Here’s what automatic licence plate renewals mean for Torontonians

How a surge in unregistered plates is shaping the renewal process

Silver Honda with an old licence plate renewal sticker dated just after the move to online renewals. (James Bullanoff/Toronto Observer)  

With reports of a surge in unregistered licence plates, the Ford government is proposing to introduce automatic licence plate renewals in Ontario. 

Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced during a press conference on Feb. 13 that “we’re getting rid of (licence plate renewals) totally.” 

This comes after the initial process for renewing your licence was scrapped for an online renewal system, something many Torontonians have not been keeping up with. 

Here’s a closer look at what these changes will mean for Torontonians. 

What is the current process? 

In March 2022, the government eliminated licence plate renewal fees for vehicles, light-duty trucks, motorcycles and mopeds. Originally, vehicle owners were charged $120 a year in southern Ontario and $60 a year in northern Ontario for renewing their licence plates. 

The process removed the need to have updated stickers on your car that signified when your plate would expire. Since moving online the process has become free for vehicle owners, but many still need to catch up with the requirements. Reports from the Toronto Star mention that more than one million vehicle owners have expired licence plates.

Data shared with Global News mentioned that from 2021 to 2022 unregistered plates more than doubled from 372,438 to 814,224. In December 2022, the total number of active licence plates in Ontario was 13.6 million, six per cent were unregistered that year.

Drivers are still required to renew their licence plates every one or two years. Those with expired licence plates can face a fine between $60 and $1,000 under the Highway Traffic Act

Why will they be automated?

The idea of automated licence plate renewals comes from The Get It Done Act, a set of proposals aimed at helping taxpayers save money through improvising infrastructure. The act includes other proposals such as banning new tolls on provincial highways.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Transportation told the Toronto Observer in an email that the proposal “is expected to make life easier for vehicle owners.”

“Our government under the leadership of Premier Ford is on a mission to keep costs down for families and businesses,” said Prabmeet Sarkaria, Minister of Transportation, in a news release from the Ontario government. 

How will automated licence plate renewals work? 

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Transportation wrote to the Toronto Observer that the new system will only apply to drivers whose records are in “good standing” and will have their plate renewed automatically.

“We did the first step: getting rid of the sticker. Now, we’re getting rid of the re-registration. They’ll be automatically re-registered. So people won’t have to worry about that at all,” said Ford during the press conference

The current renewal system requires settling outstanding issues associated with the vehicle, such as insurance issues, unpaid tolls or municipal fines. Those not in good standing will be notified of the actions they need to verify their plate.

If your vehicle is properly insured, and you have no defaulted fines or outstanding tolls, your plate will be automatically renewed. If passed this would make Ontario the first jurisdiction in Canada to offer free, automated plate renewals.

“Our government is putting customers at the centre of everything we do to save people precious time and money,” said Todd McCarthy, minister of public and business service delivery in a news release from the Ontario government. 

“We are constantly working to offer time-saving services such as automatic licence plate renewal, which we look forward to rolling out in the summer.”

What happens next?

It is unclear when this change will be implemented, but drivers are still required to renew their licence plates. The spokesperson for the Ministry of Transportation mentioned that vehicle owners should continue to renew their plates online. 

About this article

Posted: Mar 30 2024 4:03 pm
Filed under: Government News Politics Roads & Transit

About the Author

James Bullanoff
James Bullanoff is a third-year journalism specialist at the University of Toronto Scarborough Campus (UTSC). He is the UTSC Bureau Chief at the Varsity, U of T's tri-campus newspaper.