Newcomers to Canada can face costly roadblocks getting auto insurance

Click to play video: 'Newcomers to Canada face roadblocks when trying to get auto insurance'
Newcomers to Canada face roadblocks when trying to get auto insurance
Watch: A relative newcomer to Calgary and Canada is speaking out about what he calls unfair auto insurance policies that do not honour international driving history. As Tomasia DaSilva reports, insurers say all drivers should be aware – May 30, 2023

A relative newcomer to Canada is questioning the fairness of the automobile insurance structure , saying his driving history was not honoured.

Farshad Barzegar moved to Canada in 2021. He quickly realized he couldn’t live without a vehicle, so he bought one. He then sought out auto insurance coverage and that’s when he said the problems started.

“I tried to get insurance and then I find that they don’t accept foreigner driving history,” he said.

The 34-year-old man was shocked, especially since he had been driving for the previous 16 years in Iran and South Africa. He also said he couldn’t find any such policy on TD Insurance’s website.

“On the website, when you try to apply, they don’t say anything about the driving history must be from America or Canada.”

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Barzegar said he only found out when he called TD to confirm he was in fact covered.

“When I contact them for finalizing the bill they say, ‘Oh no. We don’t accept that. You should put exactly the date you got your driving licence in Canada.’”

When he did, his said his premium jumped from an estimated $70/month to $200+.

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Global News reached out to TD Auto Insurance which told us to contact the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC).

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IBC told Global News: “Generally speaking, driving experience is typically based on Canadian or North American driving experience.”

Officials added Canadian driving rules and regulations can also vary “considerably” from other countries.

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Insurance broker Barry Haggis, with the Insurance Brokers Association of Alberta (IBAA), agreed the no-history policy for international drivers is fairly common.

“Depending where you’re coming from to Canada, some history can be acknowledged,” Haggis said. “But the majority of it is not.”

Haggis said most international drivers are considered “new” drivers, and premiums will reflect that. He reiterated IBC’s stance that it’s largely due to different driving conditions and rules across Canada and North America compared to other countries.

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Both Haggis and IBC also said, depending on the insurer, a proof of driving history from the country of origin may be required and that can be tough to get.

“It can be difficult to get that claims history and experience letters from international countries. Without that documentation, it’s a toss-up of if we give the people the benefit of the doubt or do we charge them almost as much as we would a new driver.

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“The more documentation we have, the lower rates we can get,” he pointed out.

Haggis said it’s important to note that the policy can affect “any” driver who leaves the country for a period of time.

“This is for any driver, not just international,” he pointed out.

“There is a 48-month rule where you keep your record intact, but if you are not listed on an insurance policy in Canada for more than 48 months, you can lose the credit you have gained over the years.”

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Haggis said again it depends on the company, suggesting drivers look to brokers to look for the best deals. He added a broker can also find an insurer who will consider international driving history.

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Barzegar said if these are the rules, he’s OK with them. But, added he’s not OK with the rules not being clearly spelled out.

“I could have finalized the quotation and pay online — I know some of my friends do that — but I said, ‘OK, just let me double-check.’”

Barzegar said he was also told he would receive a letter from TD outlining the policy, but it has yet to arrive. Again, TD did not answer his concerns or our questions.

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