Insurance letters of experience

Reviewed by Daniel Mirkovic

Updated May 15, 2024

When you’re applying for home or car insurance, you’ll likely get asked for a letter of experience during the process. What is a letter of experience, why do you need one, and how do you get it?

In this article, we’ll explain how these letters are used, what information they contain, and how you can go about getting one.

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What is a letter of experience in insurance?

A letter of experience, also called a claim experience letter or claim history letter, is a document that contains a person’s insurance history. Specifically, the history of insurance policies they’ve held and any claims they made against those policies. Letters of experience are common both in car insurance and home insurance.

Almost all insurance providers offer discounts to customers who have a history of holding insurance policies without making many claims. Square One, for example, offers a claims-free discount. A letter of experience is a way to demonstrate one’s insurance history in order to get such a discount.

Letters of experience come from individual insurers. So, if you’ve held insurance policies from multiple providers over the years, you’d need a letter from each of them to fully document your insurance history.

What information is in a letter of experience?

A letter of experience will typically contain the following information:

  • Name of the insured requesting the insurance history
  • Policy number(s)
  • Policy start and end dates
  • The objects of insurance (the addresses or vehicles that were insured)
  • Reasons for the policy’s cancellation (insured’s request, non-payment, etc.)

And, of course, it will contain details about each claim reported to the insurer under the listed policies, including:

  • The date of the claim
  • The claim’s status (open, closed, denied, withdrawn, etc.)
  • The reason for the claim (fire, theft, etc.)
  • The amount paid to settle the claim

Car insurance letters of experience will also include:

  • The driver responsible for each accident (if applicable)
  • The percentage for which the driver was at fault for the accident
  • Which vehicle was involved in each accident

When do you need a letter of experience?

Insurance providers can automatically access insurance histories through various databases, like CGI’s AutoPlus. However, those histories may be incomplete. For example, if someone has recently moved to Canada from abroad (or even moved between provinces), their insurance history might not be available.

So, when you’re applying for insurance with a new provider, they may ask you for a letter of experience if they can’t access your insurance history through the usual channels.

Most of the time, they will still offer you a policy even if you can’t provide the letter. But, since they have no documentation of your insurance history, you won’t receive any claims-free discounts — often the largest discounts available (especially for car insurance).

It’s important to be aware that insurers aren’t required to honour foreign driving or insurance experience when calculating discounts. Some do, and some don’t. Others only count driving history from North America but not elsewhere. If you have a lot of driving experience from outside Canada, make sure you ask potential insurance providers if they’ll count that experience.

You may also need a letter of experience if you believe there’s a mistake in the insurance history your new provider is using to calculate your premiums. A letter of experience can help ensure that everyone’s on the same page.

How do you get a letter of experience?

Getting a letter of experience is usually very easy. All you have to do is contact your insurer and ask. You may need to fill out a short request form. Square One customers can download a claims history letter directly simply by logging into their online account.

Remember, you’ll need to request a letter of experience from each of your previous home or car insurance providers. It’s a good habit to ask for a letter each time you switch providers, so you always have the documentation ready to go when you need it.

Note that if you purchased insurance through a broker, the broker won’t be able to provide the letter — it has to come directly from the actual insurer. Your broker can probably help you with the process if you need, however.

Commonly asked questions

Can a letter of experience help me get a discount on car insurance?

In some circumstances, a letter of experience will help you get a discount on your car insurance.

Claims-free discounts for car insurance are standard. Most of the time, you don’t need to provide a letter of experience in order to get these discounts, as insurers can automatically access your car insurance history through various databases. However, sometimes your insurance history won’t be available in this way. In such cases, letters of experience will help you demonstrate your claim history and secure the discount.

Claims histories from outside Canada, for example, aren’t available to Canadian insurers. But, even with a letter of experience, it’s up to each insurer whether they will consider out-of-country driving and claim history for discount purposes.

What’s the difference between claim history and driving history?

When you apply for car insurance, the application will require information about your claims history and your driving history. Claims history is limited to actual insurance claims. Driving history includes accidents you were involved in, as well as speeding tickets and other convictions that don’t result in insurance claims. Insurers consider both reports as part of the application process.

Want to learn more? Visit our Home Insurance Basics resource centre for dozens of helpful articles to guide you through the ins and outs of home insurance. Or, get an online quote in under 5 minutes and find out how affordable personalized home insurance can be.

About the expert: Daniel Mirkovic

A co-founder of Square One with 25 years of experience in the insurance industry, Daniel was previously vice president of the insurance and travel divisions at the British Columbia Automobile Association. Daniel has a bachelor of commerce and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia. He holds a Canadian Accredited Insurance Broker (CAIB) designation and a general insurance license level 3 in BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario.

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