Mar 20, 2023
Renewing Your Ontario Driver’s Licence: What You Need to Know
If you’re an Ontario resident and you want to drive a vehicle, no surprises here: You need a valid driver’s licence, and it needs to be renewed on a regular basis. The good news is that in most circumstances, you can do your renewal online.
In this article, we’ll cover:
- How do I renew my Ontario driver’s licence online?
- How much is my renewal?
- Is there a grace period for an expired driver’s licence in Ontario?
- Can I still renew my licence if it has expired?
- Do I have to renew my Ontario licence right now?
- Do I need a new photo to renew my driver’s licence?
- What happens if I get pulled over with an expired licence in Ontario?
- Final thoughts about renewing your Ontario driver’s licence
You no longer have to pay to renew your vehicle’s licence plates in Ontario – you still have to file an annual renewal, but at no cost – but you do have to pay to keep your driver’s licence valid. It’s important to keep your driver’s licence up to date, because if you’re pulled over while driving on an expired one, you can be fined and your vehicle may have to be towed.
Also, in order to buy car insurance, you must have a valid driver’s licence as we discuss in our Ontario car insurance story.
How do I renew my Ontario driver’s licence online?
Most drivers should be able to renew their licences online through the provincial government’s ServiceOntario website here, providing you meet some qualifications.
G1 or G2 licence cannot be renewed online
You can renew a G licence online, which allows you to drive most cars, vans, or pickup trucks; or an M licence for motorcycles. If you’re still working your way through Ontario’s graduated licence program, and you have a G1 or G2 (or M1 or M2) licence, it can’t be renewed online.
However, if you have a G1M, G2M, GM1 or GM2 licence – indicating that you have a full licence for either cars or motorcycles, but are still in the graduated program for the other – you can go online to renew the full licence portion.
If you’re taking your test, make sure to also read our guide on how to pass your G test in Ontario.
You can only renew online if…
You can renew online if you haven’t changed your address in the last 90 days; if you don’t need to take a written test, road test or vision test; if you don’t have any outstanding tickets or fines; if you don’t have any medical conditions that may prevent you from driving; if you’re not taking a vision condition off your licence; and if your current licence hasn’t been cancelled or suspended.
Here’s what you need to renew your Ontario driver’s licence online
To renew on the website, have your current driver’s licence handy. You’ll need the 15-digit licence number (it’s the first letter of your last name followed by numbers); and the “Trillium” number, a seven-digit number on the front or back that’s surrounded by asterisks, such as *1234567*. You’ll also need to enter your postal code, as well as a payment method.
How much will my Ontario licence renewal cost?
An Ontario driver’s licence is good for five years and costs $90, with some exceptions. Drivers over the age of 80 must renew their licences every two years, at a cost of $36.
In some cases, your licence renewal date may be changed to match the renewal on your health card, and if it isn’t for the full five years, your licence fee will be prorated. You can pay for your renewal online using Mastercard, Visa, or Interac Online. Debit cards or cash can only be used at a ServiceOntario location.
Pay your outstanding tickets and fees before you consider licence renewal
If you have outstanding traffic tickets, fines, or highway tolls, or if your licence was suspended and you owe a reinstatement fee, these will have to be paid before your licence can be renewed. Depending on what is owed, you may be able to pay these charges online. If not, you’ll have to visit a ServiceOntario location.
Is there a grace period for an expired driver’s licence in Ontario?
There is currently a grace period for an expired licence, but it depends on how long yours has been “out of service.”
The Ontario government temporarily cancelled the licence renewal requirement during COVID-19 shutdowns in March of 2020, and reinstated it on February 28, 2022. If your licence expired on or after March 1, 2020, it may be still eligible for renewal online.
Can I still renew my Ontario licence if it has expired?
You may need to take new tests depending when your licence expired
If your licence expired prior to March 1, 2020, you’ll have to visit a ServiceOntario location, and you may need to pass some tests depending on how long it’s been. If your licence has expired for one to three years, you need a vision test; and if it’s three to ten years, you’ll also need to pass a written knowledge test, along with both a G1 and G2 road test.
What if your licence expired more than ten years ago
If your licence expired more than ten years ago, you have to start from scratch as a new driver in the graduated licencing program. That includes passing all the written tests and road tests, including the months of mandatory driving experience. There’s no way to speed it up, even if you had a full and valid licence prior to its expiration.
Do I have to renew my Ontario licence right now?
Your driver’s licence is valid for five years once it’s been renewed. On the ServiceOntario website, you can sign up for digital reminders that will tell you when your renewal date is coming up.
You can also renew your driver’s licence up to 180 days before its expiration date, which is handy if you’re travelling and won’t be in the province when it’s time to get a new one.
Do I need a new photo to renew my Ontario driver’s licence?
Your driver’s licence renewal is good for five years, but you’ll need a new photo every ten years. Sending a selfie won’t work; you have to visit a ServiceOntario location and get your picture taken there.
Pay extra for a photo ‘retake’ if you’re not happy
You can wear a head covering for religious or medical reasons, but otherwise, you can’t be photographed wearing a hat or glasses. Your driver’s licence photo will likely be cringeworthy, because they all are, but if you get your new card in the mail and can’t live with it, you can go through the photo process again at a cost of $35.75 – the same fee as if you’re replacing a lost, stolen, or damaged licence.
What happens if I get pulled over with an expired licence in Ontario?
Expect big fines – and a tow truck
If your licence has expired, you’re considered to be an unlicensed driver, and you’ll face a fine that ranges from $200 to $1,000. Because you’re now unlicensed, the officer can’t let you back behind the wheel. You’ll have to get a licenced driver to drive your vehicle home for you, and if you can’t, it will have to be towed.
On top of that, the officer likely noticed your licence’s best-before date because you had to produce it after being pulled over for a traffic violation. Your expired licence violation will be added to any other driving charges you face.
Plus, this will all negatively affect your Ontario driver’s abstract also, in the event that you may need one down the road.
Final thoughts about renewing your Ontario driver’s licence
- If you need to use your driver’s licence for identification, an expired one may not be acceptable in some cases, such as for air travel or bank accounts.
- Remember to update your driver’s licence promptly if something changes. If you move, you must change your address within six days, which can be done online.
- If your optometrist has determined that you need glasses or contact lenses to drive – or if you no longer do and want that condition taken off your licence – you must visit a ServiceOntario location, where you may have to take an eye exam.
- If you have legally changed your name, or need to change the sex designation on your licence between male, female, or X, you do it at a ServiceOntario location.
Keep a printed copy of your temporary licence before your official card arrives
When you renew or change your licence, you will receive a temporary permit. If you renewed online, print the confirmation document. It must be printed; it’s not enough just to download it into your phone. Carry it with you along with your licence card – you need both to be considered a licenced driver. Your new card should arrive in the mail within four to six weeks.