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Snowmobiles are a popular form of recreation for many people in Ontario. Living in the Great White North allows for an abundance of opportunities to get out and enjoy all that Canadian winters have to offer. In some cases, snowmobiles are also a necessary form of transportation in remote areas and in emergencies. While you may consider them “winter toys,” snowmobiles can be dangerous in inexperienced hands. If you intend to use them, you must know how they work, how to drive them safely in different situations and how Ontario laws apply to them. Let’s take a look at snowmobile insurance and what you should know before you hit the trails.

Snowmobile driver requirements

According to the Ministry of Transportation, everyone who drives a snowmobile in Ontario must:

  • Be at least 12-years-old
  • Have a valid driver’s licence or Motorized Snow Vehicle Operator’s Licence (MSVOL)
  • Register the snowmobile with the Ministry of Transportation
  • Have the proper insurance

FYI: Where you can drive a snowmobile depends on your age and the license you hold. You must carry your driver’s licence, MSVOL licence or licence from another jurisdiction at all times. You also need to have your snowmobile registration permit and insurance card with you, as well.  Failing to produce any of these documents to a police officer or conservation officer when asked could result in a fine of up to $1,000.

Your snowmobile must be registered

Before driving a snowmobile, you must register them with the Ministry of Transportation through a ServiceOntario centre. This applies to your new and your used snowmobiles. It also includes snowmobiles that have never been registered, or snowmobiles previously registered in another jurisdiction. If you buy a new snowmobile, you must register it with the province within six days of sale. Some dealerships will prepare the registration for you, so make sure to ask if it is a service they provide.

Take a snowmobile driver training course

If you are between 12 and 15 years of age, or if you are 16 and older and do not have a valid Ontario driver’s licence, you must successfully pass a snowmobile driver training course to get your operator’s licence. A snowmobile driver training course can also be a valuable refresher for licenced and experienced snowmobilers.

The course takes about six hours and is usually held over three days. It covers safe driving practices, snowmobile laws, knowledge of the snowmobile, maintenance, driving positions, survival, first aid, night driving, trail signs, clothing and storage. It also teaches safe and courteous driving habits and skills to help you avoid collisions and property damage.

For the location of the nearest OFSC member club offering the course and the cost, visit The Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC) website.

Snowmobile insurance

Snowmobile insurance is a specialty insurance product, and not all insurance companies offer it. If you already have auto insurance, you may want to check with your broker to see if your insurance company also sells coverage for snowmobiles. Your insurance company may offer a discount on the snowmobile premium for bundling your coverages together. Purchasing “stand-alone” snowmobile insurance is also an option; however, the premiums tend to be more expensive.

According to FSCO, insurance is not required while the snowmobile is being driven on the private property of the snowmobile’s owner.

In all other cases, the law requires that you have the following minimum coverages:

  • Third Party Liability Coverage of at least $200,000 to protect you if another person is killed or injured, or if their property is damaged. If you’re sued, this coverage pays claims up to the limit of your coverage, and the cost of settling the claims.
  • Statutory Accident Benefits Coverage to provide supplementary medical, rehabilitation, attendant care, caregiver, non-earner, income replacement and death benefits if you are killed or injured in an accident, regardless of who caused it.
  • Direct Compensation– Property Damage (DCPD) Coverage to pay for damage to your vehicle and its contents, if another driver is at-fault for an accident that occurs in Ontario and that driver is insured by an insurance company licensed in the province.
  • Uninsured Automobile Coverage to provide financial compensation for you and your family if you’re injured or killed by an unidentified driver or by an uninsured motorist. It also covers damage to your vehicle caused by an identified uninsured driver, up to $25,000.

If you decide that you would like to add to the mandatory minimum coverage required in Ontario, there are several options to choose from. Increases to Third Party Liability coverage and additional Accident Benefit coverage are popular choices. You may also want to look into additional coverage for loss or damage to your vehicle, including Specified Perils Coverage or Collision and Upset coverage.

Your isure broker can provide you with a complete explanation of all optional coverages that are available to you when it comes to snowmobile insurance.

Cost of snowmobile insurance

As with purchasing auto insurance, many factors are considered to determine the premium you will be paying. Where you live, your age, your driving record, how often you drive and your training can all affect your insurance premiums. The vehicle itself plays a huge part in determining rates, as well when considering the type, size and age of your snowmobile. Usually, the bigger the snowmobile, the higher the premium. Also, some insurance companies may not insure certain types of snowmobiles, such as high-performance/sport models.

You may be able to take advantage of special discounts offered by your insurance company to members of snowmobile associations and mature riders. You may also save money by insuring more than one snowmobile under one policy.

Your isure representative can provide you with a complete explanation of what options are best for you.

Tips for enjoying your snowmobile safely

Before hitting the trails, it’s a good idea to be prepared. ATVHelper.com offers some good tips to follow before your next excursion:                       

  1. Take a safety course. You should always take at least a brief safety course in order to understand the rules and risks.
  2. Check the weather and the trails. This is very important. You should do your homework and be prepared for changes in weather and to avoid untested and risky roads.
  3. Wear appropriate clothing and gear. A prerequisite in most places, as you won’t be allowed to drive the snowmobile without the proper equipment.
  4. Inspect your snowmobile. Alert someone in charge if you have concerns after pre-ride inspection.
  5. Bring company. It is always a good idea to bring someone who has experience with you in case anything happens.
  6. Equip yourself with first aid. You should always carry a basic first aid kit with you, just in case you need it.

Always look around you and stay alert!

  1. Do not speed. Don’t be reckless and just accelerate without any reason whatsoever.
  2. Avoid frozen rivers. They are dangerous and you never know how thick the ice actually is.
  3. Do not overload your snowmobile. To avoid any unnecessary luggage as they might cause problems with controlling the vehicle.
  4. Do not pull anyone. You should not pull anyone behind you, as that could endanger both you and them.
  5. Always be sober. You should not drive a snowmobile drunk or under the influence of drugs.
  6. Follow the trail. Trails are there and are marked for a reason; respect that.
  7. Have a license. To drive a snowmobile across a road, on roadways, and on trails, you must have a valid driver’s license, motorized snow vehicle operator’s license, or a license  from another jurisdiction.
  8. Avoid children as passengers. This only applies to children under the age of six, as they are still not strong enough to effectively hold onto you while driving.

FYI: If you are 12 years of age or older, you must have a valid motorized snow vehicle operator’s license or a license from another jurisdiction that allows you to drive a snowmobile.

Snowmobile insurance FAQs

Where can you ride a snowmobile?

You are allowed to ride your vehicle on your own or another person’s private property, on private trails belonging to organizations that you are a member of, alongside public roads and between shoulder and fence lines (unless prohibited by the municipality).

Where can’t you ride a snowmobile?           

You are not allowed to operate a snowmobile on certain high-speed roads (400-series highways, Queen Elizabeth Way, Ottawa Queensway, Kitchener-Waterloo Expressway), on the pavement of public roads where vehicles drive or on the ploughed portion of the shoulder.

Am I allowed to use my snowmobile on all trails?

Ontario’s snowmobile trail system is maintained by many local snowmobile clubs.

Trails are patrolled by:

  • The Ontario Provincial Police
  • Municipal police services
  • Conservation officers
  • Snowmobile Trail Officer Patrol (STOP) officers

Some trails may require you to obtain a trail permit. Check with the local snowmobile club to find out if you need one.

For trails maintained by the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs, you must have and display a valid trail permit affixed to the windshield or engine cowling of your snowmobile. This includes trails on private property, municipal property and land owned by the government.

What is the speed limit for snowmobiles?

Snowmobiles may not be operated at a greater rate of speed than 50 km/h – on snowmobile trails or on roads where the speed limit is listed at 50km/h or more. For roadways where the speed limits for vehicles is 50km/h or less, you may only drive 20km/h.  As for any public park or exhibition grounds, you are limited to 20km/h, as well.

Can I insure snowmobiles if I don’t own one?             

If you’re the registered owner of a vehicle, then you’re the one who’s financially responsible for it. You can’t insure a vehicle you don’t own. However, you can list someone else as the principal operator if you do own it.

What should I do if I hit an animal?       

Once you have safely pulled off the road or trail, call the police. Be sure that you stay away from the animal, as a frightened and wounded animal may unintentionally hurt you. As with an auto accident, take photos of the vehicle and other damage caused by the accident. Be sure to get the contact information of any witnesses at the scene. Finally, contact your insurance company to report the accident.

Remember: You must report to the police immediately any collision that results in injury to any person or damage to property exceeding $400.

What is the fine for not having snowmobile insurance in Ontario?  

The fine is $200 dollars, but if police stop you and you can not produce the proper paperwork, it could go as high as $1,000.

When isn’t it worth it to purchase snowmobiles?

A snowmobile is worth it if you live in an area with more than six inches of snow for more than three months in a year. Having a trailer or truck that allows you to take the snowmobile to snowy areas more often can also increase the value of owning a snowmobile. If you are not willing to invest in a trailer to go out to the trails to really enjoy your purchase, perhaps you should consider renting for the first couple of years until you make a decision.

Is wearing a helmet on a snowmobile mandatory?

Snowmobile drivers and passengers are required, by law, to wear a helmet that meets the standards approved for motorcycle helmets. Passengers on a cutter, sled or similar device towed by a snowmobile must also wear a helmet.

How much do snowmobiles cost?

You can expect to spend between $9,000 to $16,000 for a new snowmobile, depending on the brand and model you choose. The average price you would pay for a new snowmobile is $12,600, but that number varies year after year.

On average, the cost of a used snowmobile is between $2,000 to $8,000, depending on where you go, the make and the model. Mileage and repairs that may be needed will also affect the price of you owning a used snowmobile.

Are snowmobiles safe?

It has been reported that there were about 14,000 injuries caused by snowmobile accidents and 200 deaths in one year in North America. The causes are many, but if you look at them closely, you can see these injuries happen because some of the fundamental safety and operation rules are not respected. As with any motorized vehicle, you assume the risk associated with it once you get behind the steering wheel.

Here at home, The Canadian Institute for Health Information noted that, in the winter of 2000/2001, there were 137 admissions to hospital because of severe injuries from snowmobiling and nine related deaths in trauma centres. The causes attributed to the fatalities were alcohol and drug consumption, as well as excessive speed.

Ontario boasts thousands of kilometres of trails, groomed by the non-profit Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs. Many trails are within reach of Toronto for an easy weekend getaway. If you are looking to take up a new winter hobby, be sure to do your research first. While it is one of the quintessential Canadian past times, snowmobiling should be taken as seriously as driving a car. With some preparation and due diligence, snowmobiling can be your next great winter hobby.

Be sure to ask your isure representative to explore your snowmobile insurance coverage options!

 

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