Want To Save Big On Car Insurance? Get An Obnoxious Nanny

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt

In what “could herald a new era in auto insurance” (if the Wall Street Journal is right), Progressive “introduced a new type of car insurance that offers a discount to policyholders based on real-time information about how and when they drive.”

And how will Progressive obtain all that info? You guessed it, with a gizmo. Plugged into the OBD system, Snapshot “keeps track of your good driving habits,” as the particularly obnoxious Flo commercial promises. “In fact, Snapshot cares only about a few small things. Like how hard you brake, when you are on the road, the miles you drive.”

So what about bad driving habits? “Other stuff like how fast you drive or where you drive – it just doesn’t care about that,” promises Flo with the combined credence of Benedict Arnold, Pinocchio and Bernie Madoff.

Actually, “The only thing it cares about is saving you money.”

Ok, let’s add Richard Nixon.

The gizmo is part of Progressive’s “Pay As You Drive®” (yep, they trademarked that) program. It should be renamed to “Save While You Stop™”. Progressive offers snap-shot drivers discounts of up to 30 percent, if they brake gently, if they don’t drive during rush hour, and if they stay at home between midnight and 4am.

Basically, the less you drive, the more you save. Most likely you will achieve the full 30 percent savings when you don’t drive at all. Say hello to your car’s ankle bracelet. Oh, Progressive says the gizmo does not contain a GPS and won’t know how fast you go where. (Maybe speed does not kill. Or that feature is left for Snapshot 2.0)

“Other insurers—most notably Allstate Corp.—are working hard to catch up with their own usage-based insurance offerings,” threatens the Journal.

Progressive meanwhile is working on the next-gen Snapshot. Progressive Chief Executive Glenn Renwick told the Journal that in a few years, the gizmo will be obsolete. The data would be gathered from a customer’s cellphone instead.

In the meantime, let’s hope Progressive keeps the insufferable Flo commercials. They might be the biggest barrier to entry.

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  • Zackman Zackman on Mar 21, 2011

    Guess who will be ultimately designing cars in the near future? Many years ago (1972), the USDOT came up with their version of a "safe" car. It looked oddly like a 1980 Crown Vic, only squarer and heavier, no style at all and a periscope for rear visibility! We're on our way!

  • Jerome10 Jerome10 on Mar 21, 2011

    I have to say, I'm actually intrigued by this device. I love to drive. I love to drive quick. I have never been involved in even a fender bender. I have about the lowest possible rates I think I can have for someone my age, with my car (GTI), etc. On one hand, I don't like the idea that they would know some of my driving habits. Yes, I like to hit the gas hard, rip to redline sometimes. Does that affect the decision? They may think it means I'm unsafe, is that true? ABS kicking in is another. I live in Idaho. It snows a lot. You slide. ABS, stability come on frequently in winter. How does that work? I also saw an article this past weekend saying it WOULD keep track of how often a driver passes 80mph. This post says it wouldn't. Which is correct? And even if I do hit 80mph (I usually cruise about that speed in a 70mph zone) what is the problem here? Some parts (not enough, IMHO) of America that is the speed limit. How do they know I'm not in Texas or Utah? On the flip, if it is more accurate, then I think why not? If it saves money, plus currently they're just guessing what type of driver I am. Oh, he's 30, he has a GTI, he's single, his credit score is XYZ....could all be COMPLETELY wrong. But I'm charged for fitting a profile I may not actually fit. so in some way, I could see this as actually more fair than the current system. So I'm stuck. I'm very tempted. I could always try it and go back if I don't like it. But there are too many questions I think. What EXACTLY do they monitor? How does this thing work, legally, if I am involved in an accident? Could save $100 a year on insurance only to find the stupid thing makes me instantly guilty in a court should something happen, and I'm on the hook for something far more expensive. Can they share the data with others? Etc.

    • Telanon Telanon on Mar 21, 2011

      You can find answers to nearly all of your questions on Progressive's site here: http://www.progressive.com/auto/snapshot-common-questions.aspx . The one that you won't find there is the reference to driving over 80 mph that you mentioned seeing in another article. If you check, I think you'll find that was in the description of Allstate's product named Drive Wise(SM), not about Snapshot. Progressive did take high speeds into account in an earlier field-trial version, but say they do not in the current product Snapshot. They capture speed in order to calculate deceleration (see below) which goes into their discount calculation, but speed itself does not affect the discounts. They say their discounts take into account three things about how the vehicle is driven (they don't know or care who is driving): 1) miles driven; 2) day and time of day driving takes place: and 3) frequency of "hard braking", which they define as a drop in speed of 7 miles per hour or more in one second. They use the hard-braking frequency as an indicator of aggressive driving. They consider some number of hard-braking events each month to be normal, so avoiding an accident by braking hard won't effect the rate unless that happens too frequently.

  • RHD The only people who would buy this would be those convinced by a website that they are great, and order one sight-unseen. They would have to have be completely out of touch with every form of media for the last year. There might actually be a few of these people, but not very many. They would also have to be completely ignorant of the Hyundai Excel. (Vinfast seems to make the original Excel look like a Camry in comparison.)
  • RHD This was awesome, in 1978. Now, it's very much obsolete - thirsty, slow, ponderous, noisy, rough, and dated design even in its time. Still, someone who wants to recreate some distant memories will buy it and restore it and enjoy it, and the seller just has to find that particular individual.
  • BEPLA Cybertruck may have made some kind of weird sense had it been brought on market on time, ie: before Rivian and F150 Lightning.But the market has progressed.If this were any normal company it would be ditched for a more competitive product.But in Elon's narcissistic dreamworld - well, we'll just see how it flops.
  • RHD If you want to 'win', just to to the local auto parts store and buy the stuff that you really want and need. Then you don't have to wonder if you'll ever actually get anything.
  • Bullnuke Farago was absolutely correct. I should have been allowed to die. It was never "Too Big To Fail" - It would have been bought up, perhaps in pieces, and the failing portions would have disappeared much as they did later while GM had control with Pontiac as an example. There would have been a small chance (well, very small chance) that the hide-bound corporate leadership would have been purged and injected with new ideas and direction. Wasn't allowed to happen as organized labor had a very large finger on the scale during that time...