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Should You Let Your Car Insurance Company Track You to Save Money?

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Dear friends,

I recently decided to try my auto insurance company’s tracking app, lured by the promise of saving money on premiums.

Perhaps you’ve received a similar enticement from your insurance company and wondered if it’s creepy to be followed, or financially prudent. This is an honest recap of my experience, along with some questions for you to consider. This is not a sponsored post, and I have no financial connection to State Farm.

Money versus Privacy

 

pretty mountain drive

 

The letter I received from State Farm was tempting. Enable the company’s Drive Safe and Safe app, and I could potentially “save up to 50%” on my premium rates. I’m always trying to whittle down our monthly bills, so I was intrigued.

To make the system work, State Farm provides a little beacon that goes in your car, connects to your Bluetooth and tracks all of your driving movements. It also requires an app to be installed on your phone, which needs Location Services enabled while you’re driving. That’s the part that made me feel queasy.

The beacon package sat on my kitchen counter unopened for a month because I felt so weird about giving up my privacy. I finally called my agent’s assistant to discuss my hesitation. “I completely understand, and I resisted for two years before I finally decided to try it,” she said. “But if you have a smartphone it’s tracking you anyway, so you might as well get some financial benefit.” She had a point.

So I set aside my discomfort and enabled the app, telling myself I’d try a six-month experiment to see if it was worth it. Once I got past that hard first step, I found the data shared by the app kind of interesting. You can log in after any drive and see immediate feedback. The app keeps a two week running score, and I’m currently a low “B” driver at 84 percent.

 

Driving score

 

The State Farm app assigns a Trip Score for each drive, evaluating these attributes:

  • Acceleration
  • Braking
  • Cornering
  • Speeding
  • Phone Use

Here’s a screenshot of the data for one of my recent drives, where I was a little loose with acceleration, braking and speeding:

 

State Farm Trip Score

 

The app also shows a little map of exactly where you drove. I don’t love giving up my privacy, but then again, what dirt does State Farm really get on me?

I guess I’m at the stage of life where I don’t have too many secrets, but let’s make one thing perfectly clear: 

WILD STUFF COULD STILL HAPPEN.

Sometimes when I’m weary of sharing, I park in the center of the lot and leave my phone in the car. The app is then left to wonder, Is she buying ingredients to make Kamikaze Jello shots? Or Metamucil? Is she picking up a pair of orthotic insoles at Walgreen’s? Or a baggie of Colorado herbs at Karmaceuticals?

I think it’s good to maintain a little mystery in our relationship.

Tailgaters and Haters

 

Amish woman in buggy
How my driving speed felt to the car behind me

 

Are you willing to suffer humiliation and ridicule on the road?

The State Farm app currently marks down your score for driving 8 MPH or more over the posted speed limit. To avoid losing a star, you’ll sometimes have to drive slower than the traffic around you.

We live near a long road with just one lane in each direction and a 30 MPH speed limit that pretty much everyone ignores. Last week I had an SUV bearing down hard on my fanny as I drove the maximum allowable speed of 37 MPH. The young gentleman following me went certifiably bonkers. He actually leaned on his horn and followed me honking nonstop for a mile. I put my head down and persevered at a steady 37 until I could pull over, and he gave me a special salute as he raced by.

“It hasn’t always been like this!” I shouted at his dust. “I’ll have you know that when I was in my early 20s, I lost my drivers’ license for too many speeding tickets!”

I shook off the embarrassment, adjusted my bonnet, and motored on.

Gentle On My Mind

 

pretty drive

 

I’ve noticed a surprising benefit of having the app. Driving a little slower and less aggressively has actually made the experience more pleasant and less stressful (except when I’m being tailed by a honker).

When I first started using the app, I kept getting marked down for my turns. I finally figured out that the app likes wide, gentle turns instead of fast, sharp turns.

Now my turns are so smooth you could perform eye surgery on a cat while I’m driving, and your hand would only slip when we hit potholes.

Sudden acceleration is another no-no, although the maneuver often can’t be avoided in Denver traffic when some drivers would rather see you crash into a concrete barrier than let you squeeze into their lane.

“Don’t signal first,” my daughter suggested as I recently struggled to merge on I-25.

“But I’m trying to be civil,” I protested.

“That’s the problem.”

I rapidly accelerated and quickly pulled in the lane before the driver behind me had a chance to slam her foot to the gas pedal. Boom, done.

The downside is that the State Farm app took away a star for my fast merge maneuver. If you’re a Pleaser like me, this scenario creates a painful dilemma.

Do you practice good manners and keep the app happy? Or be bold, lose a star, but avoid a lifetime of waiting in the merge lane? These are not easy decisions to make.

Is It Worth the Trade-Off?

If my current driving pattern and discount holds, the app will save me $111.92 per year in premiums. Is it worth 110 bucks to be tracked? I’m still not sure.

Some say that it’s only a matter of time before these devices are required in every car, but for now most usage-based auto insurance programs are opt-in.

Insurers say trackers lead to safer driving, which will ultimately reduce the number of accidents and deaths on the roads. Location tracking can also be used to settle accident disputes and find stolen cars.

What Do You Think?

How do you feel about this trend in auto insurance? Does the idea of being tracked give you the willies? Are you currently using a tracking device? Has it saved you money on your premiums? I’d love to hear what you think in the Comments section of this post.

If you use Pinterest to save and share ideas, here’s a handy pin: 

 

car insurance tracking

Happy trails,

Eliza Cross's signature

 

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Grateful thanks to Nrico for the liquor store image, Don Graham for the mountain road photo, Nicolas Tonelli for the Amish buggy photo that was heavily PhotoShopped, and Maggie Jumps for the curving road photo.

Eliza Cross is the author of 15 books, including recent titles like Bacon Beans and Beer and Small Bites. She blogs at ElizaCross.com and is the founder of the BENSA Bacon Lovers Society. Her articles have appeared in publications like Sunset, Parents and Writers' Digest. Eliza lives near Denver with her family.

2 Comments

  • PattiCinCO

    Too funny. I have the app as well and I have noticed I am trying to keep it happy as well. I only have a 67% score because I take off to fast after stoplights.

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