If I pause my insurance coverage, will my premiums increase when coverage resumes?

Our two sons, ages 23 and 25, have finally left home and are moving to another city. They’ve been occasional drivers on our car insurance policy since they started driving and now they have full G’s and five star ratings, but they don’t own cars. Removing them from our policy increases the annual premium for our two cars from $3,000 to $2,000. But if my sons aren’t covered by the policy, will they be treated as new drivers when they finally buy cars and get their own insurance? Will they have to pay much higher premiums? My understanding has always been that if someone isn’t named on an insurance policy for even one day, the insurance company will declare them a non-driver and revert to a novice rating for their record . – Mark, Toronto

Absence may not make your insurance company’s heart grow fonder, but in Ontario at least, they can’t hold it against you. If you have already purchased car insurance and then choose to stop being insured – for example, because you sold your car and decided to take public transport – you will not have to start from scratch as as a new driver if you re-purchase insurance, said the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC).

“There are legislation in Ontario which prohibits them from using a lapse in insurance coverage to increase your insurance premiums,” said Rob de Pruis, BAC’s national director of consumer and industry relations. “There are exceptions if you lost your coverage for very specific reasons, such as a suspended license or fraud.”

Although the rules vary by province, insurance companies are allowed to base your premium on certain risk factors. In Ontario, these include how often and how far you drive, your age, gender, where you live and your driving record, de Pruis said.

Typically, companies do not disclose the weight they give to each factor.

When it comes to your driving record, companies typically rate you based on the number of driving convictions — such as speeding tickets — and at-fault collisions you’ve had in the last six years.

In Ontario, if you’ve had a good driving record in the past six years, you’ll get a five-star rating. The number of stars has different names, depending on the province.

While at-fault collisions and tickets can lower your star rating, a gap in your insurance coverage won’t in Ontario, de Pruis said.

So if you sold your car in 2017, were uninsured for five years, and didn’t have an at-fault accident or ticket during that time, you wouldn’t lose that rating.

The car you insure matters too. Insurance companies set vehicle rates primarily by reviewing complaints and safety data for other cars of the same make, model and year.

And new drivers usually pay more. So a 25-year-old Ontarian with a five-star rating will pay more for insurance on a 2020 Honda CR-V than a 40-year-old man with the same rating.

Watch out for the gap?

But in most other provinces, insurance companies may consider a longer break when setting rates — although that doesn’t mean you’ll be considered a brand-new driver, de Pruis said.

In Albertaa delay of more than two years could impact your premiums,” he said, adding that it is difficult to predict how much higher the premiums could be, as many factors determine the calculations of insurance.

In the three provinces with government-owned insurance companies – British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Manitoba – drivers get discounts for years they drove without at-fault tickets or collisions, even if they had no insurance coverage.

“A driver does not need to have an actively registered vehicle or an insurance policy to continue earning [experience] points for each year of incident-free driving,” Tyler McMurchy, spokesperson for Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI), said in an email. “However, the driver must have a valid driver’s license – neither suspended nor expired – to continue earning points.”

Do you have a driving question? Send it to globedrive@globeandmail.com and please put “Conduct Issues” in your subject line. Canada is a big country, so let us know where you are so we can find the answer for your city and province.

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Justin D. O'Neill