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Registering Vehicles in Ontario

by Bob Ritter

Many times, it seems, old motorcycles are exchanged or obtained without registration papers. These documents are often lost or misplaced whenever a vehicle sits unused for perhaps many years. It's understandable that one acquires old vehicles, especially numerous motorcycles, without ever applying for the registration papers because whenever that "registration" at the licensing office is completed – taxes are due as well as the fees for registration. So the collection begins to expand and a lot of the "machinery" is without any registration with the Ministry, and what they don’t know gets...

In British Columbia things are different. First of all they have wonderful mountain roads and coastal vistas to enjoy, along with a much more extended riding season in much of the province. But that's not my only envy! The Ministry of Transportation in BC issues a "Collector" plate for vintage vehicles – including one for motorcycles. While use of this plate has some restrictions, they are most likely what one would typically want to subject a vehicle over 25 year's over age. The other great thing about having a "Collector" plate is that you can register up to 10 vintage motorcycles for that one plate, so that you can ride any one in your collection. The good legal status in BC doesn't stop with the one license / many bikes policy – the province-run insurance provides the mandatory coverage for the entire fleet based on the fact that only one at a time is being ridden (rate determined by most risky bike in the fleet, not each one additive). But, compared to what we do in Ontario, they collect taxes the first time registering each bike in the fleet. (Seems that might be better incentive to make citizens more law-abiding.)

At any rate, here in Ontario it is still possible to register old vehicles even if one doesn’t have the original ownership to transfer from the previous owner. I have successfully done this for a 1965 Honda with little hassle. All that was required was to prepare a description of the vehicle and have it notarized to attest to its authenticity. I also had a hand-written copy of the bill-of-sale that stated what I paid for the bike, so that the correct taxes could be charged; although, that information was also stated in my notarized description and may have been sufficient. I understand that only a bill-of-sale is necessary for old motorcycles, but for antique autos an official appraisal is required. (That would imply that it would be prudent to register the vehicle before restoration, not after.)

Ontario Vehicle Registration - sample of a bill of sale for vintage bike What I prepared and had notarized looked like this -->

With the bill of sale notarized, I paid the taxes and fees and obtained an "un-plated" and "unfit" registration for the motorcycle. I also applied for the status of "Historic Vehicle". Here in Ontario, this status applies to vehicles over 30 years of age that are kept in essentially original condition, and it restricts use for just parades, events, demonstration to prospective buyers, AND testing. (I am always testing whenever riding an old vehicle.) The big plus with this status is that the annual permit fee is only $18 instead of the regular $42 for motorcycles. Only autos have a special license plate for Historic Vehicles – motorcycles use a regular plate. The Historic designation is recognized for motorcycles with the Ministry stamping "HISTORIC VEHICLE" on the ownership, and that was done by having my local licensing office send the original ownership into their Kingston office where they scrutinize the application and literally apply a rubber stamp. The stamped ownership was then returned to my address. It was then a process of getting the bike certified as meeting safety requirements and applying for a "FIT" ownership with plate and permit. This requires the paperwork to be sent in for "rubber stamping" again, as changing status and obtaining a plate for the vehicle results in a new paper ownership, and the local license office doesn’t have that dollar-saving rubber stamp.

So there we have it all done-up legally - except there is the matter of insurance that has to be obtained for each and every vehicle with a permit to operate. The BC Collector status makes a lot of sense for vintage collectors, and it also promotes paying taxes, licensing, and reasonable insurance rates.

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