Recent report damning province’s system means it’s even more important for drivers to find the best deal
Last week, the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) told us what we already know: Auto insurance rates in Ontario are the highest in the land. In fact, they’re higher by an average of 55 per cent.
The Liberal government promised cuts of 15 per cent back in 2013; that measure was supposed to be in place by mid-2015, a goal we all watched go streaming by with nary a nudge. They’ve since declared it was always a “stretch” goal, whatever that is. Kind of like an alternative fact, perhaps.
Auto insurance has always been a hot election issue, and the timing of the current whipping is expected. One thing to keep in mind? Every party has screwed the pooch when it comes to this topic, with the NDP handing a fumbled ball to two successive Conservative governments who bobbled it to the incoming Liberals. They’re all as bad as each other at promising to do something, then opening the box the day after the election and grimacing.
It’s a mess.
Our current system is a dog’s breakfast of road-blocked players each pointing fingers. The system is rife with often-fraudulent in-betweeners gorging on those sky-high rates like a mosquito landing on a corpulent, passed out drunk. Too many minor claims end up in drawn-out court disputes, with money that should be going to client care instead going to experts and consultants, who often only consult on ways to expertly bleed the system to their own advantage. It’s not that Ontarians are getting extraordinary medical attention and rehab compared to some of their other provincial counterparts; it’s that the money from those bloated rates is not making it to the consumer. For what we’re paying, we should be lying around eating peeled grapes.
Nobody really likes anyone else. Consumers scream at insurance companies, who actually have to have government approval for any rate hikes or changes to wordings or coverages. Provinces that have public insurance programs, like B.C., Saskatchewan, Manitoba and, partially, Quebec are held up as the answer to Ontario’s woes. But Ontarians actually have better coverage – when it makes it to the consumer – from that private system, as it produces more competitive products. Public coverage is okay as long as you never get hurt, or at least not too badly. We simply need the private system to have the fraud reined in so that consumers can actually benefit from those products, instead of for-profit healthcare enterprises and lawyers who take a 40 per cent whack off of victim settlements.
The Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) puts the latest available fraud estimate, from 2010, between $768 million and $1.56 billion. You pay; I pay; we all pay.
We too often look at the annual cost of insurance – roughly 1,500 bucks on average in Ontario – and compare it to tales of someone in Saskatchewan who pays $500. They are getting different coverage. This was actually highlighted, in a less than positive way, last summer when one of the cost-saving measures introduced in Ontario was to reduce your standard coverage in order to reduce rates. It’s like when they reduce the size of a package of pasta but charge you the same; they think you’ll be too dumb to notice.
Don’t be too dumb. Read your fine print and contact your provider, or better yet, a broker. Brokers are good. They have access to many different insurance companies and can answer all your questions and place you with the right provider for your needs.
So, if the government(s) do squat to help you, how can you help yourself? According to Anne Marie Thomas at InsuranceHotline.com, you have to be proactive.
“Read your renewal; too many people, over half, just let it ride even though they may not be getting competitive rates. A little homework can save you a lot of money,” she explains. Don’t wait for a promised-but-probably-not-coming reduction from a government. Shop your policy and find the savings yourself.
Maybe you’re a little nervous to call up a new place to ask about quotes. Maybe you have a ticket that you are fairly certain will evade a licence check with your current company but will see sunlight with a new one. Thomas says to do your own legwork. Their site – along with others you can find online – lets you input your information and pop up an estimate. It might be in the ballpark of what you’re paying now, but it might also save you a lot of money. You don’t offer up any contact info unless you wish to pursue the offer.
We need to keep pressure on governments to fix a broken system, but we also need to stop being complacent on a major expense in our own budgets. Pay attention to changes in standard coverages and shop your renewal to protect yourself, and your money.