When shopping for a new or pre-owned vehicle in British Columbia, you also have to consider car insurance. In BC, a basic car insurance policy through the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) is mandatory. But what is included in this basic policy and what options do you have to better protect your investment?

Below, we'll take a deep dive into car insurance in British Columbia, so you know what to expect.

What Is the ICBC?

The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) came to be in 1973 when Premier David Barrett's NDP government launched it as the province's provider for compulsory auto insurance. Things have changed a bit since, as the ICBC now operates as a for-profit business and competes against other insurers for optional car insurance coverage. However, it maintains its monopoly on basic insurance coverage. 

When shopping for car insurance in British Columbia, there are two key types: the ICBC Basic Autoplan and optional coverages.

What Is the ICBC Basic Autoplan?

The ICBC Basic Autoplan is the minimum car insurance coverage required to register a vehicle in British Columbia. The ICBC Basic Autoplan covers all the basics you'd expect from an insurance plan, like damage to other people's property, but it also includes coverage for you and your passengers. 

The basic coverages included in this mandatory plan are as follows. 

Enhanced Accident Benefits

The Enhanced Accident Benefits section of the ICBC Autoplan helps cover the medical costs and wage losses of you, your passengers, or anyone in your household incurred due to a car accident. 

There is no overall limit to the medical care you receive, including hospital care, chiropractic treatments, medication, physiotherapy, counselling, dental care, home support, and more. However, the wage portion only covers 90% of your net income up to $100,000. 

Basic Vehicle Damage Coverage

The ICBC Basic Autoplan insurance also includes $200,000 in Basic Vehicle Damage coverage, which covers all repairs to your vehicle — up to $200,000 — if another party is at fault.

The interesting thing about this coverage is that your insurance policy pays for the repairs, not the at-fault party's policy. You can get more than $200,000 in coverage, if needed, at an additional cost. 

Third-Party Liability (TPL) Coverage

The need to sue for damages in an accident between two vehicles covered by ICBC insurance is not an issue, but there are times when ICBC's $200,000 in Third-Party Liability (TPL) coverage is important. 

One such instance is when there is non-vehicle property damage. For example, if you slide off the road and hit someone's fence or home, your TPL coverage will handle the repairs. Also, if you drive outside British Columbia, where drivers can sue for damages to their car from an accident, your TPL coverage will protect you. 

Underinsured Motorist Protection (UMP)

Suppose you're ever in an accident, and the other driver lacks the third-party liability insurance coverage to pay for your claim. In that case, the ICBC Autoplan's Underinsured Motorist Protection (UMP) helps by covering the damages.

Also included in Autoplan's UMP coverage is up to $1 million per person — you or members of your household — hurt in an accident with an underinsured motorist. 

Inverse Liability Protection

If you drive in areas where you can't claim against a person at fault for your accident, the Inverse Liability Protection (ILP) can help. ILP will cover up to 100% of the cost for any vehicle repairs in this instance. 

If you are deemed partly at fault, though, the ILP will reduce your coverage by your share of the fault. For example, if you were 50% at fault for an accident that resulted in $1,000 in damage, ILP would cover only $500 of the repairs. 

What Are the Optional Insurance Coverages?

BC drivers can also choose from a range of optional coverages to suit their specific needs. These optional coverages to British Columbians are as follows. 

Unlisted Driver Protection

It's not uncommon to lend your vehicle to someone not on your insurance policy, but in British Columbia, this could result in a penalty if this unlisted driver causes an accident. The unlisted driver penalty can be up to 15 times the difference it would cost to add that driver to your policy. 

For example, if it would have cost an additional $200 per month to add your partner to your policy, but you chose not to, and your partner caused a crash, the penalty would be up to $3,000.

Unlisted Driver Protection (UDP) allows an unlisted driver to use your vehicle for up to 12 days per year. If they're in an accident during one of these 12 years, you won't incur the unlisted driver penalty. This optional plan is initially free, but if an unlisted driver causes a crash, you must start paying an extra premium to maintain coverage. 

Collision Coverage

While the Basic Autoplan only covers your vehicle if another party is at fault, collision coverage covers your vehicle when you're the at-fault party in a crash. So, say you rear-end someone and are 100% at fault, your collision coverage will pay to repair your vehicle. 

Collision coverage also covers you in unidentified hit-and-run cases. 

This optional coverage is not guaranteed to everyone, though. Drivers with a history of at-fault accident claims may have to pay a higher deductible or may not be eligible for this coverage at all. 

Comprehensive Coverage

Sometimes it's not always another car that causes a crash or other damages to your vehicle, and this is where the optional comprehensive coverage comes into play. It covers other causes of damage, such as theft, vandalism, fire, earthquake, falling objects, hitting an animal, lightning strikes, hail, and more. 

Plus, comprehensive coverage will pay 100% of any windshield repair under certain criteria — no deductible required. 

Specified Perils

Like comprehensive coverage, specified perils insurance covers damages that are no fault of a driver. Instead, they’re due to acts of nature. However, with specified perils, you choose which natural acts you wish to cover, saving you money over the broader comprehensive policy.

Hit-and-Run Coverage

If you don't want collision coverage but still want protection against hit-and-run drivers, optional hit-and-run coverage is for you. It covers up to $200,000 in damage caused to your vehicle by an unidentified hit-and-run driver. 

Without this coverage, you're 100% responsible for any damages caused by a hit-and-run driver. 

Income Top-Up

As mentioned above, the Basic Autoplan covers only up to $100,000 in lost income per year. If you earn more than $100,000 per year, you may want to consider purchasing Income Top-Up to cover the remainder of your potential lost income. 

You can buy this additional coverage in $10,000 tiers up to an additional $100,000, covering a total of $200,000 per year in lost income. 

Extended Third-Party Liability Coverage

The TPL coverage included in the Basic Autoplan covers up to $200,000 in damages, but anything above that is your responsibility. You can expand this to up to $5 million in coverage with optional extended third-party liability coverage.

Loss of Use Coverage

When your vehicle is being repaired after a crash or you're waiting on a payout for a total loss, you can be without a vehicle for some time. The optional loss of use coverage will reimburse you for a rental vehicle that's approximately the same size as your vehicle. It'll also reimburse you for any taxi or bus fares incurred during this time. 

Keep in mind, there is a maximum daily reimbursement limit, and you'll be responsible for any rental fees above that. 

New Vehicle Replacement Plus

If you're in an accident in a new vehicle, you want it restored to its original condition. With New Vehicle Replacement Plus (NVR+) coverage, you're covered. 

If the vehicle is repairable, the insurance company will cover the cost of using all new parts from the manufacturer. If the vehicle isn't repairable, you have three choices: 

  • Get a new model
  • Get a different car of similar value
  • Take a cash payout

NVR+ will also cover the full cost of a new vehicle, so you have peace of mind knowing you won't lose money due to depreciation. Also, the insurance company will reimburse 100% of your deductible. 

Rental Vehicle Coverage

When you rent a vehicle, the rental company almost always offers a pricey optional rental insurance coverage. With this optional rental vehicle coverage, you're covered if you get into an accident in a rental car — no pricey rental company insurance required.

Luxury Vehicle Coverage

Certain luxury vehicles are so expensive to fix, they require special luxury vehicle coverage. These include any vehicle that had an original MSRP over $150,000 and is seven model years old or younger or any vehicle with an original MSRP over $400,000 and is 14 model years old or younger. 

How Do You Buy Auto Insurance in British Columbia?

Getting auto insurance in British Columbia starts with an estimate via the province's online estimator tool. This tool will give you your estimated car insurance premium based on your driving record and the coverage options you choose and the Enhanced Care rebates you receive.  

With a car insurance quote in hand, head to any of the province's over 900 Autoplan brokers to begin coverage. You can opt for a yearly policy, a three- to 11-month policy, or even a one- to 15-day policy. 

If you're going to add optional coverages, you can get a quote from ICBC and compare this to the many competing private insurance companies in the province. If an optional insurance company has a better deal for you, you'll sign up for these coverages at that office. 

Some auto retailers, like Clutch, work directly with a partner autoplan brokerage to make the process of insuring your new vehicle as seamless as possible. In these situations, you’ll be able to speak with an insurance agent during the sales process to make sure your new car is insured and ready to drive immediately after you purchase it.

A Clutch Pre-Owned Vehicle Adds to Your Peace of Mind

With the ICBC Autoplan’s mandatory coverage and the available optional coverages, you can rest assured your vehicle is covered in case of an accident. At Clutch, Canada's first 100% online car-buying experience, we enhance your peace of mind with quality pre-owned vehicles. 

All our vehicles go through a stringent 210-point inspection to ensure they're up for the task of your daily commute. We also include a six-month or 6,000-km limited warranty, so you're covered if there is a mechanical issue.

Plus, you can enhance your ICBC Autoplan with Replacement Vehicle Insurance. Replacement Vehicle Insurance covers the difference between the value of your vehicle and your purchase price so you're not stuck with a leftover loan balance if ICBC deems your vehicle a total loss. Many Autoplan brokers, including Clutch’s partner Allwest, offer Replacement Insurance alongside other optional insurance coverages.

Check out our wide range of pre-owned cars in British Columbia today, and find the one that suits you.