Ask a Customer Experience Expert: Car Ownership 101

 

The following is a post from Isabel Siragusa, a Customer Experience Expert at Metromile.

Dealing with car trouble is never easy. It’s costly, inconvenient, and hard to know who to trust with fixing your car. As a Customer Experience Expert at Metromile and a car owner in a busy city like San Francisco, I feel your pain. I may talk car insurance every day, but when I first started, I realized I knew very little about how my own car works. Since Metromile is all about making car ownership as simple and affordable as possible, I’ve compiled a list of things that I think every car owner should know.

car maintenance

 

Do your homework. Every car works a little differently. Whether you are trying to figure out how much air to put in your tires or where to check your oil, it’s worth doing a little research before calling for help. Many answers can be found with a quick internet search or in your owner’s manual. You might even save some money because mechanics sometimes charge extra if you don’t know what you are talking about. And if you have the Metromile driving app, you can diagnose car troubles right from your smartphone.

Geography matters. According to my mechanic, if you’re living in San Francisco, the hills are going to cut the lifespan of your brakes in half. And if you are in Chicago, cold weather could put a lot of pressure on your car which means your tires and battery won’t last as long. If you can, park the front of your car near to a building to keep it warm.

Know the basics. There are a few car maintenance tips that all owners should know:

Dealing with flat tires. Don’t freak out if your tire looks like it might be losing air, but definitely deal with it or you’ll end up spending more on gas. If you can drive, go to the nearest gas station. Note that tire pressure readers at gas stations are generally inaccurate, so bring your own gauge (Metromile will even send you one for free). And if you’ve driven more than a few miles, the reading might be high because driving increases air pressure. After filling up the tire, check it again in a few hours. If it’s decreasing slowly, find a local tire store. If it’s in the 20s or lower, call a tow truck.Even if you don’t have a flat, it’s good to still your tires properly inflated. Most cars have an optimal PSI between 30 and 40. If you look on the side of your tire, you’ll find the maximum PSI. Don’t go over that number and ideally stay somewhere slightly below. Make sure all four tires have the same amount of air in them. If you need to let air out, push the pin on the air valve in towards the tire.

Even if you don’t have a flat, it’s good to still your tires properly inflated. Most cars have an optimal PSI between 30 and 40. If you look on the side of your tire, you’ll find the maximum PSI. Don’t go over that number and ideally stay somewhere slightly below. Make sure all four tires have the same amount of air in them. If you need to let air out, push the pin on the air valve in towards the tire.

Changing your oil on a regular basis. I’ll be perfectly honest. I’ve never done this myself, but you can easily have this done by a mechanic. Changing your oil keeps your car running smoothly and extends the life of the vehicle. Try to get it changed every 5,000 miles, and if you live in a cold climate then you should do it more often. If you want to check your oil level before it gets changed, locate the oil in the front of the engine and pull out the dipstick, wiping it clean. Dip and pull it out again, and you should see two lines. If you don’t, you can buy more oil at the gas station. When you are checking your oil level you can also see if it’s time for the oil to be changed altogether. If you see dirt when you rub the oil between your fingers then its probably time.

Fixing your brakes. Squeaky brakes are never a good sign because they mean the brake lining is starting to wear thin. But how long can you go until you need to get them repaired? The longer you wait, the more expensive it’ll be. If you notice squeaky brakes or your brake light comes on, you don’t need to stop your car on the side of the ride, but you should get them serviced soon. According to my mechanic, you still have 20% of the pad left which could be up to 2000 miles. However, if your brakes start to grind or grumble it means you’ve worn through the pad and it’s definitely time to see a mechanic!

Hope this helps! If you want more tips, send us a tweet @Metromile .

Get Your Car Road Trip Ready

 

Memorial Day Weekend is upon us which means that summer is unofficially here! Whether you are heading to the beach, the wilderness, or a BBQ at your friend’s new condo, a healthy car is probably a prerequisite for your weekend plans. Here’s a handy list to prepare for smooth driving ahead.

 

Road Trip

 

Flat-out protection
It is possible to pre-emptively stop flats before they turn into a major detour. Check your tires to see if anything looks off, such as weird bulges or uneven tire wear. To be extra safe pick up a tire gauge, which could cost less than a rest stop meal and tells you exactly what your tire pressure is. Your tires should be inflated according to the vehicle manufacturer recommendations, which can be found in your owner’s manual or on the inside of your car’s door. And as Mechanic Matt suggests, make sure your spare tire is also inflated because it can leak slowly over time.

Fill’er up
We all face the same road trip conundrum: how do you know when to fill up your gas? What if gas is cheaper in the next town you pass? Don’t wait until your tank is empty because you might be stuck going to the most expensive gas station. Check a site like GasBuddy ahead of time to find the areas that have the best prices along your route. While you’re at it, check your washer fluid levels too so you can refill if needed and aren’t stuck with a bug-laden windshield.

Be (extra) prepared
Even if you take the time to make sure your car is in tip-top condition before a long drive, you could still hit unexpected roadblocks. Keep some basic tools in your car, such as a jack wrench, lug wrench, jumper cables, and a flashlight. A first aid kit is good to have on hand also. And don’t forget those extra snacks in case you get stuck in traffic; no one likes a hangry driver. Check out our road trip checklist to make sure you aren’t forgetting anything.

Know your way
Whether you use an app on your smartphone or the old-fashioned paper map, familiarize yourself with the route before you step on the gas. Checking directions while driving is considered distracted driving; taking your eyes off the road for even a few moments could cause an accident. Waze is a great app to use because it updates your route in real-time based on traffic patterns and user-submitted tips, and you can set directions to be read out loud so you never have to look at your phone.

It is important to note that these tips are in addition to the comprehensive check-up that your mechanic should be doing throughout the year. Your brakes, cooling system, transmission service, oil levels and exhaust system can all deteriorate over time, and if you aren’t confident about the inner workings of your car it might be best to leave this stuff to an expert. Just make sure you are staying on top of the maintenance schedule suggested by your manufacturer. If you have the Metromile app, you can check your car’s health and even email our on-staff mechanic about any car concerns.

Planning to road trip more this summer? We will be compiling these and other tips into a road trip guide which will be fueled by the Metromile community. If you’d like to contribute to the guide, tag your photos, tips and more with #HowIRoadtrip. Happy travels!

How to Park: West Coast Edition

 

Parking in the city is not an easy feat. Whether you are rushing to a dinner reservation or visiting a friend for the weekend, finding a parking spot is nothing short of a headache. While we can’t help you snag a secret spot or dispute your parking ticket, we can give you tips on what to expect when you’re in these west coast cities.

 

city parking

 

San Francisco
There is a lot crammed into this 7×7 mile city, which means parking can be quite challenging. If you do find a coveted spot, the good news is that most meters take credit cards so you don’t have to search in the depths of your bag for stray quarters. Certain neighborhoods are even experimenting with on-demand pricing, which means rates may vary by block, time of day and day of the week, and can be adjusted +/- 50 cents per hour. The other good news is that Metromile’s street sweeping alerts are available in SF, which alerts you if your car is parked in a street sweeping area so you can move it in time. When you park, don’t forget to curb your wheels on any street that has a 3% grade or higher (which is pretty much the entire city). This is something visitors often don’t realize and is easy to ticket for.

Los Angeles
If you are in LA, it might be even harder to find a spot since the majority of the city’s population owns a car. Downtown LA also has on-demand pricing and you can see how much you can expect to pay on the LA Express Park website. If you can’t find a spot and are in a time crunch, there are plenty of lots and valet options throughout the metropolitan area, although it could cost you close to $40 for the day. Luckily, most business will validate parking bringing the costs down significantly. And if you do find a spot on the street, make sure you know what the color of the curb means to avoid getting a ticket!

Portland
If you do find on-street parking in Portland keep in mind there are two types of parking meters – the SmartMeter pay station and the coin-operated meter – so don’t get rid of that quarter stash just yet. The city also owns six downtown SmartPark garages which are the most affordable parking lot options. Pro tip: some businesses will even validate two hours of free SmartPark parking with qualifying purchases. If you aren’t near a SmartPark garage, private lots could cost you around $22 for the day.

Seattle
You’re in luck: Seattle is probably the easiest of these cities to find parking in. There is a fair amount of on-street parking, and both coins and credit cards are accepted at all meters. You can even pay by phone to eliminate the need to attach a receipt to your car.

There are also plenty of new innovations popping up to help alleviate city parking, such as Zirx and Luxe which provide on-demand valet service. Of course, you could always take Uber or public transportation and forget about parking entirely. And don’t forget to download the Metromile driving app to use our car locator if you forget where you parked!

Shift Gears on Bike to Work Day

 

If you’ve toyed with the idea of biking to work, now is the time to take off those (hypothetical) training wheels. Today, cities across the US are celebrating Bike to Work Day, an occasion that illuminates the benefits of biking to work. Even one day per week of biking to work can have a significant impact in reducing your carbon footprint. Did you know a 4-mile bike commute keeps 15lbs of pollution out of the air?

Here at Metromile, we joined in the fun by sprinkling bike seat covers across San Francisco and hosting a refreshment station outside of our office to refuel and reward bikers joining the cause. Per usual, our swag wheel was a hit!

 

Bike to Work

 

Although the name might suggest the contrary, Bike to Work Day isn’t just about biking on one single day. The ultimate purpose of the event is to show the community just how easy and sustainable it is to bike to work. Many of the cities participating in Bike to Work Day already have dedicated bike lanes, and chances are your office has some sort of bike parking available. If you are a Metromile per-mile insurance customer, biking to work can also save you money because the less you drive, the more you save. And if you aren’t a customer, now is the time to make the switch!

Go on a Low Carbon Diet by Driving Less

 

California governor Jerry Brown recently ordered the most aggressive carbon emission cut goal in the US. He is aiming to cut carbon emissions by 40% below 1990 levels by 2030, matching a target set by the EU. This should have a significant impact on the US’s overarching goal, which is to reduce emissions by 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025. Some higher level initiatives include deriving electricity from renewable sources and reducing petroleum usage in cars and trucks, but there is plenty you can personally do to make a difference, California resident or not. So what does a “low carbon diet” entail?

 

Reduce Carbon Footprint

 

More biking and public transit: Warmer weather is here, so ride your bike or walk in order to avoid carbon emissions completely. Carpooling and public transportation also drastically reduces your carbon footprint by spreading fuel usage across multiple riders. If you are a pay-per-mile insurance customer with Metromile, this will also save you tons of money!

Smarter driving: There are times when biking won’t cut it, like when you go on a weekend road trip or a big grocery run. Luckily there are a few hacks that will reduce your carbon footprint when you do have to drive. Keep a light foot on the gas pedal. Speeding wastes gas and money, and also increases your carbon footprint. In fact, take your foot off the pedal completely. Cruise control also helps reduce CO2 emissions while driving and makes the trip a little more enjoyable.

Less baggage: The heavier your car, the more fuel you burn and CO2 you emit. This is why we like to follow the “less is more” rule of thumb when packing. If you do need to carry bikes or snow gear, get a hitch mounted rack. Car top carriers not only cost more, but also increase aerodynamic drag and decrease fuel economy.

Optimized routes: Being stuck in traffic wastes gas and creates unnecessary CO2. It also likely doesn’t fit into your busy schedule. Check out our recent blog post about how to beat traffic. And when you are out and about, combine errands to reduce the number of trips you make.

A great side effect of the low carbon diet is saving money. With Metromile’s affordable car insurance, you only get charged for the miles you drive. The bottom line? Drive less and you can save money (and the environment). If you aren’t already a customer learn how much you could save!

Beat the Traffic: How Does Your City Rank?

 

Metromile app users in Los Angeles spend an average of six hours per week in their cars. And a new study from TomTom finds that coincidentally (or not coincidentally) LA is the most congested city in the US and the 10th most congested city in the world. So what does that mean for your commute? And more importantly, what can we do to reduce all of this congestion?

LA has a 40% increase in overall travel time compared to what TomTom classifies as “free flow”, which means driving without any congestion. Other major west coast cities are up there too: SF at 34%, Seattle at 31% and Portland at 26%. All of these cities have more traffic on local roads versus highways. Interestingly, all of these cities also have about a 15-25% increase from morning peak hours to night peak hours. Portland has a 35% increase in travel time in the morning but jumps up to a 65% increase in the evening. Meaning, your morning commute might not be that bad, but be prepared for some evening gridlock.

 

Traffic Stats

 

So what is the takeaway from all of this data? Do whatever you can to drive less. Nearly all of these cities have great public transit systems, and many are focusing on making their roads more bike friendly. A national Bike to Work Week (which happens to be next week!) is also helping to raise awareness. And if you do need a car to get to work, try to avoid commuting during peak evening hours.

Here at Metromile, we believe that pay-per-mile insurance incentivizes people to drive less, therefore removing cars from the road. While we are currently seeing that our LA app users spend six hours per week in their cars, our per-mile insurance customers are averaging four and a half hours. If you only get charged for the miles you drive, there’s more reason to find alternative transportation methods, like biking or taking the train. Fewer cars on the road results in less traffic, which means less commuting time for people that do have to drive!

Want to see how much you could save with per-mile insurance? Learn more here!

Maintenance Monday: 5 Spring Cleaning Tips for a Healthy Car

 

Hello, Metromile community, Mechanic Matt here! Even if you aren’t driving a ton it’s still important to keep your vehicle in tip-top shape. Just in time for spring cleaning, follow these simple steps to ensure your car stays healthy and reliable.

 

Maintain a Healthy Car

 

1. Have your oil changed regularly. This isn’t a ploy for repair shops to make more money. It is important to change oil either at the recommended service interval or every 6 months, whichever is sooner. Engine oil can degrade and collect moisture if the car sits for too long, and moisture inside of an engine can be detrimental.

2. Check your (spare) tire pressure. Most tires will hold air indefinitely, however, some leak very slowly thus creating problems when you embark on a road trip. My advice? Check the spare also. The spare gets overlooked at most garages and is useless if it’s flat when you need it the most. The spare tires are usually in the trunk beneath the carpet.

3. Protect your vehicle from the elements. Spring brings sunshine and birds chirping, but that also means potential damage for your car. Wash it regularly to remove any contaminants that may be harming the paint (such as bird poop) and get it waxed at least once a year for protection. Ultraviolet rays can also degrade both the exterior and the interior. Keep the interior nice and pretty by installing a sunshade to keep direct sun off of the dashboard and lower the interior temperature of the vehicle tremendously.

4. Keep your battery charged. Even while your car is turned off, all vehicles have very small battery drains for the clock, radio presets, and computer memory. If your vehicle sits for long periods of time make sure to unplug cell phone chargers, GPS devices or anything else that uses a power port. If you are planning on storing your vehicle you should look into a battery tender, a small charger that keeps your battery topped off every day. It uses 110 A/C power so keep it close to an outlet.

5. Pay attention. Nobody knows your car quite like you do. You know how it sounds, feels, drives, and smells. When your car sounds, feels, drives or smells different, it is trying to tell you something. If you aren’t sure what an indicator on the dashboard is trying to tell you, check your owners manual. And if you are using the Metromile app it can also give you a diagnosis of your car’s running condition.

These are just a few simple things you can do to keep your vehicle alive and well. If you ever have any questions or concerns, I am just a click away through the Metromile app. Just click on the health tab and look for “Ask Our Mechanic”.

-Mechanic Matt

Are You a Distracted Driver?

 

Distracted Driving Awareness Month may be coming to an end but that doesn’t mean that you should go back to checking Facebook notifications every time you stop at a red light. After the latest heart-wrenching episode of Grey’s Anatomy, the show’s fans strongly understand the consequences of turning your attention to a phone for just a few seconds. Familiarize yourself with the tips below to prevent distracted driving. They might not be revolutionary, but they will ensure you aren’t in the 80% of people who admit they engage in blatantly hazardous activity while driving.

 

Prevent Distracted Driving

 

  1. Put down the phone. It’s enticing to check your phone every time it beeps, but if you are behind the wheel, don’t do it. Here’s a scary stat: driving a vehicle while texting is now 6x more dangerous than driving drunk. Even if you have a really urgent message (like to make sure Game of Thrones is being recorded), wait to text until your car is parked. If you are traveling with a passenger, you can ask them to be your messenger!
  2. Traffic isn’t an excuse. For those of you who inevitably sit in traffic every day, using idle time to maximize your morning routine (i.e. putting on makeup, perfecting your moustache) is tempting. Again, don’t do it. Give yourself a few extra minutes each day to finish getting ready before you dash out.
  3. Use better directions. We get the reliance on your favorite maps app, especially if you are embarking on a road trip or heading somewhere new. Familiarize yourself with the suggested route before starting your car, and since most map apps will read the instructions aloud to you, there should be no reason for you to ever look at the screen again.
  4. Snack smarter. You leave work famished, so you stop to grab something to tide you over until dinner. However one hand on the wheel and one hand holding a burger means you’re less likely to maneuver with skill. We aren’t nutritionists so aren’t going to advise on changing your eating habits, but do whatever it takes to not eat while driving. Added bonus: less ketchup spills means less money spent cleaning.

As cool as Metromile’s app is, we don’t condone using it while driving either. Stay safe out there and put down that phone!

A Smarter Website for a Smarter Car Insurance

We’re proud to be revolutionizing car insurance here at Metromile, making car ownership more seamless and affordable. Not only did we want to shake up an age old industry, but we also wanted to address the fairness factor: why should the majority of low-mileage drivers subsidize the minority? If you don’t drive much, you shouldn’t pay much.

This message has definitely resonated with many people, and we wanted to make sure that our mission and our offering could clearly be understood on our website. As savvy consumers, we’ve grown to appreciate and expect clean and simple designs that get to the point while still connecting with us emotionally. The new Metromile website clearly shows how much money you could save with pay-per-mile insurance, and also how we enable a smarter driving experience.

 

 

So what exactly has changed? We’ve improved how you get your insurance quote so you can see your potential savings sooner. Updated navigation makes it easier to find the answers you need, whether you are wondering how our app can really help you find your car (it can!) or if we are judging your driving habits (we aren’t!). We believe that cars should support your busy lives, not hinder them.

The insurance revolution doesn’t stop at a new website; there are lots of exciting updates that we can’t wait to share with you. We can’t reveal everything right now but we can give you a hint: East coast expansion. In the meantime, we love hearing from our community so drop us a line at customerservice@metromile.com if you have any feedback!

Maintenance Monday: Metromile Helps You Keep Your Car’s Health In Check

One of the benefits of our OBD-II device is that it can help you identify ways to keep your car at peak performance. The diagnostic device helps provide transparency into key operational features of your car so that you can make every effort to keep your vehicle in the best possible shape. If you have any questions about the health of your car, or if you get a diagnostic trouble code, you can click on the “Ask a Mechanic” button to ask our on-staff mechanic for advice.

We often get asked who’s behind our “Ask a Mechanic” feature and we’re happy to share that we actually do have real humans acting as our in-house mechanics! One of those mechanics, “Mechanic Matt”, has agreed to contribute to our blog on what we call “Maintenance Mondays”. He’ll offer advice to help keep your car’s health in check.

Meet Matt

matt

I have been interested in cars ever since I was a young boy and in high school, I took an auto shop class where I realized that I had a future in the business of automotive repair. I studied at Cal State University Hayward, earning my degree in Small Business Management while working full time at a local repair shop as a technician.  After I received my degree , I obtained my certificate of ASE Master Technician and then obtained my California smog license certifying me to smog and repair every make and model vehicle. Twenty-seven years later, I still work at that same local repair shop, except now, I am the owner. As a team we strive to provide the absolute best customer service and auto repair in the Bay Area.

I have a passion of older cars, for their beauty and brawn, but thrive on all of the new technological advances of modern vehicles, especially when it comes to alternative fuel vehicles. I joined Metromile about a year ago and now hold the position of “Mechanic Matt”. My duties include responding to customer needs and concerns about their vehicles maintenance requirements, operations, the understanding and severity of diagnostic trouble codes, and repair guidance. I enjoy the creative atmosphere that Metromile has developed and look forward to sharing my knowledge with all of you!