The Cost of Getting Your Driver’s License in Canada

by Manisha Aggarwal-Schifellite

In September, I became the proud owner of an Ontario ‘Class G’ full driver’s license. If you are not from Ontario, here are the three tests you must pass in order to get a full driver’s license:

1. G1 (learner permit): requires a written test.
2. G2 (graduated license): requires a road test.
3. G (full graduated license): requires a highway road test.

You’re supposed to do all three of these tests in five years, or you have to start from the beginning. Here’s how much it cost me to get through the process:

$15: The Driver’s Handbook I bought to study for the written permit test. My younger brother used it for his test, so it was a good use of money.

$146: G1 (learner permit) written test, taken at age 16 in a large government building in downtown Toronto. After passing this test, I got a permit for 5 years, and the cost of the permit included the cost of the road test (G2), which you’re supposed to take within the 5 years.

$500: 2 full weekends of in-class driving instruction with a “defensive driving” school, plus 10 in-car lessons with a teacher named Nancy who said “hand over hand” in a weird voice and screamed when she was telling me to do emergency stops. I took this course because I thought it would give me an insurance deal, but it turned out to be cheaper for my parents to just keep me on their insurance as an additional (unnamed) driver, which I only found out after signing up.

After taking this course, I didn’t drive again for three years.

$165: 2 in-car lessons with the same driving school, plus use of the driving school car for my first attempt at the road test, taken during the summer when I was 20. I took these lessons because I hadn’t driven in years, my parents’ car was too unreliable to take to a testing centre, and neither of my parents would teach me how to drive because any attempt ended with all of us yelling at each other.

$0: Cost of first road test (G2), which I failed. After witnessing a lot of terrible city driving, I thought it was perfectly normal to drive over a yellow centre line to get into a left turn lane. It wasn’t. I also booked the test for 4 pm on a weekday, so I also had to contend with rush hour traffic. It wasn’t a smart move.

$50.75: Cost of taking the G2 road test again, which I did in my parents’ newer, more reliable car. I took the second test outside of the city a month after failing the first one, because I had heard that in the suburbs, the testing centres take pity on young people who can’t parallel park. My test administrator had a giant pot leaf tattooed on his leg. My mom took me to the test, and spent the 30 minutes sitting in the parking lot “saying a prayer to Hanuman, the Indian monkey god, so you would pass.” I passed.

$80: Renewing my driver’s license when I was 21. The law stipulates that you need to have your G2 test for a full year before you can take the final (G) road test and become a fully licensed driver. Because it took me so long to complete the first two phases of this process, my license was going to expire before I was eligible to take the G test, so I got a G2 license for 5 more years.

After doing this, I drove a lot.

$160: 2 in-car driving lessons with a teacher named Ibrahim who spent every lesson yelling at his relatives in India over the phone and intermittently asking me if I knew the swear words he was using (I did). I took these lessons to re-learn the proper rules of the road and forget all of the horrendous city driving I had been doing for the last 3 years. I also got to use Ibrahim’s car for the test, because my parents’ second (now only) car had like a 50% start rate and would definitely not pass road testing inspection.

$18: Subway fare to get to and from my lessons and test with Ibrahim.

$85: Cost of second road test (G). I was so nervous before the test that I started crying in the car. Ibrahim bought me a donut to calm my nerves, which was surprisingly effective.

$80: Cost of renewing my license AGAIN, which I’ll have to do in August 2015.

Total: $1299.75, 9 years.

In retrospect, I really didn’t need to do the expensive driving course, especially because I didn’t take advantage of the lower insurance rate it offered. I learned a lot more driving around with Ibrahim for 3 hours than I ever did in 10 weeks with Nancy. Sorry, Nancy.

The real lesson here is that I should have waited until I actually wanted/needed to start driving (which wasn’t until I was in my early 20s), rather than start at 16 when I had no time to practice and no interest in driving a car. Had I started three years ago, I would have been way more motivated to finish everything on time and in a cost-effective way.

For comparison, my American Boyfriend says that his road test was 10 minutes long and administered by an off-duty cop. There was no parallel parking. He passed.

Manisha Aggarwal-Schifellite writes and edits in Toronto.

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