How to Buy, Insure and Register a Car In Canada

Alternatives to Owning a Car

A close up of a classic red car's right headlight, blinker, and bumper, and the perspective of the right side of the vehicle with chrome details
How to buy a car
by Kim Mc.

Before you buy your own car, consider your needs and the alternatives that may cover them at a much lower cost and with less hassle.

Commuting to Work

If you live in a town or city that’s well serviced by a public transportation network (which Toronto definitely is), you will find that commuting by bus or subway is much less stressful and is cheaper than driving. You may justify using the car if you’re carpooling – sharing a car with one or more colleagues living in your neighbourhood or passing by your home on their way to work.

After public transportation, carpooling is the most encouraged form of commuting because it slashes the environmental toll that a commute takes on the environment. Not only is carpooling a social experience, but it will also make for a more entertaining time than a lonely morning and evening drive.

But commuting is not the only use for a car. Surely, you sometimes need to go grocery shopping or just do not want to rely on public transportation. It’s a fact that a car ride is usually faster than public transportation in the off-peak hours. And because not all of us have helpful neighbours who would always be willing to drive us whenever we need a ride, we might want to have a car that we could use when necessary.

Car Sharing Co-ops across Canada

In Canada, a popular way of not owning a car and still driving is participating in car sharing co-ops. These co-ops organize and manage fleets of vehicles distributed across various locations in cities and suburbs. A co-op member can reserve a car at a specific place for a specific time and he or she can make use of it for the reserved period. Apart from bringing the car back in time for the next member to use it, the only other obligation of a car sharing member is to fill up the gas tank after the ride.

A car sharing member pays a combined fee for the duration of the reservation and the distance driven, which allows the co-op to service and expand the fleet. You can become a member if you have a full class “G” driver’s licence, a clean driving record, and are at least 23 years old. Most car-sharing co-ops charge a one-time membership fee when you sign up, and some may ask for a recurring membership fee to keep you registered as a member/driver.

Use this list of car-sharing organizations in Canada to find and learn more about AutoShare in Toronto, Modo The Car Co-op in British Columbia, the popular CommunAuto in the Québec province, and other popular auto-sharing co-ops across the country.

When you use a shared car, you avoid having to cope with parking, car insurance, car financing, and regular check-ups, and it is environmentally-friendly and cost-efficient as well.

Car sharing — or auto sharing, as it is referred to in some provinces — is a popular way for those who have but a sporadic need for a car to gain convenient and affordable access to a set of wheels. Enjoy the benefits of having a car without actually owning one.

How To Buy a Car in Canada

A working DeLorean DMC-12 coupé with open doors and red leather seats in a show of interesting cars in Canada
DeLorean DMC-12 by racin jason
  1. Write down your needs and your favourite vehicles. Visit sites like Consumer Reports, JD Power, and Edmunds to research the type of car that meets your requirements. Keep in mind that in Canada, you are not allowed to purchase a car over the Internet.
  2. Define your budget. Research leases, purchase options, and resale value. You might consider buying a used vehicle, in that it will cost you less to insure. If you need financial support, you may consider taking a car loan from a Canadian bank, such as the Royal Bank of Canada or the Bank of Montreal.
  3. Test drive the car thoroughly and see how it responds to your driving habits. Is it the right one for you? Test it in various conditions, like in city traffic and on an open road and see how easily it turns and brakes. Check its safety features and fuel efficiency. Bear in mind that your insurance rates can be lower or higher depending on the type of vehicle you buy.
  4. Before signing a contract with a Canadian car dealership, ask that the buyer’s right to cancel be included. This will prove very valuable/useful in the event that you change your mind about the car, as it allows you to return it shortly after its purchase.
  5. After buying your car, you will need to register, license, and insure it. Some dealerships have an on-site insurance broker who can help you with all of the registration, licensing, and insurance paperwork on the same day you pick up the car from the dealership.

TIP Do not throw away receipts, contracts, or vehicle identification numbers (VIN). You will need all or some of these documents in various future steps, like registering the car or selling it.

How To Insure a Car In Canada

ilustrativne car
Photo by Mo Riza

Purchasing auto insurance for your Canadian car is required by federal law. Before you can attach plates to a vehicle or renew your registration, or buy a temporary (trip) permit, the vehicle must be insured. All drivers must have third-party liability insurance, for which the minimum amount is $200,000, except in Quebec where it is $50,000.

Drivers are also required to have insurance coverage for their own medical expenses and any loss of income which may be incurred as a result of driving-related injuries (this is the case for every province and territory in Canada except for Newfoundland & Labrador).

In provinces and territories across Canada, car insurance is provided by private companies. In British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba, the statutory insurance coverage is provided by government-run insurance companies, and the additional insurance requirements by private and government insurance companies.

Regulation regarding car insurance is set by provincial laws, government agencies, and some federal laws. You can find more information about car insurance regulations for each province and territory in Canada here.

For more information about car insurance in Ontario, please click here.

Types of Car Insurance in Canada

  • Third-party liability insurance – This type of insurance is compulsory in Canada. It covers, up to a certain amount, any damage due to your own fault to any other party’s property, or pays compensation for a third party’s personal injury and/or death.
  • Collision insurance - This type of insurance covers damage to your own car, should an accident occur that is your fault.
  • Comprehensive insurance - This type of insurance protects against theft and vandalism.

What you need to provide for insurance

  1. Canadian driver’s licence & driving record (International licenses are not enough in many cases)
  2. Name & address
  3. Information about the vehicle: its make, model, mileage, and registration number
  4. Details about past and current insurance providers
  5. Official letter from any previous insurance company detailing previous insurance records and any ‘no claims bonuses.’ Some insurance companies do take this information into account.

Find the best and cheapest insurance for your car

Research before you buy!

Compare rates and offers from various insurance companies. Affordable Canadian car insurance is sold by major insurance firms, such as TD Trust. Do not hesitate to ask insurance brokers — they may be able to find a better price for you, as they usually compare the products of many insurance companies. You can also consult some free websites that can compare prices from many companies.

Take a driver’s course or obtain a full licence (G).

If you are a newly licensed driver, you can get a surprising discount in your premiums by most car insurance companies. The same applies if you had a G1 license (written test) or G2 (intermediate) and then you obtain a G licence (full license). Just call your insurance agent and let him or her know. Even if your premiums are not lowered immediately, they will surely be when renewing your policy next time. Do not forget to inform your agent about your valid driver’s license from your country of origin as well as to provide him proof for any previous insurances you had in your country of origin.

Insure all of your cars, or your car and house, with the same company.

Most insurance companies offer significant discounts if you insure both your car and your house, or all of your cars, on the same policy. You can save up to 10 to 15 per cent.

Drive a “low-risk” car and install an anti-theft device in it.

The more likely a car is to be stolen or in an accident, the more you pay for insurance. Besides, some car insurance companies may give you a discount for having extra theft protection on your car.

Drop collision coverage if your car is old.

Compare the value of your collision coverage with your old car’s value. Is it worth the insurance deductible?

Maintain a ‘clean’ driving record

Your driving record directly affects your car insurance rate. The worse your record is, the higher car insurance premiums you will have to pay!

How to make a claim

car by tophera
Car by Topher
  1. In the event of an accident or damage to a vehicle, contact your car insurance company as soon as possible. By law, insurance companies must be informed about any collision that has been reported to the police, or that is going to be claimed under the insurance policy. Be aware that some companies specify that they must be contacted within seven days from the day of the accident. When making a claim against another driver, contact their insurance company personally within seven days.
  2. Provide the insurance company with all of the necessary details. Most insurance policies require that a written declaration stating “proof of loss” be made within 90 days of the accident. Wait until the insurance company has agreed to pay for repairs.
  3. Get an official receipt for repairs, as this may be required by the insurance company to claim back any costs.

How To Register a Car in Canada

What documents do I need to register my car?
You should gather three documents: your driver’s license, certificate of sale, and certificate of title of the car. In addition to these documents, you must also provide your license plate number, odometer reading, and safety inspection number. Be aware that you will be required to provide all of these along with your registration form when registering your car.
What is a ‘pink slip?’
A pink slip is the certificate of title of the car. This slip should have both the seller’s and the buyer’s signature.
Where do I register my car/Where do I find the application form?
This depends on the province/territory in which you have settled. To find out where to register your car in each province/territory, please consult the links on this page. The service representative of the registry will provide you with the registration forms. To find out more about registering your car in Ontario, please click here.
What is the ‘Master Number’ on my application?
It is a fourteen-digit number that consists of the first five letters of your last name plus the day, month, and year of your birth, and three computer-generated numbers. It can be also found as ‘Client Master Number’ and refers to your Driver’s License.
What is a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)?
The Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) is an internationally accepted code that provides a distinct identifier for all vehicles. It contains information about the vehicle manufacturer, model, year, make, motive power, number of axles, and so forth.
Do I have to pay a fee for the registration?
Yes. The fee includes taxes and varies across provinces.
Do I receive any documents as a proof of my registration?
Yes. After your application is processed successfully by the service representative, you will receive a registration sticker and registration papers. The sticker should be placed in the corner of your license plate, and the papers can be kept in your car.

24 thoughts on “How to Buy, Insure and Register a Car In Canada

January 11, 2013 at 2:22 pm
Ted Riddle says:

Can you tell me if I can come British Columbia from Australia with an International liscense and buy a car and Register and Insure with only Post office Box address as I will be travelling and staying in different places and have no fixed address

Thanks Ted Riddle

January 11, 2013 at 4:03 pm
Jamie Sarner says:

Hi Ted,
You have chosen a particularly beautiful location to start your journey.

In order to drive a car off of the lot you must first furnish the dealer with proof of insurance. I recommend you start with the insurance dealer first to see what their particular requirements are for your situation. Here is a link to the Insurance Bureau of Canada’s BC page. Hopefully it will take you to the next step.

Best wishes in your Canadian travels.


June 30, 2013 at 5:00 pm
Paul says:

Gday Ted,

I am an Aussie who had the same idea as you to travel out east. I have did it too which is awesome. I lived in Vancouver Island and the regestration process is not complicated on the Island as it is on the mainland. Vancouver you will need to do a Aircare test for air standards for the vehicle. If you can provide insurance history letters from the insurance companies from Australia you can receive up to 45% in discount for insurance. I bought a 4×4 truck and it has saved me a lot of cash crossing the country I ended up in Ontario but be very carefull here. If you do decide to travel across the country make sure your insurace will cover you for the time that you out east as the regestration process in Ontario is a nightmare and you will need to have a canadian licence. Insurance in Ontario is 4000 bucks with no discount to Australians. Another thing I would like to mention too. If you do decide to live out east you will need to change your regional status for BC to Z as it is out of province. The premium is slightly higher but it is a lot cheaper than having to regester the vehicle out of province. If you are not a BC resident and your insurance and rego runs out in a another province you will not be able to call ICBC to top it up because they do not provide out of province insurance to people who are not canadian or BC resident. This is only if your out of province though Different to back at home.

Even though I loved the drive from west to east I would not do it this way again as it has caused much grief. The best thing for you to do is buy a vehicle in BC and see the mountains and the island ect. Once you have seen BC and Alberta I would sell the vehicle and fly to Ontario. Out east they have megabus which is dirt cheap go anywhere and it will save you a lot of grief. Toronto you cannot park anywhere without paying for it.

Good luck with your travels.


July 3, 2013 at 7:38 am
Jamie Sarner says:

Thank you, Rob for sharing your experience – and advice! Toronto really isn’t budget-friendly when it comes to parking, so I would also suggest Ted to either use public transportation or a bike.

Best of luck to you both,


January 6, 2014 at 6:33 pm
Damola says:

I have a foreign drivers licence with date of first issue in 1990. I just got a G licence in December 2013. Please which insurance companies take international driving experience into account? Can you tell me a few so I can contact them?

March 5, 2015 at 4:19 am
Aarom says:

Is it possible for a g1 driver to get only comprehensive insurance to put a vehicle into their name?

April 3, 2016 at 8:03 pm
Muhammad says:

You do not need an insurance or even a drivers license to put a car under your name you just can’t get the plates on it till you get your g2.

March 27, 2015 at 11:03 am
Rob says:

Question: I freqently travel to Ontario and my mother wants to
Gift me her car. Can I be a full time resident of B.C. and own and insure a car in my name in Ontario?

June 15, 2015 at 2:35 pm
ashlynn says:

Ok I bought a car I have my g1 go for my G2 on Wednesday. I am confident I will pass the G2 test. My question is can I get insurance on it now with only my g1 with only myself listed…I need to see if it can pass emissions before fixing the rest of the problems….obviously I will drive with someone who has a full license.

October 17, 2016 at 2:10 pm
Sim says:

Hi I was wondering, Can I buy a car in Ontario on a UK driving license? I have one year of experience. I want to buy my own car but will the insurance company insure my car on a UK license?

November 2, 2016 at 10:29 am
Jamie Sarner says:

Hi Sim,
it’s possible to get a car insurance on foreign driving license. However this type of insurance is fairly expensive. I recommend getting local driving licence first.
You could ask at the insurance company for details and what solution might be more suitable for your needs.
Jamie Sarner

January 11, 2017 at 3:29 pm
Alexander says:

Jamie, do you have any idea if it’s possible to register a car in BC that I would plan on leaving in storage there and visiting once a year? Can it be insured via a US license? I have a insurance here in the ‘states. Any suggestions are appreciated.



April 5, 2017 at 12:59 pm
Justin says:

HI Jamie, I have had an Ontario Drivers licence since the start of 2016, I own a business with my wife (Canadian) that business owns a vehicle that my wife had insured, I tried to put my name on as a driver and they said no, that they needed information about my driving experience, I had a licence in Australia and insurance for the last 10 years and before that New Zealand. Can you tell me what information they will need exactly, please?

April 11, 2017 at 9:15 am
Jamie Sarner says:

Hi Justin,
Do you have any documents proving you had driving license in Australia and New Zealand? Bring those, and if that don’t help, ask them what kind of documents they approve. Hope this helped.

April 17, 2017 at 3:41 pm
Lindi says:

Hi Jamie, hope you’re well!
I’m new to Vancoucer, BC. I hold a full UK driver’s license but it’s just under 2 years old, so therefore I must take my Canadian drivers test. I’m advised that the earliest I can take it is June 2018, which I guess is okay since I’m just happy to be able to drive at all. I recently swapped my full UK license for a Canadian learners license and my next mission is to get myself car, however I just wanted to check that I’m all good to get my own car over here (I’m looking to purchase one privately), register it under my name and get insured on it. Wondered if you have any tips for me, as I want to make sure I’m doing everything legitimately. I’d appreciate any advice 🙂 Thanks, Lindi

May 3, 2017 at 5:41 pm
burt says:

can I keep my new Brunswick insurance and change my plates to Ontario plates, as I will be working in Ontario for a year??

June 30, 2017 at 7:56 pm
Madonna says:

This is actually helpful, thanks.

July 14, 2017 at 2:43 am
Treezie says:

I’m hoping someone has some wisdom that will help with my predicament:

I’m flying from Australia to Calgary in a few weeks and was hoping to drive from there to Oregon, exploring National Parks on the way (so a car is kind of essential). My sister’s in Calgary and her partner has a car he’s willing to loan/sell me for the journey, we’re just struggling figuring out how to insure my driving it. I have a full Australian license and will be traveling on a tourist visa. I can either buy the car from him and transfer the title or borrow it and keep it in his name. Whatever is easiest for insurance.

So far, neither option is looking very possible. Especially not if we plan to take it into the US. He was planning to sell it anyway and doesn’t need it back, but that matters not if I can’t legally drive it anywhere in the first place.

My travel insurance will cover a hire car, but if I have the option of this one I’d prefer it if possible.

Any advice?

Thanks 🙂

August 23, 2017 at 3:50 pm
Ts says:

Hi, I’m new to Canada, I have drivers license from my home country. Can i buy and car, register it and get insurance with my foreign license? If not, can I do all that with my g1? Because I have to wait one year after g1 to get g2 right? I hope I don’t have to wait another year to get a car.

November 13, 2017 at 6:25 am
Amy says:

Hello, i recently purchased a car but i do not currently have a drivers license. Can i register a vehicle and insure it in my name? Or do i have to have a valid drivers license first or someone that is licensed in order to register and insure my car?

December 30, 2017 at 8:05 pm
sunrise says:

i have a question i am tryna buy a vehicle and im wondering how you insure a vehicle , at my bank or the registries i am new to all of this thank you!

October 4, 2018 at 2:54 am

Very nice post! Automotive industry is currently in revolution and these things has actually changed the game as you have mentioned here.I must say, these were some quite good updates.Thanks a lot! Keep up the good work as this is going to be very useful.

November 29, 2021 at 9:49 am
Findlay WIHLIDAL says:

I have a question, can I get Canadian plates with insurance from the United States and I also have a Canadian licence.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.