Pay-As-You-Drive Insurance: Are you overpaying for auto insurance?

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Things to remember...

  • Usage-based insurance (UBI) provides you with insurance coverage based on your individual driving habits.
  • UBI uses a telematics device to track and store your driving information, so that insurance companies know what to charge you.
  • The way telematics and UBI work together could end up saving you a lot on your car insurance.
  • Get an inside look at the benefits and drawbacks of UBI.

Although it’s been around for a decade, usage-based insurance (UBI), sometimes referred to as “pay-how-you-drive,” “pay-as-you-drive,” or “pay-as-you-go car insurance” is quickly growing in popularity. IHS Automotive predicts that by 2023, the usage-based insurance market size will be 142 million customers worldwide!

That’s a lot of customers, but before you can even consider becoming one too, you must be wondering, “What exactly is usage-based insurance, anyway?” The definition of usage-based insurance is best explained by how it gathers personalized driving data:

UBI uses cutting-edge telematics to monitor driving behaviors, miles driven, speed regulation, sudden braking, hard turning, and much more. Insurance companies use the data collected to determine their customers’ coverage costs.

With telematics, safe driving doesn’t just protect you and those around you — it puts money back in your pocket (yes, you read that right!), which is a major incentive for checking out UBI!

Continue reading to learn more about telematics and UBI. It gets better!

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Usage-Based Insurance and Telematics Devices

The Insurance Research Council performed a survey in 2015 that found 56 percent of drivers to purposely improve their driving due to a tracking device provided by their insurance company, and 88 percent said they found the information provided to be helpful. These devices have become even more popular and effective since these usage-based insurance statistics came to light a few years ago.

One of the most interactive driving devices out there, DriveSync, makes some bold claims on its outstanding website: “DriveSync by IMS delivers a suite of intelligent connected car services that transform driving into a truly intelligent experience, making you more productive and saving you time and money, with safety remaining at the core — with new services introduced on a regular basis! Forget about smart cars — this is about a smarter you.”

The name of American Family’s driving device is another big draw to customers: being able to Know Your Drive, so you can “take control of what you pay for your car insurance.”

Devices that incorporate telematics for usage-based insurance provide us drivers (not just insurance companies) with invaluable information that can help us add years to our lives and hundreds of dollars to our bank accounts.

– What is telematics?

The term “telematics” alone is a form of information technology involved in transmitting computer data over long distances. In the case of pay-as-you-go car insurance, telematics is responsible for collecting and transmitting driving data from a high-tech device in your car . . . all the way to insurance companies.

– Where does the telematics device go in your car?

An external telematics device plugs directly into your vehicle’s on-board diagnostics port (OBD-II port). It’s the same port on your dashboard that emissions testers and mechanics plug into when they test your car. If your car was manufactured in the last 25 years or more, it should have this port.

If your car has a recent version of OnStar or a similar service like SYNC, you don’t need a separate device because the OnStar Smart Driver system already tracks the necessary data and communicates with insurance companies.

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– What information is tracked, and how do insurance companies get this data from the device?

Car insurance companies want any data that adequately indicates your driving behaviors, so they can not only charge you the right premiums but also determine whether you’ll cost them money in claims.

They track data such as: when you use your vehicle, how far you drove, and how long you spent driving. They also typically want to know how hard you brake and how fast you drive. Always maintain a safe speed under 80 miles per hour, and of course — always follow speed limits!

The tracker can link to GPS data that discloses specific speed limits and other traffic controls where you drive, which then shows your insurance company when you drive too fast and skip stop signs instead of waiting them out.

Built-in GPS information can also reveal how much night-driving you do and note when you drive into higher risk areas — places where accidents are more likely to occur and cars tend to get stolen.

After you plug your device into your car’s computer (via that aforementioned OBD-II port), it reads the data from the computer, snags the numbers the insurance company has already programmed it to monitor, and wirelessly transmits this information to the company.

Typically, the time frame for using a tracking device averages about four to six months. After the insurer monitors your driving habits for the allotted amount of time, your discount should be locked in. It all depends on the company’s way of doing things, but more on that later.

– There’s an App for That

Several companies conveniently offer a pay-as-you-go car insurance app instead of a plug-in device. Take MetroMile for instance: Their app offers several cool features in a clean, user-friendly format that makes tracking your data simple and perhaps even a little fun.

It even helps you remember where you parked your car at the mall or in a parallel spot on that busy city street with the name you can’t remember — a benefit of a tracker knowing your car’s location.

Find out which companies offer apps below!

We’re not through yet…

(Dis)advantages of Usage-based Insurance

Like most things in life, usage-based auto insurance programs come with pros and cons . . . advantages and disadvantages, and a lot of these will depend on your financial situation, car insurance needs, and personal preferences. What may feel like an advantage to you could feel like a disadvantage to another driver.

– Save Money with a Usage-based Insurance Program

Pay-as-you-go insurance can be cheaper because it factors in more variables, unlike a traditional policy. Traditional auto insurance policies rely on a more generalized pool of statistics and driving trends.

UBI costs, however, are based on individual driving habits, which makes pricing more accurate. Depending on how often you drive from one month to the next, costs may fluctuate while your company tracks your time on the road.

This fluctuation could run in your favor if, say, you drive for longer distances to visit family for Christmas but in January, you only get on the road for a few quick errand runs. But if you often drive for long distances (or don’t drive safely), you won’t save as much money as you had hoped.

– You’ll Drive Smarter

When you’re trying to save money with UBI, you’re more likely to drive better and drive less frequently, which means contributing to less traffic, fewer car wrecks, and a bigger discount on your insurance payments. Driving less also helps the environment: When your carbon emissions stay low, everyone can breathe better.

– Help Auto Insurance Companies Help You

When insurers are able to monitor and evaluate driving data (speed, time, hard braking), they can estimate damages from auto accidents with more accuracy and also reduce fraud.

Thus, telematics help lower costs related to car wrecks by improving accident response time and helping companies keep an eye on driver safety.

But wait — there’s more: Auto theft costs also go down, and stolen vehicles can be tracked and recovered more easily. This is the other upside to the device’s ability to track your car’s whereabouts. Pretty awesome, right?

Plus there’s a ton of other features drivers love with UBI (see above)

– Why do parents want UBI for their teens?


– Should you be concerned about privacy?

We are living in The Quantified Self Era where minute details of our day-to-day lives are analyzed: calories burned, steps taken, movements per hour, minutes of REM sleep, and even our decisions behind the wheel.

You can’t get UBI without sharing your information, but having/giving access to personal information is, of course, a double-edged sword.

Though the information your insurance company collects can help you save money on your car insurance, it is also important to understand that an OBD-II telematics device is capable of retrieving and storing any information.

Some insurance companies reveal to their customers what data they gather with the device, but others don’t say. Because telematics trackers track your car’s location, your privacy is also at risk in this way (though there are also benefits to this feature, which you’ll learn below).

However, more drivers these days are less worried about insurance companies misusing their information, especially because many companies promise to limit how much private data they gather and use, and they also assure they won’t share this information with third parties

If you trust your insurance company to take only the necessary data needed for accurate UBI costs, then privacy will be less of a concern. It starts with asking your (prospective) company all the necessary questions and then going from there. 

This table includes other common concerns drivers have with usage-based insurance and the percentage of people with these concerns:


– Should you look into a usage-based insurance program?

If you don’t like the idea of insurance prices changing from one payment to the next, a UBI program may not be for you. However, it’s important to realize that you could end up saving more money per pay period.

Plus, remember that several insurance companies will eventually lock you into a consistent premium price after tracking you for a few months.

But, until this tracking period is over, you could sometimes end up paying more (depending on how often and how fast you drive), which may feel like a disadvantage.

If you’re someone who thrives on consistency — you like auto-paying the same amount of money monthly without giving it any extra thought at any time — tracking your driving habits with a telematics device and trying to pinch insurance pennies may feel like more of a headache than a money-saving grace. Then there’s that possible issue of privacy.

Sometimes it’s all about perspective, but other times, it’s pretty cut-and-dry.

If you’re a lower-risk, lower-income driver, you should definitely look into paying as you go. You’ll have more control over what comes out of your bank account, and if that feels less stressful for you than paying the same (higher) cost every month, why not take advantage of it?

As if that’s not enough….

Usage-based Insurance Companies

Several insurance companies already offer usage-based car insurance. What’s more, based on usage-based insurance trends, about 70 percent of all auto insurance companies are expected to use UBI via telematics by 2020, according to SMA Research.

All major auto insurance providers offer a one-time discount for installing a monitoring device, and some even offer a discount for each vehicle enrolled.

After 60 to 90 days or upon policy renewal, there’s usually a hefty payout based on the driving data — the safer the driving, the bigger the savings. Most companies promise they won’t increase the rates based on this data, but some say they will if the driving is bad enough.

Leisure driving may be reduced, and families will be more responsible about grouping trips together and making unnecessary trips. Carpooling would also most likely see an increase. It also might encourage owning multiple vehicles because families wouldn’t be paying for cars that just sit there.

Imagine what it would be like to save a ton of money on your car insurance! We’ve got you covered. Keep reading.

Who offers usage-based insurance?

Because UBI has become more common, rest assured that you have several options when it comes to pay-as-you-go insurance companies.

For all you visual learners out there, we’ve compiled a table of top companies to choose from, along with their driving devices, enrollment discount percentages, and the percentage of savings you can get from using their particular version of UBI.

Insurance CompanyProgramDeviceEnrollment Discount (Up to)Earned Savings (Up to)
AAAAAADriveMobile App15%30%
AllstateDrivewiseMobile App10%25%
American FamilyKnowYourDrivePlug-in5%40%
EsuranceDriveSenseMobile App5%30%
Liberty Mutual/SafeCoRightTrackMobile App or Plug-in5% and up30%
MetLifeMy JourneyPlug-in10%30%
ProgressiveSnapshotMobile App or Plug-inaverage of $2520%
Mile AutoMile AutoNeither-40%
State FarmDrive Safe & SaveMobile App or Plug-in5%50%
The HartfordTrueLanePlug-in5%25%
TravelersIntelliDriveMobile App10%30%
MetromileMetromileMobile App-60%

Now, let’s take a deeper dive into a few of the most popular companies to pursue (in no particular order):

#1 – Progressive SnapShot

Their program is called SnapShot, which includes a little telematics device for you to plug into the OBD-II port of your car (most likely underneath the steering wheel) or their mobile device (in some states). SnapShot isn’t available if you live in:

  • North Carolina
  • Alaska
  • California
  • Hawaii

Here’s the process to start:

  1. Signup for Progressive and Choose Snapshot
  2. Drive with Snapshot for six months
  3. Stay up-to-date on your progress with Progressive’s app or online.

To net the biggest savings, they recommend:

  • Limit hard breaking
  • Avoid late night driving
  • Drive less overall
  • Stay off your phone

Your speed won’t be recorded. You could net up to a 30 percent discount. You receive a $25 discount at the time of signing up plus the average discount on the premium renewal after completing the six months is $130.

With SnapShot, Progressive reviews your driving for 30 days before determining if the program will work for you. Progressive offers the gambit of coverage options as a major provider.

#2 – Nationwide SmartRide

SmartRide is their UBI program. Get an immediate 5 percent discount when you sign up. If you turn out to be a safe driver, you could get up to an additional 40 percent discount on your premium payments!

After they track your driving habits for four to six months with their plug-in device or smartphone app, mail it back and then rest easy with your locked-in discount. Note that unlike with Progressive, acceleration is included as a UBI factor.

Nationwide’s four driving factors include:

  1. Miles Driven
  2. Hard Braking & Acceleration
  3. Idle Time
  4. Night Driving

According to Nationwide, you just need to:

  • “After enrolling, download and activate the app OR We’ll send you a small device for your car within 10 days of signing up.
  • Drive as you normally do, and confirm the first few trips.
  • Check the app often to see your progress and track your discount.
  • Lock in your final discount at the end of the program. We’ll apply your discount at your next policy renewal.”

They also state in their FAQs that their program will not increase your premiums.

#3 – Metromile

As of now, Metromile is only available to people who live in

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Illinois
  • New Jersey
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Virginia
  • Washington

They offer an app or a device called Metromile Pulse that plugs in like other telematics driving devices. Unlike other UBI insurers, though, Metromile only tracks mileage, and discount amounts vary. Note that if you need to travel over 250 miles within a day (over 150 miles/day in New Jersey), those miles are free, so expect big savings on long trips! 

According to the US Department of Transportation, the average miles driven by age are:

Average Annual Miles per Driver by Age Group   

Understanding these averages will help you compare to your own habits and see if Metromile (or another company) is right for you!

Metromile says their base rates start out at $29 with customer reporting big savings yearly. For instance, Heath C says, “I’m saving $1,140 a year on my auto insurance… putting these extra savings towards a fund for a down payment on a new house.”

According to Metromile, here’s how your rate would be calculated: $29 Mo Rate + (450 miles x .06$) = $56. They report the average savings per year is $611.

Their coverage includes:

  • Bodily injury
  • Property damage
  • Uninsured and under­insured motorist coverage
  • Collision
  • Comprehensive
  • Personal injury protection/ medical payments coverage
  • Rental reimburse­ment
  • Emergency road­side assistance
  • $250, $500, and $1000 deductible options

They offer discounts like multi-car if you have more than one vehicle. Plus they bill each month one at a time — which could be a big plus for some consumers!

#4 – Travelers IntelliDrive

With Travelers, enroll in IntelliDrive — only available in select states which currently include: AZ, AL, CO, CT, IA, ID, IL, IN, KY, ME, MN, MO, MS, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NV, OH, OK, OR, PA, TN, TX,  VA, and WI (“In PA and VA, riskier driving habits will not result in a higher premium” see here).

Their smartphone app can track your car’s location and send you email/text alerts if your teen isn’t driving your car safely. This device tracks:

  • Your driving time of day
  • Acceleration
  • Braking
  • Speed

Get an immediate enrollment discount of 10 percent, and if you drive 13,000 miles/year or less, expect to get up to a 30 percent discount on your insurance costs.

The app collects driving data for 90 days and will assign you a score up to five (highest). Your rates will be adjusted accordingly. You can also opt out within the first 45 days without impact on your car insurance rates.

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#5 – Esurance DriveSense

DriveSense is the name of their UBI system in the form of a mobile app, and you don’t have to be an Esurance customer to use it. But if you are, you could get an enrollment discount right away!

For customers, here’s how DriveSense works:

  1. “Get a discount just for enrolling.
  2. Log at least 50 trips for each term.
  3. DriveSense will keep customizing your discount.”

The app tells you when you’re driving well and when you’re not. It maps out your driving habits, offers tips for the road, and other handy features. Save up to 25 to 30 percent on your insurance.

DriveSense is available in these states:Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Washington.

#6 – Allstate Drivewise

Allstate’s Drivewise is unique in that it offers rewards for no matter if you have an active policy or not. These rewards come in the form of discounts to different retailers.

Overall benefits include:

  • Up to 10% cash back for choosing Drivewise
  • Up to 25% cash back every 6 months
  • Allstate Rewards® points for finishing challenges

Allstate monitors three driving habits:

  • Speeding
  • Night Driving
  • Hard Breaking

For customers,

  • Sign in to your account
  • Choose the Drivewise program
  • Say yes to terms and conditions
  • Start driving with the app on your phone

For non-customers,

  • Select Create an Account
  • Choose Drivewise only
  • Say yes to terms and conditions
  • Start driving with the app on your phone

Drivewise also provides real-time alerts for your driving habits, parking reminders, and roadside assitance.

#7 – Safeco RightTrack

Safeco offers two ways to participate in the program — a plug-in device or smartphone app (app only available in CO, KY, MI, MN, and UT). As with most other providers, they track:

  • Speeding
  • Night Driving
  • Hard Breaking

To get started you have to:

  • Sign up for RightTrack
  • Plug the device into the OBD-II port of your car once it arrives OR download the RightTrack app.
  • Start driving. They’ll review your habits after 90 days, but you can check your driving anytime
  • They guarantee savings between 5% to 30%
  • Return the device after the 90 days

Their coverage includes: Bodily Injury, Property Damage, Comprehensive, Collision, Personal Injury Protection (PIP) or Medical Payments, Uninsured Motorist, and Underinsured Motorist (subject to state availability)

#8 – Mile Auto

According to Mile Auto, 65% of people drive less than 10K miles per year, so you could save using their program. What they track is completely unique among UBI providers. You don’t install a telematics device or an app.

They just ask that you take a photo of your odometer once a month. That’s it. You only pay for the miles you drove that month. That puts unprecedented power in the hands of drivers.

This could be a good option for college students away at college, retirees, remote workers, urban dwellers who don’t drive but enjoy the convenience of a car on occasion.

Their coverage options include:

  • Minimum liability coverages
  • Comprehensive (for non-accident vehicle damage or theft)
  • Collision coverage
  • Rental vehicle reimbursement
  • Roadside assistance

They also offer various deductible limits for flexibility. Currently, Mile Auto is only available in Oregon and Illinois.

#9 – AAA AAADrive

AAA’s program is a way for them to promote safe driving and lower risky behavior like distracted driving. While you are driving their app is collecting data on five categories:

  • Mobile Phone Distraction
  • Smooth Driving
  • Speed
  • Time of Day
  • Fatigue

Once your trip is over, AAA provides a score based on these five categories. Set up is simple. Just download their app, register for the program, and drive. That’s it.

#10 – MetLife My Journey

My Journey is a usage-based program that uses a telematics device to promote safe driving and savings. You’ll receive an enrollment discount of up to 10% with savings up to 30%.

Here’s how it works:

  • Enroll in the My Journey Program
  • Register via email
  • Your device will shipped
  • Plug it in your vehicle
  • Drive for savings

You can trip information like:

  • Access detailed driving data
  • Set special email alerts to notify you about unsafe driving behavior
  • View your personal driving score dashboard

It is currently offered in these states: AR, AL, AZ, GA, IL, MO, NE, OH, OR, SD, TX, and VA.

#11 – State Farm Drive Safe & Save

State Farm uses data from your built in OnStar or their mobile app downloaded on your phone and offer some of the highest potential savings (up to 50%).

Set up is also easy:

  • Check for eligibility
  • Download the app
  • Enroll online or over the phone
  • Start driving
  • Wait for savings

#12 – The Hartford TrueLane

TrueLane offers discounts of up to 25% but set expectations by stating the average is in the range of 10-12%. They are currently offering this program in these states: Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.

The Hartford’s program requires a device be installed in your vehicle to track driving habits. They also mention eligibility for certain vehicles: “Most 1996 or newer vehicles are eligible to participate in TrueLane. However, electric, hybrid and diesel vehicles are not eligible because the TrueLane device cannot reliably obtain accurate information from them” (Eligibility & Enrollment).

They currently track:

  • Time of day
  • Speed
  • Location

The Hartford also allow customers to cancel their participation in TrueLane at anytime without canceling their policy. However, the plugin device must returned or they would be charged a $100 fee.

#13 – American Family Insurance KnowYourDrive

American Family is driving their UBI program through their agents. They recommending connecting with them to get set up. Your device would then be shipped. Once it’s plugged in, your driving habits are tracked. They also offer an app to manage your account.

They also state your premium will not go up — and the lowest discount drivers receive is 2%. They collect this data:

  • How fast you drive
  • How hard you accelerate or brake
  • Where you travel
  • When and how often you drive

They do not collect any images or voice recording with their device. Like The Hartford, they allow drivers to cancel at any time without penalty, but any discounts received would be removed.

They also offer the additional benefits of:

  • “Tracks the fuel cost and MPG for every trip you take.
  • Easily checks diagnostics, which updates you through the app.
  • Monitors your driving behavior — hopefully making you a smarter, safer driver!
  • If a crash occurs, the Automatic app will send an instant alert to emergency services” (here).

– Who are the largest companies that offer telematic UBI?

Check out this table to see which companies have offered the most UBI premiums since 2013, based on dollar amount. Seeing these numbers may also give you an idea of who people trust for their usage-based insurance policy:

Source: NAIC

Discounted Auto Insurance

How can you beat those savings listed above? It’s hard to do, but if you decide that UBI doesn’t quite fit the bill after all, rest assured that car insurance companies tend to offer all sorts of other discounts.

If you need a nudge in the right direction, take a good look at this comprehensive guide to which providers offer what car insurance discounts. Plus check out the list of discounts offered below. We hope you’ll find exactly what you’re looking for.

Vehicle Discounts:Driver/Customer Discounts:Personal Discounts:
Active Disabling DeviceClaim FreeEmergency Deployment
Adaptive Cruise ControlContinuous CoverageFamily Legacy
Adaptive HeadlightsDefensive DriverFamily Plan
Anti-Lock BrakesDriver's EducationFederal Employee
Audible AlarmDriving Device/AppFurther Education
Automatic BrakingEarly SigningGood Student
Blind Spot WarningFull PaymentHomeowner
Daytime Running LightsGood CreditLife Insurance
Economy VehicleLoyaltyMarried
Electronic Stability ControlMultiple PoliciesMembership/Group
Farm/Ranch VehicleMultiple VehiclesMilitary
Forward Collision WarningNew Customer/New PlanNew Address
Garaging/StoringOccasional OperatorNew Graduate
Green/Hyrbid VehicleOnline ShopperNon-Smoker/Non-Drinker
Lane Departure WarningOn-Time PaymentsOccupation
Newer VehiclePaperless/Auto BillingRecent Retirees
Passive RestraintPaperless DocumentsStable Residence
Utility VehicleRoadside AssistanceStudent Away
Vehicle RecoverySafe DriverStudent or Alumni
VIN EtchingSeat Belt UseVolunteer


Frequently Asked Questions

– Do UBI companies sell data to third parties?

If you’re worried about law enforcement and marketing companies getting access to your information through UBI, rest assured that many auto insurers promise not to sell your data to third parties. However, as mentioned earlier in this article, always ask your potential company all necessary questions to make an informed decision. Be open about your concerns, and avoid working with a company you don’t trust.

– How long do most programs last to determine driving habits and discounts?

Thankfully, UBI companies don’t typically make you keep a tracking device in your car forever! They just need time to get an adequate picture of your driving habits before your ongoing discount can be locked in. For example, Nationwide’s SmartRide program lasts about four to six months. This time frame is pretty common among companies that offer UBI.

– Which vehicles are eligible for UBI?

Generally, newer cars after 1996 qualify, but you’ll want to verify with specific providers.

– How may UBI affect my car insurance rates?

According to a recent study by Miremad Soleymanian, Charles Weinberg, and Ting Zhu at the Sauder School of Business, University of British Columbia: “The driver will receive up to 25% permanent discount based on her daily driving scores after six months of usage, but as we discuss more fully below, the average discount rate is 12% with a standard deviation of 5%.”

– Where is Esurance’s UBI program available?

Currently, they’re only offering this program in Oregon.

– What if I only drive a little? 

Check out Esurance’s Pay Per Mile plan. If you qualify for it, you’ll only have to pay for the miles you actually drive, which could save you a lot of money on car insurance!

– Is filing a claim different from standard insurance?

In most cases, filing a claim is the same, but you should always check with your provider for specifics.

– Which states have UBI program availability?

Telematics UBI Program State Availability  
AK, AL, AR, AZ, CT, DE, FL, GA, HI, IA, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MO, MT, NC, ND, NE, NH, NJ, NV, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, VT, WA, WV, WYGU, NM, PR, VICA (only telematics for miles driven permitted)

Source: CIPR

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