5 pay-as-you-drive car insurance myths

Most of the top auto insurance companies have rolled out pay-as-you-drive policies in at least one state, and industry leaders expect the programs to refashion the car insurance market over the next several years.

But a good portion of consumers aren’t ready to hop on board despite the promise of car insurance discounts, and many aren’t sure exactly how the programs work, according to a CarInsurance.com survey.

In the poll of 2,000 adult drivers, 9% said they were already enrolled in a pay-as-you-drive insurance plan, also known as usage-based insurance. Half of drivers said they’d consider signing up, but 41% said they wouldn’t consider it.

Of the consumers reluctant to try pay-as-you-drive, 43% said they didn’t know enough about the options.

Pay-as-you-drive programs use technology to track mileage and certain driving habits. The voluntary programs offer possible car insurance discounts based on the collected data. Some insurers partner with communications services, such as General Motors’ OnStar program, to provide monitoring, but most provide free telematics devices for customers to plug into their vehicles.

Although the programs are spreading, misconceptions abound. Here are five of the most common ones.

speeding silver car

Myth 1: Speeding will hurt my car insurance discount.

Three quarters of survey respondents said that typically pay-as-you-drive programs track speed, and 86% said in almost all cases, exceeding the speed limit would cut the pay-as-you-drive discount.

But in reality some programs don’t include speed as a factor in calculating the discount. Progressive’s Snapshot program, for instance, uses three factors — how often you hit the brakes hard, how many miles you drive and how frequently you drive between midnight and 4 a.m.

Even programs that track speed don’t compare how fast you’re driving to the posted speed limits. The devices don’t know, for instance, when you’re traveling 45 mph in a 15 mph zone.

Some programs, such as Allstate’s Drivewise and State Farm’s Drive Safe & Save In-Drive programs, do monitor speed, but your discount is hurt only when you drive at or above 80 mph. Like Progressive, Allstate also considers hard braking, time of day when driving and mileage. State Farm monitors those factors as well as turns and acceleration.

“We calculate a risk factor based on the percentage of miles that your vehicle logs at speeds at or above 80 mph,” Allstate says. “We chose 80 mph as the threshold based on our risk models, which suggest that accidents are significantly more likely and more damaging at these speeds.”

computer tablet with GPS tracking

Myth 2: Insurance companies track my location and base my rates on where I drive.

Almost half of survey respondents — 48% — thought insurers typically monitor where customers drive.

But the PAYD devices give customers to plug into their cars generally don’t monitor location, and today’s programs don’t base rates on where you drive.

State Farm says its Drive Safe & Save In-Drive device, for instance, only provides exact vehicle location information for safety and security reasons, such as for roadside assistance or locating a stolen vehicle.

Otherwise the company doesn’t monitor your precise whereabouts.

“State Farm respects your privacy,” the company says on its website. “We only receive information about the broad geographic areas in which your vehicle is driven. The size of these areas is approximately 40 square miles.”

But that doesn’t mean insurers have ruled out using location in the future.

Progressive said this year it planned to test GPS-enabled devices to see how highway versus street driving might predict losses. The company, which says it has collected more than 10 billion miles of driving data on more than 2 million vehicles since January 2008, is considered the leader in usage-based insurance in the U.S.

Man holding discount sign

Myth 3: You get your full discount right away.

Forty-three percent of survey respondents said almost all pay-as-you-drive programs provide discounts immediately. In reality, the programs vary in how they apply the discount, but typically you don’t get the discount until renewal time.

Some programs, however, do offer a small initial discount for signing up. With Intellidrive by Travelers Insurance, you can get up to a 10% discount for signing up and then up to a 30% discount at renewal time for low mileage.

Related: Extra liability is cheap

Progressive lets you sign up for a 30-day trial of Snapshot. After logging 30 days of driving information, you can find out how much you might save and can apply the discount to your premium. In another five months, the ongoing discount is set for the policy renewal.

female driver and passenger avoiding car crash

Myth 4: If the device shows I drive poorly, my rates will go up.

Of those unwilling to try pay-as-you-drive insurance, 12% said they thought the insurer might raise their rates, based on the data collected. Another 22% said they didn’t think the discount would be worth it.

Typically, PAYD programs won’t raise your rates if your driving isn’t up to par.

“Rest assured, your rate will never increase based on your participation in the DriveSense program,” Esurance says of its usage-based product.

However, State Farm says premiums could increase for customers in rare cases. That would happen only if you currently get a discount from State Farm for driving under 7,500 miles a year and then you enroll in the company’s Drive Safe & Save program and log more than 7,500 miles annually.

Most customers who enroll in the program, though, will save money, the company says.

Data privacy message on computer tablet

Myth 5: Car insurance companies will share the information.

Among survey respondents who said they wouldn’t consider trying a pay-as-you-drive plan, 13% said they think the insurer would share their personal data.

Privacy concerns are among the biggest obstacles for consumers to accept pay-as-you-drive programs.

Insurers say they won’t share the information unless they are legally obligated. Otherwise the only people who see the data are you and the insurance company.

“Travelers may become legally obligated to provide data to law enforcement investigating the cause of an accident, in response to a subpoena, or as otherwise required by law,” Travelers Insurance says of its Intellidrive program. “If we are required to provide data to a third-party, we may use the data for claim purposes.”


Mar 24, 2015 | By Barbara Marquand

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