The cost of getting your B.C. driver’s licence: driving school, road tests and more

Auto insurance for new drivers in B.C. with an L or N licence

In B.C., auto insurance is purchased through the ICBC’s broker network. When you have your L, you can’t take out your own auto insurance policy yet, since you can’t drive independently. Instead, you’ll need to be listed as a secondary driver on another policy (say, one of your parents), which typically costs $130 to $230 per year. 

Once you get your N, however, and you decide to take out your own auto insurance policy, the costs will increase considerably. New drivers in B.C. who have just earned their N can pay as much as $3,000 per year for their own auto insurance policy—a 10-fold increase of what they paid when they had the L.

Getting your full licence in B.C.

The final step in the graduated licencing system is to get your full, unrestricted licence. Once you’ve had your N licence for 24 months with a clean driving record, you can go for your Class 5 road test, which costs $50, at any ICBC licensing office. If you’ve completed a Graduated Licencing Program course from an ICBC-accredited driving school, the wait time decreases from 24 to 18 months. 

The Class 5 road test is a slightly more challenging version of the Class 7 road test. At this stage, you’ll be tested on things like turning, changing lanes and parking, in a variety of driving environments. For your Class 5 test, your examiner can take you on the highway, into busy commercial areas and through large intersections. 

If you don’t pass the Class 5 test, you’ll need to wait 14 days before you can take the test again.

Going to driving school in B.C.

Throughout the graduated licencing process, driving school can help you learn the skills you need. The costs and types of driving lessons you’ll need will vary depending on which step of the graduated licencing process you’re at. 

  • L stage: To prepare for the L knowledge test, you can use the ICBC’s free Learn to Drive Smart app (available for iOS and Android). You can also buy a practice workbook or an online L test prep tool. These are relatively inexpensive, typically costing $20 to $50. It is a worthwhile investment, though, because each additional L test attempt costs $15, as well as a few hours of your time. 
  • N stage: You’ll want to explore taking a course that’s tailored to help you pass your Class 7 road test. There are two types of courses. The first (and more expensive) option is enrolling in a Graduated Licencing Program (GLP) course. GLP courses typically cost $1,400 to $1,600. Unfortunately, unlike in other Canadian provinces such as Ontario, going through a GLP in British Columbia doesn’t lower your auto insurance, but it has other perks. If you complete a GLP with an ICBC-approved driving school, you can qualify for a six-month wait time reduction between the time you get your N and the time you get your full licence (18 months instead of 24 months). Additionally, if you’re a high school student, you can get two high school credits. Instead of taking a GLP course, the other option at the N stage is to take any other preparation course for the Class 7 road test. Prep courses outside of the GLP are usually significantly cheaper, ranging from $900 to $1,200. Given the limited financial benefits of the GLP, most driving students in B.C. opt for the non-GLP option.
  • Class 5 road test stage: Finally, when you’re preparing for your Class 5 test, it’s a good idea to take a few practice lessons with a driving school. These lessons typically cost between $75 to $150 per hour. They will cover what you need to know for the Class 5 test.

Overall, taking lessons with an ICBC-certified driving school can make you a safer driver and increase your chances of passing your road tests on the first try. Safe driving habits are something that you build for life, and investing in driver’s ed early in your licencing journey can pay dividends. 

What is a B.C. driver’s abstract?

You may hear the term “B.C. driver’s abstract.” Also known as the driving record, this is an official document that covers your driving history. It highlights any infractions, accidents or demerit points accumulated over the past five years. 

You can obtain your driver’s abstract online, in person at an ICBC office, or by phone. Typically, driving abstracts are required when applying for a job that involves driving, moving to a new province or country, or seeking an insurance quote. There is no cost to get your driver’s abstract.

How much does it cost for a new driver to be insured in B.C.?

Once you have your full licence, you’ll need to get insured. In B.C., car insurance is provided through the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC). For new drivers, insurance can cost as much as $3,000 per year.

Your insurance rates will depend on several factors, including the type of licence you hold, your driving experience and your vehicle. As a new driver, your rates may be higher, but they can decrease over time if you maintain a safe driving record. As mentioned earlier, attending driving school unfortunately doesn’t lower insurance rates in B.C., but maintaining a safe driving record, combined with exploring low-kilometre and distance-based discounts, can add up. 

Auto insurance in British Columbia can be purchased through any of the ICBC’s 900-plus licenced Autoplan brokers. Once you have insurance and your full, unrestricted licence, you’ll be ready to drive.

1 thought on “The cost of getting your B.C. driver’s licence: driving school, road tests and more”

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