Have an Unpaid Traffic Ticket? You'll Have to Pay It to Renew Your Licence Plate

By Hayley Vesh

This article has been updated from a previous version.

There’s no running away from an unpaid traffic ticket. As much as you would like it to disappear, it will catch up with you when you renew your licence plate.

In this article:

How do traffic tickets impact your licence plate renewal?

No one wants to be handed a traffic ticket and slapped with a hefty fine. However, the most annoying consequence may come if you don’t pay the fine.

Most provincial governments won’t allow a driver to renew their licence if they have any unpaid fees or fines – that includes unpaid traffic tickets.

In addition to the fine itself, consequences for a traffic infraction vary depending on the severity of the offense. You could get hit with demerit points, a vehicle impoundment, licence suspension, or jail time. For example, if convicted, failing to remain on the scene of a collision can cost you seven demerit points, set you back by $2,000, and can lead to jail time of six months and licence suspension. Similarly, not wearing a seat belt can cost you two demerit points and up to $1,000 in fines.

If you’ve racked up more than nine demerit points, your licence can be suspended for 60 days, and you will need to surrender it.

Lastly, if you do get your licence suspended or otherwise have defaulted on your fees, you will need to pay the licence reinstatement fee or the Administrative Monetary Penalty (AMP) before renewing your licence plate.

From an insurance perspective, traffic tickets and demerit points can significantly impact your insurance premiums. Driving recklessly, for instance, can lead to a 25% increase in premiums and will remain on your driving record for up to three years. In some cases, the insurance company may deem you a high-risk driver and even deny you coverage.

Bottom line? Drive responsibly, and always deal with your traffic tickets head on.

Let’s take a closer look at how licence renewals work in Ontario and Alberta.

Related: What are the insurance consequences of major and minor traffic tickets?

How to renew your licence plate sticker in Ontario

In Ontario, you need to renew your licence plate every two years. Most drivers can renew their licence plate stickers online or in-person at a ServiceOntario location.

Before renewing your licence plate sticker, you will need to provide:

  • proof of auto insurance
  • your licence plate number
  • your vehicle’s odometer reading
  • your vehicle identification number (VIN)

If you have a heavy-duty diesel vehicle, you’ll also need to provide an emissions test.

You must also pay any outstanding fines and fees, including those incurred on traffic tickets, highway tolls, red-light camera tickets, and licence reinstatement fee (if your licence was suspended). All of these fines have to be cleared before you renew your licence. Otherwise, ServiceOntario may deny your renewal.

As of 2022, the government scrapped the renewal fee (unless you’re driving a commercial vehicle or motorized snow vehicle).

They’ve also moved to sending digital renewal notices instead of mailing physical letters. So, make sure you’re on top of your licence expiry date. You can also sign up for renewal reminders two or three months before the expiration date through email, text, or phone call.

Read next: How your Ontario driver licence type affects auto insurance rates

How to renew your licence plate in Alberta

Depending on the licence class, age, and medical status, licence plates are valid for one to five years in Alberta

Although drivers no longer have to place stickers marking the month and year of registration on their vehicles, they are still responsible for registration.

If you are simply renewing your licence plate, you can do so online via the MyAlberta eServices, where you need to set up a verified digital ID. After this, you need to add your vehicle registration certificate, proof of insurance (pink slip), and credit card details. The fee to renew a passenger vehicle plate is $93.

As in Ontario, you need to clear any outstanding fines before you can renew. If you have any outstanding dues to clear and want to renew your licence plate online, you must wait a couple of business days for the payment of dues to clear or process through before you can renew.

The government of Alberta is also no longer sending out mailed letters for expired licence plates, and Albertans can sign up for electronic renewal reminders through MyAlberta eServices.

Do out-of-province tickets impact your renewal?

While an unpaid ticket in another province will not impact your ability to renew your licence plate sticker in Ontario, it can have other serious consequences.

Suppose you get convicted of a driving offence in another Canadian province, the State of New York or Michigan. In that case, demerit points will be added to your driving record, according to Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation.

Reciprocal agreements allow the provinces or states to exchange information regarding traffic violations.

Read more: Canadian drivers and U.S. traffic tickets: How does a U.S. ticket affect you?

The consequences of an expired licence plate

Remember, it’s illegal to drive with an expired driver’s licence or licence plate. If caught driving with an invalid driver’s licence plate, the fine is $110 in Ontario, and $230 in Alberta.

Furthermore, if you get involved in a collision, your insurance claims may be rejected, and your insurance provider will increase your insurance premiums or may decline coverage altogether.

Quick Car Insurance Quote

Find your best car insurance rate by comparing car insurance quotes from 50+ providers in a single search. Start saving today!