Saturday, July 19, 2008

Auto Notes

Two items to report:

*Both myself and Heather are now licenced, insured BC drivers. I got my license last week, Heather this week. The process was really easy and pleasant (less so for Heather, but no fault of ICBC!). Present your valid US license, take a vision test, possibly answer a few questions, pay a small fee. That's actually it.

I discovered that the reverse is basically true of Canadians who move to the US, though the BC authority gave us a two-year license, whereas the US only gives you a one-year license (you'll have to renew either the same way everyone else does).

Here's what a BC driver's licence looks like:

It wasn't a huge deal or anything, but it's a notable milestone to us. Next week, we meet with the immigration attorney at last!

* In other car news, our van Blooie "Erv" hit 100,000km last night (that's 62,137.1 miles). Still doing great. ("Blooie" or "Bluebacca" was the name of my previous auto -- oh dear was that my first "senior moment?" :) )

* While I'm on the topic of cars and such, I should mention insurance. Insurance in BC is a province-controlled industry. Basic car insurance is provided directly by the provincial government (and can be bought directly as well, no agency required); the private agencies handle anything above the legal requirements. On the one hand, the minimum insurance comes from only one source, so you can't be "gouged," and the "payouts" are significantly better (more about that below), but on the other hand if all you want is at (or near) the minimum, you really have no option (and can't avoid the minimums by going to an agency; their varying rates can only cover "extras" and additions to the required coverage).

Insurance here is in our experience more expensive than in Florida, but there are two mitigating factors:
1. We're new here. We should be due for a 25% discount at our next renewal period (three months from now).
2. The liability amounts are hugely different.

In Florida, the legal minimum coverage is 10/20/10, meaning $10,000 of personal injury protection per person, $20,000 maximum for multiple persons involved, and $10,000 property damage. That's it. Other coverage, such as uninsured motorist and liability coverage, are (sometimes strongly) suggested but not mandated by law. Florida is a "no-fault" state, meaning regardless of who caused the accident, your own insurance company will handle all claims by you. In practical terms, this means regardless of who caused the accident, your rates will go up -- and if you were the cause, you will almost certainly be sued for additional expenses (mainly healthcare costs) by the "victims," particularly if you stuck to the minimums. Your own insurance company might sue (as well as drop) you if you caused a lot of damage you didn't have adequate coverage for.

In British Columbia (each province has its own laws on this), the single term used for almost all of these different "areas" (liability, personal injury, uninsured motorist, rental car, property damage) is "liability." Minimum liability coverage (which includes PIP and up to $20,000 property damage) is $200,000. This coverage also includes both (up to) $50,000 in medical costs (and remember, we have "socialised medicine" up here, so a $50,000 medical bill is much harder to achieve than in the US) and 75% of your salary (up to $300/week) if you can't work for up to two years.

Try to find all that in a bare-bones US insurance policy!! By the way, did I mention that this policy also comes with a certain level of accidental-death insurance

Above that, the "tiers" of liability coverage seem to be $300,000, $500,000 and $1,000,000 (and so on up to $2M!). Now that we've dealt with two different agencies, we feel safe in saying that even the default minimum insurance is way above what is required by Florida and even above what most drivers there carry over and above the minimum. Deductibles are much lower as well, but your overall bill will almost certainly be higher unless you go for the bare minimum in BC. In our view, at least so far, it's a good balance: a modestly higher monthly cost, but far more generous benefits if you ever actually need them.


Anonymous said...

Here is an intra-Canadian difference I've noticed. I'm visiting Ontario this week, though live in BC. For a relative, I had to get a 10 day temporary car trip permit (functionally - a 10 day paper license plate for the car). As you have mentioned, in BC car insurance is handled by one Crown corporation, and private brokers sell the package. But those brokers also handle driver's licenses and license plates. So, the number of government staffed offices that deal with cars licenses and drivers licenses is very small (I think you still need to find a drivers license office to take a road test.

In Ontario, that has a car insurance model like Florida - ie many insurance companies competing for your business - I needed to find an Ontario Government driver license office to get the permit. Here, driver's licenses and car license plates are handled by the Ontario government directly.

I like the BC over the Ontario model better - it means more outlets, and better service.

Cheers from Salt Spring (temp in Ontario - where it is stinking hot and humid)

Anonymous said...

My husband always says that Canadians are the most insured people on earth ;) People here have insurance for EVERYTHING, which is nice because then you don't have to worry about things and won't go bankrupt if the worse happens...

heddo said...

"Blooie"? That was your old Buick, love. We named the van "Erv" because of the license plate.

Love you,