As an expat in Canada, finding affordable car insurance can be like trying to shift those last few pounds to reach your target weight. You’ve come so far; found somewhere to live, started in the new job and worked out the recycled waste collection schedule. You’ve decided on the car you want and the monthly (or bi-weekly) payments are do-able – then you get the insurance quote…
When you emerge from the short depressive episode this brings on, you’ll set about searching the web with renewed vigour, determined to track down a more realistic figure. Over and over again, the same, unreasonable amount keeps coming back. Like the figure on the scales, it just won’t shift.It’s like banging your head against a brick wall. You’re stuck. You need a car, but the cost of the insurance takes it outside the confines of your budget. Take a deep breath and follow these five tips to finding a solution.
1. First and foremost, DON’T GIVE UP. There are better rates out there. It’s just a question of tracking them down. Ask other expats who they have policies with. Check the discussions on the online expat forums, and post the question if it’s not there already; this is where we found our lead. Most firms won’t recognise your driving history from abroad thanks to fraudsters’ false claims to obtain cheap insurance, but some accept up to a maximum of three years previous experience abroad if you have the paperwork to back up your claim. Be patient and keep trying.
2. Quotes can vary wildly, from one firm to another. To the uneducated observer it seems as though brokers just pluck figures from the air. Unlike in the UK, the make/model of car doesn’t make much difference to the figure, but your location does – areas considered “high-risk” will up the cost; worth bearing in mind if you haven’t yet settled on a place to live. Shop around, don’t accept the first offer. In Canada, meeting someone in person is often more productive than a phone conversation. Make some appointments and be prepared to negotiate.
3. Some firms offer discounted rates if you “bundle” your home and car insurance. There are also discounts available for insuring more than one car.
4. Take “Drivers Ed”- Go back to school for $299, 24 hours in the classroom and 10 hours on the road. Most instructors will sign off the remaining practical hours once they’ve seen an hour or two of capable driving. Most insurance companies will give this consideration and offer a discount.
5. Check to see if group insurance is available through your company. Large firms can get better rates than individuals. If the cost of insurance is something your HR department is aware of this might be an option.
Patience and persistence pay off in the end. We’ve had our car for nearly a year now and have been able to do a lot more exploring as a result, but we still reminisce (through rose-tinted glasses, of course) about our walks into town to grocery shop.
Once in a while, there comes a little reminder of how things used to be. When I opened our post forwarded from the UK the other day, I found a quote for car insurance: £28 per month. We pay almost ten times that per month in CAD and that’s still a big improvement on the $500 per month quotes we were initially given. Car insurance in Canada is just a different world…
Aisha Isabel Ashraf and her family spent their first year in Canada (where the car is King) without a car. They carried more watermelons and boxes of Pampers back from town than they care to remember. They know your pain.
Aisha Isabel Ashraf is a freelance writer and author of the popular blog EXPATLOG – a collection of irreverent observations from her experiences as a "cultural chameleon". It's where you'll find her, strung out on caffeine, humorously dissecting the peculiarities of expat life for her own amusement and the benefit of future generations.
Read Aisha's other Expat Focus articles here.