Ignition - - Front Page - BY SHAUN KEENAN

It's il­le­gal to drive in Canada with­out auto in­surance. Beyond the le­gal min­i­mum, how much and what kind of cov­er­age you will need is de­bat­able, and should be con­sid­ered on a caseby-case ba­sis, ideally ev­ery year around the time of your re­newal. Not hav­ing enough in­surance cov­er­age, or not hav­ing the right kind of cov­er­age, can leave you with a huge re­pair bill in the event of an ac­ci­dent or to­tal loss. If a per­son(s) is in­jured or killed, then you could also be fac­ing le­gal ac­tion, and that's when things start to get re­ally ex­pen­sive.

We asked some lo­cal in­surance ex­perts to help us cut through the le­gal­i­ties and try to un­der­stand the most im­por­tant as­pects sur­round­ing au­to­mo­bile in­surance.

“For starters, auto in­surance rates are based on things like a driver's record, the ve­hi­cle they drive, where they live and claims fre­quency,” says John Bordignon, direc­tor of me­dia re­la­tions for State Farm Canada. “In terms of spe­cific ve­hi­cles, those that are less ex­pen­sive, cheap­est to re­pair, have the best claims his­tory and are gen­er­ally less pow­er­ful are the most eco­nom­i­cal to in­sure.”

But it's your driv­ing record that is the most im­por­tant fac­tor when it comes to es­tab­lish­ing rates.

“Most of the fac­tors that can keep your auto in­surance rates down are within your con­trol,” says Bordignon. “No tick­ets or ac­ci­dents are ideal, as are ad­her­ing to pro­vin­cial grad­u­ated li­cens­ing laws and the suc­cess­ful com­ple­tion of a cer­ti­fied driver train­ing course.”

“As long as you don't have an abun­dance of tick­ets, your rating is de­ter­mined by how long it's been since you've had an at-fault ac­ci­dent,” elab­o­rates Jamie Maud­s­ley, a full­time bro­ker with Bill Blaney In­surance Brokers in Dorch­ester, On­tario. Plus the more you drive, the more at risk you are of be­ing in a col­li­sion, so that is also a fac­tor, he ex­plains.

Rates are also affected by the op­tional cov­er­ages an in­surer pro­vides, Bordignon states. “De­ductibles, com­pre­hen­sive, col­li­sion and rental cov­er­age are all choices a per­son can make that will af­fect the amount of pre­mium they pay.”

Some in­sur­ers even in­crease pre­mi­ums for cars that are more sus­cep­ti­ble to dam­age, oc­cu­pant in­jury or theft, and lower rates for those that fare bet­ter than the norm.

Maud­s­ley helps put this into per­spec­tive. “Each ve­hi­cle has an ac­ci­dent ben­e­fit rating and, as a rule of thumb, there is a much bet­ter chance of get­ting hurt in an ac­ci­dent while driv­ing a small car com­pared to a full-size

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