Pothole menace angers motorists, creates business for repair shops

By Ross Marowits


MONTREAL _ An annoying sign of spring the dreaded pothole is testing the patience of Canadian drivers this year while also creating a financial bonanza for auto repair shops.

Extreme fluctuations in early spring temperatures along with lots of rain have unearthed a high number of potholes that are exposing motorists to hefty repair bills.

“It’s probably the worst year I’ve seen in the last 10 to 15 years,” Ben Lalonde, president of My AutoPro service centres in Ottawa, said in a recent interview.

Business is up as customers are showing up with bent wheels, punctured tires, misalignments and wrecked suspensions. Repair bills can range between $200 and $500 depending on the force of impact and the type of damage, Lalonde said.

Spring is a lucrative period for repair shops, says Jack Bayramian, owner of Montreal’s Decarie Garage, who adds that repairs stemming from pothole damage makes up about 30 per cent of his year’s revenues.

There’s no tally for the cost of dealing with the aftermath of potholes in Canada, but a poll of U.S. motorists by the American Automobile Association suggests they spend an average of US$3 billion a year dealing with pothole repairs. The Canadian Automobile Association is in the process of conducting its own poll.

While repair shops welcome the extra business, they also say it can cause customers to pare back spending on preventative maintenance.

“I know having bad roads is good for business but I think it’s (temporary) … because a lot of people end up neglecting their cars, and at the end it could be a safety concern,” James Bastien, manager of an OK Tire in the nation’s capital.

Most motorists tend to pay for repairs out-of-pocket unless damage is well above insurance claim deductibles, or they can beat the odds and win a claim from a municipality.

Several large Canadian municipalities are struggling this year to keep up with the menace that is consistently among the top sources of angry complaints from residents.

“This year has been fairly bad,” says Bryden Denyes, area manager of core roads for the City of Ottawa.

The city has filled 51,000 potholes so far this year, up substantially from 20,200 at the same time in 2015, but down slightly from two years ago. Compared to last year’s almost relentless bone-chilling cold, Ottawa has faced 28 freeze-and-thaw cycles versus just 11 a year ago.

The capital spends $5.4 million a year filling potholes and repairing roads, compared to the nearly $7 million to fix major and arterial roads in Montreal. Toronto spent $6 million in 2014 to fix 360,000 potholes.

Lionel Perez, a councillor responsible for Montreal’s infrastructure, said it’s a constant struggle to plug the holes, especially because of decades of under-investment.

The challenge is even bigger in Edmonton, which over the last nine years has faced an average of 455,000 new potholes a year. A warmer winter and less snow has given the Alberta capital somewhat of a reprieve this year.

In addition to filling potholes, municipalities have to contend with damage claims submitted by residents.

Very strict rules limit compensation in Quebec. Payouts are also low in other provinces.

Ottawa paid out only 10 per cent of claims last year, while Edmonton’s annual payout ratio is about 16 per cent. Toronto, meantime, paid out about half the 2,376 claims filed in 2014, the city said in its latest report.


Canada: How To Renew Your Auto Insurance Policy In Ontario

By Robert Marks

By law, every driver in Ontario is required to carry insurance, with severe penalties – such as a minimum fine of $5,000 – for driving without it. But, how do you ensure that your insurance is current, and that it didn’t expire without you noticing?

Making sure you renew your auto insurance policy

In most cases, this is not an issue – the majority of insurance policies automatically renew at the end of their term, with cancellation of the policy only occurring at the client’s request. However, there are circumstances where a policy may not automatically renew. For example, some insurance companies will not renew a policy with a driver who has had three or more convictions under the Highway Traffic Act. Likewise, a driver who has become too high risk, such as one who has experienced multiple at-fault accidents, may also find that their insurance company is unwilling to renew the policy. In most cases where the policy is not going to automatically renew, the insurance company is required to send you a letter informing you of the situation – in a worst case scenario, however, if you have not received your renewal package at the expected time, you should contact your insurance company to find out why it has been delayed.

If you are looking for a new insurance company or a better rate, there are a few ways to approach it – one is to contact a licensed insurance broker, who can get a number of estimates from different insurance companies. Another is to contact the insurance companies directly for estimates yourself. Both approaches have their merits and drawbacks – the insurance broker may have greater negotiating power on your behalf, but may be limited to the insurance companies they represent, leaving you without quotes from insurers who might suit you better.

When looking at alternate insurance companies, there are a number of things you should be looking for. While annual rates are important, you also need to look at what optional benefits are being included with the rate quote. If you have a newer or classic car, you may need a greater level of coverage than if you are driving an inexpensive used car. You also need to know the amount of the deductible – the amount that you must pay towards repairs before the insurance company will cover the rest – and how much it will cost to lower it if it is too high. You may also want to know if the insurance company has an accident forgiveness program, protecting your rates from increasing after a single accident. Finally, you will want to check into the insurance company itself – an insurance provider that is easy to reach and has a history of treating their clients well is better than one that has treated its clients poorly, or is difficult to contact.

So long as you are a safe driver, remaining insured is not generally going to be a problem. Ensuring that you have the insurance that is right for you, on the other hand, can be harder, and knowing who to talk to and what to look for can make all the difference.

China’s Anbang: from auto insurance roots to global buyer of luxury hotels

China’s Anbang: from auto insurance roots to global buyer of luxury hotels


China’s Anbang Insurance Group Co has emerged from near obscurity 18 months ago to sign deals worth more than $30 billion, moving into the big league of global real estate and finance.

The Beijing-based firm has offered $12.8 billion for U.S. hotel operator Starwood (HOT.N) and also agreed this month to pay Blackstone Group (BX.N) $6.5 billion for Strategic Hotels & Resorts Inc, whose 16 luxury properties include the Four Seasons Washington D.C.

Established in 2004 as an automotive and property insurer by chairman Wu Xiaohui, a native of China’s entrepreneurial coastal city Wenzhou, Anbang is looking to use its 1.65 trillion yuan ($253 billion) in assets to transform into a worldwide investor.

“Anbang will have a global footprint. In 10 years, Anbang will have companies on all the world’s continents,” Wu, who is 49 and married to Deng Zhuorui, a granddaughter of Chinese patriarch Deng Xiaoping, told students at Harvard University last year.

Business associates describe Wu as passionate, impatient and very ambitious. He often travels by private jet accompanied by a retinue of assistants.

His acquisition strategy is underpinned by an aggressive pursuit of yield-producing companies, those business associates say, funded by cash from selling insurance products and other sources.

In October 2014, Anbang agreed to pay $1.95 billion for the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York, a move Wu said brought the insurer “extra brand recognition” and business opportunities.

Last year, Anbang agreed to buy U.S. insurer Fidelity & Guaranty Life (FGL.N) for $1.6 billion, and paid around $1 billion for South Korea’s Tong Yang Life Insurance Co (082640.KS). It has also bought control of Fidea, a Belgium based insurer, and the Belgian banking operations of Dutch insurer Delta Lloyd. It is in talks to buy Allianz’s (ALVG.DE) South Korean operations.

At home, Anbang has a leading stake in China Minsheng Banking Corp Ltd (600016.SS)(1988.HK), the country’s biggest private lender, and is a significant shareholder in China Vanke Co (000002.SZ)(2202.HK), the largest residential property developer.


When he set up Anbang, Wu enlisted a small consortium of private and state investors led by Shanghai Automotive Industry Group Corp, the parent of a government-owned automaker that has ventures with General Motors (GM.N) and Volkswagen (VOWG.DE). State-owned China Petrochemical Corp later bought a stake.

Anbang’s original board included Levin Zhu, former CEO of China International Capital Corp and son of former premier Zhu Rongji, and Long Yongtu, China’s chief negotiator when it joined the World Trade Organization. Wu also turned to Chen Xiaolu, a son of Chinese Marshal Chen Yi, for support.

Anbang holds licenses for selling property, life and health insurance, and operates an annuity insurance business and asset management arm. It doesn’t publish group finances, but says its assets have more than doubled since December 2014.

Two subsidiaries, Anbang Life Insurance and Anbang Annuity Insurance, raised 49 billion yuan ($7.53 billion) in investment funds last year, mainly through selling high-yielding universal life insurance policies.

(Reporting by Matthew Miller and Michelle Price; Editing by Ian Geoghegan)


N.S. drivers can pay crash costs without hurting premiums, record


Nova Scotia drivers can now voluntarily pay the cost of damages in a minor at-fault accident in order to keep their premiums low and driving records clear.

The provincial government announced the changes to auto insurance rules on Tuesday.

Nova Scotia is the first province to allow voluntary payments.

When a driver has a minor at-fault accident without resulting injuries, they may be able to reimburse the insurance company for the cost of the resulting damages.

Under the changes, once a voluntary payment is made, the accident is registered as not-at-fault, and doesn’t affect the driver’s record.

While a common practice for many insurers, some companies felt that Nova Scotia’s insurance law didn’t allow voluntary payments. This regulation clarifies that drivers can use voluntary payments to control their driving records and insurance ratings.

Nova Scotians not keen on tech that could save them money on car insurance

Nova Scotians not keen on tech that could save them money on car insurance

By David Burke, CBC News

Several insurance companies in Nova Scotia are offering a program that allows people to save up to 25 per cent on their car insurance, but few people are opting to take part, according to OTC insurance and the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

In order to apply for the discount, people have to volunteer to install what’s known as a telematics device in their car.

The small device is installed under a car’s steering wheel and records an individual’s driving habits for six months.

The device records things like driving distances, the time of day the car is driven, and sudden acceleration or braking, said Christine Gaudreau, the vice president of OTC insurance in Halifax.

At the end of the six months the device is turned over to the insurance company and it uses the data to determine if the user should get a discount on their insurance.

“We’ve been advertising quite heavily on the radio and seems like people are very leery about having this device in their vehicle for the insurance companies to look at,” said Gaudreau.

Depending on how well a person drives, the insurance company could give them up to a 25 per cent discount.

If a person drives badly, there’s no penalty and their rate will remain the same, said Gaudreau.

Despite all the advertising OTC has only had about 50 people sign up for the program.

“I think it’s probably more of a big brother situation, may be who knows?” said Gaudreau. “I’m not comfortable with it in my car.”

“But for some people that use their vehicle very little, it’s probably very beneficial to them.”

Telematics more popular in Ontario and Quebec

The Insurance Bureau of Canada is the national industry association representing Canada’s private, home, auto and business insurers.

It said Nova Scotia has been slow to adopt telematics compared with other parts of the country.

“Well there is a bit of a slow uptake from what we’re hearing so far in Nova Scotia. But that’s not abnormal for any new technology especially when it’s related to a product like auto insurance,” said Amanda Dean, vice president Atlantic with the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

Dean said she doesn’t have exact numbers breaking down how many people are using telematics across the country.

She said due to the privacy concerns involved with telematics, most companies have not released any figures detailing how many consumers are using the technology. But she said the insurance bureau is seeing definite trends.

“Well it’s existed in other parts of the country for some time and that was in response to consumer demand in those parts of the country. So there’s a bit more uptake let’s say in Quebec or Ontario for example,” said Dean.

She said on average insurance premiums are lower in Nova Scotia then they are in places like Ontario, and that can make people more willing to try telematics to get lower rates.

Privacy concerns

David Fraser is a privacy lawyer with McInnes Cooper in Halifax, he has mixed feelings about telematics.

“Once this information is generated, it exists and it can be used for other other purposes. It can be subpoenaed in connection for with a lawsuit, the police could get a search warrant and it just adds to the amount of digital debris that we leave behind in the run of the day,” said Fraser.

He also questions how accurate the information will be and how it will be interpreted.

But Fraser said the overall idea of charging people based on exactly on how they drive makes a lot of sense.

“If you are somebody who speeds regularly, who passes recklessly, who slams on the brakes or kind of spins his tires when he’s leaving as the light turns green, maybe that person should be recognized and have higher premiums,” said Fraser.

“But that’s part of a broader discussion we need to have.”

15 Car Insurance Myths Unveiled

15 Car Insurance Myths Unveiled

Source: www.auto123.com

For something as common as car insurance, there are a whole lot of myths about it. The trouble with car insurance myths is that they can end up influencing your decisions and costing you money. The following myths, compiled by Kanetix.ca, will help you sort what’s fact and what’s fiction in the world of car insurance.

   1. The colour of your car affects your car insurance rate.

Most people assume otherwise, but in truth it doesn’t matter if your car is blue, red, silver, white, or black. Your car insurance rate will not be impacted by the colour of your car.

   2. Rates are higher for two-door vehicles.

While a two-door may look sportier, it doesn’t mean it will cost more to insure. Insurers look at things like the car’s accident frequency, repair costs, theft frequency, vandalism and safety ratings—not the number of doors it has when determining the insurance rate.

   3. Rates are higher for new cars.

While there is a correlation between the value of a car and how much it costs to insure, a new car won’t always be more expensive to insure than a used one. New cars usually have more safety features and advanced anti-theft features, which can actually bring down rates.

   4. New cars are more attractive to car thieves.

Each year, the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) tallies up the most stolen vehicles in Canada, and each year the list typically shows that older cars are stolen more often than new cars. In fact, the most recent list shows that the most stolen cars were made between 2001 and 2007.

   5. If you lend your car and the driver gets in an accident, it’s not your insurance—but theirs—that pays out any claims.

In most cases, when you lend your vehicle, you are essentially lending your insurance as well so be mindful of who you hand over your car keys to.

   6. Getting a parking ticket means your insurance rates will go up.

Parking tickets do not count against your insurance, but unpaid fines could affect your ability to renew your driver’s licence or even result in a licence suspension—which will then affect your rate.

   7. Getting a speeding ticket means your insurance rates will go up.

Your first minor speeding ticket (usually less than 50 km/h over the speed limit) may not affect your insurance rate; it will depend on your insurer. But, get two or three and you’ll be paying more for insurance. A major speeding ticket (50 km/h or more over the limit) will make your rates go up for sure.

   8. If your car is stolen, you’ll be covered.

This is true, but only if you have purchased comprehensive coverage, an optional coverage. Comprehensive coverage will pay for damages that are not caused by a collision; things like theft, vandalism, fire, hail and even some damages that involve wildlife.

   9. If you cause a collision, the damages to your car will be covered.

Damages to your car may be covered, but only if you’ve purchased collision coverage. Collision coverage, is an optional coverage (like comprehensive), and will provide coverage in the event you are responsible—wholly or partially—in a collision.

   10. The lower your deductible, the lower your premium.

False. A deductible is the portion of an insurance claim you agree to pay; your insurance company picks up the rest. If you’re looking to lower your premiums, you’ll actually have to increase your deductibles.

   11. Only bad drivers need to shop around for car insurance.

Too often, drivers think that only those with a less than perfect driving history have to shop around. This is simply not true. Rates vary considerably between insurance providers no matter what your driving record looks like. Everyone, good drivers and bad, should shop around to make sure they’re getting the best price for the coverage they need.

   12. Your rates will be similar to your neighbour’s rate.

False. Where you live is just one component that affects your rate; there are many others like your driving experience, insurance history, the number of drivers in your home, and the number and type of vehicles you drive.

   13. You’ll pay the same auto insurance rate if you move.

Where you live is one of the factors taken into consideration when determining your rate. When you move your premiums will likely change too; for some drivers it might mean paying less, for others, it may be more.

   14. Your loyalty discount is worth more than any savings switching insurers will net you.

Changing insurance companies would mean losing your loyalty discount, but that doesn’t mean you’re getting the best rate available. Shop around because sometimes the savings realized by switching providers outweighs any loyalty discounts you may have, if you have any at all.

   15. All car insurance companies charge about the same.

False. Rates can vary by hundreds or even thousands of dollars to insure the same car and driver for the exact same policy, depending on the company. So it pays to shop around.

 Car insurance fact: The best way to save is to shop around for a better deal.

A sure-fire way to lower your car insurance premium is to compare quotes, at minimum on an annual basis before your renew. Kanetix.ca shops the market for you to help you find a better car insurance rate. No one covers as much of the market as we do. This is why Kanetix.ca shoppers save an average of $750 on their car insurance premiums. Shop around for car insurance to make sure you are getting the coverage you need at the best available price.

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