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What is home insurance and who needs it?

Home insurance is an insurance product designed to protect your home, your family and your possessions.

If you have a mortgage, the lender will require you take out a home insurance policy to protect their investment. Even if you don’t have a mortgage, home insurance should be considered an essential purchase for the protection it gives you.

Whether you currently own a home or condo, or if you rent a property and require tenant's insurance, our comparative search service can help save you money and find you the right coverage for your needs. Join the more than 1 million Canadians who have used our service to save on their home insurance.

How does home insurance work?

The homeowner pays an annual premium to the insurer (typically split into 12 monthly payments), and the insurance company provides financial protection when the owner needs to make a claim.

This protection is twofold. Firstly, it helps cover the cost of repairs to the home if the damage is caused by an insured peril, and will help pay for repairs (or replacements) if the homeowner’s possessions are damaged, lost or stolen. Secondly, it protects the owner from costs associated with legal action in the event that someone is physically hurt on the property.

How is the cost of home insurance calculated?

When determining how much you must pay, insurance companies assess the replacement value of your home and possessions, as well as the likelihood that you’ll make a claim. For example, owners with no claims history, living in a newly built house, next to a fire station, would be deemed low risk and cheaper premiums should reflect this.

Home insurance rates depend on multiple factors and every company will assess your risk differently. The best way to save on insurance is by shopping around. Compare quotes from Canada’s most trusted providers and find a great deal today.

Frequently asked questions about home insurance in Canada (FAQs)

For most people, their home is their single most prized and valuable possession. This is why it is so important to make sure you protect it with the appropriate insurance coverage. Make sure you understand what type of home insurance you are buying, who or what is covered, exclusions, policy limitations, how much coverage is provided and how to report a loss or claim.

How much does home insurance cost in Canada?

The cost of home insurance in Canada varies dramatically depending on where you live. In Ontario, home insurance averages $915 a year, while Albertan residents pay an annual average of $843. For the most accurate information, take five minutes to answer a few questions about your home to receive and compare home insurance quotes from top insurance companies. Read on to learn more about average home insurance rates in Ontario and Alberta.

How much does home insurance cost in Ontario?

Home insurance in Ontario costs an average of $915 a year, according to data from InsuranceHotline.com based on home insurance quotes completed on our website in 2018.

Home insurance cost varies depending on where in the province you reside. For example, Toronto home insurance cost an average of $1,150 per year in 2018, while Barrie home insurance cost an average of $882 per year. 

Here is a list of the average home insurance rates in select Ontario cities:

  • Barrie -  $882
  • Brampton - $983 
  • Burlington - $948 
  • Cambridge - $829 
  • Hamilton - $893
  • Kitchener - $829 
  • London - $783 
  • Markham - $889 
  • Mississauga - $969 
  • Oshawa - $845 
  • St. Catharines - $837 
  • Sudbury - $867 
  • Toronto - $1,150
  • Vaughan - $1,326 
  • Windsor  - $790

Remember, home insurance quotes take a variety of factors into consideration including where you live, how much your home costs to replace, how old your home is, how much content insurance coverage you purchase, and so on. While these represent the average quote costs, your quote may differ from these results. 

The best way to know is to compare your Ontario home insurance quotes today.

How much does home insurance cost in Alberta?

Home insurance in Alberta costs on average $843 a year, according to data from InsuranceHotline.com calculated based on home insurance quotes completed on our website in 2018.

As with other provinces, the cost varies depending on where you live, the age of your home, your contents coverage, and other factors.

For example, home insurance in Calgary costs an average of $852 a year, while home insurance in Edmonton cost an average of $780 a year.

Compare home insurance quotes today to find the best rate for you.

Who offers the best home insurance coverage?

This depends on the type of coverage you need and how much you are willing to pay. No single company can claim to offer the best coverage without first assessing your property and understanding your needs. InsuranceHotline.com can show you multiple rates and coverages in one convenient place, saving you time and money when looking for the best deal. Compare home insurance coverages today.

Who has the cheapest home insurance policy?

No one company offers the cheapest home insurance rates. The insurance company willing to offer the cheapest rate will not be the same for everyone, as your coverage costs depend on your individual circumstances. One thing is for sure, different insurance companies offer different rates for the same coverage, so use InsuranceHotline.com to compare quotes. Last year, we helped Canadians save an average of $300 on their home insurance.

What are the different types of home insurance coverages?

There are several types of home insurance coverage, depending on how much financial protection you require, and how much you are willing to pay.

Basic or named perils home insurance is ideal for individuals looking to save a little bit of cash. This package provides coverage for your house, contents and liability, but it only covers perils that are named in the policy. If other issues arise, you would have to foot the repairs bills yourself.

If basic homeowner's coverage seems too minimal, you can upgrade to a broad home insurance package. This policy provides all risk coverage for direct physical damage to your home unless the loss is specifically excluded and named perils coverage to your contents for loss or damage caused by perils specifically named in the policy. This type of coverage is priced higher than a basic homeowner's package.

The most inclusive (and expensive) coverage you can purchase is a comprehensive home insurance policy. This policy provides all risk insurance coverage to your home (the physical building) and its contents, unless specifically excluded.

In all cases, it is important to review the policy wordings as there are certain situations not covered under all risk insurance. All policies include some personal liability insurance for the homeowner, in case a visitor gets injured on the property and the owner is found legally responsible.

What does home insurance cover?

Building & Detached Structures

Depending on where you live, and the type of home you live in, home insurance coverage will vary. If you own a house, your home insurance policy will cover your house and any detached structures, which includes a garage or shed. 

Personal Property

Your home insurance policy will also cover your personal contents such as your appliances, clothing, electronics and jewellery. 

Additional Living Expenses 

If your home was deemed unfit to live in or you were denied access into your home by the police or civil authority as a direct result of damage by an insured peril (e.g., fire, smoke, water damage), your home policy offers coverage in the form of "additional living expenses". Your home insurance policy will reimburse you for the additional living expenses while living away from home. 

Legal Liability

The legal liability portion of your home policy will protect you against lawsuits arising from your personal actions or ownership of your property. For example, it will protect you if a visitor were to slip and fall on your driveway because you failed to shovel a build up of ice and snow. 

What is not covered by home insurance?

Different homeowners opt for different levels of coverage, so a comprehensive package will cover more than a basic package. However, there are three types of risk that are not typically covered by a standard policy.

First, there are optional coverages such as earthquake insurance, flood insurance and sewer back up, for which you have to pay extra. Depending on where you live, and the type of dwelling you reside in, these common optional coverages can ensure you have more robust home insurance coverage.

Then there are also uninsurable perils, which are predictable or likely scenarios. An example of an uninsurable peril is wear and tear. As an example, if your roof was damaged because it was old, you may not have coverage to repair it.

What is the difference between home and property insurance?

Home insurance and property insurance are often used to describe the same thing. A home insurance policy covers the building you live in and the property in it, as well as liability. A tenant or renter’s policy covers your possession but does not insure the building (as you don’t own it).

Why have home insurance?

Home insurance reimburses you for your financial loss arising from accidental losses such as fire, vandalism and water damage. Home insurance also ensures you are protected against lawsuits arising from your personal actions or ownership of your property. Most banks and mortgage companies will insist that you purchase home insurance before lending you money to buy a home or condo. Most people forget about home insurance when buying a home

If you are renting an apartment, room or house, tenant's insurance offers two kinds of coverages: liability and contents. Liability coverage will protect you from your personal actions where you are held responsible for damage to the building or injury to others who live or visit your rented premises. Contents coverage reimburses you for loss or damage to your personal belongings arising from insured perils including fire, smoke and theft. 

Is it legal to not have home insurance in Canada?

You can legally own a home without home insurance, but if you have a mortgage, your lender will almost certainly require you to obtain home insurance. Even if you are mortgage free, not purchasing a home insurance policy is a huge financial risk that leaves your home and valuables vulnerable.

Is home insurance really necessary?

Yes! House fires are real, flooding is occurring at an increasing frequency across the country, and criminals still break into houses. The peace of mind provided by home insurance, not to mention the financial protection in the event of a disaster, is why the vast majority homeowners (even those who are mortgage free) see home insurance as a necessary purchase.

Are mortgage insurance and homeowners insurance the same?

No. Mortgage insurance is a specialist policy taken out by mortgage lenders to compensate them for losses if the borrower can no longer make the payments. It is not related to homeowners insurance.

Can I get a mortgage without home insurance?

No mortgage lender in Canada will approve a loan without first ensuring you have home insurance. If you were to default on your mortgage, the lender could take possession of the property. Your home insurance is a way of protecting their investment.

When should I file a home insurance claim?

Before rushing to contact your insurance company and file a claim, you’ll want to consider a few things.

1) Is it covered?

Make sure you are familiar with your home insurance policy and understand your coverage before you file a claim. This will help you understand what exactly is covered, and for how much.

2) How much would it cost you to fix it yourself?

If the cost to repair the damage is less than your deductible, or will only cost you slightly more, it is wise to forego an insurance claim. The more claims you make, the higher your future premiums will be, so asking your insurance provider to reimburse you for every little thing is short sighted. Sure, a claim could save you a few dollars this month, but keeping your premiums low will save you more money in the end.

Generally, as long as the claim isn’t too serious and will cost you less than your deductible, you are better off keeping insurance out of it. However, if during the repair process you make significant improvements, like replacing a damaged countertop with expensive marble, you should let your insurance know so they can update your coverage.

3) The amount of damage

If your home has sustained significant and costly damage, you should make an insurance claim. The same is true if your home has been burgled and valuable items have been taken.

The financial protection offered by your home insurance company is exactly why you took out home insurance in the first place. You will still have to pay the deductible, but use your home insurance to save you from taking a real financial hit when repairing your home or replacing your things.

4) Liability

If you are facing liability-related legal fees, send a copy of the lawsuit notice to your insurer immediately. They have to defend you, subject to the terms laid out in your policy.

Don’t try to take matters into your own hands. There is no such thing as a cheap lawsuit and you will need the liability insurance to help pay for legal representation, even if you are ultimately cleared of any wrongdoing.

How do I file a home insurance claim?

When it comes to submitting a claim, documentation is the most important step:

  • Take your smart phone and photograph or video record evidence of damage to your home.
  • If you have lost possessions due to theft, you will want a police report, old photos showing the missing items in your home, and ideally the original receipts too.

Contact your insurer as soon as you decide to make a claim against your policy. They will explain exactly what they need from you, and will tell you how to file.

These days, submitting a home insurance claim is often just a matter of completing an online form.

Home insurance rate changes

As indicated in a recent report by The Applied Rating Index, average premiums for personal property insurance have increased across Canada.

Ontario, Quebec and the Atlantic Provinces have all seen big jumps in the last 12 months.

Average change in personal property insurance premium rate compared to the same quarter last year

Location Q1 2018 Q2 2018 Q3 2018 Q4 2018 Q1 2019 Q2 2019 Q3 2019 Q4 2019 Q1 2020
Alberta 7.90% 5.70% 4.40% 12.10% 3.20% 4.50% 9.80% 3.20% 6.10%
Atlantic Provinces 5.50% 5.60% 7.40% 9.20% 9.80% 9.10% 10.50% 12.80% 11.60%
Ontario 1.60% 4.20% 4.50% 5.10% 7.40% 8.70% 11.20% 12.00% 10.40%
Quebec 0.10% -2.20% -0.50% 1.60% 6.70% 12.20% 21.30% 23.40% 24.10%
British Columbia -0.70% -1.30% 3.50% 11.25% 23.80% 24.60% 25.30% 6.60% -3.70%
Saskatchewan and Manitoba 1.40% 0.20% 2.70% 5.10% 6.10% 9.10% 10.00% 10.20% 9.50%
Canada 2.90% 2.70% 3.50% 5.70% 7.70% 10.10% 13.60% 11.00% 8.80%

10 Factors that can affect your home insurance premium

Insurance companies take a number of factors into consideration when determining your home insurance premium. If the data suggests you are likely to make a claim, you may be deemed high risk and consequently face a higher premium. Conversely, if you are considered low-risk, you will receive a cheaper premium.

To make this determination, insurance companies consider the following:

1. Where you live.

Home insurance providers use detailed local statistics to track the number and severity of insurance claims. If your neighbourhood has a high number of burglaries, vandalism, house fires, or anything else that might potentially lead to a claim, you can expect a higher home insurance premium.

2. Heat source.

How you heat your home can have a big impact on your home insurance rates, as some heat sources are inherently riskier than others.

  • Radiators are considered safe by insurers, as they rely on hot water rather than combustible substances to distribute the heat throughout your home.
  • Wood stoves are at the other end of the spectrum. If they are not maintained properly, they can cause carbon monoxide poisoning and are a common source of house fires.

3. Type of electrical distribution.

In Canadian homes, especially those built before the 1950s, knob-and-tube wiring is commonplace, but insurance companies are increasingly reluctant to provide coverage to any house that still has it. Over the years, either through tampering or simple deterioration, this technology has become a fire risk.

Most Canadian insurers will give you a few months to remove and replace it with insulated wiring. Once this work is complete and a licensed electrical contractor has approved it, finding an affordable home insurance rate will be much easier.

4. Pipes and plumbing.

As with electrical, the age of your home is a good indicator as to whether or not plumbing will be an issue. Older homes, built before the mid-1950s, used lead piping. This type of plumbing has eroded over time, making it more likely to crack, leak and lead to a home insurance claim. Insurers will reward plastic or copper pipes, more modern and stable technologies, with a lower home insurance rate.

5. Age of roof.

The roof over your head does much more than keep you dry. Modern roofs are surprisingly complex; the angle of the pitch has been perfected to ensure the best possible water run-off, the materials used for tiles is lighter and more durable than ever, and the introduction of fascia and soffits means the roof over your head allows for proper ventilation, decreasing the likelihood of trapped water and mould. Considering this, insurers may provide a cheaper quote to a house with a roof that is less than 20 years old.

6. Primary use of your home.

If you are planning to rent out your basement, allow people to book your spare room on Airbnb, or even use your house as a home office, you must inform your insurance company to ensure you’re covered for these usages. Any peripheral use of your home (aside from normal living), will increase your premium as it increases your coverage.

7. Your claims history.

Past claims are the best predictor of your future insurance needs. If you have a history of making insurance claims, insurance companies will consider you high risk and will set a higher premium. A no claims history, especially if you have had home insurance before, will reassure insurers that you are deserving of a lower rate.

8. Proximity to fire hydrant and fire station.

If a fire does break out in your home, insurers want reassurance that the local fire service will be able to put it out quickly. If you live in a city, your proximity to a fire station is unlikely to make a dramatic difference to your insurance, as all properties should be accessible. However, if you live in a remote area, especially if there is no water source nearby, a fire could do a lot of damage before help arrives, and as a result, you will face a higher insurance premium.

9. Alarm system.

An alarm system, especially one that is monitored by a home security service, will act as a deterrent to thieves and will help lower your home insurance costs. The same is true if you install a monitored security system.

10. Value of your home (replacement cost to rebuild)

The largest home insurance claims come from catastrophic disasters, whereby the whole property has to be rebuilt from scratch.

For this reason, the square footage of your home, and the construction materials used to build it, are hugely influential when it comes to determining your insurance. The larger and more valuable your home, the more it will cost to rebuild, and the higher your premium will be.

Why use InsuranceHotline.com to compare home insurance quotes online?

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Tips on getting the cheapest home insurance

Follow these tips to ensure you’re getting the cheapest home insurance rate:

  1. Shop around – Property insurance rates change frequently. They usually increase, but if your neighbourhood has seen a reduction in crime, or you have made improvements to your home, insurers might be willing to offer a lower premium. The company offering the cheapest rate this year may not be the cheapest when it comes time to renew your policy next year. Take advantage of the best available rates by shopping around before every renewal.
  2. Increase your deductible – Most home insurance policies default to a $1,000 deductible, which is the amount you pay in the event of a claim. If you are willing to take on a larger share of the financial risk, increase the deductible and pay a lower monthly premium.
  3. Pay your premiums annually – Ask your insurer about paying your home insurance in one annual lump sum, rather than in monthly installments. Many companies are willing to offer a reduced rate for this.
  4. Multi-line discount - Bundle your home insurance together with your car insurance and you could save up to 15% on each! The insurance company is rewarding you for using more of their products.
  5. Safeguard your home – Taking steps to safeguard the physical structure of your home, (e.g. replacing the roof, modernizing the heating system, adding a sump pump, installing an alarm system) reduce the likelihood of you needing to make an insurance claim. Tell your insurer as soon as these improvements occur, and your monthly payments could go down immediately.
  6. Lifestyle changes – Quitting smoking? Mortgage paid off? Getting married? These are just some of the factors that could help reduce your home insurance premium. As with changes to the physical structure of your home, tell your insurer as soon as these things happen to benefit from immediate savings.
  7. Review your policy annually - Check your coverage every year. If you no longer need certain protection, removing it from your policy is a way to reduce costs.
  8. Ask about discounts – Ask your provider if they offer any discounts or incentives to their customers and see if you qualify. For example, special rates are sometimes offered to alumni of local universities.

Why home insurance premiums in Canada keep rising

The reason home insurance premiums in Canada keep rising is the ever increasing number (and cost) of claims. With data taken from the Insurance Bureau of Canada's factbook, here is how personal property net written premiums compare to personal property claims over the last 20+ years:

Year Personal Property (Net Written Premiums in $000,000) Personal Property (Net Claims in $000,000)
2018 12,012 7,250
2017 11,226 6,533
2016 10,663 6,253
2015 10,187 5,489
2014 9,971 6,045
2013 9,024 6,161
2012 8,565 5,013
2011 8,192 5,336
2010 7,598 4,566
2009 7,013 5,071
2008 6,495 4,720
2007 6,033 3,842
2006 5,621 3,556
2005 5,315 3,570
2004 5,079 2,921
2003 4,452 2,574
2002 3,971 2,352
2001 3,481 2,316
2000 3,429 2,286
1999 3,293 2,152
1998 3,383 2,523
1997 3,281 2,112
1996 3,246 2,301
1995 3,163 2,003
1994 3,042 1,955

Why home insurance premiums in Canada keep rising

2018 Personal Property
$12,012
2018 Personal Property
$7,250

Catastrophic insured losses in Canada

Insured losses resulting from a disaster are classified "catastrophic" when they total $25 million or more. Unfortunately, owing primarily to climate change, catastrophic disasters in Canada have increased dramatically over the last 35 years (IBC factbook - 2018):

5-Year Period Loss (plus loss adjustment expenses in 2017 dollars)
2013-2017 $11.4 billion
2008-2013 $5.7 billion
2003-2008 $2.6 billion
1998-2003 $3.7 billion
1993-1998 $1.8 billion
1988-1993 $1.1 billion
1983-1988 $0.9 billion

Increasingly frequent catastrophic events impact premiums because fewer companies are willing to provide property insurance, especially if you live in an area which is susceptible to flooding, earthquakes or forest fires. A lack of supply coupled with increasing demand is one of the primary reasons home insurance premiums continue to increase, and why you should use InsuranceHotline.com to compare quotes and find the best deal.