Ontario, Yours to Discover

This past week I had a unique opportunity to experience Emissions Testing, Drivers Licence Renewal and Plate Renewal on both sides of the 49th.


To start with the Emissions testing I had to first find an authorized “Drive Clean” test center. Fortunately this was only a five minute drive from the house. handing in my form I was informed that it would be about a 30 minute wait. Forty-five minutes later, without any further interaction with anyone I was informed that the vehicle had passed and my bill was $35.00 Plus tax.

With certificate in hand off to Service Ontario. Now I have never been to a Service Ontario or what we use to call a Licence Bureau location that has ever looked any different; high counter white painted row of three or four stations that look like they were fabricated in someones garage using off cuts of 3/4 inch plywood. Old licence plates on the wall and at least one “joke” that is only funny to those who work there. The rest of the place is plastered with Ontario posters warning me of the pitfalls of alcohol, speeding, rabid dogs and small children. Now regardless as to the number of stations there are at least two are empty and one dedicated to “dealers”. On this day at 2:30 the Newmarket location had approximately 20 people snaked out the door waiting for service. thirty plus minutes later it was my turn. I handed in my documentation and was offered the option of paying for one year or two. Now Ontario makes this and easy decision, the one year cost is $82.00 and the two year is – $164.00 plus HST, no discount for two years but they make the Service Ontario experience so frustrating and long that if you make more than $10.00 per hour you should opt for the two years or you’ll spend 40 minutes of your life that you will never get back. So total Cost was $185.32.

I also need to renew my Licence but when I gave them the form I was told “the system is down” and I would have to do this at a later time. Note: until I got to the desk there was no indication that the system was down, how hard would this be to put a not on the door or something? I pity the people who waited 45 minutes only to be told this. Next day Licence renewal $75.00 – No HST though. Good for three years.


The Phoenix equivalent of Drive Clean is operated by the AZ government. As such they have test centers throughout the state. My center was about 10 minutes away. This center has three lanes, there is no need to book an appointment, you pull into the shortest lane and your are good to go. I had one car in front of me so wait less than 5 minutes. The technician took my renewal information, scanned my VIN and confirmed same visually. Test was about two minutes and I was on my way. Total time less than 10 minutes at a cost of $27.00

The licence bureau was located beside the test facility, radical, so I parked car and went in. Three desks (wood) and, wait for it, three attendants, no waiting. I handed over my renewal info and was given the option of one year or two. The VLT (vehicle licence tax) is based on an assessed value of 60% of the manufacturer’s base retail price reduced by 16.25% for each year since the vehicle was first registered in Arizona. My cost was $168.02 for two years including a $15.00 discount for second year.

The AZ Drivers Licence renewal is different based on the drivers age at time of renewal. A five year renewal starts at $25.00 – 50 & over $10.00

So there you have it – apples to apples my AZ costs were $94.85 less than in Ontario and my licence lasts two years longer so you can add another $50.00 to this number. Total Savings $144.85

About 2sidesof49

This Blog is for all Canadian Cross-Border Shoppers wanting to maximize their returns on their U.S. shopping trips. Visit 2sidesof49.com for tips and tricks and links to our partners websites, blogs and products. Also check out my book The Canadian Cross-Border Shopping Guide - guaranteed to save you money!
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3 Responses to Ontario, Yours to Discover

  1. nancytex2013 says:

    The only surprising thing about your post is that you didn’t walk away from the Emissions test in Phoenix with a coupon for a free car wash or 10% off your next fill-up. 🙂 I did the Ontario renewal last fall, and the lineup was literally snaked around the building. 4 people “working”: 1 for Dealers only (and not looking very busy); the remaining 3 were sharing only 2 computers. I’m not kidding.

    • 2sidesof49 says:

      Just doing insurance renewals now as well, $400.00 less than same coverage in Ontario and these guys don’t have OHIP to cover medical – bend over again. Just signed up for State farm iDrive, immediate 5% discount and, based on driving habits could get 50% off on next renewal! Watch for post.

  2. Raj says:

    Really an eye opener! Thanks for the info.

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