There are more than 40 different insurance companies that offer home insurance in Ontario. It can be difficult to tell one from the next sometimes. A lot of them seem to offer similar things, so how do you know which one to choose? There’s no one answer, but there are certainly ways to narrow it down.
Everybody has a place they call home, and no matter whether you live in a detached house, townhouse, condo, apartment or mobile home, and regardless of whether you rent it or own it, you likely need some kind of home insurance, to protect the building if you own it, the condo unit if you own that, and your stuff regardless. You also need liability insurance in case somebody gets hurt at your place. That’s also part of a home insurance policy.
Standard or non-standard home insurance?
First, you need to determine whether the home you want to insure falls under a standard home, condo or tenant policy. Here are a few types of homes that wouldn’t:
- High-value homes or homes with fine art, collectibles or other high-value items
- Heritage (100+ years old) and other high-risk homes (old wiring, wood/oil heating, history of claims)
- Cottages or other homes that are not your primary residence
- Manufactured or mobile homes (aka trailers)
- Homes you rent out on a monthly/yearly basis
- Homes you rent out through AirBnB or other home-sharing apps
Ontario home insurers at a glance
When comparing home insurance companies there are a number of factors to consider. What type of insurance do they sell? Can you buy from them directly or through a broker? What, if any, consumer rating have they been given? How big is the company? There isn’t comprehensive information for every company, but the following table summarizes what we do know about the companies that sell home insurance in the province.
|Insurance company||Type of insurance sold||How to buy*||J.D. Power rating (/1000)**||Size (by premiums)||Google rating***|
|Allstate Insurance Company of Canada||Home, condo, tenant, cottage, landlord||Agent, Direct||764 / 1000||Large||2.9 / 5
|Aviva Canada||Home, condo, tenant, high-value, trailer, cottage, AirBnB||Broker||727 / 1000||Large||2.2 / 5
|Belairdirect||Home, condo, tenant||Direct||761 / 1000||Large||4.2 / 5
|CAA Insurance||Home, condo, tenant, cottage||Broker||Small||2.9 / 5
|Travelers Essential||Home, condo||Broker||Small||–|
|Chubb Insurance Co. of Canada||Home, condo||Broker||Medium||3.3 / 5
|Commonwell Mutual Insurance Group||Home, condo, tenant, cottage, trailer||Broker||Small||2.8 / 5
|The Co-operators Insurance||Home, condo, tenant, cottage, trailer||Direct||791 / 1000||Large||4.5 / 5
|Coseco Insurance||Home, condo, tenant||Broker||Small||2.8 / 5
|CUMIS||Home, condo, tenant||Broker||Small||2.2 / 5
|Desjardins Insurance||Home, condo, tenant, cottage||Agent, Direct||735 / 1000||Large||2.0 / 5
|Dufferin Mutual Insurance Co.||Home, condo, tenant, cottage, trailer, landlord||Broker||Small||3.3 / 5
|Economical Insurance||Home, condo, tenant, cottage, landlord||Broker||761 / 1000||Large||2.6 / 5
|Gore Mutual Insurance Co.||Home, condo, tenant, cottage, landlord||Broker||Medium||3.0 / 5
|Grenville Mutual Insurance Co.||Home, condo, tenant||Broker||Small||3.9 / 5
|The Guarantee Co.||Home, condo, tenant, high-value, cottage||Broker||Small||3.1 / 5
|Hallwell Mutual Insurance Co.||Home, condo, tenant||Broker||Small||5 / 5
|Heartland Farm Mutual Inc||Home, condo, tenant, cottage, heritage||Broker||Small||3.5 / 5
|HTM Insurance Co.||Home, condo, tenant, cottage, landlord, second home||Broker||Small||4.4 / 5
|Intact Insurance||Home, condo, tenant, cottage, landlord||Broker||753 / 1000||Large||3.9 / 5
|Mutual Fire Insurance Company of British Columbia||Home, condo, tenant||Agent (Square One Insurance)||Small||4.6 / 5
|Novex Insurance Co.||Home, condo, tenant, cottage, landlord||Broker||Small||1 / 5
|Northbridge Insurance||Home, condo, tenant, cottage||Broker||Medium||3.6 / 5
|Optimum General Insurance||Home, condo, tenant, cottage, landlord||Broker||Small||5 / 5
|Pafco Insurance||Home, condo, tenant, cottage, landlord, second home||Broker||Small||2 / 5
|Peel Mutual Insurance Co.||Home, condo, tenant, cottage, landlord||Broker||Small||4.3 / 5
|Pembridge Insurance Co.||Home, condo, tenant, cottage, landlord, second home||Broker||Small||1.5 / 5
|The Personal||Home, condo, tenant||Broker||762 / 1000||Small||2.8 / 5
|Portage Mutual Insurance||Home, condo, tenant, cottage||Broker||Small||3.4 / 5
|RBC Insurance||Home, condo, tenant, cottage, landlord, second home||Direct||774 / 1000||Small||3 / 5
|RSA Canada||Home, condo, tenant, cottage||Broker||Large||2.7 / 5
|Scottish & York||Home, condo, tenant||Broker||Small||–|
|Security National (Part of TD Insurance)||Home, condo, tenant, cottage, second home, AirBnB||Direct||Large||–|
|SGI Canada||Home, condo, tenant, cottage, landlord, second home||Broker||Small||–|
|Sonnet Insurance||Home, condo, tenant, landlord||Direct||Medium||–|
|TD General Insurance||Home, condo, tenant, cottage, second home, AirBnB||Direct||749 / 1000||Large||2.1 / 5
|Traders General Insurance Co.||Home, condo, tenant||Broker||Small||–|
|Travelers Canada||Home, condo, tenant, cottage, high-value||Broker||746 / 1000||Medium||1.8 / 5
|Trillium Mutual Insurance Co.||Home, condo, tenant, cottage||Broker||Small||3.7 / 5
|Unica Insurance||Home, condo, tenant, cottage, second home||Broker||Small||3.5 / 5
|Unifund Assurance||Home, condo, tenant||Broker||Small||–|
|Wawanesa Insurance||Home, condo, tenant||Broker||738 / 1000||Medium||1.3 / 5
|Western Assurance||Home, condo, tenant, landlord, trailer, cottage||Broker||Small||1.7 / 5
*Agent = Sells through a network of agents that only sell their products.
Broker = Sells through independent brokers, who also offer quotes from other insurance companies.
Direct = Sells direct to the public, usually online or by phone.
**Overall customer satisfaction index ranking, Ontario region – J.D. Power 2019 Canada Home Insurance Satisfaction Study
***Average Google rating for all locations present in Google Places for Business (number of reviews in parentheses)
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How do I find the best price on home insurance?
Home insurance is very different from auto insurance because the government doesn’t mandate what coverage you need to have. That gives you a lot more flexibility to get the type and level of coverage for your needs, but it also makes it difficult to compare one quote to the next, because every insurer is likely to offer a slightly different package of coverage.
Regardless, the best way to make sure you’re getting the best deal on home insurance is by getting quotes from at least 5-10 different companies. You can spend a week on the phone, or you can get multiple quotes through an independent insurance broker. Make sure to insist that your broker explain the differences between the different home insurance policies on offer, because it’s not as standard as with auto insurance.
How do insurers compare on home insurance features other than price?
If you want to know how you might feel being the customer of a particular insurance company, the best way to get an idea is from people who have been there. Yes, we’re talking about customer feedback. There are a few ways that customer feedback on different companies can be found.
1. Home insurance reviews
Online reviews are a way to get information straight from people who should know what they are talking about. Some customers provide reviews on Google, others will go on broker websites like ours to rate their insurer. It’s a bit of work to put all that information together, but if you take the time, you could gain some valuable insights. Before you venture down that road, however, note that these reviews and ratings can be unreliable for a number of reasons:
- Firstly, there is nothing preventing companies from planting positive reviews for themselves and negative reviews for their competitors.
- Even if the reviews are legitimate, remember that people who’ve had a bad experience are more likely to post a review than those who’ve had a good experience.
- If you’re looking for negative reviews as a red flag to stay away from a given insurer, remember that the biggest companies have more customers, so more reviews, and some are bound to be negative.
- Most people stay with the same company for years. Someone may post a negative review because their premium went up, but the price increase may be industry-wide.
2. Customer satisfaction studies
J.D. Power does a more scientific study, surveying insurance customers every year. The 2019 J.D. Power ratings for home insurers in Atlantic and Ontario are included in the table above.
Please note the following factors when considering these ratings:
- The study is conducted for the benefit of insurers, to gain insight into consumer perspectives. The full detailed results are not available to consumers.
- The study only rates 12 out of 40+ insurance companies that sell auto insurance in the province (those with the most customers, generally).
- The minimum sample size (100 responses) is very small – most Ontario surveys would require at least 1,000 responses to be considered reliable.
- The survey is done using online panels. This method is less reliable than other survey methods.
That said, 100 customer responses to specific questions about service are probably more reliable than 12 Google reviews. But all these sources can help you paint a full picture of what a given company can deliver.
3. Size of insurance company (bigger is sometimes better)
Canada has very strong laws that protect consumers by ensuring that all insurance companies are financially sound and have enough money in reserve to pay claims even when a big disaster happens. However, for some people, a bigger company that does more business in that particular marketplace can be perceived as more reliable. On the flip-side, some of us prefer to do business with a company that’s not about volume. A smaller company can be perceived as providing more personal service.
For all of the above reasons, the above table categorized each home insurer in the province as either small, medium or large. The category doesn’t speak to the size of the company necessarily. In this case it speaks to how much home insurance they sell in Ontario.
Finding insurance for your non-standard home
Almost every company in the table above will offer you home, condo or tenants insurance if you live in a house or building that’s under 100 years old and not considered a high-value or high-risk home, whether you own the space or rent it. However, there are some things that would make you more of a specialty risk, and not just any insurance company would want you as a customer.
1. Do you run a home business?
Home-based businesses are more and more common, but not all home-based businesses are the same in terms of the risk they create. If you are a freelancer and do work from your home office, but don’t meet with clients there and don’t store business supplies or products there, most standard insurers will cover you, but you need to let your broker know about the home business, and it may cost you a little more on your premium.
On the other hand, if you are an artist or carpenter, and your basement is your workshop, where you work with power tools and store thousands of dollars of materials and product, or if you’re a therapist and see clients in your home office, you will require a commercial insurance policy in addition to your home insurance policy.
2. Do you rent out all or part of the property?
If you are looking to insure a home that you rent out to tenants, or even if you live there and rent out the basement, you will require a landlord policy in addition to your basic home insurance. Most home insurers offer this coverage for an additional cost.
On the other hand, if you rent out all or part of your home through AirBnB or another home-sharing app, most insurers will not insure you at all. This is considered more risky than long-term rentals. There are a handful of insurers that will insure your AirBnB property, but the cost is considerably higher than what you would expect to pay for home insurance.
3. Is it a secondary home?
If you own a second home, cottage or trailer that is not inhabited for large parts of the year, then insurance companies won’t insure that property the same way that they would your primary home. The main reason is that when nobody is there, the property is at higher risk of having a break-in, being vandalized, and if there’s a small problem like a water leak or small fire, there’s no one around to prevent it from becoming a bigger problem. There are insurers that are happy to insure your seasonal property or cottage.
4. Is your house older than 100?
Everybody knows that as a house ages, it becomes susceptible to problems like leaky pipes, frayed wiring or even a crumbling foundation. Everything decays over time. With the proper maintenance a century home can be kept in excellent condition, but if your house is a hundred years old or more, your insurance company will likely want to make sure. They may also have concerns if your home has knob & tube wiring (which is known to increase the risk of electrical fires), or a wood-burning stove as the primary heat source for the house. There are a handful of insurance companies that specialize in insuring heritage homes (or century homes). It will likely be more expensive than for a newer home, but the insurer may be able to suggests upgrades that make it more affordable.
5. What else can make your home high-risk?
The simple fact is that some homes should never have been built where they are. If your home is on a known flood plain where basement flooding happens almost every spring, or in an area where it is vulnerable to forest fires, most insurance companies won’t insure you. High-risk insurers might, but will charge you much higher premiums than for a comparable home that’s not in a dangerous area, and your coverage will probably exclude claims related to whatever the greatest risk is.
With climate change leading to more frequent and larger floods and wildfires, there are some homes that are simply not insurable because of where they are. In these cases, there is no ‘best’ home insurance company.
The other reason that you may not be able to find home insurance in the regular market could be that you have a history of making frequent claims, or worse, of not paying your premiums. If this is the case, you may need to pay higher premiums for a few years in the high-risk market to rehabilitate your insurance record. Think of it like having a bad credit rating. You need to pay your bills on time for a few years before anyone lends you money again.