Did Ontario Motorists Drive Fewer Kilometres in 2020?

By Liam Lahey
A woman wearing sunglasses driving her car into the sunset.

One of the factors your car insurance premium is based on is your annual mileage. The number of kilometres you drive per year directly influences how much you’ll pay for car insurance. The greater the distance you travel each day, the greater your risk is of getting into a collision.

According to InsuranceHotline.com’s data, the average distance driven by Ontario drivers in 2020 was 14,448 kilometres, a decrease of 1.88% when compared to an average of 14,725 kilometres driven in 2019. Overall, Ontarians drove 277 few kilometres last year, but the numbers fluctuate when age groups, gender, and location enter the equation.

Driving distance averages in Ontario by age groups and gender

The table below shows how many kilometres each generation drove in 2019 compared to 2020 – the year the COVID-19 pandemic struck:

  • Baby Boomers drove 3.56% less in 2020 than in 2019.
  • Generation X drivers didn’t alter their driving distances much during the pandemic, driving only 78 fewer kilometres (a decrease of 0.52%) on average.

Interestingly, when we compare driving distances in 2019 and 2020 by gender, the numbers shift:

Younger males drove less in 2020 than in 2019 compared to their female cohorts. But older women all drove fewer kilometres in 2020 than their male counterparts. The one standout is young Generation Z women, who drove the most across all generations last year.

Driving distance averages vary by city in Ontario

Where you live also influences your car insurance premium. Taking into consideration the Ontario cities where drivers live and the distances they travelled in 2019 and 2020, here are the top 10 cities in descending order based on our quoting volume with the most noteworthy numbers:

City 2019 2020 Difference in Kms Percentage Change
Brampton 14,704 kms 14,578 kms -126 kms -0.85%
Mississauga 14,308 kms 13,975 kms -333 kms -2.32%
Scarborough 14,083 kms 13,999 kms -84 kms -0.59%
North York 14,115 kms 13,936 kms -179 kms -1.26%
Hamilton 14,467 kms 14,314 kms -153 kms -1.05%
Oshawa 14,933 kms 14,570 kms -363 kms -2.43%
London 14,566 kms 14,167 kms -399 kms -2.73%
Kitchener 14,688 kms 14,458 kms -230 kms -1.56%
Toronto 14,186 kms 13,749 kms -437 kms -3.08%
Ottawa 14,405 kms 14,308 kms -97 kms -0.67%

Overall, drivers say they drove less in 2020 – a pandemic year when they were asked to stay home – than the year prior. On average, drivers in Toronto reduced the amount they drove the most in 2020 (437 fewer kilometres) whereas Scarborough shows the least amount of change, reducing their distances, on average, by only 84 fewer kilometres driven in 2020.

With drivers who are driving less nowadays seeking ways to lower their premiums, one way you can potentially save money on car insurance is by signing up for a usage-based insurance program (UBI) – also known as telematics – that tracks how you drive and the distances you travel.

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Telematics: how many drivers signed up for usage-based insurance?

There are two kinds of UBI programs available in Canada today: pay-how-you-drive and pay-as-you-go. The former monitors driving behaviour (speed, acceleration, braking, the time of day you drive and where), the latter tracks the number of kilometres you log behind the wheel. Both programs offer motorists the opportunity to pay less for their auto insurance.

UBI hasn’t yet quite hit mainstream acceptance yet in Canada. In a December 2020 online survey, we asked Ontario drivers if they signed up for a UBI program or not. Here’s what we learned:

Only 5.69% of survey respondents said they signed up to a UBI program, though the average distance Ontario motorists drove decreased by 1.88% in 2020. Yet, a recently released Accenture global survey says 69% of consumers say they would share significant data on their health, exercise, and driving habits in exchange for lower prices from their insurers, an increase of 19% from two years ago. However, the survey also found that the number of consumers that trust their insurers to look after their data has fallen over the past two years with concerns that centre on cyberattacks against insurers. Another 38% of that survey’s respondents say they’re reluctant to give up personal data to their auto insurers because they consider it too intrusive.

Driving less? Here’s how to get cheaper car insurance

Whether due to the pandemic and public health-related lockdowns, or if you’ve shifted from commuting to work to working from home, if you’re driving fewer kilometres, there are things you can do to reduce the total cost of your auto policy including:

  • Change your vehicle classification. If you’re not driving to a workplace, ask your provider to change your vehicle classification from ‘commute’ to ‘pleasure’.
  • Lower your policy’s annual kilometre count. If you know you’re driving less than before the pandemic, figure out how much you’re driving each week, and share the information with your insurer.
  • Review your existing coverages. Ask your broker or insurer for a review of our existing policy coverages and see if there are ways you can reduce your insurance bill by increasing deductibles or removing some coverage types you may not need.
  • Ask about other discounts and UBI options. Not all insurance companies offer a UBI program, but it can’t hurt to ask about it. All insurers do offer their customers a range of discounts, though. Find out what those discounts are and if you are eligible for any of them.
  • Shop your rate. Regardless of whether or not your policy is up for renewal, unless you take a few minutes to quickly compare car insurance premiums and policies, you won’t know if you’re getting the best price for the protection you need.

*InsuranceHotline.com’s data is based on the number of annual kilometres drivers cited when getting an auto quote in 2019 and 2020, including a breakdown of drivers’ ages, genders, and their locations.

** An online survey of 1,351 Ontarians was conducted using Google Surveys from December 14 to 24, 2020. The respondents’ ages ranged from 18 to 65+ years old.

***We define generations as follows: Baby Boomers (people born between 1946 and 1964), Generation X (people born between 1965 and 1980), Older Millennials (people born between 1989 and 1995), Young Millennials (people born between 1981 and 1988), and Generation Z (people born between 1996 and 2015).