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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 Ontario Historic Licence Plates. 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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