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Car Insurance forms (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Car Insurance forms (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Driving Concerns

My car won't be driven – do I still need insurance? Add to ...

I want to buy a car that is for sale but I do not want to insure it at the moment, just get it in my garage and in my name. Ontario’s government website mentions that proof of insurance is required for registration, but is this the case if I do not want to drive it, just transfer the ownership and keep it on my property? – M.

You can’t get plates without insurance – and you need both to actually drive the car.

“To simply drive from the place of purchase to your property on public roads would require the vehicle be registered and carry insurance,” says Andrew McGrath, manager of media relations with the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC).

But, if you’re not planning to drive it home, you’re fine without insurance. If you’ve bought a car and just want to get it in your name, you don’t need it, says Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation (MTO).

“Once the customer visits the ServiceOntario centre with all required documentation to register the vehicle and pay all applicable fees, he or she will receive a vehicle ownership document that will indicate that the vehicle is in his or her name,” says Kwok Wong, senior issues advisor with the MTO.

So when do they ask for proof of insurance? When you buy or renew the licence plates.

“If the customer does not wish to attach plates to the vehicle, insurance is not required and the ownership document will indicate that there are no plates attached to the vehicle,” Wong says in an e-mail.

Without plates, you’ll have to get the car delivered to your house somehow – either by a truck or by the previous owner or dealer with their plates.

That’s because you’re not allowed to drive it – or park it – on public roads without registration and insurance.

“If the vehicle were towed to your property and is not driven on public roadways, it may be possible to have the vehicle delivered,” McGrath says. “But it would have to unloaded on private property, it cannot even be unloaded on the street.”

If you’re caught driving it without plates and insurance, you could be charged with driving without registration – which nets a $60-500 fine under the Highway Traffic Act. And driving without insurance is even pricier.

“Drivers convicted of operating a motor vehicle without minimum liability insurance may be subject to a minimum fine $5,000 for the first offence under the Compulsory Automobile Insurance Act,” Wong says.

IBC says it’s not aware of any company offering temporary insurance – so if you want to get plates and drive the car home, you’d have to buy a policy and cancel it.

“Once on your property the insurance coverage could be cancelled,” McGrath says. “Of course, if the car was then stolen from your property, there would be no coverage.”

Legally, you’re not allowed to take the plates off one vehicle you own and put them on to another that doesn’t have plates - even for just a quick drive from the lot. 

“Plates must stay on the vehicle for which they're registered,” Wong said. "Any vehicle that is driven on a public road must have insurance and be plated.”

Local bylaws determine whether you can have a vehicle parked on your property. In Toronto, a vehicle has to be operable, the city says - you have to prove that you can start it.

There are also other insurance options for stored vehicles. You’re not required to have coverage, but it’s a good idea. Insurance for stored vehicles allows you to leave some coverage on while it’s in your garage.

“While the vehicle is in storage, you can remove the required road, liability and accident benefits insurance.” Wong says. “You should keep comprehensive insurance on the vehicle to protect against fire, theft or other types of damage.”

When you’re ready to bring the vehicle out of storage, you need to resume road insurance “about two to three weeks before you start driving to allow your insurance company time to report your information to the Insurance Bureau of Canada,” Wong says.

And, if you’re financing or leasing a car, skipping insurance may not be an option, McGrath says. “If you finance or lease the vehicle, the lender or leasing company will want proof of insurance and to be listed on the policy,” he says.

Have a driving question? Send it to globedrive@globeandmail.com. Canada is a big place, so let us know where you are so we can find the answer for your city and province.

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