If there’s one issue that unites Canadian motorcyclists, it’s a frustration over insurance.
But the insurance scene is a mish-mash, with some provinces offering public insurance, some requiring private insurance, and one requiring both (if you guessed “Quebec” on that one, you’re right).
So who’s paying more? We heard conflicting reports on the cost effectiveness of public insurance so made some calls, crunched some numbers, and here are the surprising results.
For nine provinces, I researched the lowest-cost motorcycle insurance. For PEI, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Ontario, and Alberta, I used TD Insurance’s online calculator to get the quotes.
I used the online calculators for Manitoba Public Insurance and Saskatchewan Government Insurance to get my numbers for those two provinces, and I called ICBC to get the numbers for British Columbia. For Quebec, I combined a number from TD Insurance’s calculator with a number from its provincial website.
I was unable to use the TD Insurance online calculator for New Brunswick, due to an error message on their website; from personal experience, I can attest their numbers are similar to the rest of Atlantic Canada, but they are not included here.
I researched the prices for three different hypothetical motorcycles: A 2003 Kawasaki KLR650, valued at $2,500, a 2010 Harley-Davidson Fat Boy, valued at $10,000, and a 2013 Kawasaki ZX6R, also valued at $10,000. For simplicity’s sake, I included no value for accessories or modifications.
I also researched the price for someone in my position in life: A mid-30s married man, living in a rural area, with a clean driving record. Obviously, pricing would be different for, say, an 18-year-old kid living in an urban centre, but we needed some sort of controls on the data.
If I could lower the quote by raising my deductible, I did.
You can see the results of the survey below. Click on the chart for a closer look at the costs by province.
First off, it seems British Columbia is a bargain for insurance costs (although not the cheapest – we’ll get to that).
True, the quote I got was for a bare bones insurance package, and add-ons like comprehensive collision coverage and theft replacement would drive the costs higher, but that’s the case for every province. The agent I talked to on the phone said the $284 price he gave me for each motorcycle was only a ballpark number, as ICBC does not sell insurance over the phone. However, assuming the numbers he provided were roughly correct, then BC is a great deal, especially considering the length of the riding season (other province’s insurance costs are often based on the assumption of a six-month riding season, so if they had BC’s weather, the pricing would theoretically be higher).
While BC’s public insurance is a good price, that’s not the case in any other jurisdiction requiring public insurance. Manitoba and Saskatchewan have scary-high rates from insurers MPI and SGI respectively. According to MPI’s online calculator, it would cost me $1,000 to insure a 2003 Kawasaki KLR650 for a year, and SGI was close behind, at $952.74. Those prices are crazy, but the ZX6-R quotes of $2,049 and $1,816.64 given by Manitoba and Saskatchewan respectively are far worse. With fees like that, a modern sporting motorcycle is a very expensive toy.
Quebec, with its half-and-half system that requires both public and private insurance, is a pretty expensive place to do business as well, although not necessarily as bad as Ontario. Quebecois riders have to worry about their province’s registry of high-risk motorcycles; if your bike shows up there, you’re going to pay a massive premium, as evidenced by the $1,461.52 quote I got for a ZX-6R. (Inclusion on the list is a strange process, in which Quebec officials determine whether your bike has such aggravating features as a lack of a centrestand, dual front disc brakes, or a chain-driven rear wheel).
The whole mix of public and private insurance is typical of what motorists in general have come to expect from the province’s bureaucracy, and it’s amazing that Quebec has arguably the most devoted motorcyclists in Canada, on the basis of bikes sold per population numbers.
Ontario‘s in a weird position: although it has private insurance now, the provincial government flirted with public insurance in the past, and it seems the idea of higher premiums never left. At $690, Ontario had the highest KLR insurance of any province with private insurance. The $1,341 price tag for Fat Boy insurance is actually higher than what a rider would pay in Manitoba. The ZX-6R would cost $1,395 to insure in Ontario, more than double any other province with private insurance.
Why is Ontario so expensive, with a purely private system? There are several different theories, but the insurance companies themselves blame a combination of urban sprawl and high insurance fraud rates.
Which provinces are affordable? While BC’s basic price tag of approximately $284 is a great deal, private insurance in next-door Alberta is cheaper ($166 for a year on a KLR, $220 for a year on a Fat Boy, $243 for a year on a ZX-6R). It’s the least expensive province by a significant margin.
The Atlantic provinces are all more expensive than Alberta, but are roughly around the same price range with each other: $250-$300ish for the KLR, $450-$500 for the Fat Boy, $550-$650 for the ZX-6R. Those prices are all through private insurance, and they’re significantly cheaper than Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. I talked to a rep from TD Insurance on the phone who told me Atlantic Canada was basically all very affordable except for a couple of cities – St. Johns, Newfoundland, in particular – and the numbers from the online calculator seem to back that up.
If your province is forcing you into public insurance, perhaps a pragmatic view is necessary. While public insurance may cost you a load of money as a responsible adult, it may also provide a fairer way for a younger rider to get on the streets, without being automatically handed a high rate before they have any accidents. And sometimes public insurance offers better coverage than a bare-bones private plan, which would leave you bikeless after a crash – you may be getting more for your money.
But if you’re looking at insurance simply as an expensive nuisance necessary to ride legally, then private insurance is far better. With the exception of outlier British Columbia, provinces that have public insurance, or even a history of public insurance, are more expensive and often prohibitively so. If your local politicians are starting to talk about the idea, make them stop. Threaten them with a solid thrashing in the next election, go on hunger strike in their office, burn them in effigy on the front steps of the legislature – do whatever it takes to save those moto-dollars, because if public insurance assumes control, it will probably end up costing you more.