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Licence Plate Renewal in Ontario: Everything You Need to Know

Friday, 19 April 2024

A valid licence plate is essential for Ontarians who wish to take their vehicle on the road. Anyone who has gone through the process of renewing their licence plate knows it is pretty straightforward. However, with the provincial government announcing plans for a new automated system for registering licence plates, many motorists wonder what they can expect with this major change. In this guide, we'll delve into licence plate renewals, the recent changes to the province’s renewal process, how to tell if your licence plate is expired, and the steps to complete your licence plate renewal in Ontario.

What is a licence plate renewal?

Renewing your licence plate is the process of registering your vehicle to meet the requirements set by your local transportation authority, such as the Ministry of Transportation in Ontario. When you renew your licence plate, you essentially renew your vehicle's registration for another period, usually one to two years. Licence plate renewals can be completed 180 days before expiry and typically need to be done by your birthday. Failure to renew your licence plate can lead to fines of up to $1,000.

Until March 2022, motorists who operate passenger vehicles, light commercial vehicles (under 3,000 kg), motorcycles, and mopeds were required to pay a fee to renew their licence plates and place a sticker on their plates to signify that they had completed their registration. For most people, Ontario plate stickers are no longer necessary, and licence plate renewals in Ontario are now free of charge. Prior to this update, drivers paid $120 in southern Ontario and $60 in northern Ontario to renew their plates each year. 

Ontario licence plate renewal changes

In February of this year, Premier Doug Ford announced that the province would implement an automated process to re-register licence plates for drivers in good standing. However, motorists with auto insurance issues or unpaid tolls and tickets will still have to renew their licence plates themselves.

With this new process, the province aims to mitigate the issue of people forgetting to renew their licence plates - a trend that has worsened since Ontario licence plate stickers and fees were waived just a couple of years ago. Before the 2022 updates, the Ministry of Transportation reported that 372,438 plates were unregistered across the province. This total jumped to 814,224 in 2022 and increased to 1,015,139 as of January 2024. 

The changes made by the Ford government aim to ensure that this number does not continue to grow and that Ontarians have one less responsibility to worry about regarding their vehicles. 

How to tell if your licence plate is expired

You can confirm if your licence plate is expired or valid using one of the following methods:

  1. Online: Visit the ServiceOntario website and use the “Licence plate expiry checker” tool. You will need your licence plate number and permit number. These can be found on the green Ontario vehicle permit, also known as your ownership. 
  2. In-person: If you wish to speak to a representative face-to-face, you can visit the nearest ServiceOntario location and inquire about the status of your licence plate.
  3. Over the phone: You can also call ServiceOntario at 416-235-2999 or toll-free at 1-800-387-3445 to receive assistance with any inquiries about your licence plate.

How to complete your licence plate renewal in Ontario

To ensure you enjoy a smooth licence plate renewal process, there are a few steps you will need to follow:

Pay outstanding tickets or fees

To renew your licence plate in Ontario, you'll need to settle any defaulted driver fines for unpaid moving violations like speeding or drinking and driving. This includes paying a reinstatement fee or Administrative Monetary Penalty (AMP) if your licence was suspended. Additionally, vehicle fines, penalties, tolls, and fees (such as highway tolls, parking fines, red light camera fines, etc.) must be paid before renewal. These payments can be made online or in person at a ServiceOntario centre.

Insure your vehicle

Another crucial step in your Ontario plate renewal involves having insurance for your vehicle. The Ministry of Transportation verifies this by checking your vehicle identification number (VIN) and insurance information. If there's a mismatch or inability to verify, renewal won't be possible. If you need insurance, you must obtain it from an Ontario-licensed provider, like BIG, and provide proof of coverage if you wish to renew your plates.

Renew online or in-person

Once you have completed these steps, you will need to gather a few pieces of information. This includes your licence plate number, vehicle permit number, insurance company name and policy number, and odometer reading. You can then renew your licence plate online or at a ServiceOntario location. A receipt confirming your transaction will be available to print for online renewals or presented to you by a representative if completed in person.

Licence plate stickers: Ontario FAQs

Are there any vehicles that do not have free licence plate renewals?

Yes, there are. Heavy commercial vehicles (weighing more than 3,000 kg), such as buses, school buses, and farm-plated vehicles, must renew their licence plates for periods ranging from 3 to 12 months. In these cases, vehicle owners must pay a fee determined by vehicle type and registered gross weight. A licence plate sticker will also be issued upon renewal. Furthermore, while most passenger vehicles are free to renew, snowmobiles, motorized mobile homes, and historical vehicles will also require a fee when renewing licence plates. 

How many vehicles can I renew online at once? 

You can renew up to 10 passenger vehicles, light commercial vehicles, motorcycles, or mopeds per transaction. Renewals for heavy commercial vehicle licence plates are limited to five vehicles per transaction.

Can I be charged a fee if I have an expired sticker in Ontario?

If you are a business owner or joint registrant, it is important to check your vehicle permit for the expiration date. Unpaid renewal fees from March 1, 2020, to March 12, 2022, will need to be paid during your next plate renewal.

Get a car insurance quote with BIG

By staying on top of your licence plate sticker renewal, you can avoid legal issues and enjoy peace of mind on the road. Before you renew your licence plate, consider shopping around for car insurance. In addition to enjoying a free licence plate renewal in Ontario, you can unlock even more savings through a new policy with lower rates. Simply request a quote today to review the best rates, or contact a BIG insurance broker today to discuss your coverage options. 

By: Devon Gribble