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If you’re driving less these days than you used to, like many Americans are because of the pandemic, you might be able to shave a few bucks off your monthly auto insurance bill — if you are willing to trade some of your privacy in exchange for a discount.
Getting a break on car insurance premiums for good driving habits has been around for a while. Smartphones and GPS have made these discounts easily available to anyone willing to have their driving tracked by an insurer.
“Especially now, we’re at a time where people are really looking for where they can save money,” says Scott Holeman, director of media relations at the Insurance Information Institute. “This is one area where you can. These programs could really help lower auto insurance rates for some.”
Most of the big car insurance companies offer usage-based insurance discounts. Drive Safe & Save, State Farm’s usage-based discount program, has one of the highest discounts available: up to 30% for the safest drivers.
How Does It Work?
Drive Safe & Save and other usage-based programs use auto telematics, which is technology for monitoring vehicles. This technology relies on cellular and GPS functions, plus onboard diagnostics, to gather and transmit driving data like location, driving speed, distance traveled, and time of use. OnStar, for example, is one of the more popular auto telematics systems. It can be used to help locate stolen vehicles, for example, or help you find your car.
To enroll in Drive Safe & Save, you’ll need to download a smartphone app or use OnStar. The Drive Safe & Save app is available for iPhone and Android smartphones. If you’re using OnStar, call 888-4-ONSTAR (888-466-7827) or just press the OnStar’s blue button.
Next you’ll need a Bluetooth beacon, which State Farm will send you via mail. You attach the beacon to your windshield behind the rearview mirror, and then you’re good to go. Once you start using the program, it will track everything from the time of day you make a trip to how fast you brake.
You’ll be assigned a safety rating based on your driving habits. This safety rating is used to calculate the discount you’ll receive on your monthly premium.
If you want to save money using any auto telematics discount program, you need to be a careful driver. Be honest with yourself about how safely you drive before signing up.
After signing up, the State Farm Drive Safe & Save program automatically gives you a 10% discount. After six months, your driving will be evaluated for a discount of up to 30%. (State Farm says that in some cases, discounts may go above 30%.)
“State Farm offers one of the highest potential discounts in comparison to other companies like Progressive, Allstate, Travelers and Safeco Insurance,” says Katie Sopko, an independent insurance broker at Learnandserve.org.
What Driving Habits Does It Monitor?
It’s important to know that you don’t have to worry about tickets or accidents with this program. Drive Safe & Save doesn’t track that data. However, the program tracks almost everything else.
“State Farm tracks more driving attributes than other companies,” says Sopko. Because of this, you’d be giving up more of your privacy compared to similar programs. “Consumers need to decide if the higher discount is worth the risk of those additional data tracking factors,” Sopko notes.
State Farm Drive Safe & Save reviews your score and assigns your discount “based on your annual mileage and driving characteristics,” the company says. Here’s all the driving information the program collects:
Acceleration — The Drive Safe & Save app will dock you for accelerating too fast, so you’ll have to pay attention how fast you speed up after the car is stopped. The idea here is that quick acceleration can make the car hard to control.
Braking — If you stop too fast, you’ll lose points, too. State Farm says it understands that braking quickly is sometimes unavoidable, but doing it often can mean you’re following the car in front of you too closely. Even if you have to drive in busy traffic that requires frequent braking, you’ll still receive a lower score.
Cornering — The app doesn’t like sharp turns. The reasoning behind this is that you should give yourself enough time to make a steady, safe turn. Again, if you’re in busy traffic, keeping your score up in this area might be difficult.
Using your phone — The app tracks your phone use whenever the car is moving, so looking at your phone while driving will affect your safety score. It’s important to pay attention to this, because if the app is turned on and records a trip when you’re a passenger and looking at your phone, this can also affect your safety rating. This only happens in your own car, though. If you are a passenger in a vehicle that does not have a Bluetooth beacon paired with your phone, State Farm says, the app will not register the trip.
Speed — The app tracks the speed limit of the road you’re on, and your rating will go down if you exceed that speed limit by eight miles per hour or more. Some of us like driving fast on empty highways, which should be avoided if you want to get the most out of this program.
Time of Day — If you drive late at night, then you could lose points. The same goes for driving when traffic is too heavy. The idea here is that driving during heavy traffic or late at night increases the risk of accidents. If your work schedule means you have to drive during these times regularly, this program may not offer much benefit.
After you get to your destination, the app will show you the map of your route and any driving events along the way. State Farm says that “while not everything the app shows you impacts your discount, they all contribute toward you being the safest driver you can be.”
How Does It Help Me Save?
Drive Safe & Save can reduce up to a third of your monthly premium, but you’ll have to drive very, very cautiously to obtain that much discount. Unless you’re a very safe or occasional driver, the more likely scenario is you’ll save somewhere around 10% to 15% — and even then you’ll need to drive carefully.
“You have to go into it understanding what the expectations of the program are and what the monitoring will be doing, and also have a good understanding of your driving and experience,” Holeman says.
The app records your driving habits every moment you’re behind the wheel, and if you have a high enough rating at the end of six months, you’ll receive a discount. But a nice perk is that you get a 5% discount just for signing up. This discount goes away if you leave the program, which you can do at any time.
Is the Drive Safe & Save Program Worth It?
If you are a very safe driver or drive rarely, then this program can save you money on car insurance. But the program has strict guidelines for safe driving, which is something to keep in mind.
“Some of the downsides of the Drive Safe & Save program are that braking hard is sometimes unavoidable especially in busy areas, and the interstate,” Sopko says.
“This mobile app also tracks how much the client uses their phone,” Sopko adds. “Many people today use car rides as an opportunity to catch up with family or take care of family matters using their phone. This feature can be bothersome and drives down the customer’s overall rating, which affects their discount.”
The program could actually increase your overall car insurance premium if you currently receive a premium reduction for low estimated annual mileage. If the app clocks your mileage at over 7,500 miles annually, then your policy renewal will reflect the higher mileage in your premium.
Frequently Asked Questions About the State Farm Drive Safe & Save Program
How often are discounts calculated?
The discount you receive from Drive Safe & Save is adjusted at each policy renewal, which is usually every six months. Your discount can decrease or increase during this time.
Are all cars in a household required to participate?
No, only the car receiving the discount must participate. If you have multiple cars listed in a policy, you don’t have to include them all in the program.
Where can I see my program discount?
The discount amount can be viewed on the State Farm mobile app or on your Drive Safe & Save account page, which is listed at statefarm.com.
This story has been updated with new information from State Farm.