"Individualized" Per-mile Coverage--Did You Know You Could Be Paying Less For Car Insurance? Is It Worth The Risks?
By now, you may have heard about those pay-as-you-drive insurance policies which have been growing in popularity. If you don’t know about pay-as-you-drive, or per-mile programs, they are individualized insurance policies geared toward people who don’t drive as much as the average driver. Simply put: if you drive less, you pay less. Depending on a driver’s habits, and the policy purchased, a driver could stand to save $150 a year. The program seems great for people who believe their insurance costs do not reflect the time and miles they spend driving.
In recent years, more and more insurance companies are implementing their own versions of per-mile insurance programs. If you purchase your insurance from one of the big name providers, you might be eligible for this policy. Progressive, for example, offers a “Snapshot” program which the company says can lower a driver’s rates by up to 30 percent. Allstate and State Farm offer similar programs called, respectively, “Drive Wise” and “drive Safe and Save.”
How it works and why it is worrisome:
Though some policies allow for self-reports, meaning a driver submits his or her own miles, the majority of per-mile policies require use of a telematics device which monitors and catalogues driving information, including miles driven. The device, which is used in Progressive and Allstate programs, will also store information regarding a driver’s behavior, such as braking and accelerating patterns, and speeding. Insurance policies may also require a trial period of telematics use before offering a driver the per-mile policy.
As I have blogged about before, the use of telematics devices carries with it the fact of having Big Brother (your insurance carrier) peering over your shoulder as you drive. In theory, usage-based insurance programs seem great, but the data collected by the telematics device could hurt you more than help you. If you hit your brakes often, drive over the speed limit, or go driving after midnight when there is a greater risk of accidents, you might find that you are paying more than you thought you would. And if your insurer decides your driving habits are problematic they could slap you with a sizable surcharge. With this in mind, to call these programs “individualized” seems appropriate since it rests on individuals to decide if the invasion of privacy is worth the potential savings.
While usage-based insurance policies may benefit some drivers, all drivers should know that these policies do not eliminate the need for full tort insurance coverage, including plenty of uninsured motorist coverage and underinsured motorist coverage. For more information on these important coverages order my book Purchasing Auto Insurance in Pennsylvania for useful information on getting the most out of your car insurance.
If you are interested in usage-based programs, you should talk to your insurance carrier or agent to see if you qualify. But make sure you read the fine print; be fully aware of what you are getting into.