With the federal government’s state of emergency and stay-at-home lockdown declarations, many Canadians were left facing an uncertain financial future. Unemployment figures shot up as businesses shut down, leaving countless consumers fretting over how they will pay their bills.
Recognizing the need to assist their customers, industries and creditors sought to ease their concerns. Banks began deferring mortgage payments and cutting credit card rates. Auto insurance companies also responded by rolling out a series of relief measures to help their customers navigate the crisis.
The Insurance Industry’s Response to COVID-19
The Insurance Bureau of Canada says consumer savings will total $600 million from the deferrals, discounts, and rebates insurers introduced. However, the level of discounts available depends on location because car coverage premiums vary by province in Canada.
Car coverage relief falls into three categories: insurers actively adding cuts and benefits to all policies, companies instructing customers to contact them to discuss their challenges, and those offering nothing.
Why are car insurers not taking a blanket approach to the problem? The reason is insurance market complexities make a standard, nationwide response to COVID-19 impossible. Insurance companies offer tailored products, drivers have different circumstances, and provinces have varying regulatory frameworks.
Auto Insurance Relief in Canada’s Provinces
Each Canadian province outlined how they will help customers manage their auto insurance payments during the COVID-19 pandemic. How these relief efforts compare is defined by the country’s two competing insurance models. Some provinces have a government-run auto insurance fund that covers all basic coverage, while others have private markets.
Provinces with Public Auto Insurance
- British Columbia: The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia introduced relief measures in April, which are in place for 60 days. Those actions include waiving policy cancellation fees for consumers, and drivers in some premium classes can use their vehicles to deliver essential items, such as medical supplies, without being charged higher rates.
- Saskatchewan: Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI) announced early on that it will not reduce premiums for drivers. The company argued too many factors count toward rate costs, so they could not consider reducing rates based solely on a decrease of collisions. However, SGI said customers struggling to pay their auto coverage can defer payments for up to 90 days and cancel a vehicle registration to lower the cost of a premium.
- Manitoba: Manitoba Public Insurance (MPI) revealed the most robust measures among the provinces that use public car coverage. In April, the Crown corporation confirmed car coverage rebates for its customers.
- MPI will offer rebates of 11 per cent of last year’s premiums, meaning the average driver will get between $140 and $160 by the end of May.
Provinces with Private Auto Insurance
Ontario and Alberta allow car coverage companies to offer rebates. Furthermore, individual companies can implement other measures independently.
For example, in Ontario, the Financial Services Regulatory Authority recently amended the Insurance Act to allow car coverage companies to provide rebates. According to InsuranceHotline.com, motorists can use a COVID-19 Ontario car coverage rebate calculator to better understand the level of discount they can get in the province. Similar regulatory concessions were made around Canada, and most auto insurers responded by offering relief measures, including:
- Auto insurance rebates
- Waiving non-sufficient fund (NSF) fees
- Payment deferrals
How Auto Insurers Are Responding to COVID-19
While auto insurers can now offer rebates, the amount they may provide varies by company. Insurance companies are offering car coverage premium discounts and other benefits during the ongoing crisis. Carriers in Canada have detailed their individual approaches; some take proactive action and contact customers, but most motorists must contact their insurer to discuss what discounts are available.
Allstate Canada – and its Pafco and Pembridge brands – says it will give its auto coverage policyholders a single payment valued at 25 per cent of their monthly premium. Called the “Stay-at-Home Payment”, the company will issue the funds to customers in May.
Canada’s second-largest insurer, Aviva Canada, says it is taking a customer-by-customer approach. Specifically, the company will offer premium discounts based on vehicle use. For motorists not using their car at all during the COVID-19 outbreak, Aviva can reduce premium costs by up to 75 per cent. Drivers who are still using their vehicle but less frequently can receive a discount of up to 15 per cent off their premium.
To be eligible for a payment, customers must apply to Aviva Canada’s #StayHome endorsement. All applications must go through an insurance broker.
Drivers can get a 15 per cent premium discount if the number of kilometres they drive has decreased during the COVID-19 outbreak. You can apply online, and belairdirect says it can take up to 30 days for it to process the discount. Customers must apply by June 30, 2020, and the 15 per cent discount will be available for three months.
The Canadian Automobile Association (CAA)
CAA Insurance has taken a simple approach and is offering a 10 per cent discount on premium rates for 12 months when a customer renews or takes out a new policy.
Auto insurance customers with Co-operators can apply for the company’s Reduced Driving Fund, which provides a minimum 10 per cent refund from April 1 to May 31. Co-operators says the relief is available to customers who are essential workers or are using their vehicle less.
Intact Financial Corporation
Canada’s largest auto insurance provider says it deals with customers on a case-by-case basis. However, the company has a standard discount of 15 per cent for motorists driving less. Available for three months, Intact assesses the reduced premium based on the number of kilometres driven in a year. Applications for the rebate are available online.
Intact Insurance also has an option for a rebate of up to 75 per cent per month if a customer stops using their vehicle and parks it safely during the pandemic. Under this premium reduction, you must agree not to drive your car. This option is only available to clients through an insurance broker.
According to Northbridge Insurance, its customers will receive an automatic 15 per cent rebate over three months. The company also has other premium rebates available for drivers not driving at all.
Personal car insurance customers receive an automatic discount of 25 per cent for one month through Travelers’ Stay-at-Home Auto Premium Credit Program. In addition, the company announced a coverage extension for customers with essential vehicle jobs, such as deliveries.
Wawanesa Insurance waived NSF fees until May 25 and is providing rebates up to 75 per cent for some motorists. The insurer advises clients to contact their broker to verify eligibility.