Auto Insurance

What you need to know about gifting a car in Ontario this holiday season

By: Brennan Doherty on November 28, 2023
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This article has been updated from a previous version. 

Holiday season is right around the corner, and so is the scramble to find the perfect gift. And what if that perfect gift is on four wheels and takes up a lot of space in your garage?   

Just like any other retailer, dealerships have year-end sales, and you might be able to score a sweet deal on an SUV for your wife or a first car for your daughter. 

Purchasing a vehicle for gifting in Ontario is straightforward – you buy one like you would any other present. But what about car insurance and vehicle registration?  

How can a gift-giver ensure that the car — and the lucky recipient — are properly insured and road-ready by Christmas? Here's everything you need to know before heading off to the dealership to spoil your loved one.  

How to insure a gifted vehicle 

Insuring a gifted vehicle is simpler than it sounds. 

“It would be the same as anybody getting a new vehicle,” says Ashley Kaspar, Director of Insurance Distribution for CAA Insurance. “Typically, you would have about 14 days from the time you get your vehicle in your possession to adding the vehicle to your existing policy.” 

In other words, the giver doesn’t need to set anything up with the insurance company in advance of giving the gift — it’s up to the recipient to set up the insurance within two weeks of receiving the vehicle. 

Kaspar says anyone lucky enough to receive a car for Christmas should call their auto insurance provider as soon as possible to make sure they have the coverage they need. This is especially true if your recipient is upgrading from an older vehicle that’s insured to a brand new one over the holidays. 

“The coverage you may have had on that older vehicle may not be the same coverage you want on that newer vehicle,” Kaspar says.  

For example, if the older vehicle no longer has collision coverage, but your recipient wants that protection for their newly acquired vehicle, the 14-day grace period only covers the existing insurance policy. In other words, if they want collision coverage on the new vehicle, they’ll need to sort it out before getting behind the wheel. 

Read more: How much car insurance do you really need? 

There is one exception to the 14-day grace period, and that’s if you’re gifting a car to a family member or friend who doesn’t already have car insurance. Kaspar says this can happen if an elderly grandparent gives an uninsured grandchild one of their own vehicles. 

Of course, it is illegal in Canada to drive without insurance, so the recipient will need to set up their own insurance policy if they don’t already have one. Even if they’re already listed on the gift-giver’s insurance policy as a secondary driver, they will need to set up their own separate insurance policy if the new car is in their name.  

Lastly, does the insurance company need to know that the car was given as a gift? And can that impact someone’s insurance rates? Kaspar says no to both questions.  

“There is no difference between if it was a gift or if you’ve purchased it yourself.” 

How to register a gifted vehicle 

The specifics of registering a vehicle varies from province to province. 

For instance, if you’re gifting a car to a family member in Ontario, know this: anyone who receives a new car can only register the vehicle after they have properly insured it. If you’re buying that gift vehicle from a registered dealer, you don’t need to worry about this step — the sales staff will sort it out for you. 

However, if you’re buying a used vehicle, you’ll need to register the vehicle yourself. To do that, you’ll need proof of insurance, the vehicle’s relevant information, the original vehicle permit from the seller, the plate portion of the permit (so the vehicle recipient can attach their licence plates), proof of purchase, and your driver’s licence. 

Registering a vehicle isn’t free, either.  

In Ontario, vehicle permits cost $32, a new or replacement licence plate is $59, and a licence plate sticker is either $60 or $120, depending on where you live in the province.  

When you transfer the car ownership to its new recipient, they’ll have to register the vehicle in their name. If you transfer the car to a family member, inform them that they’ll require their own proof of insurance, permit and licence plates. 

If they’re a new driver and don’t have plates or insurance, it’ll be up to them to sort everything out before they hit the road. Under Ontario law, a vehicle permit must be updated with a new driver’s details within six days of transferring the vehicle’s ownership.  

Read more: Everything you need to know about car insurance if you're a student 

Gifting a car could exempt you from paying sales tax 

In Ontario, it costs less to gift a car to a family member than to a friend. This loophole allows someone to give a used vehicle to a member of their family without paying the usual retail sales tax. The government’s definition of “family” includes adopted siblings, in-laws and half-siblings. 

Basically, you require all the usual documents to transfer ownership of the vehicle — proof of insurance, a vehicle ownership permit, and your driver’s licence — on top of a specific sworn declaration document from the Ontario government and a Safety Standards Certificate.  

This document requires both the recipient and giver of the vehicle to state their relationship to one another. It also asks the giver for information about when and from whom they originally bought the vehicle. There’s a separate form required if you also want to transfer licence plates.  

Especially important to point out is that none of these actions can be done by mail. If you are gifting a vehicle in Ontario and looking to take advantage of this exception, all the paperwork must be completed in person at a ServiceOntario location. 

Ensuring a vehicle is road-ready before it goes under the metaphorical Christmas tree can be a hassle, and the lucky new driver may not have it easy, either.  

But with a few quick phone calls to an insurance provider and some updated paperwork, they’ll be ready to set out behind the wheel of their new ride. 

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