This article has been updated from a previous version.
If you plan to take a road trip outside your home province, there is more to consider than what route to take and where to stay.
Whether you choose to rough it in the woods or visit a cottage, be prepared to make your road trip a safe and enjoyable experience. That might mean bringing a few useful gadgets along with you for both convenience and safety. It also means making sure your vehicle is in good condition and ensuring you have adequate insurance coverage.
The good news is your car insurance policy covers you in other provinces and the U.S. But there’s a caveat: your policy might not be enough to cover costs that arise if you injure someone in the states.
Car insurance is valid for travel in Canada and the U.S.
In general, your car insurance follows you anywhere you go in Canada and the U.S. This means you have some protection for yourself and your passengers, even when driving outside of your home province.
For instance, if you are hurt in a collision in the U.S., your auto policy’s mandatory accident benefits (AB) coverage will cover some medical costs. Your auto insurance policy alone may not cover all medical expenses, however, so it is wise to consider travel insurance before departing for your trip.
Optional insurance coverages, such as collision and comprehensive, will typically follow you on your trip to the States, but ask your insurance broker or agent to ensure this applies to your policy. Make sure you know what steps the company requires you to take should you need to file a claim across the border.
Provinces such as Ontario and Quebec have no-fault insurance systems, which means you deal with your insurance provider regardless of who is responsible for the collision. In provinces such as Manitoba, your insurance provider would work with the other driver’s insurance company to determine who is at fault for the collision and must pay for the damages.
You may run into coverage problems if you travel to other countries. Most Canadian auto insurance policies are invalid in Mexico, for example. Check with your auto insurance provider before travelling with your vehicle to ensure you have proper coverage.
Consider additional protection for U.S. trips
Things are more complicated if passengers in another car suffer injuries. In some U.S. states, like New Hampshire and Virginia, automobile insurance coverage is not mandatory, and there’s the risk that drivers are on the road without insurance. In the event of a collision, if the other driver doesn’t have insurance, you may end up footing part of the bill.
Standard Canadian auto insurance policies have some provisions for handling this scenario. In Ontario, for example, you are required to have uninsured motorist coverage, which applies if the other driver is uninsured. In some provinces, this coverage is not required by law; however, drivers can purchase a policy extension to include it in most cases. You also have to have some third-party liability coverage, which may cover injuries and vehicle damage to the other vehicles involved in the crash.
However, third-party liability coverage may not be enough. In Quebec, the minimum you must carry is $50,000; in Alberta and Ontario, it’s $200,000. That may sound like a lot, but if you are involved in even a minor collision, the costs could add up quickly. For instance, the Alberta Motor Association recommends carrying at least $1 million in coverage for this reason.
Steps to take before hitting the road
Before you leave, it’s a good idea to know what insurance you already have and whether you need to increase your coverage.
If your plans include travelling to another Canadian province or the U.S., consider purchasing travel insurance before you go. Your home province’s health insurance plan may not cover you for everything it does when injured or ill in other jurisdictions. Review your existing policies, including coverage that your credit card company may provide.
Talk to your car insurance provider to get the full details on your existing coverage. You may also want to ask about options to increase the protections in your policy, so you won’t be out-of-pocket in case you have a mishap on the road.
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