Off-roading is an exciting and adventurous outdoor activity enjoyed by many Canadians. As the second-largest country in the world, Canada is chock-full of diverse terrains and trails perfect for off-road enthusiasts to explore on their snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), dune buggies, dirt bikes, and other off-road vehicles.
But what happens if you receive a ticket for speeding or distracted driving while on an ATV? Besides feeling it in your pocket, are there any negative consequences for your car insurance? Or do car insurance companies view driving offences resulting from off-road vehicles as distinct from those you commit while driving your car?
How auto insurance companies treat off-road vehicles
Insurance companies view the risks associated with off-road vehicles as unique and distinct from cars, trucks, and other regular-use vehicles (those driven primarily on city streets and highways). The reason is that off-road vehicles pose vastly different risks to drivers than cars. This is why they require their own insurance policies separate from your auto insurance.
Their unique designs, including mechanical, structural, and safety features, differ significantly from a standard car. And because they’re driven on unpaved and uneven ground, such as gravel roads, grasslands, riverbeds, and sand dunes, they can put drivers in unpredictable and hazardous driving conditions.
Suppose you plan on using an off-road vehicle regularly. In that case, you’ll need to acquire specialized coverage for it, commonly known as off-road vehicle insurance, or ORV. You can do this either by getting a stand-alone ORV policy or making it an add-on to your regular car insurance. Your car insurance policy won’t cover any claims that result from an off-road vehicle accident or injury.
Will an off-road vehicle infraction affect your car insurance rate?
According to an emailed statement from an Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) spokesperson, “Any ticket attached to your driver’s licence can impact your auto insurance rate."
"If you received the ticket while on a recreational vehicle like an ATV or snowmobile, the effect on your auto insurance is the same as if you received the ticket while driving a car."
Insurance companies use your driving record as one of many factors when calculating your premium. From their perspective, it matters little whether you commit an infraction while operating a car or an off-road vehicle. Suppose you engage in careless driving or fail to obey road rules while driving an ATV. In that case, it's not unreasonable for them to believe you’ll also do so while behind the wheel of your car.
Therefore, operating an off-road vehicle safely and observing all local traffic laws is crucial. Any infraction you receive will eventually appear on your driving record. Once your insurance provider becomes aware of it, it may increase your car insurance premium.
Can you drive an off-road vehicle on highways?
Despite being designed primarily for off-road use, you may drive some types of off-road vehicles on highways. Whether you legally can, however, depends on where you live.
For example, ATVs are allowed on highways in Ontario, while in Manitoba, the practice is prohibited, except under certain circumstances. However, even if your province permits you to drive an off-road vehicle on highways, you can only do some if you comply with specific requirements.
At the bare minimum, provinces require that you hold a valid driver’s licence, register your off-road vehicle, and display a licence plate. You must also insure your off-road vehicle with the minimum coverage required in your jurisdiction. For example, in Quebec, your liability coverage for bodily injury and property damage must be a minimum of $500,000.
Next, your must ensure your off-road vehicle satisfies equipment, performance, and safety standards. It must have approved headlights, taillights, mufflers, brakes, tires, etc.
Each province also has strict rules regarding which highways you can drive on and under what conditions. For example, in Ontario, you:
Must wear an approved helmet at all times.
Can drive only on certain provincial highways (like 7000-series highways).
Must not exceed 50 km/h where the speed limit is over 50 km/h for cars and trucks.
Cannot drive with a passenger under the age of eight.
As with off-road infractions, traffic offences you commit while operating your off-road vehicle on a highway can result in a hike in your car insurance premium.
What to know before driving an off-road vehicle
Off-roading is a fun way to experience the outdoors and kick your adrenaline into high gear. However, it’s essential to be aware of the negative ramifications for your car insurance if you receive a driving infraction while operating one.
Before embarking on an off-road adventure, educate yourself on the local and provincial laws governing the operation of off-road vehicles in your province. Become familiar with rules and regulations that apply not only on off-road terrain but on highways and other public roads.
By doing so, you can better avoid situations that can lead to a traffic violation. These can include speeding, distracted driving, illegal turning, an improper crossing of a highway, and a host of other transgressions. All of these can result in you paying a steeper car insurance premium.
And don’t forget: off-road vehicles are exempt from coverage under your car insurance — they require a policy of their own.
If you’re considering adding off-road vehicle insurance to your existing car insurance policy, be prepared for a bump in your premium. To ensure you pay the lowest amount possible, you may want to explore your options to see if you can obtain a cheaper car insurance rate from another insurance provider.
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About the author
Mark Gregorski is an Edmonton-based freelance writer specializing in writing content for firms in the financial services industry, including fintech. He has written articles about investing, mortgages, credit cards, and insurance and is passionate about educating people on making wise financial decisions. Outside of writing, he enjoys working out at the gym, playing in poker tournaments, composing music, and learning about digital marketing.