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Warning! Are Your Ontario Licence Plates Illegal?

It appears the the police have decided to clamp down on the use of Historic Licence Plates in Ontario. I have already heard from a couple of folks who have been pulled over. 

Vehicles more than 30 years old and substantially unchanged since manufacture may qualify for a "Historic" registration.

Annual fees are much lower ($18 vs $120) for a passenger car in 2017, but Historic Vehicles may not be used as conventional transportation. Here is the information that I have printed from the current Ontario Highway Traffic Act. The bold print is mine:

Historic vehicle plates can be purchased for a vehicle that
(a) is at least 30 years old, ( So currently 1987 and back!)
(b) is operated on a highway in parades, for purposes of exhibition, tours or similar functions organized by a properly constituted automobile club or for purposes of repair, testing or demonstration for sale,
(c) is substantially unchanged or unmodified from the original manufacturer’s product.
(3.1) Where the number plates attached to the vehicle are year-of-manufacture plates, and only one plate was issued by the Ministry in that year for display on a motor vehicle, that plate shall be attached to and exposed in a conspicuous position at the rear of the vehicle.


Here is an excerpt of an email I received:

"The law on Historic Plates is defined to going to a registered repair shop, sanctioned car show, sanctioned cruise night and test drive for sale.

The vehicle must not be modified from the vehicle identification number as well.

We, and many of our friends, go out for drives to see the fall colours etc, this is illegal to do with these plates.

Nearly every car show and cruise night is not sanctioned and is illegal. Unless the event is a registered automotive business or has event permits for a car show with the city, which also requires approval of zoning and appropriate insurance, it is an illegal event private property or not.

The officer that pulled us over allowed us to have 48hrs to get regular plates or pay the $170 fine for improper use."


I also spoke with Jason Wilson of the Vintage Auto Insurance program at Reeds in Lindsey. While he agrees that those running historic plates should be aware that if their vehicle is modified, historic plates are not correct for the car, his insurance carrier would not use that against the insured if there was a claim. 

So if you are asked about Ontario Historic Plates, this is the situation as I know it. The short answer would be, why put your special vehicle in danger for the $102.00 savings? Especially if there is a $170 ticket waiting for you outside of the Cruise Night.

Bob McJannett 


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  • We have YOM, year of manufacture, plates and pay $120 for a renewal sticker just like our regular vehicle renewal sticker. Rumours are going around that the price is going up for YOM and a group is trying to get it reduced to the $18 price which is the charge for the historical plates. Has anyone heard about this happening?

    Pat Levack on
  • Unfortunately the posting is somewhat simplistic. I was one of the people that wrote the laws for these plates in the 60s. Been using them for 50 years no issues.
    First the car needs to have it’s original engine or type of engine. Next, ANY time you are driving you are testing your car !!! You may be taking it for a sale or somewhere for storage. You don’t tell the cop you are out for a drive. You are always on a purpose. A cruise night??/ had to meet a guy with parts for my car. Where are they? says the cop. They did not fit so I did not buy them.
    I belong to several “Properly constituted car clubs” and have my membership with me.
    It’s all in how you answer the cop and of course not a modified car.

    George Montgomery on
  • Hi I have been running historic plates on my 1970 amc javelin for 10 years and using lant insurance with hagerty , never had a hassle

    Robert on
  • Shout out to Bill Harris…
    …andPI Speedshops
    Your correct Bill but not Ontario California although it’s a great little town …and probably Demo…lol

    ONTARIO CA…a province in Canada…come visit…it’s not Demo but mostly Liberal…same thing!!! Lol

    Maggie on
  • Bought a 66 Cadillac. Purchased for $9000…appraised at $10,000. My insurance company would not touch it…it is 50 years old. Tried to find a company to insure it so I did not have to go historic as I bought it to drive in good weather. Only two companies would take me….and both had the same historic restrictions……they limit you… is a 10 K Caddy…..not a 100 K collector vette etc……very frustrating….DB

    DB on

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