping rates as stable as possible. 

What economic pressures are affecting the B.C. auto insurance sector in 2023? 

The convergence of inflation, supply shortages, and the lifting of pandemic health measures have put insurance providers in a bind, leading experts to speculate that car insurance prices, nationally, will increase in the high single-digits

The good news is that B.C. drivers will be insulated from these changes since the ICBC declared a price freeze to remain in place until 2025.  

These economic stressors and worsening flood and forest fire seasons will affect B.C. home insurance rates. Unlike auto insurance, home insurance is provided by private insurers, and prices are unregulated.  

How to get the cheapest car insurance in British Columbia 

B.C. drivers don't have access to all the products that drivers in provinces with private insurance can use to lower their car insurance bills. However, there’s still a lot that B.C. drivers can do to keep their costs manageable. 

  • Keep your driving record crash-free: ICBC's main advice to keep your auto insurance rate low is to drive safely.  
  • Pick the right car: Your car's age, make, and model will affect your insurance premium. A new car with upgrades will cost more to insure than an entry-level, four-year-old model. How attractive your car is to thieves also plays a role in shaping your premium. Unlike in other provinces, thieves in B.C. target cars made in 2008 and earlier, according to a 2022 analysis by CBC.  
  • Don’t overdo it on optional coverages:  If you drive an older car, as many do in B.C. — 45.6% of cars in B.C. are over 10 years of age — the usual advice is that you don’t need coverages like collision and comprehensive. It's usually cheaper to repair or replace an older car out-of-pocket.  
  • Offer to pay a higher deductible: The deductible is the amount you put towards a claim before the ICBC pays the rest. Deductibles lower the insurance provider's costs and act as a deterrent against drivers making claims. If you offer to pay a higher deductible than required, the ICBC can lower your premium in return. You're helping the insurer save and sending signals that you’re less likely to be involved in a claims scenario.  
  • Be sure to inquire about discounts: ICBC offers a range of discounts that will lower your premium if you qualify: 
    • Low-kilometre and distance-based discounts 
    • Safety technology discounts for autonomous emergency braking (AEB) 
    • Experienced-driver savings 
    • Seniors’ discounts 
    • Anti-theft discount 
    • Fleet discount 
    • Disability discount 

Comparing B.C.’s car insurance premiums to other provinces

The Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) monitors auto insurance prices across the country. The latest data from the IBC was collected in 2021 and measured premiums in 2020.

Province Average premium
B.C. $1,582
Ontario $1,655
Alberta $1514
Manitoba $1,200
Saskatchewan $1,274
Newfoundland and Labrador $1,251
Nova Scotia $1,066
New Brunswick $1,014
Prince Edward Island $885
Quebec $857
Yukon $889
Nunavut $1,033

https://gaa.qc.ca/en/statistics/automobile-insurance-rates/comparison-by-province/

http://www.ibc.ca/bc/resources/media-centre/media-releases/bc-drivers-continue-to-pay-the-highest-auto-insurance-premiums-in-canada

British Columbia (ICBC only)- ICBC Annual Report.

Manitoba - MPI Annual Report, private insurers

Saskatchewan- IBC calculation with data from SGI, SAF, and private insurers. SK premiums are a proxy per policy for all vehicles

There's no standardized method of retrieving premium data in Canada, so there are likely differences in the IBC’s and ICBC's methodologies. For example, the ICBC’s fiscal year runs from April to March of the following year. This may be one reason there's a difference between what the ICBC and the ICB say was the 2020 average.

Alexandra Bosanac ,
Content Manager

Alexandra Bosanac has been a content manager for RATESDOTCA since 2021, specializing in auto insurance. She began covering auto insurance in 2017. Alexandra has a bachelor's degree in journalism from Toronto Metropolitan University. Before joining the RATESDOTCA editorial team, she reported for the Canadian Business, the Toronto Star, the National Post, and the CBC.

Experience
  • Car Insurance
Education
  • Bachelor of Journalism, Toronto Metropolitan University
Featured in
  • Investigative researcher at CBC
  • Breaking news reporter at Toronto Star
  • General assignment reporter at National Post
  • Business and general assignment reporter at The Canadian Press
  • Writer at Canadian Business

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