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In Canada, there are two distinct insurance systems: public and private. A public system is run by the government, while a private system is run by for-profit organizations.

Residents of British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba have to purchase their mandatory car insurance coverage from public insurersopens a pop-up with definition of insurers, and generally have the option to buy additional coverage (increasing their limits or lowering their deductiblesopens a pop-up with definition of deductibles, for example) from their public insurer or from a private insurer of their choice. In Quebec, only bodily injuries are covered by public insurers, and other coverages must be purchased from private insurance companies.

Wondering how all this affects you? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of public and private insurance.

The pros and cons of public insurance

A public insurance system is run by the government.

Pros
Cons
  • Governments don’t usually have the funds to start and run insurance systems on their own, so they require subsidies from taxpayers
  • Can increase rates without having to apply for a rate increase
  • Limited policy choices, add-ons, and discounts available to customers
  • Reduced private-sector investment (unlike private insurers, who directly invest in the provinces in which they do business, through things like corporate shares, bonds, and real estate)

The pros and cons of private insurance

A private insurance system is run by for-profit corporations (whether they are privately owned, publicly traded, or mutual companies).

Pros
Cons
  • Customers pay based on factors that affect the cost of claims — so if you’re a high-risk driver or homeowner, for example, you’ll likely pay more than you would under a public insurance system
  • Customers must do their homework to find the coverage (and price) that’s right for their situation

Getting help with public or private insurance

Whether you have public insurance and want to find out what additional coverages are available to you from private insurers or you live in a province that only has private insurance, contact a licensed broker. A broker can do the homework for you and help you get the right coverage to suit your needs and your budget.


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