Alberta car insurance laws

14 minute read Published on Nov 1, 2023 by BrokerLink Communications

Side mirror of a moving car offers a picturesque view of the mountains of Alberta

Navigating the roadways of Alberta, Canada, can be an exhilarating experience, with its picturesque landscapes and diverse terrain. However, before you embark on your journey, it’s crucial to understand the rules and regulations that govern your safety and financial well-being as a driver. Car insurance is an indispensable aspect of driving in Alberta, and comprehending the province’s intricate insurance laws is essential for every motorist.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve deep into Alberta’s car insurance laws. From mandatory minimums to optional enhancements and everything in between, let’s embark on a journey through the intricacies of Alberta’s car insurance to help you drive with confidence and peace of mind.

Can you drive a car without insurance in Alberta?

First and foremost, you cannot legally drive a car without insurance in Alberta. It is a mandatory requirement for all motorists in Alberta to have a valid driver’s licence and a minimum level of auto insurance coverage. If you are caught driving without valid car insurance, you can face significant penalties, including fines, licence suspension, and vehicle impoundment.

Additionally, operating a vehicle without insurance is not only illegal but also financially risky because you would be personally responsible for covering the costs of any accidents or damages that occur while driving uninsured. Therefore, it is essential to have a proper car insurance policy in place before operating a vehicle on Alberta’s roads.

What are the car insurance laws in Alberta?

Driving in Alberta without a valid car insurance policy is against the law. This is because driving without insurance poses a risk not just to the driver but also to all other road users. If you are found operating a vehicle without proper car insurance, you could potentially incur significant penalties. For the first offence, it’s a minimum of $2,875 up to $10,000. If you are apprehended for the same offence within five years of the initial incident, you will be liable for a minimum fine of $5,000, which can escalate to as much as $20,000. Failure to pay within a certain time frame can result in jail time.

There are multiple types of auto insurance available in Alberta. Below, we’ll discuss the most common coverages in detail:

Mandatory insurance coverage

In Alberta, it is mandatory for all drivers to have a minimum level of auto insurance. The mandatory coverage includes third-party liability insurance, accident benefits coverage, and uninsured motorist coverage:

Third-party liability insurance

Drivers in Alberta are required to carry a minimum of $200,000 in third-party liability car insurance. However, most drivers in Alberta opt for at least $1,000,000 worth of coverage before they hit the road. This insurance provides coverage in case you injure someone else or damage their property while operating your vehicle.

Accident benefits coverage

Alberta’s standard auto insurance also includes accident benefits coverage, which provides compensation for medical expenses, rehabilitation, and other related costs for individuals injured in a car accident, regardless of fault.

Direct compensation for property damage (DCPD)

DCPD allows you to claim damage to your vehicle directly from your own insurance company if you are involved in an accident and not at fault. This new mandatory coverage streamlines the claims process, as you do not need to wait for the at-fault driver’s insurance to cover your damages.

Optional insurance coverage

In addition to mandatory coverage, Alberta drivers have the option to purchase additional insurance coverage add-ons or endorsements, such as collision coverage, comprehensive coverage, accident forgiveness coverage, and more. Some of the most popular and common options that drivers in Alberta add to their policies are as follows:

Collision coverage

Collision coverage provides protection for your vehicle in case of an accident, regardless of fault. It covers the cost of repairing or replacing your vehicle, minus the deductible, after a collision with another vehicle or object.

Specified perils coverage

Specified perils coverage provides protection for specific named risks or perils, such as fire, theft, vandalism, and certain natural disasters, like wildfires, floods, and hail, as listed in your policy. It covers damages to your vehicle caused by these specified events, subject to the terms and conditions outlined in your auto insurance policy.

Comprehensive coverage

Comprehensive coverage is a broader form of specified perils and protects your vehicle from non-collision-related incidents, such as theft, vandalism, weather damage, and animal collisions. It covers the cost of repairing or replacing your vehicle, minus the deductible, in these situations.

All perils coverage

All perils coverage combines collision and comprehensive. It provides protection from a wide range of risks, including collision, theft, vandalism, and other perils not specifically excluded in your policy. It offers broad coverage for various types of damages to your vehicle, subject to the terms and conditions outlined in your auto insurance policy.

Uninsured motorist coverage

This coverage protects you if you’re involved in an accident with a driver who doesn’t have sufficient insurance, is uninsured, or if you’re involved in a hit-and-run collision. It helps cover your expenses in such cases.

Accident forgiveness coverage

Accident forgiveness coverage forgives your first at-fault accident, preventing your insurance premiums from increasing as a result of that accident. It provides a safeguard for your driving record and helps maintain your insurance rates after an accident.

What doesn’t Alberta car insurance cover?

Car insurance policies in Alberta typically provide coverage for a wide range of situations, but there are certain exclusions and limitations to coverage. It’s essential for policyholders to understand what their insurance policy does not cover. Here are some common situations and items that Alberta car insurance may not cover:

Intentional damage

Car insurance generally does not cover intentional damage to your own vehicle or another person’s property caused deliberately by you.

Criminal activities

If you were engaged in criminal activities at the time of an accident, your insurance may not cover the damages. This includes activities like driving under the influence, participating in illegal street racing, or using your vehicle for criminal purposes.

Commercial use

If you use your personal vehicle for commercial purposes and have not disclosed this to your insurer, accidents that occur during business activities may not be covered. Commercial auto insurance is a separate policy that business owners must purchase if they use their vehicles for commercial purposes.

Wear and tear

Normal wear and tear, depreciation, and maintenance expenses are not covered by car insurance.

Custom equipment

Aftermarket customizations and equipment added to your vehicle, such as high-end stereo systems, may only be fully covered if you purchase additional coverage.

Lapsed or cancelled policies

If your insurance policy is not in force, for any reason such as non-payment, you will not have coverage in the event of an accident.

It’s crucial to carefully review your specific insurance policy, including its terms, conditions, and exclusions, to ensure you fully understand what your auto insurance policy does and does not cover. If you have questions or concerns about what your policy covers, it’s advisable to discuss them with your insurance company or a local insurance broker in Alberta.

How to purchase car insurance in Alberta

Purchasing car insurance in Alberta involves several steps to ensure you have the coverage you need. Here’s a general guide on how to purchase car insurance in Alberta:

First, assess your insurance needs. Determine the type of coverage you require based on your vehicle, driving habits, and personal circumstances. Alberta mandates a minimum level of coverage, but you may want to consider additional options like collision, comprehensive, or increased liability coverage.

Next, compare insurance providers and get several quotes. Begin by researching various insurance companies and brokers in Alberta to find the one that best suits your needs. Compare factors like coverage options, rates, customer service, and reputation. Once you’ve decided on a few providers, contact each insurance company or use online tools to request quotes for the coverage you need. Be prepared to provide information about your vehicle, driving history, and any additional drivers.

Then, carefully review the coverage options and policy terms offered by each insurance company. Ensure you understand what is covered, any limitations or exclusions, and how claims are processed. Don’t hesitate to ask questions about the policy, including deductibles, discounts, and any optional endorsements that may be of benefit to your policy. Clarify any doubts with the insurance provider or broker.

Once you’ve compared quotes and assessed the options, choose the insurance policy that best meets your needs and budget. Complete the application and provide accurate information about yourself, your vehicle, and any additional drivers. Misrepresentation or omissions could affect your coverage.

To activate your policy, you’ll need to pay the initial premium. You can usually choose to pay the premium annually, semi-annually, quarterly, or monthly, depending on your preferences and the insurer’s payment options. Once you’ve paid your premium, you’ll receive proof of insurance, which typically includes an insurance card and a copy of your policy. Ensure you keep these documents in your vehicle at all times as proof of coverage.

Should I use an insurance broker to purchase Alberta car insurance?

Using a licensed insurance broker, like one of our many expert insurance brokers at BrokerLink, to purchase car insurance in Alberta can be a beneficial choice, depending on your individual circumstances and priorities. There are several advantages to working with an insurance broker.

Firstly, insurance brokers possess expertise in the insurance market, enabling them to provide expert guidance on coverage options, policy features, and endorsements that best match your unique needs. Secondly, brokers work with multiple insurance companies, granting you access to a variety of quotes and policy options. This can save you valuable time and effort, as comparing policies from different insurers can be simplified by them doing the leg work for you. Additionally, brokers often have access to discounts and special promotions that may not be directly available to consumers.

Furthermore, insurance brokers in Alberta provide ongoing support and assistance that can be particularly valuable when it comes time to renew your car insurance or even submit an insurance claim. When your policy is up for renewal, brokers can proactively review your coverage to ensure it still aligns with your changing needs and circumstances. They can also help you explore potential cost-saving opportunities, such as discounts or adjustments to your coverage based on your driving history. And if you’ve accidentally let your auto insurance expire, a broker can guide you through the process of renewing expired car insurance.

Moreover, in the unfortunate event of an accident or loss, insurance brokers can be your trusted partner throughout the claims process. They can help you understand the steps involved, gather the necessary documentation, and liaise with the insurance company on your behalf. Their expertise can be especially beneficial when navigating the complexities of a claim, ensuring that you receive fair and timely compensation.

By maintaining a long-term relationship with an insurance broker, you can tap into their knowledge and experience to make informed decisions about your coverage. Whether it’s purchasing car insurance for the first time, addressing changes in your life, optimizing your policy during renewal, or guiding you through the claims process, insurance brokers offer ongoing support that goes beyond the initial policy purchase. This personalized assistance can provide peace of mind, knowing that you have a dedicated professional to rely on when managing your auto insurance needs in Alberta.

How to lower your car insurance premiums in Alberta

Reducing your auto insurance premiums in Alberta, as in many other regions, often requires a combination of careful decision-making and understanding what factors influence insurance rates. Here are several strategies you can consider:

Shop around

Different insurance companies use varying criteria to determine premiums. By gathering multiple quotes, you can get a sense of the range of prices available and select the one that offers the best value for the coverage you need. Don’t simply look at the price – consider the coverage, the reputation of the insurance company, and the quality of their customer service.

Choose your vehicle wisely

Research vehicles before buying. Some cars have higher repair costs or are more likely to be stolen, which can result in higher premiums. Safety ratings also play a crucial role. A vehicle with superior crash test results and safety features may be cheaper to insure.

Bundle insurance

By bundling different insurance policies, such as auto insurance and home insurance, or multiple auto insurance policies, such as Alberta motorcycle insurance and car insurance, you’re providing more business to a single company. They often reward this with discounts. Plus, having a single provider might simplify administrative tasks, like having just one renewal date or a unified point of contact.

Increase your deductible

The deductible is the amount you pay out-of-pocket before the insurance kicks in. By agreeing to pay a higher amount upfront in the event of a claim, you reduce the insurance company’s potential payout, which can result in a lower premium. However, make sure you can afford to pay the deductible if you need to make a claim.

Check for discounts

Beyond the commonly known discounts, there might be niche discounts available based on factors like being a retiree, having specific safety features in your car, or even for being a non-smoker.

Review coverage regularly

Especially with older vehicles, the value of the car might be less than the cost of insuring it for collision or comprehensive coverage. Periodically review the value of your vehicle and the cost of your coverage to ensure they align. Furthermore, circumstances can change, and so can insurance rates. Make it a habit to review your policy and shop around annually to ensure you’re getting the best deal.

Maintain a clean driving record

Every traffic violation or accident you’re involved in can be seen as an increased risk to insurers. By driving safely and responsibly, you present yourself as a lower risk, which can be reflected in your premiums.

Use winter tires

In Alberta’s often harsh winter conditions, winter tires provide better traction and can reduce the likelihood of winter-related accidents. Some insurers recognize this and provide winter tire discounts for their use.

Spend less time on the road

The more you’re on the road, the higher the chance of an accident. If you can reduce your driving by carpooling, using public transportation, or working from home, you might qualify for a reduced rate.

Consider usage-based insurance (UBI)

This relatively newer insurance product uses a device to monitor safe driving habits, such as acceleration, braking, and the times of day you drive. Demonstrating safe driving habits can lead to substantial savings.

Check for group rates

Some employers, professional organizations, or alumni associations might have negotiated group rates with specific insurers.

Work with an insurance broker

Insurance brokers are licensed professionals who work on your behalf to find the best auto insurance at the most competitive price. Unlike insurance agents who represent a specific insurance company, brokers have access to multiple insurance providers and products. Brokers understand the insurance market and can advise you on the best coverage options for your individual needs.

Road laws and fines that Alberta drivers should know

In Alberta, like in most places, there are numerous road laws and regulations that drivers need to follow to ensure their safety and the safety of others on the road. It’s essential for drivers in Alberta to familiarize themselves with these road laws and regulations, as violations can lead to penalties, fines, demerit points, and even licence suspensions. Staying informed about the rules of the road promotes safety and responsible driving practices. Here are some key road laws that drivers in Alberta are required to adhere to:

A valid driver’s licence

You must have a valid driver’s licence to operate a vehicle in Alberta legally. In Alberta, they have what's called a graduated driver’s licensing (GDL) system. Individuals need to be at least 14 years old to obtain their learner’s permit, often referred to as a Class 7 licence. With this licence, they can only drive when accompanied by a non-probationary driver aged 18 or older. After reaching 16 and having at least one year of experience with a Class 7 licence, they can seek their Class 5 license.

The maximum fine for driving without a valid license in Alberta is $2,000 and up to six months in jail for a first offence. You may also receive demerit points on your licence, and your vehicle may be impounded. This also includes driving without an accompanied non-probationary driver aged 18 or older on a Class 7 learner’s permit, as it is treated like driving without a licence.

Driving under the influence

Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a severe offence in Alberta. The legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit is typically 0.08, but for new drivers and commercial drivers, it’s lower or 0.0. Penalties for impaired driving include fines, licence suspensions, and possible imprisonment. Nevertheless, what sets Alberta apart from other provinces is the consequences associated with violating this regulation.

If you’re found guilty of impaired driving in Alberta, you’ll face a monetary penalty and endure a 90-day suspension of your driver’s licence. Following the reinstatement of your licence, you’ll also be obligated to participate in the Ignition Interlock Program. This entails having to successfully complete an in-vehicle breathalyzer test before your car’s engine can be activated for driving.

Distracted driving

Alberta has strict laws against distracted driving, which includes using handheld electronic devices while driving. In fact, the use of handheld electronic devices, including cell phones, while driving is strictly prohibited. This encompasses texting, talking on the phone, browsing the internet, and other activities that divert the driver’s attention from the road. Fines for distracted driving can be substantial, and multiple offences can lead to increased penalties.

Speed limits

Speed limits in Alberta can vary depending on the type of road and location. It’s crucial to pay attention to posted speed limit signs, especially in construction zones, school zones, and areas with reduced speed limits due to weather conditions. The fines for speeding up to 50 km/h over the speed limit range from $81 to $991 and include a 20% victims of crime surcharge. A mandatory court appearance is required if you are caught speeding at 51 km/h or more over the speed limit. Your fine is then at the discretion of the court and includes the potential for a driver’s licence suspension.

Seat belts and child safety seats

Alberta law mandates that all passengers in a vehicle must wear seat belts. This includes both front and rear seat occupants. Failing to do so can result in fines, demerit points, and increased insurance rates.

All children must be secured in approved child safety seats appropriate for their age, height, and weight. Alberta law requires infants and young children to be in rear-facing car seats until they reach specific size and age requirements. Learn more about Alberta’s car seat laws.

Vehicle registration and insurance

All vehicles on Alberta roads must be properly registered and insured. Proof of insurance and vehicle registration must always be carried in the vehicle. Driving without valid insurance can result in fines and legal consequences.

Start saving money on your car insurance today!

Take the first step towards saving on your car insurance today. Contact BrokerLink to explore your options and embark on a journey to secure and affordable coverage that protects you and your vehicle on Alberta’s roads. Your peace of mind is just a call or click away!

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