Hooniverse Asks- Do You Use an Insurance Tracker?


More and more businesses are providing their derives either a la cart like the airlines which breakout things like baggage costs and the ability to use the restroom, or like some insurers as direct usage costs. An example of that latter is the tracking device that is offered to keep tabs on your driving habits and ensure that you’re telling the truth about how many miles you drive, and the assertion that you don’t take shortcuts through places like Chernobyl.

Allowing the insurer access to your actual driving data is offset by the company providing you with lower cost premiums, or so it goes. The thing of it is, with the Government listening in on all our phone calls, and reading our emails, and businesses keeping tabs on everything we buy or even look at, the amount of braking or accelerating force we use in our day to day driving seems a last bastion of privacy, and I wonder if you are willing to shed even that last crumb to save a few bucks? 

You know that eventually these kind of telemetric devices will be standard in all our new cars and trucks, mandated by the ease at which they provide both traffic flow and crash data, lowering costs for highway safety. Until then they seem to be the exception rather than the rule, and only a few insurance companies are even offering the plug-in modules at this time. As a means to save money, are you currently one of the pioneers of this big brother technology?

Image source: The Detroit Bureau  

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56 responses to “Hooniverse Asks- Do You Use an Insurance Tracker?”

  1. I Think Not Avatar
    I Think Not

    My insurance company doesn't offer one — at least, not one that will work on my DD (anyone ever seen a motorcycle with a OBD-II port?).
    I did have to drive a car that used one, though, for a weekend courier job I had for a few months. We were told an alert would be sent to the insurance provider and forwarded on to the company boss if we drove over 75, and that "there could be repercussions" for doing so.
    I was paranoid for the first couple of weeks, then I found myself carelessly going 78, and I had no idea how long I had been doing so. I fully expected to be fired, but I never heard a word. Either the threat was BS, or my boss was clever and told us the threshold was 5mph slower than it actually was. Whatever the case, I hated having that hanging over me, and I won't voluntarily submit to it as long as I have a choice.

    1. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar
      Peter Tanshanomi

      anyone ever seen a motorcycle with a OBD-II port?
      Triumphs, Benellis, and some KTMs and Aprilias use a standard J1962 OBD-II port.
      It would be interesting to see what a Snapshot could detect.

      1. dead_elvis Avatar

        Interesting in the same way that makes me wonder, just how high do those "your speed" signs register? Sounds like a challenge.

  2. JayP2112 Avatar

    I thought about getting the Progressive one for the 30 day trial.
    They might have an issue with the .98Gs on track day.
    But I'd never volunteer to have one and that mandated black box may keep me in "old" cars for the rest of my car buying days.

  3. Alff Avatar

    No. Although the older I get the less likely such a thing would cause me grief, I refuse on principle alone. Plus, I don't have OBD anything in the car I drive the most.

  4. robbydegraff Avatar

    I use the Progressive Snapshot and it has saved me a ton of money, I kid you not. Highly recommended.

    1. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar
      Peter Tanshanomi

      Several people have told me the same thing. Funny thing is, I haven't heard of anybody saying "I used the Snapshot and they came back and said, 'You're a frickin' maniac, we're raising your rates 300%.'" C'mon, not everybody can be above average.
      Maybe in the absence of specific data, they simply adjust charge everybody rates appropriate for the biggest frickin' maniac they can imagine.

      1. OA5599 Avatar

        I'm sure a lot of that is self-selection. The good drivers aren't afraid to sign up, because they know their tracking logs will be boring. The bad drivers are smart enough to stay away from the device.

        1. FЯeeMan Avatar

          Define "good" and "bad".
          I'd imagine that a lot of us here are "good" drivers, but would set off alarms constantly on one of these things, and, therefore, would never sign up for one.

          1. OA5599 Avatar

            Defining good and bad with whatever criteria the insurance company uses to generate the insurance discounts. Most drivers will have a good idea whether their driving style will conform to those parameters. If it isn't likely to conform, they don't sign up for the program. If it is likely to conform, then they get to decide whether the privacy intrusion is worth the discount.

        2. Scandinavian Flick ★ Avatar
          Scandinavian Flick ★

          That logic is kinda one of the things that concern me. "Hey, you don't want this device on your car? What are you trying to hide?"

          1. OA5599 Avatar

            It's probably already built into the rates, just like a person with good credit will usually wind up with better mortgage rates than someone with tanked credit. I think the more nefarious purposes will come later, when the insurers start to deny claims based on vehicle diagnostic codes that have been active too long, or not leaving a safe following distance between the car in front, etc.

          2. Scandinavian Flick ★ Avatar
            Scandinavian Flick ★

            I can definitely see this happening. Some companies already do their "due diligence" for even the most simple claims. Just a couple months ago, a thread popped up on Lotus Talk about Geico: http://www.lotustalk.com/forums/f323/if-you-g-co-
            TL;DR: Guy get's a couple parking lot dings on his Elise and get's Geico to cover it. Geico puts repairs on hold so they can "investigate the shop". A Geico rep contacts the owner and interrogates him over his posts on LT, Facebook, and his shared pictures, including a suspected "racing suit" which is actually a storm trooper costume…

  5. skitter Avatar

    'I heard the alarm many times — thirty-six times on one day, according to Progressive, whose spokesperson asked if I was joking or trying to drive like a maniac just to test the system. Honestly, I wasn't.' – Ezra Dyer

  6. P161911 Avatar

    I probably used one for a year or so inadvertently. State Farm offered to pay for a year of basic OnStar service for free. I didn't bother to read the fine print, they probably tracked everything.

  7. LTDScott Avatar

    <img src="http://images.sodahead.com/polls/002332051/3932197909_oh_hell_naw_answer_1_xlarge.jpeg"&gt;
    No way in the world would I want an insurance company knowing how I drive. Plus it'd piss me off knowing the oblivious drone in the Camry next to me is "safer" than I am, just because I like going around corners quickly.

  8. rennsport964 Avatar

    I'm pretty sure I would manage to let the smoke out while on the autocross course. So, no.

  9. BЯдΖǐL-ЯЄРΘЯΤЄЯ Avatar

    I´m still pissed of by the insurance company, they made it mandatory for my S10 truck this year. No truck can be insured without the device. I find that technology in many ways is becoming far too creepy.
    Google "creepy insurance" and that lady up there keeps poping up between other pictures.


    I'm curious, does anyone know how Progressive's Snapshot actually works? Is it just reading your OBD data, or does it have GPS capabilities as well? Because it seems like if all it can read are things like throttle percentage/accelerometer data/speed reading/etc without any ambient condition data that it's pretty useless. Will it give an alert to the company if I'm going 77mph, even if I'm in an 80 mph speed limit road, of which there are several around my area? Will it give an alert if I go to WOT, even though it might be necessary to make a safe merge onto a highway? Does it factor for the type of car it's attached to? My XJR is capable of accelerating and braking more forcefully at 60% effort than most economy cars are capable of at 100% effort. It just seems like without reference data that it's kind of useless.

    1. rennsport964 Avatar

      You should read Ezra Dyer's article mentioned above. It's remarkably stupid, probably to keep the costs down.

      1. CABEZAGRANDE Avatar

        Yep, the article answered all my questions, and as I thought it's a stupid system that rewards those idiots that plug up the roads of America by being ridiculously overcautious.

        1. Sjalabais Avatar

          How could they design something so simple and base such a significant decision on it? After all, from what I know, our "normal" car insurance cover is based on a wealth of data. The car, and how it's owners behave in general (like Audi Quattros being ridiculously more expensive than the FWD ones – because owners tend to appreciate slippery conditions first when they apply their brakes), age, sex, location, credit rating, information based on umbrella insurances and banking data, time insured including bonus and frequency of claims etc.
          And now "intensity of braking" is supposed to replace all that?
          I mostly drive on country roads, often with my small children in the car, and hardly ever use my brakes. The motor brake does most of the job. So to counteract rust on the discs and to keep the brakes in good shape, I usually brake hard when exiting the main road to my house and going on a smaller one. I also reverse-shoot down our 35 degree, 50m long driveway so the rear brakes get some action. In surveillance-insurance-logic that would probably be enough not to earn a big discount…?

          1. Vairship Avatar

            I guess I'll just fit a wood wedge under my brake pedal, to stop me from ever applying my brakes at more than 50%. That'll make me "safer", right?

      2. CABEZAGRANDE Avatar

        It also sounds like I'd be hitting triple-digit "chirp" count every day 🙂

  11. DonFehlio Avatar

    I haven't used one on my personal car, but during my last week of employment at the Hyundai dealer I used to work at, I was tasked with putting some miles on a new Azera that a customer brought in for some concern. This was one of the first BlueLink-equipped vehicles, and apparently they have a feature that sends the owner a text every time the vehicle goes over 80 MPH.
    So as I'm collecting my final paycheck, the service manager (who was the reason I was quitting) asked if I was the one who drove that customer's Azera. He then told me that the customer called him in a huff that he had received multiple text messages of his car being clocked at over 80 at various spots on I-15.

    1. LTDScott Avatar

      At least you didn't get caught street racing a new Lightning by the owner of the dealership like a co-worker of mine did when I worked at a Ford dealer.

  12. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar
    Peter Tanshanomi

    The Town Cow's GuardLamb™ watches everything I do. Fortunately, my insurance agent hasn't thought to interrogate her…yet.
    <img src="http://www.tanshanomi.com/temp/guardlamb.png"&gt;

  13. TurboBrick Avatar

    I don't trust these one bit. They'll get you comfortable with them by offering lower rates initially, but as as soon as they reach widespread acceptance they'll jack up the rates to where they were, and sky-high for anyone that doesn't have one.
    Also, what happens if you have to plug your car into a code reader to troubleshoot it? Will the insurance company see this as an attempt to circumvent monitoring and adjust your rates?

  14. Derek Avatar

    I drove a Tahoe with a Progressive thing in it while I was in Florida. The presence of 45 and 55 MPH roads with stop lights lead to several "alarms" when I safely stopped once the light turned yellow. I always joked, I guess I'm supposed to run the light.

    1. longrooffan Avatar

      You drive like a tourist!!

  15. CalculatedRisk Avatar

    I would never submit to a tracker like that, not even in a slow DD. On a related note, I loaned my sister my GPS when she took our Dad's Mini S on a road trip. She said she would take it easy. When I got the GPS back it had recorded a max speed of 138, the max of the Mini. Never told Dad but you can bet my sister doesnt get to borrow my GLI

    1. gomerpig Avatar

      Cool! Is she single?

  16. nataku83 Avatar

    I did… for the ~5 months that they required it. Progressive doesn't make you keep the thing on your car permanently, they just want to get a better representation of what your driving patterns are like. Reading the other comments, I think most people who don't like these things really don't know anything about them.

  17. GuyMan Avatar

    It's amazing to me that people don't see what a slippery slope this is

    1. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar
      Peter Tanshanomi

      Slippery slopes are fun! WEEEEE!

  18. MVEilenstein Avatar

    I have an almost spotless record (no tickets or accidents in 10 years), carry only liability on the F-150, and drive it less than 20 miles to work. My Geico insurance rate is almost rock-bottom. Can't see ever getting one of these, since my insurance can't get much cheaper.

  19. discontinuuity Avatar

    Whenever I see those commercials I ponder getting an old car and wiring up an OBDII port to random wires/sensors under the hood, like coolant temp, brake lights, cam angle sensor, etc. Basically just to send Progressive a bunch of junk data. Although now that I think about it, that would probably be considered insurance fraud.
    So the answer is no.

  20. Scandinavian Flick ★ Avatar
    Scandinavian Flick ★

    "Well Mr. Flick, our data here shows you are an avid church-goer. It's strange though… Our GPS data just shows you driving in circles in the parking lot…"

    1. FuzzyPlushroom Avatar

      "…with a wheel speed of 35 to 40 miles per hour…"

  21. Sjalabais Avatar

    No. I read about this in the Economist a couple of weeks ago. At the same time that I am not surprised that companies employ the technical possibilities here, I am also very much afraid of the implications for mandatory application later on. As someone with roots to the country that gave us both the Gestapo and the Stasi with only a historical blink since, I am more and more stunned at how willing people are to give away their data. Even worse: How hard it often is to protect oneself. If you want to take part in the modern world, or even just the Hooniverse 😉 you are forced to open up the gates to just about anyone who cares to write code tracking your activity online. The lack of oversight (and how powerful would an institution with oversight be?) gives me the creeps.
    And I drive like an idiot and don't want my insurance to know.

  22. salguod Avatar

    Nope, and if data transmitters ever become mandatory that may put me into a string of pre OBDII cars. The trick will be convincing my wife that we can't own anything newer than 1995.

  23. topdeadcentre Avatar

    G**co is pretty slimy.
    I insure with an insurer that doesn't use trackers. They're also really friendly and give good rates on house, cars, and an umbrella policy over everything (which is important, for example, if you ever get sued big-time for a car crash).

    1. Scandinavian Flick ★ Avatar
      Scandinavian Flick ★

      I saved a ton of money on my car insurance by no longer insuring with Geico!

  24. Van_Sarockin Avatar

    Such things are the works of Satan. They harm us all, even if you insurance rate goes to zero. Seriously, the insurance company is not implementing this because it's better for you. They only do it because it's better for them. It's bad enough that your OBDII will dime you out after an accident, or any time the cops ask.

    1. Vairship Avatar

      It wouldn't bother me if they ended up with a system that actually did it's job: a system that had cameras all around to adequately judge the traffic situation, measured g-forces instead of just throttle position, had GPS to determine what road you were on at the time, basically had all the same inputs that we as drivers have, and after an accident was reviewed buy reasonable people that actually know how to drive. That way, the person actually responsible for could be held accountable. I.e., if a little old biddy drives her Prius up the freeway on-ramp at 20 mph and slides it right in front of the 18 wheeler doing 55, SHE would be found guilty of the resulting accidents, not the guy in his Lotus doing 75 mph in the left lane who gets taken out by the jack-knifing eighteen wheeler.
      But trying to use OBDII (designed to reduce emissions, NOT to measure safe driving behavior) is lunacy. Yes, I sometimes use full throttle (such as in the old biddies situation, where I would plant the accelerator to get up to 65 mph before safely merging far enough ahead of the 18 wheeler and accelerating away from him…), to REDUCE the chances of an accident. Similarly I sometimes brake hard to avoid hitting idiots cutting me off. Should I stop doing that?
      The problem is not so much that they're trying to use a black box to determine who was at fault, as long as that black box gives correct info. the problem is OBDII can't do that.

  25. C³-Cool Cadillac Cat Avatar
    C³-Cool Cadillac Cat

    I would NEVER voluntarily do this, and I have a pretty mellow daily commute.
    I don't want them knowing how long my commute is, how often I punch it…nothing. Saving what will amount to likely very little money is not worth the potential abuse, for me at least.
    Then again, I'm in my mid-40's, house, two cars, no tickets/wrecks, so it's pretty low as it is. I think about $1150/yr for both my wife and I.
    Being in Fort Worth doesn't hurt, either…well, at least as far as car insurance rates go.

  26. marcus Avatar

    Those who give up their rights (to privacy; remember that data,once collected, exists forever and can be used by anyone in a position of authority for whatever they want) in exchange for a few dollars off on car insurance deserve what they get. That's not a bargain I will make voluntarily.

  27. seguin Avatar

    I don't like being tracked. Period.
    Which is why I really need to get TOR set up on my computer – if it isn't already compromised.

  28. HTWHLS Avatar

    Why would you voluntarily give up your right to privacy? For a few dollars? Seriously, how sad. It's bad enough the black boxes in cars are logging everything and NEVER delete it. But if you're in an accident, whether or not it's your fault, that information will be pulled and I guaran-damn-tee it won't be helpful to you. States in the US all have "Comparative Negligence laws" that come into play during automobile accidents. if there is the tiniest piece of data that can be used against you, it will be; by the policy, the other insurance company..or your own.
    All the blather that you own the data is false. As long as it's electronic, it will be out there. Many cars are already sending this data via the satellite links to the OEM/dealer. How do you think you get those friendly emails that you are about due for an oil change/service?

    1. lilpoindexter Avatar

      "…the black boxes in cars are logging everything and NEVER delete it…"
      Right you are sir…I recently had to take a class on medium duty Allison 1000/2000 series transmissions. The Allison instructor informed us that the Transmissions's controller records every single stinking shift/event/code/lack of maintenance etc. ever made in that transmission from day 1 until the vehicle is scrapped. If the vehicle has a J1939 databus (pretty much everything today, even a crude truck) someone could record the same date from the vehicle's other computers and get a 100% accurate picture of what you were doing at any point in the vehicle's life.

      1. Sjalabais Avatar

        Wow, that was new to me. How is this kind of data collection regulated?

        1. Vairship Avatar

          Regulated? This is "small government", they cut out all the regulating, only the spying part of the Government is left…
          /adjusts tin foil hat

  29. Bryce Womeldurf Avatar

    I used one in the past. The thing is, I drove as smooth as I usually do and right before I was to turn in the tracker, my rate went up. So, the with the tracker results bringing the rate down, it pretty much came out in almost a wash but with just a slight bump up in rate. I changed insurance shortly after that. It was probably just bad timing on their part to increase my rate but still, it's the principle of the thing.
    The big brother aspect never bothered me. Not getting the rate cut I deserved did.

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