Getting a speeding ticket or failing to signal before a lane change may seem like small offences, but these “minor convictions” have the power to affect your car insurance premium.
One way that some insurance companies are helping drivers protect themselves against rate hikes when they commit these small offences is by offering them minor conviction protection.
What constitutes a minor conviction?
A minor conviction is anything that is not a “major conviction” (e.g., distracted driving, failing to report an accident) or a “criminal conviction” (e.g., impaired driving, racing).
Minor convictions can include things like:
- Speeding tickets (though the cut-off from minor to major speeding will vary)
- Failing to wear a seatbelt
- Not stopping at stop signs
- Following too closely
- Driving without a licence or proof of insurance
- Driving the wrong way on a one-way street
- Blocking a bike lane
- Having an outdated inspection sticker
What is minor conviction protection coverage?
With a minor conviction protection endorsement, your insurance company will forgive your first minor conviction and will not raise your insurance premium because of it. Minor conviction protection is an add-on to your insurance, so it will cost you extra money to protect yourself against a rate hike.
Any minor convictions after the first one will be counted against your insurance premium and could increase your rate.
How can I get minor conviction protection?
Not all insurance providers offer minor conviction protection. Intact and CAA offer this protection, and information about it can be found on their websites. And according to Sonnet Insurance’s customer care manager, Matthew Johnson, Sonnet also offers minor conviction protection (or “ticket forgiveness”) but only in Ontario, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island.
Every insurance company has different requirements for minor conviction protection. Johnson says Sonnet requires customers to have been continuously insured and driving for the past six years with no at-fault accidents on their record. They also need to be continuously licensed for the last 10 years and have no minor, major, serious, or criminal code conviction within the past three years.
Intact, on the other hand, also requires that you are conviction-free for the past three years but requires you to be licensed for only six years to be eligible for the endorsement.
The cost for minor conviction protection varies from driver to driver and provider to provider. Generally speaking, the longer you’ve been licensed, the cheaper this coverage will be.
The limitations of minor conviction protection
Anne Marie Thomas, director of consumer and industry relations at the Insurance Bureau of Canada, says that each insurance company has their own “underwriting rules and rates.” So not all companies will offer the same protection programs.
In addition, one company may offer minor conviction protection and forgive your first minor conviction, but if you switch insurance companies, that forgiveness doesn’t follow you. The new company can count your first minor conviction against you if it’s still on your record — and your premium will reflect that. The same can happen if you move provinces and your insurance provider doesn’t offer minor conviction protection in that region.
“You can come to think of it as your company might have forgiven it, but your driving record hasn’t forgotten it,” Thomas says.
If you are in Ontario, you can check your driving record to see if you might be eligible for minor conviction protection.
And if you find that your rate does increase after a minor conviction, it’s in your best interest to compare car insurance rates to see if another provider is willing to offer you a lower premium.
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