Buying Travel Insurance in Canada

If you’re traveling abroad, you definitely want to buy good Travel Insurance. At least that’s what all insurance companies tell us. Vast majority of people who buy travel insurance waste money on it, however those few who do get involved in an accident or become severely sick abroad would be in lifetime debt had they not bought the insurance prior to the trip. Buying travel insurance is obviously a big deal and an important decision to make prior to the trip. I faced the same issue myself – where do I go to buy best travel insurance in Canada?

Savvy travellers know that most travel insurances offered along with travel packages are a major rip off. Each time you buy a travel insurance along with the vacation package, you are overpaying hard core. This is somewhat understandable as majority of mainstream travel agencies sell mostly sun vacations which are so competitive, they are priced very low and deliver minimal mark-up. If travel agencies were to sell nothing but those popular vacation packages, they would not stay afloat for a very long time. Luckily there are travel insurances and that’s where they get you. While mark-up on popular vacation packages is minimal, mark-up on travel insurances most people buy along with the vacation is outrageous.

It is no different than extended warranties for electronics. It’s only thanks to those that big box stores are able to sell laptops and other gadgets for so cheap. So I’m OK with the fact that most people allow themselves to get ripped off on extended warranties or travel insurances. I’m one of the few who don’t fall for this but the reason I can get away with it is because majority of populace does get ripped off on overpriced travel insurances so travel agencies do have a buffer to work with and can let one person slip without buying one every once and again.

Here’s a comparison:

If you buy a Vacation to the Caribbean (Cuba or the Dominican Republic, for example) in Canada, the weeklong, all-inclusive package will cost you on average $800 plus taxes. Travel insurance for your weeklong stay will start at $80 and will go up to some $130 for a more complete package. You easily end up paying 10% or more of the cost of your all inclusive stay on top of the vacation for your travel insurance that covers you for a week.

Your other option is to call Blue Cross Canada and buy an annual insurance from them for the cost of $68 (in Alberta, not sure about other Canadian provinces and territories). This insurance covers your first 30 days of any stay abroad you take within a year from the validity of your insurance. That means that if you travel abroad let’s say 6 times a year and each of your stays is 30 days long or shorter, then this one time payment of $68 for the travel insurance covers your each trip.

If you didn’t buy this Blue Cross coverage, but instead purchased insurance individually each time you travel, you would be looking at a combined cost of $600 or more ($100 on average for each of your six trips, however if you take 30 day trips, the cost of insurance would be higher. $100 is typical for a one week vacation).

Photo: My Blue Cross Canada Travel Insurance Card for 2010/2011
Photo: My Blue Cross Canada Travel Insurance Card for 2010/2011

There are some terms of service associated with the Blue Cross travel insurance, for example that it doesn’t cover travel through war zones or other areas with advisories against travel to these areas issued by Foreign Affairs of Canada (published on so you do need to review it before purchasing, however for a normal travel through save and somewhat safe country, Blue Cross insurance covers you perfectly well for the initial 30 days of your stay abroad.

This is what I went with to Cuba, Dominican Republic and Iceland and since I still had 5 months of Blue Cross insurance left, I didn’t buy any additional coverage. I thought that my strategy would be to leave the country and move to another country after a month. Most tourist visas are valid for a month only anyway so unless you extend, you would end up leaving the country anyway. This way I’d be covered with my Blue Cross for the duration of following 5 months.

I remained opened to the possibility of buying health insurance from one of the insurance providers available in a country where I would decide to stay for an extended period of time. It only made sense that buying health coverage from Canada to insure me in a third world country would be expensive. But buying the same insurance from an insurance company that operates in that very country should offer the same type of coverage, but be noticeably less expensive to buy. And that was my plan when I was leaving for the long term travel. I didn’t have any solid travel insurance to cover me no matter what because I didn’t have the amount of money they cost. But I did have it figured out reasonably well to remain covered in case poop hits the fan.

Leasing of Smart Car that Failed

As the car I have owned was crapping out on me, I started looking around for a replacement. Shoving money into an old piece of junk just seemed like a complete and utter waste. My old car was a 1997 model, meaning that it was 10 year old. I have just passed 200k on it so the value was not there by any stretch of imagination. If I wanted to sell it, I would get at best a couple hundred bucks.

Troubles with that car started about a year prior. None of the troubles were major, the car was still running as engine and transmission were in decent condition, but the computer was busted and was feeding the engine with way more gas than it needed. Heating was busted too so warming the cabin up in winter was entirely impossible (which also meant it was impossible to defreeze the windshield for driving in cold weather).

I threw $500 into thorough maintenance and none of the issues were resolved. BTW, if you want to waste $500 for nothing, bring your car to Vegreville Auto and Body Shop. They have this great ability to charge you $500 and give you the car with same issue it had before bringing it in. When I brought mine in, I told the owner that it was eating too much gas, way more than it used to and it didn’t heat up. So he ran it through thorough maintenance, replacing all fluids and parts such as sparks, cleaning it up and doing whatever else there is to do to hike the price up to over $500 only to find out later than none of it helped. I was seriously unimpressed. I have clearly stated what the issues were and that this is why I’m bringing it in. I would not have put the car through this crap had I known it was not gonna deliver the result. What’s the point of spending half a grand for something that doesn’t solve your problem?

So after $500 investment that didn’t solve nothing, I still had a car with problems and a value lower than the maintenance ticket I had picked up. The car kept draining my wallet on gas as it used almost $1 worth of gas per 1km driven. This was insane, but it got even worse in winter when I couldn’t see where I was driving through and couldn’t even hold the steering wheel it was so cold. I realized that my time driving this car is up. So I started looking around at other options.

I needed to buy a new car. I’ve never had much luck buying used and given how bad financing options for used vehicles are compared to new, one would end up paying the same monthly premium for three year old piece of junk, as he would for the new one, because of interest rates. New cars have financing with interest rates as low as 0% – can’t get there with used. That means that unless you’re intending to pay for your used car by cash in full, you’re better off picking up a new one.

I didn’t have money to pay off my car at once, so financing was the only way for me. Having been deeply submerged within corporate lifestyle, I knew all about finances and what to do with it. I started to think the same way rich people do and realized that the best way to a new car was by leasing one, instead of financing. There are several reasons for that:

  • Lower monthly payments than with financing
  • After the lease term is over, you don’t end up with an obsolete piece of junk you’ll have to sell under value to get rid of it
  • What you lease, you don’t own and what you don’t own cannot be taken away from you when you get sued. This may not be an issue if you live outside of North America, but for us here it truly is serious. You don’t have to try hard. You just happen to be at the wrong place in the wrong time and you get sued. Lawyers are especially trained to run you to the ground and when you’re down, they will take the heaviest kick at you. The more you own, the more they take from you. Hence owning large ticket items is a dangerous game. Rich people know that – you always want to control it, never own it. Leasing allows you to do just that

Being absolutely clear that I wanted to lease a car, the only question was to find which one. One of the options was to go for Suzuki SX4 as they are the sexiest and the best value for money cars around these days. They come standard with everything you need for a price other makers can’t match. Plus Suzuki cars are made directly in Japan, not just the company being Japanese. You are getting Japan made quality with SX4. Unfortunately at the time Suzuki didn’t have any interesting leasing rates available.

Another option was to go for Acura CSX. These cars have super sexy interior and represent one of the best long term investments. Overall cost of running in relation to what you are getting is incredibly favourable. Not to mention attractive leasing rates that put monthly installments for this $30k worth of car to a level you would get with $25k worth of cars from other makers. You would basically be paying the same amount each month, but be driving a $30k Acura, instead of a 25k something else. Quite a no brainer.

My favourite of all was however Smart Car. Lease rates historically some of the worst in the industry, value for money questionable, however Smart Cars are the $hit. I had two big problems with my current car – massive gas usage and pathetic cabin heating. Smart car solved both of them with charm. Mileage on Smart Cars is unsurpassed and given the size of it, there is way less space to heat up in winter so the cabin would get warmer faster than in any other car. Furthermore, I really like the look of Smart Cars and they are Mercedes made – solid strong, reliable, and backed by lots of warranty.

I went to check both Suzuki SX4 and Acura CSX but Smart Car was my personal favourite. No other car could offer what Smart Cars can so after very little deciding, I was certain that I want to lease a Smart Car.

Off I went to a dealership, spoke with really awesome sales person and after never ending negotiations to get the lowest possible price, we have agreed on monthly installments I was comfortable with. The papers got signed and moved on to the management for approval.

I got a phonecall from the finance department of said Smart Car dealership that my financing was approved by the bank (my credit is actually pretty decent) and I’m ready to line up my insurance for my new car and come pick it up. I was excited like you wouldn’t believe. I saw myself plowing through the streets of Edmonton on my brand new Smart Car like a pimp. No longer would I over pay on gas, no longer would I freeze my bum in winter. All of my car related problems would be gone.

The delivery date was set for a few days later and the last thing I needed was to get myself insurance for this new automobile so I can go and drive. I phoned Morgex – car insurance company with whom I’ve been for almost 5 years to tell them that I have a new car so we get the paperwork all done. I called up my agent and told her all about my new car and she quoted me how much it’s gonna cost me. My smile froze that very instant.

I was looking at an annual hike for car insurance from under a grand I have been paying for my current car to over three grand for this new one. I thought this was a bad joke. I was like – you have got to be kidding me. But no, she wasn’t. Apparently this is what I would have to pay if I were to drive a new car. The fact that I have never had a single ticket somehow meant nothing. The fact that I have never had a single insurance claim (never been in an accident) also meant nothing. $3k+ a year to have my new Smart Car insured. WTF?

I have decided it was time to look for other insurance companies if one who’s been solely collecting from me and never spent a penny doesn’t appreciate my business well enough to give me a decent quote. I spent days upon days calling around and shopping my personal information to get quotes. They all were above $3k mark. I was seriously losing faith in humanity. I had to postpone delivery date for my automobile as I have not had the insurance lined up. It was frustrating.

On a few occasions I was held up. I would phone the company, provide details to get a quote and the quote would be reasonable. So we go through hassle of giving away all of my personal details, faxing one sheet after another back and forth only to have the actual quote I would actually pay come up in the end and look higher than all previous quotes.

From that point on, if I called for a quote and they couldn’t give me not even a ball park without asking for personal information, I would not bother going ahead with it. Frustration was growing, delivery date was getting postponed and I was growing more and more weary of dealing with insurance companies. The dream of owning a Smart Car went from basically real into distant.

The thing was – my leasing payments for owning a Smart Car were just a tad over $300 a month. With insurance quotes I was getting, I would also have to pay the same amount just to have my Smart Car insured. That doubled my monthly cost for owning this car and it simply made little sense to me. This extra $300+ a month was just insurance. There was no gas, oil change or anything of value in it. It was just money out the window and into the pockets of what are known as the most rip-off-happy companies in all of Canada.

This bull crapping of car insurance companies frustrated me to the point that I have decided to slam my fist on the desk and say “Enough!” I’ve had enough of this crap. They all wanted to rip me off, now they ain’t gonna get a penny off of me. I have responded in kind and went to buy myself a quality mountain bike I could use every day for all of my commutes as well as day to day errands.

I got back to Morgex and cancelled insurance on my old car. I have also not renewed the registration on it so the car no longer had legal papers. The inability to drive it didn’t bother me – I had a bike now that got me around everywhere I needed to go. I was saving up big time and did something for environment and my health. I felt happy about the way it played out. They all wanted to get me but I didn’t let them. I did what was best for me and I’ve never been happier about the choice. Biking is a lot of fun and it’s good for your heart. But the knowledge that neither Morgex nor any other rip off car insurance company gets my money was priceless. That itself was worth the hassle.

So my attempt at leasing Smart Car failed, but something good came out of it in the end anyway. What I did not realize back then but do now, was that failing to lease a car left me free to get my life sorted out. Had I successfully leased and picked up the car, I would be stuck with the leasing, unable to leave my corporate lifestyle behind to liberate myself entirely. Some higher power was standing by me and did not allow me to lock myself in this madness that keeps you prisoner of your own will. It took me almost two years to realize but all that matters is that I did not take the leasing. I had it cancelled, financing approval rolled back and turned myself into a free person without ongoing obligation that would never allow me to live as free man. I thank the divine power that saved me from what could have been the biggest mistake of my last few years.