Register and insure a vehicle in Ontario
By law, before you can drive a vehicle on Ontario roads, you need:
- proper insurance for the vehicle
- a permit that says you are the legal owner of the vehicle
- licence plates with up-to-date validation stickers
Your vehicle must also meet basic safety and emissions standards. Here are some answers to common questions about vehicle permits, licence plates and validation stickers.
Insure a vehicle
You need to have insurance for your vehicle before you register as the owner. You need to buy insurance from a private insurance company.
All vehicles must be insured for third-party liability for at least $200,000. This covers you in the event that you injure or kill someone or damage someone’s property while driving. Collision insurance to cover damage to your own vehicle is a good idea, but not required by law.
When driving your own or someone else’s vehicle, you must carry the “pink slip” (liability insurance card) for that particular vehicle.
A seasonal vehicle is one that will not be driven for an extended period of time (e.g., a high-value or vintage vehicle stored during the winter or a vehicle being stored while the driver is away or unable to drive).
While the vehicle is in storage, you can remove the required road, liability and accident benefits insurance. You should keep comprehensive insurance on the vehicle to protect against fire, theft or other types of damage.
When you are ready to bring the vehicle out of storage and drive it again, you need to:
- resume road insurance again — generally about 2 to 3 weeks before you start driving to allow your insurance company time to report your information to the Insurance Bureau of Canada
- renew your licence plate sticker
Register a vehicle
When you register as the owner of a vehicle, you will get a green paper permit and licence plates. This process is called “registering” your vehicle.
If you buy a vehicle from a dealer: most dealers will do the paperwork for you.
If you buy a used vehicle: you will need to register the vehicle yourself.
If you own a truck or bus: you must have a valid Commercial Vehicle Operator’s Registration (CVOR). Ontario confirms your CVOR status when you register or renew the vehicle’s licence plate. This requirement includes pick-up trucks.
If your vehicle is exempt from the CVOR program, you can declare that exemption when you register or renew your vehicle’s licence plate. Refer to pages 5 and 6 of module 4 in the Commercial Vehicle Operator’s Safety Manual to see if your vehicle is exempt.
Vehicle permit (ownership)
The vehicle permit has information about the owner of a vehicle and an accurate description of the vehicle. It contains:
- the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)
- the make and model of the car
- the name and address of the vehicle owner
- the plate number that is attached to the vehicle
- the smaller part of the licence plate validation sticker
You must carry your vehicle permit with you when you drive. You will be asked to produce this permit — to verify that you are the legal owner of the car you are driving — if you are pulled over by the police.
Other types of vehicle permits
Temporary vehicle permits
A temporary vehicle permit allows you to drive for short-term purposes only. For example, you can use this permit to drive a vehicle to a:
- licensing office
- garage (e.g., to satisfy Safety Standards Certificate or Drive Clean requirements)
Special vehicle permits
A special permit grants temporary privileges to certain vehicles while they are driving on Ontario roads:
- out-of-province vehicles
- laden commercial vehicles — e.g., a truck that tows a trailer or carries goods and cargo, over a certain weight
Licence plates and validation stickers
To drive a vehicle on the roads, it needs to have:
- licence plates
- a validation sticker showing the date of expiry
In Ontario, licence plates move with you — the owner, not with the vehicle. If you sell or change vehicles, you keep the licence plates and put them on your new vehicle.
If you are not going to use your old licence plates, you can return them to a ServiceOntario centre.
Keep your licence plate visible
By law, your entire licence plate must be completely visible. Remove anything that makes it difficult to see your licence plate, such as dirt, snow, a licence plate frame, or a bike.
If your licence plate is not visible, you may be fined.
How do I:
Licence plate validation stickers
The licence plates on your vehicle must be valid. A licence plate sticker goes on a licence plate to confirm that the plates are valid. In most cases, validation stickers go on the rear plate in the top right corner. Most stickers are valid for either one or two years.
You need to renew your sticker before it expires, which is generally on your birthday.
Vehicle record (abstract)
A vehicle record (also called an “abstract”) is a document containing information about the vehicle and its registered owner.
In general, a vehicle abstract contains:
- a vehicle description
- the current — and any previous — plate number attached to the vehicle
- the names of all current and previous registered owners
- driver’s licence and/or identification numbers of all current and previous registered owners
- date(s) the vehicle was registered to each owner
- the vehicle status
You can request a variety of vehicle abstracts (e.g., vehicle history, licence plate abstract) depending on the type of information you want.
Vehicle records can be certified or uncertified. A certified copy is the official record — issued by the Ministry of Transportation. You may need a certified record for legal purposes.