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Telematics insurance is a usage-based coverage that uses in-car monitoring devices to adjust rates based on policyholders’ mileage and driving habits.
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Many of the best car insurance companies offer telematics programs, but no two are exactly alike. In this guide, we on the Guide Team will explore the different types of telematics and usage-based insurance options available today.
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The Guide Team is committed to providing reliable information to help you make the best possible decision about your car insurance. Because consumers rely on us to provide objective and accurate information, we have created a comprehensive rating system to formulate our rankings of the best car insurance companies. We collect data on dozens of auto insurance providers to rank companies on a wide range of ranking factors. After 800 hours of research, the final result was an overall rating for each provider, with the insurance companies that scored the most points at the top of the list.
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Telematics insurance is also called usage-based insurance, pay-as-you-drive insurance or pay-per-mile insurance. The central idea is that you can get a discount on your car insurance if you are safer than the typical driver (or if you drive fewer miles than average each year).
Car insurance telematics programs collect data to evaluate your driving safety and/or track your mileage. The programs collect data related to how you drive, when you drive and where you drive to calculate your risk level. If you pose a lower accident risk than the average driver, you can save money on your auto insurance premium.
Regardless of the type of telematics program, insurance companies track their policyholders’ driving behavior in real time. In some cases, you can choose the telematics technology that you would like to use. Keep in mind that different devices can track different things. For example, a smartphone app can track your phone usage while you’re driving, but a plug-in device cannot.
Common devices used in telematics systems used by auto insurance companies to collect usage statistics and monitor driving habits include:
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Depending on the provider, you might be able to transmit driving data through an integrated option like OnStar as well.
Traditional car insurance costs are based on factors related to your driving profile, none of which relate to how well you drive day to day. On the other hand, telematics insurance programs base your rate on your actual driving habits or provide discounts for good behavior on the road. With telematics, the better you drive, the more you can save.
Some car insurance companies advertise that drivers can save up to 25%, 30% or even 40% on their premiums for being a safe driver with a telematics program. But are these numbers realistic? The truth is a bit more complicated, as telematics based auto insurance can lead to both lower or increased rates.
With these key concerns in mind, the table below highlights the pros and cons of telematics auto insurance:
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Benefits Great discount potential Get rewarded for being a good driver.
Disadvantages Some programs can increase your base rate if you’re a bad driver Discounts vary based on driving habits Mobile apps can’t always tell if you’re a driver or a passenger, so if you’re riding in someone else’s car you may from time to time need to discuss the data
When you sign up for a telematics program, you’ll usually get a sign-up discount, which can be 5 to 10%. You will either download an application or receive a telematics device in the mail. During the first policy period, the company will collect information about your driving habits.
When it’s time to renew your policy, you’ll see if you qualify for a discount based on your driving habits and how steep your discount will be. Some programs require you to keep the tracking device installed at all times to maintain a discount. Others track your driving habits for one policy period and apply the discount to all subsequent periods.
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Not everyone saves money with telematics insurance programs, however. Even if you are a good driver, you may not see a discount if you commute to work every day and drive an average number of miles. Likewise, if you regularly drive late at night, you might not see much of a discount, either. If you spend a lot of time as a passenger, it can also be frustrating, because some programs that use mobile applications to track their behavior will not be able to tell that you are not driving. This may result in you having to discuss much of the information your application will collect.
Plus, telematics insurance can even increase your rate depending on the program you join. It is easy to categorize as a “bad driver” according to the telematics program. If you tend to accelerate quickly after stopping, slam on your brakes at red lights or on the interstate, and make midnight snack runs, you probably won’t get a big discount.
In addition, it is possible to lose certain discounts that you had in place before starting a usage-based program. For example, if you had a low-mileage discount, but drove above-average miles when you signed up for a telematics program, you could lose the low-mileage discount.
Car insurance prices are also highly dependent on location and zip code. Your rates could change if the telematics device detects that you regularly park your car in a different location than the address on your car insurance profile.
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If telematics insurance doesn’t sound right to you, remember there are many different ways to save money on your car insurance premiums that aren’t necessarily based on your driving performance. Here’s a look at the most common car insurance discounts on the market:
Most insurance companies offer a wide variety of car telematics insurance options. Since telematics insurance just changes the way you are paid for coverage, you still have all the regular auto insurance policy options available.
In general, there are two main types of usage-based or telematics-based car insurance programs: safe driving programs and pay-per-mile programs.
The most common type of telematics insurance program grants discounts based on safe driving habits. Progressive’s Snapshot®, Geico’s DriveEasy and State Farm’s Drive Safe & SaveTM are all examples. These programs usually follow a combination of the following:
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Since the goal is to become a better driver, these programs can warn you when you brake too hard or take a corner too fast. Most programs also display detailed information throughout the process through a mobile app. You can view your recent trips and see how well or poorly you are doing in different areas.
Whether or not you have good driving skills, one of the most important factors in determining your accident risk is how often you are on the road. With the pay-per-mile program, your bill reflects the number of miles you drive. Examples include Allstate’s Milewise®, Nationwide’s SmartMiles® and auto insurance company Metromile.
Insurance cost per mile is calculated using a daily base rate and a per mile rate. The mileage tracker can track other things like the time of day or where you drive, but how far you go is the main thing that influences your rate for this type of program.
According to the Federal Highway Administration, the average person drives approximately 13,500 miles per year. If you drive 10,000 miles or less, you may be able to save money with a pay-per-mile program. The less you drive, the lower your bill.
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Two of the biggest usage-based programs can increase your base rate if you’re a bad driver: Snapshot from Progressive and DriveEasy from Geico. Both companies will re-evaluate and increase your base car insurance premium if you turn out to be a bad driver. So, be very careful when joining these programs and make sure that you really are a safer driver.
On the other hand, providers like State Farm and USAA won’t raise your rates, so there’s no harm in testing their telematics program.
We review everything there is to know about telematics insurance. You can save up to 40% by being a safe driver with a telematics program. Below are some of the best car telematics insurance companies:
Below are 15 popular usage-based insurance programs. Note that Allstate, Nationwide and American Family both offer safe driving
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