How do auto insurance tracking devices work? – Geek Review


If you’re a good driver, you could save some money.

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The gas pump isn’t the only thing that hits your wallet. Auto insurance rates continue to rise and many drivers are looking for ways to save money. Car insurance tracking devices are available from most insurance companies these days, but what are they and how do they work?

Car insurance tracking devices are also known as “driver monitors” and you’ve probably seen options for usage-based insurance discounts and premiums that use a tracking device.

These devices connect to your car or are app-based and collect data about your driving habits, potentially offering discounts for safe drivers or those who don’t drive often. Here are the basics and what you need to know.

What is an auto insurance tracker?

Progressive Snapshot Plugin Tracking

A car insurance tracker is a plug-in device or smartphone app that tracks your vehicle, driving habits, etc., and can save you up to 30% on your insurance rates. One of the first that comes to mind is the Progressive Snapshot, which can provide bonuses based on usage.

These devices all use GPS and other sensors, many of which are already inside your phone. Then insurance companies use the collected data to see if you are a safe driver.

There are two main types of car insurance trackers available. The first is basically a dongle that the user plugs into the OBD-II port under the steering wheel. It plugs into the same location the DMV uses to smog a vehicle. This is the “on-board diagnostics” port, which can access information from the vehicle’s computer.

The second is an app that you can download to your phone. Mobile apps use your phone’s GPS, data, accelerometer, and other sensors to track movement and driving. The type of tracker depends on your insurer or plan and may vary by user and region.

Lately we’re seeing most insurers ditch the dongle in favor of mobile apps, then you’ll connect the app to a Bluetooth-enabled device provided by your insurance and place it in your car. Some of them include Progressive Snapshot, Drive Safe & Save by State Farm, DriveEasy by Geico and others.

How do these insurance trackers actually work?

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So how do these devices work and what do they track? Again, this varies by brand, but the device or app will track your driving habits, location, vehicle information and potentially more. Insurers provide the dongle or app under a usage-based insurance (UBI) program.

Then it will gather metrics, including speed, hard braking, mileage, and even time of day, to formulate your monthly insurance premium. Here is a typical list of what you can expect from the device or app:

  • Driving speed
  • Driver Acceleration Style
  • Braking habits (how hard you brake, etc.)
  • Steering (fast turns, tight turns, etc.)
  • Driving time, length, direction and distance (day or night driving)
  • Mileage
  • Driving place
  • Phone usage (on app-based trackers)
  • and more

As you can see, these devices or smartphone applications collect a lot of information. And while insurance companies understand that hard braking is sometimes a part of life, the system can factor in critical information about your location, traffic lights and speed limits.

Insurance companies know that certain situations happen on busy roads, but if you constantly drive erratically, they will recognize it. On the other hand, if you are a safe driver, the system will collect this data and you will get a lower insurance premium.

Car Insurance Tracker Advantages and Disadvantages

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As you can probably imagine, there are several pros and cons to using an auto insurance tracking program. The most obvious benefit is that you will get a lower insurance premium and save money, especially if you drive carefully or don’t drive very often.

Also, if you speed frequently, drive through stop signs, and don’t have good driving habits, you might not want one in your car. You could potentially raise your rates. Insurance companies tend to say “you’ll get a discount no matter what,” but that’s not always the case.

All of these insurance tracking devices track your location using GPS. Knowing the location of your vehicle has several benefits outside of pricing. For example, location data can help first responders in the event of an accident, help recover a stolen or towed vehicle, and much more.

Another huge benefit for parents is the ability to track or monitor child and teen drivers. Many of these platforms offer an app allowing parents to see when and where children are going, speeds and other risky behavior. It’s a great way to keep track of children or elderly family members.

However, with all the data insurers collect, privacy is a concern. According to Insurance Information Institutemany states have legislation ensuring that insurance companies are open, honest, and transparent about the information collected.

That said, remember that your insurance company will have a ton of information about you, where you’re going, driving speeds and more. And, as we said earlier, some of the app-based programs can and will track phone usage, which could lower rates if you’re actively using a mobile device and texting while driving.

Should I use a car insurance tracker?

odometer reading car

So, is an insurance tracking device or driver monitor worth considering? Honestly, we can’t answer that question for you. There are obviously several huge advantages. Whether it’s tracking your kids, finding a stolen vehicle, or saving money every month.

Again, privacy is a growing concern (in general) these days. Where does this information go? Does the company sell data and can you refuse to share specific details? These are all questions you will want to ask your supplier.

At the end of the day, it’s up to you. If you’re a safe driver with good habits, you might benefit. Those who don’t exceed the speed limit, rarely drive at night or even drive less than 11,000 miles a year can qualify for discounts.

Some auto insurance companies even have an app you can download and run for a few days as a test, then see if you could qualify for any savings plans. Either way, remember that if you have a car insurance tracker, every move you make in a vehicle will be tracked, monitored, and aggregated into a data point.


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