Share Your 'Driving Footprint' for Lower Insurance

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NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Progressive Insurance (Stock Quote: PGR) – ranked fourth out of the top six U.S. auto insurers in a recent study by A.M. Best — is out to rewrite the rulebook on car insurance, with a new trial program that charges drivers based on how often, how fast and what time of day they drive.

The new campaign, dubbed the “snapshot discount”, is solely based on driver habits, making it unlike other insurance plans that penalize consumers based on external factors. Consumers could get a big price break, too.

“The Snapshot Discount is transforming auto insurance because, for the first time, drivers can pay for car insurance based on how they drive,” says the insurer.

A snapshot discount could apply to a business traveler who leaves his or her car at the airport parking lot a few days a week, for example, or a family with a second car that’s rarely used except for local trips and errands. Progressive’s thinking goes that if you’re hardly driving the car, there is less of a chance that you’ll get in a wreck.

The trial program is only available to Montana drivers, but Progressive has plans to take it national if it takes off.

Of course, the real question is how much can drivers save by practicing what Progressive preaches. The company says that drivers can cut up to 30% from their auto insurance costs, but they’ll have to toe the Progressive line on how the discount works. Plus, it includes a “Big Brother” aspect that consumers may not like.

Progressive drivers will have to clear the following hurdles to qualify:

  • After you sign up for the Snapshot program, Progressive sends you a device that plugs into the on-board diagnostic (OBD) port of your vehicle. The device records and sends the driving data to Progressive. It won’t measure where you are like a GPS does, but will measure how often you drive the car, and how far you go.
  • After 30 days, based on your driving habits, you will find out if you qualify for a discount. If you’re approved, you’ll immediately see that discount applied to your policy. In general, Progressive notes, people who drive less, drive safer, and drive during safer times of day are more likely to get a discount.
  • At the end of the six-month policy term, Progressive determines the renewal discount and the customer returns the device to the insurer.
  • You can’t play possum for a month and get the discount forever. After the trial period, Progressive reserves the right to periodically check in with customers to get an updated picture of their driving by asking them to once again plug in the “safe driving” device.

One consumer-friendly feature allows customers to use the plug-in device to check and see how they’re doing, safe driving-wise. Drivers can also measure their own progress during the 30-day trial period.

Call it a snapshot or a long shot, but at least auto insurers are putting more price controls into consumers’ hands.

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