The Best Insurance Companies in Canada for 2021
To put it simply, insurance is about paying a small fee each month to protect yourself and your family against various worst-case scenarios and catastrophic circumstances that may happen to you in the future.
It’s still a tough sell, especially if you’re young, because many don’t truly believe anything will ever happen to them. They also don’t want to pay for anything that they won’t see an immediate benefit to for many years or see a benefit from for their entire lives.
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The Best Insurance Companies in Canada
Learn more about Canada’s best insurance companies, what they have to offer, and how they can work for you below.
Canada’s largest life insurance company by revenue, Manulife, was founded in 1887 as Manufacturer’s Life. It offers a myriad of life and health insurance options and living benefits such as disability and critical illness and group benefits for staff members of a company.
Looking beyond insurance, Manulife also has you covered with wealth management and investment services.
Plus, Manulife Bank is federally regulated and serves every province and territory with their Manulife One account, which combines banking with a mortgage and line of credit options to ensure you pay less interest.
Plus, they have a real estate arm and sell real estate while also providing you with a mortgage.
They are one of Canada’s most stable companies, with their thumb in a lot of pies. They give their clients financial options and over 100 years of collective insurance experience.
Canada Life is an amalgam of Great-West Life, London Life, and Canada Life and has been in business for over 125 years. They are a full-service insurance company offering health, dental, life, and disability. Their advisors will even help you save for retirement.
However, their life insurance offering isn’t as comprehensive as some of its competitors, with no guaranteed issue insurance and no permanent term insurance, with a term to 100 coverage option.
You also can’t get a quote online. However, Canada Life does have a special offer where you can get four months with no premiums (three in B.C.) when you buy a term 20, term 30, or term to 65 policy with an application submitted by March 1, 2021.
Established in 1865, Sun Life is one of Canada’s oldest insurance companies. It primarily offers life insurance and health insurance that includes disability and critical illness. Travel insurance and mortgage protection insurance are also available, with a particular specialty of offering group benefit plans for large companies and small businesses with various innovations to help keep health costs low.
They also offer retirement investment planning and a small slate of investments such as segregated funds.
With millions of customers, Sun Life stands out for its customer service and community outreach. It points to being part of the community it serves through charitable donations and community event sponsorship.
When you think of RBC, insurance probably doesn’t immediately come to mind. Still, RBC Insurance is the insurance division of the Royal Bank of Canada, and their insurance offerings aren’t half bad.
RBC Insurance offers a diverse product range, including auto, life, travel, disability, and home insurance.
Within each of those categories is a wide variety of policies that would fit a wide variety of circumstances with several add-ons and customizations.
Premiums are relatively low, even if the coverage is slightly limited. Beyond the policies themselves, which are pretty decent, especially when RBC Insurance can give you an anonymous online quote at any time, the sales agents work on commission and can come off as quite pushy as a result. The negative customer service reviews may tell the story there.
Industrial Alliance, or the much more modern I.A. Financial Group that they go by now, was formed when two insurance companies, Alliance Nationale and Industrial Life Insurance Company, merged in 1987.
While they offer one of the widest arrays of insurance types in Canada: home, life, auto, R.V., mortgage, personal accident, critical illness, and group insurance, their real advantage is that they are a full financial services company. They offer investments for savings and retirement as well as personal loans.
The real stand-out to how they work is their comprehensive and user-friendly website, which will explain to people in simple terms exactly what they’re buying, if they need help, and connect them to an advisor immediately, without hurdles. I.A. also has so many coverage areas that all of your insurance needs are available in one place.
Empire Life was founded in Toronto in 1923 and had a much narrower focus and offering than the other providers above. It focuses on life, disability, critical illness, group benefits, and investments. Their advantage is that they’re focused on less because what they do for individuals (mainly life and living benefits insurance) is done quite well very well. They were also named Health Insurer of the Year in 2019.
They give their group plan members lots of options and customizations for their individual plans within the group. Their critical illness policies cover many serious illnesses, and life insurance offers both term and permanent policies. You can also find policies with guaranteed rates that are locked in.
Their only drawback is their smaller offering, but if you’re okay with that, you might be okay with Empire Life.
Founded in 1944, Desjardins is Canada’s largest financial co-operative. Unfortunately, it’s limited insurance offerings for home, auto, recreation, and leisure vehicles, and pets are only available in Ontario, Quebec, and Alberta.
While the company does offer many discounts for their policies, which translates to many ways to save money.
On average, its premiums are slightly higher than the competition, so it may simply balance out, and you may not gain much savings when you pay the final price. Also, discounts from larger companies such as T.D. appear to be better than with a smaller company like Desjardins.
Desjardins does have an optional safe driver program for car insurance. It uses the Ajusto app to track your driving habits, including speed, frequency of distracted driving, acceleration, and braking. If you’re determined to be a safe driver by the app, you can save an additional 25% on premiums.
T.D. can compete with the biggest insurance companies in Canada. They offer all the major types of insurance a consumer may want, including travel, car, motorcycle and R.V., life, home, condo, tenant, critical accident, accidental death, and accidental disability.
Plus, T.D. has a suite of protection plans meant to pay off your mortgage, loan, or line of credit in the event of your death.
Though the offering is comprehensive, the options within each insurance type are limited if you look a little deeper.
For example, only two life insurance varieties exist: term life and guaranteed life. That means coverage amounts will be less than, say, what may be available from an insurance broker who can offer whole life, universal life, and longer terms on the term insurance options.One or two options per type is typical. T.D. is insurance for people who don’t want to have to think and need a bit of coverage to get them over a hump, but there are certainly better plans out there. You might even be able to get more coverage for a lower cost in the long run.
Intact is available nationwide but limited to only home and auto insurance. Of course, they offer the standard “bundle for a discount” plan, but there isn’t much to write home about after that. Intact customer service is said to rise and fall depending on where you live, which isn’t bad in Ontario and Quebec, but leaving something to be desired in Alberta.
They do promise quick action on your claim once filed, have discounts for safe drivers and offer car insurance policies for rideshare drivers, which not every company does. Intact rates are reasonable and competitive, but there are cheaper rates out there from the likes of Desjardins. You can also get more optional coverage and more coverage varieties from The Cooperators and Aviva.
Aviva mostly provides property, vehicle, and travel insurance. However, underwriting for travel insurance is by RBC.
Aviva offers some unusual insurance types, not offered by leading insurance companies (horse insurance, anyone?) Well, you can get it from Aviva, along with prize indemnity insurance and hole-in-one insurance for that company golf tournament you plan to host.
Though unique, Aviva isn’t as financially strong as the other companies on this list. However, they have a disappearing deductible program popular with auto insurance customers. They use social media to their advantage to be accessible to customers 24/7 wherever they happen to be. They also have significant resources to fight insurance fraud, which keeps premiums low.
Founded in 1955 as an offshoot of the Intact Financial Group, Belairdirect only offers car and auto insurance. They are known for offering their insurance products directly to consumers and were the first in Canada to offer auto insurance online.
Since it pioneered the online insurance space, it’s no surprise they have some of the best tools for buying insurance online. The website is sleek and straight-forward, but their app has been called an “insurance concierge in your pocket” by carsurance.net.
Their top-notch customer service offers worry-free claims management and several typical discounts, including bundling and safe-driving.
Though they say their rates are competitive, they’re actually more middle of the pack because they are cheaper than big bank insurers like RBC and T.D., but not smaller companies like Aviva. Their rates are basically in line with The Co-operators.
Initially founded as a co-operative insurance company by farmers from Saskatchewan, Quebec, Ontario, and Atlantic Canada, The Co-operators is one of Canada’s top insurance companies. They’re known for their second-to-none customer service.
An example is its free claims counseling service that helps you decide whether to file a claim.The company offers home, life, farm, auto, business, travel insurance, and investment services. Its website is one of the most informative and yet easy to navigate in the industry. The Cooperators is one of the few insurance companies that actually offer great customer service and cost-effective rates. Plus, you’ll always be able to talk to a real Cooperators advisor on the rare occasion there is a problem.
What is Insurance?
Change is inevitable. Bad things can (and do) happen to people every day.
From relatively minor things like a flight delay or lost baggage to more serious problems like the destruction of your home or personal property and the property of someone else by your hand, or, at the worst end of the spectrum, serious injury, terminal illness, or death.
While these events are unavoidable, insurance policies help cover the unforeseeable fiscal elements, especially if it pays a hefty multi-thousand or even million-dollar sum. This coverage would undoubtedly lessen the financial burden that comes along with the unexpected.
What is Insurance for?
Whether it be funeral expenses and your home’s mortgage after your death that protects your family from financial burdens, money for one last dream vacation if you have a terminal illness, money to pay for damage to your car during a car accident, or even money if you had to cancel a trip due to, say, a pandemic.
Insurance gives you the peace of mind that you or your family can weather any potentially crippling expenses if the worse comes to worst.
It can also help you focus on more important things, like your own recovery or turning things back to normal, without suffering personal financial poverty, bankruptcy, or loss.
How Does Insurance Work?
The general framework of all types of insurance works like this: you pay a monthly or annual premium, and if the event that your insurance covers happens to you, you’ll receive a payout that will cover expenses associated with an event, or give money you may have already spent, back to you.
Sometimes, like in the case of a living benefit such as critical illness insurance that you’re diagnosed for with a terminal or potentially terminal illness, you can choose how to spend the money. In many cases, it doesn’t have to be used to cover expenses at all. Some life insurance policies will even pay you a dividend for as long as the policy is still active.
No matter the idiosyncrasies of the type of insurance policy you’re buying, they all require you to pay a premium to get the payout. In the case of life insurance or accidental death insurance, where it’s other people who will be collecting the benefit in your death, you must name a beneficiary for your policy, which will get the insurance money in the event of your death.
Of course, not all insurance policies are created equal. You should read every detail of the policy before paying the premiums because all insurance policies come with definitions and exclusions.
Definitions tell you under what circumstances you will be covered and, therefore, receive a payout, and exclusions tell you under what circumstances you will not be covered and not receive a payout.
For example, life insurance policies typically do not cover self-inflicted death, nor do rental car insurance policies cover collisions caused by impaired driving.
Together definitions and exclusions make up the scope of your insurance policy. In other words, how much you are entitled to and under what circumstances.
What Factors Determine Insurance Rates?
The factors that determine premium rates depend on the type of insurance policy you are buying.
Within that type, there are specific factors that determine whether your rate will be expensive or cheap.
It can seem overwhelming with factors like your age, overall health, and smoking habits to determine life insurance rates. However, car condition, driving record, and commute length are some factors that can determine rates for car insurance, as well as where you live and whether you have a smoke detector. The number of occupants can determine rates for home insurance, too.
With so many factors specific to every individual insurance type, how can the average person make sense of the endless jargon and technicalities?
Here’s a not so well-kept secret: the number one thing that will determine whether your rate is high or low, no matter what kind of insurance you’re buying, is risk.
Any factor that increases your risk and, therefore, the likelihood of the event you’re insured for happening, such as being a smoker, living on a flood plain, or having several demerits on your driving record, will drive up your rates. Anything that decreases your risk will plummet your rates.
For example, if you’re younger, you’re likely healthier, so young people get the cheapest life insurance rates.
When your risk is higher, your claim or your entire coverage application might be unacceptable.
You may still get coverage, but your premium might be rated, meaning you pay a higher premium than the standard premium for that policy because of your increased risk of claiming.
If you believe you are of higher risk, try applying for a guaranteed issue policy, which gives you some coverage no matter your risk for a bit of a higher premium.
What are the Different Types of Insurance?
There are many types of insurance out there. From worker’s compensation to kidnap and ransom, there are many, many types of insurance available. However, when it comes to the commercial insurance that matters to ordinary people, insurance is split into the following categories:
Life insurance protects your life. In the event of your death, your beneficiary or beneficiaries receive a payout. There are several types of life insurance.
Term Life Insurance
Term life insurance grants you coverage that lasts for various terms. Typically, these terms range from 10, 15, or 20 years and require renewal at the end of the term.
Whole Life Insurance
Whole life insurance covers you until a certain age, like 65, or even until you die. It can also include cash value and guaranteed issue, which includes a smaller guaranteed payout to your chosen age, while premiums stay the same.
Universal Life Insurance
Universal life insurance lasts until death and has its cash value tied to either a stock index or an investment.
Group Life Insurance
Group life insurance, which comes through your employer and place of employment.
Credit Life Insurance
Credit life insurance pays a specific loan, mortgage insurance that pays your mortgage, and accidental death or dismemberment, which covers you if you die in an accident or lose a limb, sight, or hearing.
Critical Illness Insurance
Critical Illness Insurance pays a lump sum when you’re diagnosed with a covered critical illness such as cancer, stroke, heart attack, kidney failure, paralysis, etc. There are no restrictions on how you use the money.
Disability Insurance covers you if your ability to work is limited due to disability. Policies come in long-term disability, short-term disability, and group disability varieties. In long-term disability, whether you receive the benefit has to do with the occupation classification on the policy.
If you have an “Own Occupation” classification, you will get paid the moment you can’t work at your own occupation even if you can work at another. “Any Occupation” won’t pay the policy, if you can work at any occupation.
Health Insurance in Canada comes as a group benefits through your employer or as part of an individual plan. Supplemental insurance covers that which is not covered by provincial health insurance, such as medication, massage, assistive devices, dental care, and more.
Travel Insurance covers anything that may happen to you during a trip, including damage or theft of a rental car, baggage delay or loss, flight delay or cancellation, emergency medical coverage, non-emergency medical coverage, hotel/motel burglary, and accidental death or dismemberment. Travel insurance is available as an individual policy and comes as a feature of many credit cards.
Car Insurance is mandatory in Canada. It covers liability for all drivers across the country. Car insurance covers damage to your car because of a collision or other vehicular accident. It also covers your liability if you are at fault for vehicle damage or loss of life during a car accident. In some provinces, coverage is provided by the province and issued by private insurers in others.
Home and Other Property Insurance
Home and other Property Insurance covers you if your home or other property experiences damage due to fire, natural disaster, sewer back-up, vandalism, etc.
Spin-offs include natural disaster insurance, flood insurance, tenant’s insurance, which protects renters from liability in damage to a rental property, and contents insurance, which covers the contents inside an apartment from theft, damage, or loss.
How Does Insurance Differ from Province to Province?
Certain types of insurance operate differently between provinces. Most notably, car insurance is sold by provincial crown corporations in B.C., Manitoba, and Saskatchewan.
In Quebec, car insurance coverage for civil liability and property damage is sold by private insurers, while the province sells insurance covering bodily injury sustained in an accident.
Private insurers provide car insurance of all types in all other provinces in Canada.
Health insurance is also not identical between the provinces, with different coverage packages and different provincial health plans. Therefore, supplemental private insurance fills the gaps.
For example, most provinces only cover vision care if you’re under 18 or over 65 or have sustained an emergency eye injury.
But both Newfoundland and Labrador and New Brunswick cover no eye care through their provincial health plans.
Meanwhile, B.C. covers some supplementary services like acupuncture, massage therapy, physical therapy, naturopathy, chiropractic services, and non-surgical podiatry if you meet low-income eligibility requirements. All other provinces do not.
Frequently Asked Questions
First, where you live can potentially increase your risk of filing a claim. Plus, insurance is administered differently in different provinces.
This factor is most notable with car insurance, where three provinces sell auto insurance crown corporations, while the others rely on private insurers, and one employs a hybrid model.
Also, what’s covered can differ between provinces regarding any insurance, but it’s highlighted most with provincial health insurance.
It’s probably a tie between tenant insurance and contents insurance covering you for any damage to the apartment you’re renting. You’re likely already covered for health and dental insurance, which is likely provided to you by your university, meaning you don’t even have to have your plan.
It would also help if you bought life insurance when you’re young because that’s when it’s cheapest and will benefit your family in the future.
We get it. Like Boris Grishenko, the exuberant hacker in James Bond: GoldenEye said, “YOU ARE INVINCIBLE!”
However, even if you never get sick another day in your life, supplemental health insurance also covers the rental car and if you need glasses, eye exams, and vision care.
Honestly, though, it’s better if you’re healthy when you purchase any health insurance because you will easily qualify for the cheapest rates.