As the cost of living increases, many Canadians are looking at ways to help cut down on monthly costs. When a household has more than one licensed driver, designating the primary and secondary drivers should be done with some care and consideration. Unfortunately, there can sometimes be confusion about this. In this article, we look at what should determine the primary and secondary drivers on your auto policy. We also explain factors you should consider when deciding on the primary drivers in your household.

Who is the primary driver?

Often times, more than one person in your household has access to your vehicle. Your insurance provider wants to know who will be driving it most and who else will be on the policy. That is why you will need to determine who the primary and secondary users of it are. The primary driver is the person who will be using the vehicle most. This is usually the owner, but it doesn’t have to be. They are normally the named insured on the policy. Essentially, your insurer wants to know which driver clocks the most kilometres. They will be thought of as the primary driver and listed first on the policy. Who the primary driver on your auto policy is can have a dramatic effect on your auto insurance costs.

What is an occasional/secondary driver?

A secondary driver, or occasional driver, is someone who uses a vehicle often, but doesn’t use it the most. These drivers also need to be on your insurance policy for that vehicle. Your insurance company will look at the driving record of the secondary drivers, as well. Usually, your insurer charges an additional premium for that driver. This happens because the risk of an accident increases when more than one person uses the vehicle. Normally, anyone with a driver’s licence in a household needs to be on the policy. Anyone else who will be operating your vehicle on a regular basis should be added, regardless of whether they live with you. This includes friends, roommates, neighbours, nannies, siblings or colleagues. They will also be named drivers on the policy. Typically, this will mean that they drive your vehicle once per week or less than 50% of the time.

What is the difference between primary and secondary drivers?

Primary and secondary driver refers more to the driver’s status on the policy. Both primary and secondary drivers will receive the same coverage in the policy. Defining the driver designations on your policy is about the amount of the premium paid. Primary drivers are examined more closely by insurers when determining rates. Of course, you will need to pay additional premiums with the addition of drivers on your policy. However, the cost will be determined by the same factors, regardless of how many drivers you have on the policy.

Factors that determine your premiums

When giving a quote, insurers mainly look at the driver’s age, history, credit score and other details, like occupation and homeownership. Secondary motorists can influence the costs a great deal. However, the additional cost will be much less than if they are primary drivers on their own policy.

In fact, the secondary drivers can affect the premiums in a number of ways:

  • You can save money by adding more mature motorists with experience to your policy where the primary driver is a young person.
  • The cost of including others may increase significantly when you add a teenager to your policy.
  • The effect on your premium may not be much if the additional person has experience and a clean record. This might include an adult family member or friend.

To see our complete guide to determining auto insurance rates, click here.

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What is an incidental driver?

Your insurance policy states that you need to add a driver to your policy if they use the vehicle “regularly.” This means someone who drives the vehicle over a certain period of time. One-off scenarios of individuals borrowing your car fall into the category of incidental drivers. Some examples of this include:

  1. Relatives visiting from out of town who want to take in the sights.
  2. Neighbours who borrow your car annually while theirs is in the shop.
  3. Siblings running a one-time grocery errand because you’re sick.
  4. A friend who needs a truck to bring something back from the warehouse store.
  5. Someone taking a shift behind the wheel on a road trip.

What happens when a secondary driver gets into an accident?

In most cases, if you give permission to someone else to drive your car and they are involved in an accident, your insurance will likely cover the costs. That’s because your policy will be the primary insurance, whether or not you were in the car with them at the time. They will be asked to show proof of your auto insurance.


Remember: Insurance follows the car. Even if the other driver has their own insurance, your policy will still be first in line to pay the claim. Therefore, you might have to pay for any damages to the car itself, as well as pay the deductible on the claim.  You could also be risking your good driving record and claims history. All of this could cause your car insurance rates to increase on your next renewal. Being a good friend is important, but protecting your good driving record should be just as important.


Can you be the primary driver of multiple cars in Ontario?

Now that you can distinguish between primary, secondary and incidental drivers, we can now look at some of the unique circumstances that encompass your auto insurance policy. One of the most frequent questions by drivers is: “Can you be the primary driver of more than one vehicle in Ontario?” In short, yes, you can.

There are several reasons why drivers in Ontario choose to be the primary driver of more than one vehicle. Some typical examples include the following:

  • Multi-vehicle/multi-purpose: Having a small compact car for everyday use, such as driving back and forth to work, then a larger second vehicle, like an SUV, for family use. Finally, a sportier car, like a convertible, for recreational driving in the summer.
  • Hobby or second income: Backyard mechanics that buy cars, fix them up, then sell them.
  • Savings: Being the primary driver of more than one vehicle gives you access to multi-vehicle discounts. Most, if not all, insurance companies will allow you to name one primary driver for two or more cars.

No matter what your reasons are for wanting to be the primary driver for more than one vehicle, the bottom line is you are able to do so. However, the insurance company will want to know some specific details concerning all vehicles. This way, they can calculate risk based on how much time the vehicles will be in use. The more your vehicle is being driven, the higher the risk for the insurance company. This is where there can be a significant variation in the cost of insuring multiple vehicles under one primary driver.

What is car insurance “fronting”?

Fronting is the act of naming your child as a secondary driver on your policy when in reality, your child is the one using the vehicle the most. Many parents do this thinking that it will help their child save on insurance, but car insurance fronting is against the law in Ontario. Car fronting is illegal and a form of insurance fraud.

In Canada, if caught lying or deceiving your auto insurance provider, you can face criminal charges. You can even wind up serving anywhere from two to 14 years in prison! Furthermore, there’s also the criminal record that you’ll now have, which will hold you back when applying for credit, jobs, housing, and so on. If you are currently fronting your child’s car insurance, you should reach out to your provider to address and fix the issue.

Primary driver on an unowned vehicle

In simple terms, the primary driver is the person who drives the insured vehicle more than anyone else. You do not have to be the owner of the car to be the primary driver. In situations where you may drive your elderly parents around each day in their vehicle to run errands, you can be listed as the primary driver on their car.

Secondary driver insurance without being added to someone’s policy

You can get car insurance without being added to someone’s policy, but it won’t technically be classified as “occasional driver insurance.” If you’re looking to get insured without being part of someone’s policy, consider non-owner car insurance. If you borrow your neighbour’s car on a more frequent basis, or you regularly rent cars, non-owner car insurance may be more suitable for you. This option is a great alternative that allows you to insure yourself, rather than the vehicle you’re driving. That way, you’ll always have coverage, no matter what vehicle you find yourself in.

If you need to revisit your driver designations, you can likely change your primary and secondary driver assignments online, in many cases. For more information about primary and secondary drivers on your auto policy, reach out to one of our isure brokers. We’ll help walk you through the best coverage for your individual needs!

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