REPORT: Ontario’s 15 most expensive cities for car insurance

REPORT: Ontario’s 15 most expensive cities for car insurance

If you want to drive in Ontario, you need to pay for car insurance — that's a non-negotiable. But depending on where you live within the province, the cost of your car insurance premium can vary greatly.

This article is updated annually. As a result, city rankings may change according to the most recent data available. 

Key findings 

  • The city of Brampton has the highest car insurance in Ontario, with the average premium 62.5% higher than the provincial average — a 61-basis-point drop from 2020. 

  • The majority of the most expensive cities in Ontario for car insurance are GTA suburbs. Drivers in suburbs need a vehicle to get pretty much anywhere, and they drive on bigger highways and more congested roads, which can contribute to higher premiums since there’s a higher collision risk. 

  • The driving experience of residents in each city can impact its affordability. Insurance companies charge higher rates to those with fewer than three years of driving experience. Newcomers to Canada can face higher rates if their years of driving experience aren’t recognized by their insurance provider. As such, cities with bigger newcomer populations might have higher rates. 

If you want to drive in Ontario, you need to pay for car insurance — that's a non-negotiable. But depending on where you live within the province, the cost of your car insurance premium can vary greatly. 

Auto insurance companies determine a person’s premium based on a slew of factors, including age, driving and insurance history, vehicle make and model, and where they live. Insurance companies use postal codes to predict the likelihood of future claims based on the volume of claims they’ve paid out historically in a given area. Typically, residents of urban centres tend to pay higher rates than those in rural or remote areas. Because of their larger populations, urban centres tend to have higher numbers of claims — and to insurance companies, that spells risk.  

In order to get a better sense of how much car insurance is in different Ontario cities, we pulled data from the LowestRates.ca auto insurance quoter in October 2022 and compared the top 15 most expensive cities in Ontario to the provincial average premium. 

15 most expensive cities in Ontario for car insurance 

The 15 most expensive cities in Ontario for car insurance might surprise you. Using LowestRates.ca auto insurance quoter data, we’ve determined how much more expensive each city is for car insurance when compared to the provincial average. The 15 most expensive cities in Ontario for car insurance are ranked below: 

  1. Brampton — 62.5% more expensive than Ontario’s average

  1. North York — 44.3% more expensive than Ontario’s average

  1. Scarborough — 43.7% more expensive than Ontario’s average 

  1. Etobicoke — 29.4% more expensive than Ontario’s average 

  1. Vaughan — 25.6% more expensive than Ontario’s average 

  1. Mississauga — 25.5% more expensive than Ontario’s average 

  1. Toronto — 23% more expensive than Ontario’s average 

  1. Gormley — 18.3% more expensive than Ontario’s average

  1. Richmond Hill — 18.2% more expensive than Ontario’s average 

  1. York — 11.2% more expensive than Ontario’s average

  1. Markham — 9.6% more expensive than Ontario’s average

  1. Caledon — 4.8% more expensive than Ontario’s average

  1. Ajax — 2% more expensive than Ontario’s average

  1. Hamilton — 1.9% more expensive than Ontario’s average

  1. Tottenham — 1.6% more expensive than Ontario’s average

The suburb factor

Brampton remains the most expensive city in Ontario for car insurance, but it has gotten more affordable since 2020, when it was 123.5% more expensive than Ontario’s average. According to our most recent data, Brampton car insurance rates are now 62.5% higher than the Ontario average.  

"Population density is a contributing factor,” says Steven Harris, a LowestRates.ca insurance expert.  “Generally, the more vehicles on the road mean the more opportunities for collisions, driving claim frequency and severity. In areas where claims occur more often and the claim settlements are higher, premiums will be higher.” 

The Flower City has made headlines for several years for its high insurance premiums, and garnered attention from members of provincial parliament. Some insurance companies have long pegged Brampton as a hotspot for auto insurance fraud (an allegation that has been met with pushback). Auto insurance fraud is when criminals stage collisions and overstate damage and injuries in order to collect a large payout on a claim. When insurance companies wind up paying out more in claims than they collect in premiums, they raise rates to offset the loss. 

It’s also important to note that Brampton, along with many other cities on this list are suburbs that surround the city of Toronto and largely make up what’s known as the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA).   

“There is more traffic that commutes from outside of Toronto into the city for work than the inverse,” Harris says. “Meaning the higher insurance rates of commuters driving in Toronto come from neighbouring cities in the Greater Toronto Area.” 

It’s also important to consider the types of auto insurance policies common to suburbs. In order to get around, drivers in suburbs must drive on bigger highways and more congested roads, which insurance companies view as riskier than driving on city streets with lower speed limits. On top of that, there are likely more “pleasure-rated” car insurance policies in a city like Toronto, where drivers may not use their vehicles to commute to and from work every day, but rather for leisure, such as picking up groceries, or weekend trips out of the city — and rely instead on public transit to get around most of the time. 

“In many cases, Toronto residents’ vehicles aren’t exposed to the risk of the daily commute and are used for pleasure,” says Harris. “This risk classification reduces premiums because the chance of a claim is less.” 

While there are lots of vehicle owners in Toronto, if they drive fewer kilometres in a year, their rates will likely be lower than those living in suburbs, where you need a vehicle to get pretty much anywhere. 

In contrast, a city like Ottawa, with a metro area population of about 1.4 million, isn’t surrounded by cities with high populations the way Toronto is. So, while Ottawa is a significantly populated city, the “overall traffic passing through the city is less compared to the GTA region,” says Harris, keeping it out of the top 10 list.  

The driving experience factor

Several of the cities on this list may be home to a significant number of new Canadians. Unfortunately for new Canadians, driving history from their home country may not count once they get to Canada. If that’s the case, they’ll have to start from scratch by getting a Canadian driver’s licence and purchasing car insurance soon after they arrive. Insurance companies here in Canada may view this as their first time being listed on an insurance policy, which would also raise their premium, as they’re considered “new drivers.” 

A higher percentage of new drivers (i.e. those with less than three years of experience) in a given region also plays a part in driving up insurance premiums because their lack of experience on Canadian roads makes them riskier to insure, according to insurance companies. Driving experience and insurance history are two factors insurance companies use to calculate car insurance rates. The longer you’ve been driving and the longer you’ve been listed on an insurance policy in good standing, the lower your rates will generally be. 

“Licence experience and insurance experience from other countries won’t always qualify for consideration in Ontario because we have a unique driving experience with our winters,” says Harris. “Someone who is an experienced driver in a warm climate will have a different challenge driving in February, in Ontario.” 

The same is true for international students on the hunt for student car insurance. Many international students choose to live in suburbs outside of Toronto, such as Scarborough and Mississauga, for their lower living costs. A higher density of new drivers in these areas could also explain why rates are more expensive. 

What can drivers in these Ontario cities do to save money? 

The Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario (FSRA) has recently started approving rate changes. So, premiums in these cities could be even higher in 2023. However, drivers who live in a city on this list still have an opportunity to reduce their auto insurance premiums and find savings. In addition to geographic location and driving experience, there are many other factors that have an impact on how much we pay for car insurance.  

Here are some ways to secure a lower auto insurance rate:  

  • Shop around. Compare car insurance rates online from multiple providers before you settle on a policy. Insurance companies base their prices on the level of risk each customer presents. That’s why car insurance prices are different for every driver. No two providers will offer the same rate to the same driver, as premiums depend on the number of claims payouts each company makes and the company’s unique algorithm for risk assessment. 

  • Build up driving experience and keep a clean record. The longer you maintain a good driving history, the more likely your rate is to gradually come down. 

  • Don’t make unnecessary claims. If it’s a small claim and you can afford to pay for the damage yourself, it’s in your best interest to do so. Every time you make a claim it goes on your insurance record and can drive up your premium.  

  • Bring proof of past driving experience. Newcomers and students can show proof of insurance history and driving experience to an insurance company and see if they can get a better deal. Especially if you’re moving from a country with similar driving conditions to Canada, you’re more likely to find savings for new driver car insurance. 

  • Ask your broker/agent about discounts you’re eligible for. As a newcomer/student you might not have exhausted all your options to find a cheaper premium. Getting winter tires or even taking driver training or education programs are just a few ways you can save money on your car insurance in Ontario. Check with your insurance provider for details.  
     

Methodology 

We analyzed quote data from the LowestRates.ca auto insurance quoter in October 2022 with the following parameters: 

  • Number of drivers: 1 

  • Number of vehicles: 1 

  • Number of accidents: 0 

  • Number of tickets: 0 

  • Number of claims: 0 

  • Calculations include both people who received a quote for auto insurance on our site and went on to speak with a broker, as well as those who started the quote process but then decided not to proceed before completing it or speaking to a broker. 

Interested in creating content with LowestRates.ca? Reach us at email@lowestrates.ca

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About the authors

Zandile Chiwanza

Zandile is a freelance personal finance journalist. She previously worked as a personal finance writer at LowestRates.ca and before that, the content editor for Real Estate Management Industry News. As a self-proclaimed budget warrior, Zandile dedicates most of her time to advocating for financial wellness.

Lisa Coxon

Lisa is a senior editor in the personal finance space. Her work has appeared in Reader’s Digest, Toronto Life, Canadian Living and TVO. As a child, she diligently hoarded the $50 bills that fell out of her Christmas cards. Adult Lisa is working hard to resurrect those stockpiling tendencies. 

Michelle Bates

Michelle Bates is an editor/writer in the personal finance space. Her work has also been featured in Cottage Life magazine and on CottageLife.com. In her spare time, Michelle enjoys thrifting home decor, attending live shows, and playing with her Yorkie/Shih Tzu, Freddie, at the park.

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