Should I let my insurance company monitor my driving?
October 12, 2018 10:33 AM   Subscribe

I now have an insurance agent, apparently. While he was going over car insurance, he slipped in this thing about a dongle that plugs into the car diagnostic port and monitors for speeding above 80MPH, hard braking, late night trips, and total mileage. Should I let my new insurance company monitor our driving habits to save some money? (Given that we barely drive, it would save money.) What are the social implications - should I feel bad for making society more Orwellian if I agree to this, and does it matter? Or has the avalanche already begun anyway?
posted by RedOrGreen to Grab Bag (25 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I've done this. I save 17% on my car insurance now, mostly because I don't drive it that often, speed or brake hard. One assurance I received from my insurance agent is that the monitoring is done by a third party, which simply provides a ranking to the insurance company. Clearly they can figure out the safety factor based on the ranking, but it made me feel slightly better.

For me, I felt that we had already hit that slippery slope. There was nothing in my driving to make me concerned, so I felt that they should have that information so I wasn't penalized by the generalized demographic I was in.
posted by valoius at 10:38 AM on October 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

We did the dongle (heh) for a different insurance company and it was only for a few weeks. Then we returned it at the end of the period and got our respective discounts. Is your dongle for the term of the insurance or just for a short period to see what kind of drivers you are?

To be honest, the discount didn't feel significant and it was super touchy per vehicle. I felt it over considered any hard braking I did and under considered all of the hard braking my spouse did (I may or may not still be bitter at its booDEEP noise when there was a faster brake). It wasn't ground-breaking.
posted by jillithd at 10:38 AM on October 12, 2018

What is the policy concerning your recorded driving data when an accident happens?
posted by JoeZydeco at 10:49 AM on October 12, 2018 [5 favorites]

I don't have any particular opinion on them, but my parents have one and it ironically has forced them to drive more than they otherwise would. They park in an underground garage, and if the dongle can't "phone home" frequently enough (once a month maybe?) there's apparently all sorts of hassle with the insurance company. They're forced to take the car out and drive it around so the thing can reach back to the servers, even they otherwise wouldn't be driving.
posted by backseatpilot at 10:58 AM on October 12, 2018

They're already using so much of your data that holding the line here seems somewhat pointless. It'll save you money, and it might even make you drive a little safer just because you're thinking about it.
posted by Etrigan at 11:00 AM on October 12, 2018

I went through this same debate recently and decided not to do it. It's too blatantly orwellian for me to be worth the mental load.
posted by craven_morhead at 11:16 AM on October 12, 2018 [23 favorites]

I did this. One thing to bear in mind is that the dongle doesn't care why you brake hard - just that you do. So it was kind of frustrating that it beeped when I narrowly avoided hitting a car that jutted out in front of me. However, it decided I was a safe driver, and I did get the discount. And I'd rather get a discount because they've monitored my driving than because I'm a particular age, sex, etc., which is what they normally do (and probably do anyway).

I feel that the powers that be have so much information on me anyway that this isn't my tipping point. (And I've never had Facebook because I didn't like the idea of turning the details of my life over to some corporation, with privacy rules that can change any time.)
posted by FencingGal at 11:32 AM on October 12, 2018

Response by poster: Should have included this:
The device you plug into your vehicle collects information that is sent back to Allstate over a secure wireless connection. The device also collects a few additional items and we want to make you aware of everything we collect from the device.
posted by RedOrGreen at 11:46 AM on October 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

I had a dongle. It was totally unobtrusive. Plugged it in and forgot about it. The deal was that based on my driving the rate could go down, but they would not use any of the information to raise my rate, or use it against me in any way.

At the end of a period of time (can't remember how long) I returned the dongle in a postpaid envelope. A couple of weeks later I received a notice indicating I had been granted an 11% discount.

I understand how some might find this yucky, but for me, I agree with Etrigan. Like, inside some database somewhere there's a bit of information about my driving habits? So what?

Ymmv, but it seemed worth it to me.
posted by elf27 at 11:47 AM on October 12, 2018

I did this will Progressive. It was an awful experience. I rarely drive (I've walked to work for most of my adult life) so all my driving is weekend errand driving. I ran many yellow/red lights while this thing was plugged into my car because if I slammed on the brakes, or even just braked faster than allowed, I'd get dinged. If some jerk pulled out in front of me and I had to stop suddenly, I'd get dinged (Progressive's device literally DINGED when this happened, too, it was ridiculous). One on trip, I had somebody slam on the brakes in front of me and then another driver cut me off -- two dings within a minute. It made me furious. It also gave me a small discount on my car insurance, maybe 10% or something, which disappeared as soon as I moved to another state -- they told me I could get the SnapShot device again in my new state if I wanted the discount. It made me a very nervous drive the whole time it was installed in my car. YMMV but for me, never again.
posted by jabes at 11:50 AM on October 12, 2018 [4 favorites]

You'll probably hear more from people who have done this than those who haven't, because the larger implications are depressing and make people shy away from dwelling on this. So, if the overall impression you get here is "I did it, and it wasn't a big deal", well, sure, the main issues aren't ones of usability, intrusiveness, or problems for those who think they are fine drivers.

Unfortunately, the real problems are hard to explain concisely. Why would I want less-than-perfect (to an insurance company) people to have the ability to purchase reasonably-priced insurance? I do, though. I really, really do.
posted by amtho at 12:09 PM on October 12, 2018 [5 favorites]

Not worth it in my opinion. Savings are minimal and I prefer to make it as hard as possible for companies to track and sell my data. Just because.
posted by ReiFlinx at 12:37 PM on October 12, 2018 [6 favorites]

This doesn't apply nearly as much if it's a temporary thing like some people here have described, but if this is a thing that lives in your car full-time I would worry very much that your insurance company would use information from your dongle to decide that something that wasn't your fault actually was, or was x% your fault, and either refuse to cover you or raise your rates afterwards.

I mean, look at it directly: this costs $X to provide to people. The insurance company must believe that they're going to receive more than $X in new money, or reduce their payouts by more than $X, or some combination. They aren't doing this to be kind to you or to save you money; they're an insurance company and give not the slightest shit about your welfare.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 1:14 PM on October 12, 2018 [13 favorites]

You might do comparison shopping with Metromile, which uses a dongle because they bill by the mile (fantastic if you don't drive much, as I don't) but do not at this point base any costs on those other things. That could change, I suppose, but their primary line of business is insuring Lyft and Uber drivers so their priorities are elsewhere I think.

I actually really love the dongle because it knows where my car is parked, including if it's on a street with sweeping restrictions.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:09 PM on October 12, 2018

I would opt out of this, especially after seeing that they collect GPS data in addition to driving style data. I prefer to minimize location sharing with third parties. Location privacy aside, you have limited insight into what inferences they are making about you based on the data collected and it's unclear how the data might be used for other purposes within the insurance company. It's also unclear how those data might be shared with third parties and government agencies. For me personally the creepiness factor outweighs the small cost savings.
posted by 4rtemis at 2:26 PM on October 12, 2018 [8 favorites]

I was offered this service and declined. Part of it was a long commute, the unpredictablness of Chicago traffic, I drive a manual and wondered far to extensively about acceleration measurements and gearshifting if it was based on rpms on mph or... Etc for something I wasnt going to do.

I also had privacy concerns.with GPS. I also worry that even though right now the incentive is possible discounts that will be mandated in the future . I also have corncerns about how the self selection skews data and will ultimately be motives for increased general prices for the average driver. So, all that combined was a clear no go me.

In the long tun, I don't know that it matters. These programs have been around for a few years and are getting more common. There's also plenty of onboard data, plus services like OnStar is capible of doing similar tracking at this point (I'm not exactly sure what it collects to be honest). The data is out there and insurance is going to insurance.
posted by AlexiaSky at 2:40 PM on October 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

I would never do this, but I hate surveillance full stop. I would tear apart every monitoring box, dashcam and CCTV camera in the world with my bare hands if I could. However, I realise my position on this is quite extreme (and trauma-informed).
posted by terretu at 3:32 PM on October 12, 2018 [8 favorites]

I wouldn’t do it. But, in my case, I drive the interstate a lot, and, in my neck of the woods, if you drive the speed limit, you’re basically a road block. So, the upshot is that I drive over the speed limit a lot, just to stay with the flow of traffic. If I had one of those dongles, I’d definitely get dinged for speeding, even though I’m the slowest car on the road.

There’s also the issue of being penalized based on where you take your car. If you visit a loved one a lot, and their home happens to be in an area the insurance company frowns upon, you’re going to get dinged.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:27 PM on October 12, 2018 [3 favorites]

I'm on team absolutely not.

I also wish that more people reacted strongly to their privacy being eroded, rather than it becoming the norm. If insurance companies want to charge per-mile, there are way less intrusive ways of obtaining that data (hello, odometer).

I can't avoid how much I'm monitored when I'm on a computer or if I use a credit card, but I find meat-space tracking creepy. It feels like a risk to my physical security. Companies don't get to know where I am if I have any ability to control it at all (e.g. my cellphone battery is only installed when I need to use it).
posted by Metasyntactic at 4:31 PM on October 12, 2018 [5 favorites]

We were offered this but declined because we live in a rural area where we often have to slam on the breaks to avoid deer, and we didn't want to degrade our breaking instincts. YMMV (ha ha punny).
posted by sdrawkcaSSAb at 4:37 PM on October 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

I would never do this, ever, except at gunpoint: when you do it, you make it harder for people like myself and some others to live in the world. I’d encourage against it.
posted by corb at 4:51 PM on October 12, 2018 [4 favorites]

I wouldn't do this, at least in part because I live in NYC where driving necessitates a fair amount of rule-fudging (and hard braking) just to get by and I'd think that the dongle assumes that everyone is driving in, I don't know, Phoenix. That, and the creepiness factor.

Then I reread your question and saw it is measuring how often you drive late at night and that's just...HELL NO. I would not be in any way comfortable giving this kind of information to an insurance company. Big Brother does not need to know your schedule.
posted by breakin' the law at 5:01 PM on October 12, 2018 [7 favorites]

Couple of people have already mentioned that such devices increase the ability of insurers to cherrypick those drivers perceived to offer a low risk & reduce their premiums, which - of course - means that premiums for everyone else will go up. Insurance works best for all parties when risks are pooled across a varied population.

There's a very good summary here:

So, I vote "no".
posted by rd45 at 10:44 AM on October 13, 2018 [2 favorites]

We did this with Progressive and while annoying, the savings were well worth it! It's just an inconvenience, do it! Penny saved, and all that.
posted by agregoli at 5:24 AM on October 15, 2018

rd45 makes a good point that reducing the pooling of risk is to society's detriment. However, on the other hand it's to society's benefit for reckless drivers to be made to take insurance whose cost is proportionate to their riskiness - and to be given the opportunity to improve (and verify) their safe driving skills.

My hunch is that in the medium term, this will be offered by most insurers and it will become so common among drivers that those who opt out will become the minority. As this continues, the pool of opt-outs (made up of a mixture of reckless drivers and principled objectors) will find their insurance fees increase and increase - because they are effectively marking themselves out as higher-risk drivers.

Probably along the way, a government might choose to make it mandatory to allow your driving style to be automatically assessed; but even if they don't, the way the insurance fees will change in the long term will have the effect of making it mandatory in practice.
posted by vincebowdren at 9:27 AM on October 15, 2018

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