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Car insurance rates to rise post-COVID, Intact CEO warns

People have been driving less during the pandemic and car insurance prices have been falling as a result, but that trend could quickly reverse in a post-COVID world.

April 14, 2021
3 mins
A senior couple look unhappy while reviewing their finances

Lots of things will be better whenever the post-COVID world finally arrives, except that your car insurance bill will probably get bigger.

Canadian insurers have been reducing their auto premiums throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Part of the reason is that people have been driving less amid ongoing lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, meaning insurers could afford to charge less due to a drastic reduction in claims.

That is no longer the case, according to one of Canada’s top insurance executives. During a recent Q&A with National Bank Financial, Intact Financial Corp. CEO Charles Brindamour said driving rates fell by as much as 50% during the first lockdowns in March and April of 2020. Despite restrictions on movement still being in place, driving rates are now only about 10% below pre-pandemic levels.

“Our view is that when driving returns to normal, we will see correction [in premiums] take place again,” Brindamour said, adding it was primarily the lower driving rates that have allowed insurers to offer relief measures to policyholders across the country.

As driving rates tick back up, it will force insurers to increase the price of their insurance policies to remain profitable. The industry was already operating on razor-thin profit margins before the pandemic, having started 2020 with a sector-wide combined ratio of over 100% for auto, Brindamour said.

The combined ratio is determined by adding an insurance company’s incurred losses and expenses and dividing that result by the revenue the company receives in premium payments. When the ratio equals 100% or more, that means an insurance company is paying out more money in claims than it is receiving in total premiums.

Brindamour said Intact expects to operate its personal auto line with a combined ratio in the mid-90% range as long as driving remains below historical averages.

– With files from Thompson’s World Insurance News. Used with permission.

Jameson Berkow

Jameson Berkow is an experienced financial reporter, editor, and broadcaster who has held senior roles with the Financial Post, BNN Bloomberg, and The Globe and Mail. He previously worked as the managing editor at RATESDOTCA.

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