More About Driving license, driving test, insurance

This is a follow on from the good advice on getting your Ontario Driver’s License as originally posted by Fran Blakes in May. I would certainly stick to it and get the lesson in advance also.
After successfully negotiating the test we were set on buying a second hand car before the winter set in, our logic was that we would need it with a kid and it would stand to us in terms of seeing a bit more of wider Ontario when the weather improves. As you know, you cannot own or register a car in Ontario without a local license.
For those who haven’t read Fran Blakes article, in summary on the license front you will need:
• Your Irish License
• Letter from your local authority (who issued your driver’s license), detailing how long you have been driving on a full license (allowing you do the full driving test) as soon as you have completed the G1. Needs to be 2 years min on a full license.
We found a car we liked at one of the showrooms, we had a decent idea of what we wanted and the price range we were willing to pay prior to arriving (we used various online motor sites to compare). Finding a car and agreeing a price was not an issue, however here are the learning’s I took from it:
1. Dealership or direct:
a. When buying a used car I would prefer going to a dealership as you have some comeback if there is an issue. Reputable dealers will have done a complete check on the car and will give you a car facts sheet on its history, detail how many owners, whether it has been involved in any recorded crashes, liens, etc.
b. If you are buying directly from an owner I have not as much knowledge but was warned by numerous people to check for rust, due to the amount of salt laid down it can be a real problem on some cars. The other documentation steps are listed on the drivetest.ca website.
c. Dealers are pushy by nature, don’t be afraid to walk away or revert in a few days – despite them saying that this deal will be gone by x day… There are heaps of them out there so shop around. Haggling is expected.
d. Dealers will offer you the option to purchase additional warranty on the transmission, drive train, etc. at additional cost. Assess if for yourself, it will depend on your budget, type and state of car, just remember it seems like nothing on its own but when you add it to the cost of the car and insurance you may end up paying more than you budgeted for.
2. Cash or Finance:
a. We went with the finance option as it made no sense tying up a lot of cash at this stage. The options were bank loan or finance and we checked out both with finance ending up being the option for us.
b. We did face initial difficulty as at the moment we only have a 1 year visa (PR application is in the pipeline) and they refused to finance for over a 1 year period but eventually relented and we agreed a 5 year term. Depending on your salary this could be a show stopper was my sense. I looked at the overall purchase price but ultimately the monthly payments were the figure I focused on as this how we budget at this stage.
3. Insurance:
a. Insurance is more expensive here, there does not seem to be any way around this. Make sure you have a letter from your insurance company in Ireland detailing your no claims bonus, it’s a standard request. They seem to work on a star system here with new drivers getting a low star rating and building it up over time, thereby reducing their premium.
b. I was with Aviva and in Canada they initially refused to honour my experience in Ireland (5 years only as was on company policies, working abroad, etc. at other times), citing how different the conditions were in Ireland, etc. (It turns out AXA do honour the Irish no claims bonus, these were my wife’s insurers but she did not have the Ontario license yet). They eventually did after a lot of effort by my broker but I got the impression that they are normally not this flexible.
c. I used a family insurance broker, GR McBride & Co Limited (www.grmcbride.ca), Bennett McBride was my contact. I ended up paying $180 fully comprehensive once they got Aviva to recognise my Irish insurance history (reducing down from over $300 initially!). They were great and made the process much easier for me. For an additional $20+ per month I also got my household contents insurance.
Best of luck.