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

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

Van-Registration-and-Insurance-British-Columbia-(Heading 1980px)

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:

Mandatory Coverage

Must be purchased through ICBC’s Basic Autoplan:

Optional Coverage

Can be purchased through ICBC or Private Insurers:

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:

PROS/CONS:

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:

Mandatory Inspection:

*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:

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:

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:

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
Medicare

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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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!

20 thoughts on “How to Register and Insure your DIY Van Conversion in British Columbia”

Heads up! As of Fall 2021, we are currently visiting our families back home and we might not be able to answer all comments due to time constrain. Thanks for understanding and see you on the road! -Isabelle and Antoine

  1. Hi,
    We’re moving to BC in our van next month! We just set up the UPS postal box and I tried to set up mail forwarding with Canada Post and it wouldn’t allow it. Did you have any problems with getting your BC provincial health card using the UPS address? I think it’s the PMB #0000 that is before the street address that messes some things up.
    Thanks,
    Danielle

    Reply
  2. Great info thanks. I was told by ICBC yesterday that you can only register an RV / Motorhome if you have another vehicle already registered. They told me you can’t register an RV / Motorhome as your only vehicle. Did you have any issues with this? That may screw me as my van is the only vehicle I have. Thanks

    Reply
  3. Hey, my partner and I just moved to the Comox Valley and have a van conversion, just curious if you recall where you took your van for its out of province.

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Welcome to BC! We did our inspection in Squamish, but I see (in the cvse-designated-inspection-facilities.pdf) that there are a couple of garages where you can do your inspection in Comox. Good luck 🙂

      Reply
  4. Very interesting information. I’m in a similar situation. I understand you get your supplemental insurance from Guardian and basic insurance from ICBC. But how did you manage to get the ICBC insurance component as they require a physical address and a mailbox is not suffice. Very interested in knowing how you got around this problem.

    Reply
    • We used our UPS PO BOX address. Some ICBC franchise do not accept it, some does… so you need to shop around! It’s a very painful process, but it works eventually!

      Reply
  5. I’m so glad I found your website. Thank you for the write up! I have a SUV that I live in permanently. I have the basic and optional insurance with ICBC which as you mentioned does not cover the content inside. Unfortunately I carry around quite expensive items. Cameras, sports equipments, etc. Totalling about $15,000 worth. Should I contact guardian? My SUV just has a bed in it. It’s not much a conversion. Thanks again for the site!

    Reply
  6. Hello, I’m converting a van into a camper and wondering if the insurance was cheaper as a motorhome or a passenger vehicle? I had heard it was cheaper in some countries. or is the main benefit that the conversion is covered as well as the vehicle?

    Reply
    • As you mentioned, it really depends on where you live. Same for the insurance, it varies from a company to another! On top of that, there might be some rules to obey if your vehicle is or isn’t a motorhome (sink, toilet, shower, propane)…

      Reply
  7. Thanks for this blog. Lucky you didn’t need inspections. In Alberta I was told that all propane connections and junctions had to be made outside vehicle which mine isn’t. So if I need an inspection I’m screwed.

    Question though. Why, for persons living in BC using their van occasionally, do you recommend insuring it as a personal vehicle with contents under the house or apartment insurance? This won’t cover the content in a crash I believe.

    Thanks

    Reply
    • Hello, thank you far out ride for the incredible amount of information. It is awesome.
      We are in Ab, Calgary, on the way to convert our transit ford. Wanted to set propane in the van and just read the comment from Taco. Is this information confirmed Taco? How can we expect to have a heater without propane. Seems more dangerous to have a propane bottle outside. The sprinter professionally converted still have a propane bottle inside???
      Any thoughts, thanks

      Reply
      • Following 🙂 We just bought a Sprinter van that has been converted. We disconnected the propane for now and have passenger vehicle insurance but I fear this might be a problem. There is solar and an inverter and electrical panel. No water No fridge. We’re struggling to figure out how and who will insure this and under what category. Edmonton, Alberta

        Reply
  8. This is absolutely amazing !!!! We are in the same boat! We have a skoolie and to register it in Quebec is an absolute nightmare !!! Surprise surprise !! Haha! We are also going to head to BC so you have literally just saved our lives with your blog!! You’re a legend !! Thanks so much for putting this together !! Really awesome of you man!! One question? Which broker did you go to? Any recommendations on brokers? We are also living full time in our skoolie !!

    Reply
  9. Bonjour Antoine,
    Comme toujours, vos ressources sont incroyablement détaillées et utiles.
    Petite question: est-ce que lorsque vous “habitiez” au Québec vous étiez assuré par Guardians ou c’est seulement lorsque vous avez décidé de déménager que vous étiez avec eux?
    Je suis en recherche d’assurance et il y a Promotuelle Vallée St-Laurent et Leclerc avec qui ça marcherait (mais j’ai une adresse fixe).
    Et aviez-vous fait un post sur l’immatriculation à la SAAQ? Quand je cherche SAAQ, je trouve seulement ce post.
    Merci!

    Reply
  10. This is great, thank you! I’m in the process of getting a van & having it converted. My issue will be I am in BC and it will be converted in AB. Not sure yet whether I will get the van here & take it there (easier to have it insured) or have the conversion company purchase it on my behalf (& save tax). As it will be professionally converted, to have it covered under Motorhome Insurance with ICBC, do you think that a certificate from the conversion company would be satisfactory? I plan to travel almost full time. I think I’m leaning towards motorhome insurance from the sounds of it, although it sounds like it would be quite a bit more expensive? Thank you for your help!

    Reply
  11. Bonjour vous deux,

    Je suis du Québec et j’ai acheter un sprinter que je convertirai durant l’été pour aller vivre en Colombie-Britannique en Octobre. J’ai appellé beaucoup de compagnie d’assurance et je n’arrive pas à trouver un candidat qui veut m’assurer durant le build, qui veulent m’assurer si je sors du Québec ou qui veulent assurer un DIY. Aviez-vous eu ce problème? Si oui, qu’elle compagnie aviez-vous utilisé?

    Merci

    Charlie

    Reply
    • Tu pourrais essayer de contacter Jonathan Rondeau de Promotuel Vallée St-Laurent. Par contre, je ne mentionnerais pas que tu comptes déménager au BC. Tu pourras annuler l’assurance lorsque tu auras effectivement déménagé et que tu en auras une autre. C’est ce que j’avais fait pour ma voiture quand j’avais déménagé au BC et aussi, les assureurs n’aiment pas les choses qui semblent compliquées! Avec Promotuel tu peux voyager 30 jours en continu au Canada sans surprime. Ce serait quand même à vérifier pour être certains.

      Reply

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