In November of 2021, the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services announced that Ontario driver’s licenses that are set to expire on or after March 1, 2022, would no longer be mailed paper renewal notices and would instead receive digital reminders.
“Our government continues to provide more opportunities to deliver in-demand digital services in a way that meets people’s needs where they are and where they are going,” says Peter Bethlenfalvy, Minister of Finance in a news release. However, in a world where everything and everyone competes for your attention on phone screens, what Ontarians really need may be a letter delivered to their doorstep, something tangible and hard to miss.
This move has come with unintended consequences. Of particular note, people may unknowingly be driving with expired licenses, and consequently get their auto insurance policy revoked.
Out of sight, out of mind — that is, until you get stopped by the police.
What brings the change in Ontario's license renewal process
The transition is said to save up to $29 million over five years in postage and mailing costs, money the government said will be used to reinvest in education.
Residents can now receive renewal reminders at zero cost, both 60 days and 30 days before the expiry date, through text, email or phone.
Exemptions for driver's license holders and vehicle owners
Designed to provide flexibility and accommodate specific circumstances, certain individuals and vehicle owners are exempt from these changes.
- Seniors aged 70 years and older
- Individuals with a driver's license class A, B, C, D, E, or F.
- Individuals with endorsements that necessitate additional testing (for example, airbrake endorsements)
- Company/fleet vehicles
- Individuals who have jointly owned vehicles
- Heavy commercial vehicles
The unseen consequence: driving with expired licenses and no insurance
In January and February of 2023, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) issued 82 tickets for expired licenses or stickers in northeast Ontario. This number was almost as many as in the first six months of 2022.
If this doesn’t spark enough of a red flag, OPP in Mississauga helps paint a clearer picture on X (formerly known as Twitter): They flagged 32 vehicles in 22 minutes. Of those drivers, four were unlicensed drivers, and 27 had expired vehicle registrations.
Suffice it to say, Ontario drivers have been caught off guard by this new license renewal process and may be inadvertently driving with expired licenses. Moreover, auto insurance providers require valid driver's licenses as a part of their underwriting and policy issuance process. This means, if your license has expired and your insurer isn't informed, your policy could be deemed void or canceled.
“Our brokerage has seen an increase of approximately 30 per cent in the number of non-renewals that we receive resulting from an expired license,” says Cassie Gilroy, retention manager at Mitch Insurance. “Our sales team is also seeing expired licenses regularly when new clients are applying for policies. It has become a regular occurrence in our day-to-day activities.”
Renewing your auto insurance policy after it has been canceled because of an expired license can be challenging, especially if you get caught driving without one. Insurance providers will view you as a higher-risk driver, and finding affordable coverage may become a daunting task.
Caught with an expired license? Take a look at the ramifications
Driving without a valid license is illegal in Ontario and can result in severe legal and financial consequences. If you’re pulled over by law enforcement without a valid driver's license, you may face:
Increased insurance premiums: If your invalid license goes unnoticed, you may expect premium increases at the time of renewal due to the added risk of insuring an unlicensed driver. If your license remains expired for over a year, it could also invalidate your coverage and get any claim submissions rejected.
Delays in claims processing: The claims process takes longer because the insurance adjuster needs to wait to verify if your license is or was valid during the time of the accident. This puts pressure as you now have to find time to go to an MTO office to retrieve this information with the given time constraints.
Lose your right to sue: Accidents can happen at any time and be caused by anyone. Under subsection 267.6(1) of the Ontario Insurance Act, even if you’re at no fault, if you didn’t have a valid driving license, and subsequently with no valid insurance coverage at the time of the collision, you can’t sue for damages.
License suspension: Your driving privileges may be suspended, affecting your ability to work, commute, or carry out essential daily tasks. There’s also a $281 license reinstatement fee.
Fines and penalties: In Ontario, the fines for driving with an expired license can be substantial, reaching a whopping $325, while expired plates can result in a $110 ticket. If you find yourself caught driving with these violations outside of Ontario, you may face even steeper fines.
Vehicle impoundment: If you’re caught with an invalid license, your vehicle will be impounded for seven days. This incurs additional towing and storage fees, further adding to the financial consequences of non-compliance.
What if you have a claim to submit?
In terms of the duration for how long your license has been expired, there’s no difference between a short lapse versus a longer lapse to your insurer, as long as the MTO is willing to renew or reinstate the license.
If you fail to get your license renewed or reinstated without a lapse in time, you can expect to get your claims denied considering you lacked a valid license at the time of the incident. Any changes to premiums would be triggered by you getting convicted for driving without a valid license and/or having to return to a G1 license.
Act fast. Get your license renewed
Don’t panic if you realize that your license has expired.
According to Gilroy, the reinstatement process for your license is straightforward. In most cases, your insurance won’t be impacted. However, the longer you go with an expired license, the more likely you are to run into an accident that will ultimately raise your insurance premiums.
“The best thing you can do is not drive until you’re able to get to the MTO and confirm your license is reinstated or renewed,” she advises. “The quicker you can get proof of reinstatement to your insurance company, the less chance they have of delays in the policy getting issued.”
Save on Ontario auto insurance
Auto insurance rates change often, so how do you know if you're still getting the best deal? By comparing car insurance quotes upon renewal and at other key milestones (such as when you buy a new vehicle, or more to a different neighbourhood) you can make sure your rates remain competitive. Save money by comparing Ontario car insurance quotes today.