How to Register and Insure your DIY Van Conversion in British Columbia

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How to Register and Insure your DIY Van Conversion in British Columbia

Need help figuring how to register and insure you DIY campervan conversion in British Columbia? Moving to British Columbia? We've been there! Here is what we learned in the process.

Table Of Content

Passenger Vehicle VS Motorhome
2.1- Basic Autoplan
2.2- Optional Coverage
2.3- Temporary Content
3.1- Permanent Address
3.2- Driver Licence and Medicare
3.3- Registration

Introduction

In Canada, one must spend at least 6 months per calendar in it’s province of residence to keep his benefits. There are variations and  exceptions to that rule, but after 1.5 years traveling out of Quebec province in our van, we ran out of options… So it’s time to move our van registration & insurance, driver licence and medicare to British Columbia. If we’re to spend 6 months in a Canadian province, it HAS to be British Columbia!

  • In most case, we recommend registering your DIY camper van conversion as a motorhome and insure it with ICBC. Then insure your stuff (sport equipment, cameras, etc.) through your home/tenant insurance. Voilà!
  • If, like us, you are traveling full-time in your van and cannot insure your stuff (sport equipment, cameras, etc.) through a tenant insurance, then things get more complicated… There are very few insurers willing to insure us, especially for DIY conversion! In fact we could only find ONE insurer that accepted to insure us…

It’s our second time navigating through the system (first time was in Quebec), so it should be easier this time, right…? NOPE! Keep reading as we share our findings!

Faroutride Welcome British Columbia Sign
Welcome to British Columbia!

In Canada, laws and regulations for auto insurance (and medicare as well) are handled differently between provinces.

EXAMPLES OF AUTO INSURANCE MANDATORY COVERAGE:

BRITISH COLUMBIA

GOVERNMENT PROVIDED? YES (ICBC)
$ 119 Approx. Monthly Premium
  • Third Party Liability
  • Accident Benefits
  • Uninsured Automobile Protection
  • Hit And Run
  • Inverse Liability Protection

QUEBEC

GOVERNMENT PROVIDED? PARTIAL (SAAQ)
$ 76 Approx. Monthly Premium
  • Civil Liability
  • Accident Benefits
  • Personal Injury
  • Property Damage

ONTARIO

GOVERNMENT PROVIDED? NO
$ 160 Approx. Monthly Premium
  • Third Party Liability
  • Accident Benefits
  • Property Damage
  • Uninsured Automobile Protection

British Columbia Specifics

Registration

Camper Van Conversions can be registered either as:

  • Passenger Vehicle
  • Motorhome
Mandatory Coverage

Must be purchased through ICBC’s Basic Autoplan:

  • Third Party Liability
  • Accident Benefits
  • Uninsured Automobile Protection
  • Hit And Run
  • Inverse Liability Protection
Optional Coverage

Can be purchased through ICBC or Private Insurers:

  • Extended Third Party Liability
  • Collision Damage
  • Non-Collision Damage
  • Rental Vehicle Damage
  • Content Insurance
  • And More...

Brokers

Registration, ICBC insurance and private insurance must be obtained through brokers (www.icbc.com/locators). They are the ones selling the products and they are the ones answering your questions.

REALITY CHECK:

We visited at least 4 brokers in person and called 3 brokers by phones. Each time, we got information that was in complete contradiction with other brokers. EACH. TIME. We got information that was all over the place about registration, ICBC insurance and private insurance. And instead of calling ICBC and underwriters to get the facts straight, they guesstimate the answers. Since our case is so specific (DIY conversion, no living address, traveling full-time), it took over a week to navigate through the system and we had a lot of ups and downs! This was extremely frustrating to receive such a poor service.

End of rant! Now keep reading as we’re digging deeper.

1- Registration

It is acceptable to register a camper van conversion either as:

Passenger Vehicle

Mandatory Inspection:

  • Private Vehicle Inspection Report, a.k.a. "Out of Province Inspection" (only if importing the vehicle from another province)

PROS/CONS:

  • If you're going to insure your van conversion with ICBC (which we recommend), only the vehicle itself will be covered (the conversion gear is excluded!) if you're registered as a passenger vehicle.
  • If you're going to insure your van with a private insurer (which we did), passenger vehicle registration is probably what you need. But make sure to confirm this with your insurer.
Motorhome

To be eligible, the vehicle must have a sleeping facility (bed…) and at least three of the following attached to the chassis in a manner that requires a tool for removal:

  • Cooking Facility
  • Refrigerator
  • Self-Contained Toilet (not capable of easy removal like a porta-potty type)
  • Heating or A/C independent of the vehicle motor
  • Potable Water Supply (including faucet and sink)

Mandatory Inspection:

  • Private Vehicle Inspection Report
  • Commercial Vehicle Inspection Report (CVSE0014)*
  • Weight Scale Certificate (Dumps, Recyclers, etc., generally offer that service)

*NOTE: we did not have to pass CVSE0014 inspection. Our broker’s interpretation was that he, personally, had to sight our van to confirm we had 3 of the facilities listed above… So shop around until you find the “right” broker!

PROS/CONS:

  • If you're going to insure your van conversion with ICBC, the vehicle and conversion gear (permanently attached) will be covered if you're registered as a motorhome.
  • If you're going to insure your van conversion with a private insurer, you might not need the Motorhome registration. However it's not a bad idea to get it, we were told it is then easier to import your van in another province AND if you change your mind and want to go with ICBC instead it'll make things easier.

About The Inspections

Inspections must be performed by an authorized CSVE (Commercial Vehicle Safety and Enforcement) inspection facility. Authorized facilities are listed here:

REALITY CHECK:

For the Out-Of-Province Inspection, many inspection facilities refused to help us because we had a van conversion. The fact is, this inspection has nothing to do with van conversion! It’s a mechanical inspection of the vehicle. We had to call at least 7 or 8 places before someone accepted to help us…

Don't Forget:

  • Vehicle Current Registration
  • Inspection Report(s)
  • Weight Scale Certificate (for motorhome registration)
  • Your ID's
  • Hardware to fix the licence plate to the front bumper... duh!

2- Insurance

2.1- Basic Autoplan

Vehicles registered as passengers cars, motorhomes, skoolies; everyone is the same!  Buying the Basic Autoplan from ICBC is mandatory and covers:

  • Third Party Liability (default is $200k, it’s best to upgrade it to $3M, especially if you plan on traveling to USA)
  • Accident Benefits
  • Uninsured Automobile Protection
  • Hit And Run
  • Inverse Liability Protection
  • Discount up to 40% are offered for clean driving records, no kidding! So bring your claim history from the past 8 years (inquire to your current and previous insurer).

Resource:

2.2- Optional Coverage

At this point, neither your van, nor your conversion gear, nor your temporary content is insured. Here are your options if your vehicle is registered as:

Passenger Vehicle

ICBC

You can buy optional coverage through ICBC, but keep in mind that the permanent conversion gear is not covered if the van is registered as passenger vehicle! Only the vehicle is (i.e. Ford Transit).

  • Collision
  • Comprehensive
  • Specified Perils
  • Loss Of Use

Private Insurer

See information box below.

Motorhome

ICBC

You can buy optional coverage through ICBC; the permanent conversion gear is covered if the van is registered as motorhome. So the van + conversion gear is covered.

  • Collision
  • Comprehensive
  • Specified Perils
  • Loss Of Use

Private Insurer

See information box below.

(From our personal experience it is not required to be insured as a motorhome with private insurer.  Inquire with your insurer.)

Private Insurer

Insurance products vary a lot between insurers; we can’t possibly list them all and keep the information up-to-date. But here are some hints:

  • Aviva is recognized to be the most flexible for “special” cases (snowbirds, DIY campervan, etc.). We were insured with them in Quebec, but for some reason they won’t insure a DIY Van Conversion in British Columbia
  • Guardian is the only insurer that accepted to insure us in British Columbia. They’re cool with the fact that it’s a DIY campervan AND that we travel full time in it.
    • No need to be registered as a motorhome (but it’s OK if you are).
    • Mountain bike is 1000$ max coverage. It costs 3$ for each 100$ per bike (so a 6500$ bike would cost 195$ to insure); receipts are required.
    • It’s possible to insure temporary content (cameras, clothes, etc.) up to the value of your choice (for an extra $). Drones and computers are not covered (?!).
    • Because we’re world famous, we didn’t have to pass any inspection (yasss!). However, expect to be asked for the following:
      • “Before closing up the wall, have qualified contractors (plumber / electrician / gas fitter) examine the installation and get a certificate (letter confirming the installation is properly done) from them.”
      • “Keep the receipts for the material/parts/equipment etc.”
      • “Your cost of labour is not covered by the policy.

Don't Forget:

  • Vehicle BC Registration
  • Inspection Report(s)
  • Your ID's
  • Claim History From the Last 8 Years

2.3- Temporary Content

If you live in a house/apartment and travel occasionally in your van, your best option is to insure your van with ICBC and your temporary content through your home/tenant insurance.

If, like us, you live full-time in your van, a home/tenant insurance won’t work. That’s why we went with Guardian and their “RV” insurance policy.

Home / Tenant insurance

More rant about brokers: we were told numerous times by brokers that it’s OK to buy a tenant insurance as long as we provided a street address (i.e. friends). But each time we digged deeper, underwriters (wikipedia) from the insurance company confirmed that we wouldn’t be covered if we presented a claim.

If the insurer can prove you are not permanently residing at the provided address (for example by asking neighbors; yep, insurers trow a lot of money at investigations!) they’ll simply reject your claim. So you’re basically not insured even if you think you are. Surprise!

Bottom word: get confirmation from the underwriter, not the broker. And don’t lie; you’re up for a big deception later on if you do…

3- Moving to British Columbia

If by any chance you are following our tracks, here’s how we did it:

3.1- Permanent Address

First, you need a permanent address. No house/appartment? No problem! We used UPS Mailbox Services. For about 200$ per year, you get:

  • A mailbox (mail is kept as long as needed).
  • A real street address.
  • Forwarding service (extra fee).

3.2- Driver License And Medicare

Then, head to a Service BC office (locator) and fill the paperwork to get your:

Driver Licence
  • You have up to 90 days after your arrival to switch your driver licence.
  • You will have to surrender your actual driver licence (i.e. Quebec) on the spot and a temporary driver licence from BC will be handed to you.
Medicare
  • It takes 3 months after your arrival to be covered by BC medicare. Meanwhile, you are still covered by your previous province (i.e. Quebec).

3.3- Registration

At this point it’s time to go through the registration process; head to any broker that has the “Autoplan” sign (locator) and follow section “1- Registration” above. Good luck you’ll need it! 🙂

Conclusion

 You’ll probably feel like being caught in the infinite spiral of death while going through this (we did!), but hopefully this article helps you in any way! Cheers!

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about us

Nice To Meet You.

Hello! We’re Isabelle and Antoine 🙂 In 2017 we sold our house (and everything in it), quit our engineering careers and moved into our self built campervan. We’ve been on the road since then and every day is an opportunity for a new adventure; we’re chasing our dreams and hopefully it inspires others to do the same!

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