Metromile 101: Privacy and Calculating Miles

We’ve received thousands of questions about car insurance coverage, billing, and more over the years. Today, an answer to one of the most common: “How does Metromile measure miles, and what does it mean for my privacy?”

How do you measure miles?

Metromile customers’ miles are calculated by a device called the Pulse. We believe the most significant risk factor for getting into an accident is mileage — if you aren’t on the road, your risk is quite low — and the Pulse device is the key to measuring this factor accurately. It connects to your car’s computer to keep an eye on mileage and act as a GPS device. Besides calculating miles, the Pulse device can decode a maintenance light in your car, alert you when you’re parked in a street sweeping zone, remind you where you parked, help you optimize fuel use, and more.

When you become a Metromile customer, you are covered as of the effective date of your policy, regardless of whether or not your Pulse device is plugged in. As you near your policy effective date, we will ship your Pulse device to you, and your job is to plug it into what’s called the OBD-II port in your vehicle — the same port your mechanic uses to diagnose issues.

If my driving is being tracked, how do you ensure my privacy?

The Pulse securely transmits data through a cell modem to update your account with trip information. No smartphone or Bluetooth pairing is needed. Metromile takes electronic, physical and procedural steps to help protect your personal information and has security personnel on-site that investigate and respond to issues. Your information is not sold or rented to third parties for marketing purposes.

Metromile also offers you some degree of control; customers can opt to disable the GPS function on their Pulse through the Metromile online dashboard, which means we won’t store your location data long term. Your miles will still be calculated accurately in this case, but it will mean that some of the bonus features that use your location, like street sweeping alerts, won’t work.

There you have it: no tricks, no games, no violations of your privacy. Just a way to offer you the fairest car insurance rates possible — and a few bonus features on top of that.

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Julianne Sawyer is a freelance writer, app producer, and real-life Metromile customer living in the San Francisco Bay Area.

How to Handle an Accident in a Rental Car

So, you’re finally on vacation. Yay! After stepping off the plane, where do you go first? The rental car agency, of course. At the counter, you confidently decline the rental insurance because you “don’t need it.” Three days later, you get into an accident…in said rental car. If you’re internally screaming at yourself for declining the rental insurance, you’re not alone. Getting into an accident on vacation in a rental car is the perfect storm of bad luck. 

My husband and I were on a romantic anniversary trip in our favorite place on earth: Maui. Unfortunately, we learned that it’s possible to be rude even in paradise; someone side swiped our rental in the parking lot of a restaurant before driving away.

Stressful, right?

Metromile customer or not, here’s what you should do if you get into an accident in a rental car:

Step 1: Keep your cool. Make sure your car is fully stopped before exiting the vehicle.

Step 2: Check-in with your passengers and the parties in the other car. If anyone needs medical attention, dial 911 immediately. Then, move your car out of the flow of traffic (as best you can). 

Step 3: Report the accident to the police. This step is critical, especially in the case of a hit-and-run.

Step 4: While you’re waiting for the police to arrive, do not admit guilt or apologize (an apology can be considered an admission of guilt in some circumstances).

Step 5: Document the scene with photos and videos. Snap pictures of both cars, the driver, signs, lights, lane markings, skid marks, road construction, etc.

Step 6: Obtain a police report. Having a police report can help expedite an insurance payout.

Step 7: Contact the rental car company and ask how you should proceed. If you purchased rental insurance, they will explain the next steps.

Step 8: File a claim with your personal insurance company.

If you’re a Metromile customer, you’re in especially good hands — our agents are here to help and our claims team is lightning fast. But if not, knowing the steps to follow in the event of an accident in a rental car is beneficial. Don’t let it ruin your vacation!

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Julianne Sawyer is a freelance writer, app producer, and real-life Metromile customer living in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Winter Storm Driving Tips

There’s nothing quite like staying warm and cozy indoors on a warm winter day…and nothing quite like navigating the messy roads and chaotic weather conditions when you just can’t justify a sick day. There are plenty of things to love about winter, but sloshing through storms isn’t one of them. Before you get behind the wheel this season, take heed of these must-know winter storm driving tips:

Never leave the house unprepared. Try to keep at least half a tank of gas and stock your vehicle with cold-weather essentials like extra food, warm clothing, blankets, a flashlight, and any other items you think you might need in the event that you’re stranded. Better to be safe than sorry. 

Slow down. Even if you’re normally tempted to zoom in the fast lane, consider winter storms the time to take your speed down several notches. The season brings ice and snow to the roads, and even if you can’t see any obvious obstacles, slippery patches can make your car skid.

Increase your following distance. Try to stay at least 5-6 seconds behind the car in front of you. That extra little buffer will give you space to brake in case they make a sudden stop.

Keep the exhaust pipe clean. One part of your vehicle that may often be overlooked is the exhaust pipe. But exhaust pipe blockages caused by mud, snow, and ice can be serious — even fatal — as carbon monoxide can build up and leak into the passenger compartment. Be sure to keep an eye on it throughout the season. 

Keep going if you can. Stopping and starting your car during a winter storm can actually be risky since it requires extra inertia to get going again after a full stop. Slow down gradually, speed up gradually, and plan ahead to avoid full stops if you can.

Stay as visible as possible. Before you hit the road, consider tying a bright cloth scrap to your antenna and using your dome light while driving at night. Anything you can do to keep your vehicle easy to see and find in case of emergency may help you escape a scary situation.

If you can, just don’t drive. The very best way to avoid winter storm issues on the road? Avoid the road completely. While you may not be able to get out of work or other necessary obligations, consider canceling any unessential plans and rescheduling for better weather days.Another benefit to driving less? You may be able to save major money with pay-per-mile insurance.

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Michelle Konstantinovsky is a San Francisco-based freelance journalist, UC Berkeley alumna, and Metromile customer.

Metromile 101: Is Pay-Per-Mile Legit?

One of the most common questions we hear from car insurance shoppers is a pretty simple one: “are you guys for real?” To be honest, it’s the question I first had when I was considering making the switch. My monthly premium with another car insurance company had recently skyrocketed and I couldn’t fathom forking over a significant chunk of my salary considering I was only driving a few miles each week. I saw a Metromile ad but figured the prospect of pay-per-mile insurance was too good to be true.

How could one company charge me an arm and a leg while another was promising fair prices and only charging me for the miles I drove? 

Is Metromile legit?

I couldn’t make the decision alone, so I posed the question to my social media circle. Within minutes of my Facebook post, I received all kinds of feedback from friends and acquaintances who’d either already switched to Metromile or were seriously considering it and wanted the same info I did. After doing a bit more digging and talking to some of the early employees, I uncovered the truth: Metromile isn’t just legit; it’s the ideal solution for occasional drivers like me.

Here’s the deal: unlike most other car insurance companies, Metromile operates on a pay-per-mile structure. Not sure how that’s possible? Neither was I. The not-so-secret sauce of Metromile is pricing based on one very prominent risk factor that other insurers either ignore or are not so explicit about — time behind the wheel.

I’m worried about a low-cost carrier

Using the model above, Metromile is able to charge customers completely reasonable rates that make sense for lots of different types of drivers. In my case, I pay a monthly base rate of about $40, plus about 7 cents for every mile I drive (usually less than 20). Unlike the $100-plus bill I was seeing every month from my previous insurer, my Metromile monthly bill is about half that. 

I pay less, but the price is more fair and more closely represents risk. In this case, inexpensive doesn’t mean low quality.

What if I have a claim?

To put it simply — Metromile has your back. Savings are a focus, yes, but not at the expense of quality. Many satisfied pay-per-mile customers can attest to that.

If you have a loss, it’s turned over to a team of service-focused experts, led by insurance industry veterans, to take excellent care of you. And the proprietary, AI-driven claims technology speeds the process along; it’s not uncommon for claims to be paid out on the same day they’re reported.

The bottom line is this: Metromile is aiming to make car insurance better, not worse. That means savings, it means great features and white glove service, it means an app you actually like to use, and it means you can breathe easy in case of an accident. 

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Julianne Sawyer is a freelance writer, app producer, and real-life Metromile customer living in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Should You Drive a Hybrid or Electric Car?

Should an electric car be your new ride?

As my ancient and outdated car reaches the end of her lifespan and I’ve been on the hunt for newer, more tech-savvy, eco-friendly modes of transportation, I’ve been a little overwhelmed by the array of options. Electric cars are better for the environment, but they’re not exactly cheap. Hybrid cars offer dual engine support, but it costs a lot of cash to replace their batteries. There’s a lot to consider when you’re considering the jump from a standard vehicle to a hybrid or electric one; here are the main pros and cons to ponder.

The Pros

They’re generally more environmentally friendly. While the environmental-friendliness of a hybrid vehicle depends on a few factors (how you drive it and how you charge it), electric cars require zero fuel, making them the superior choice when it comes to preserving the environment. Of course, electric cars produce zero greenhouse gas exhaust.

You may qualify for some tax breaks. Electric car owners can benefit from a tax credit just for driving an eco-friendly vehicle (the caveat is, you have to be the original owner of the car to cash in on that break). Depending on the make and model of your car, you may be eligible for a tax credit of up to $7,500, but it’s best to work with a tax specialist to decipher the details for your specific situation. Hybrid owners may be eligible for tax credits too, depending on your state

You may get better mileage or performance in certain settings. Driving in the city more than on the freeway? Unlike standard vehicles, which tend to get better mileage on the highway versus urban environments, hybrid cars do better on city streets. And while electric cars have a shorter driving range than standard vehicles, their motors are smooth and quiet, and actually provide stronger acceleration and require less maintenance.

The Cons

You’ll probably have to pay more upfront. Hybrids tend to cost more than standard cars, and electric cars can cost even more. But that looks like it’s starting to shift a bit: while the median retail price for all vehicles in the U.S. is $36,600, some new hybrids are available in the $25,000 to $30,000 range.

You’ll have to know where to charge them. The amount and availability of charging stations for electric and hybrid vehicles is definitely on the rise, but it still takes more time and planning to charge than it does to pop into a standard gas station. Standard hybrid cars can recharge their batteries through a process called regenerative braking (driving on engine power), and still use gas as their primary power source. But plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles have to be charged at a station or at home, so you’ll need to factor that into your trip planning.

Different levels of power. Because hybrid cars have a twin powered engine, the combination of the small gasoline engine and small motor results in less power than one single standard gas-powered engine. Things are a little trickier when it comes to electric cars — some can accelerate faster but their top speeds still can’t reach those of standard vehicles.

Once you’re done car shopping, it will be time to shop for insurance. If you’re not already a pay-per-mile car insurance customer, consider taking a look.

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Michelle Konstantinovsky is a San Francisco-based freelance journalist, UC Berkeley alumna, and Metromile customer.

How I Drive: A Data Head Finds Extra Value in Pay-Per-Mile

Our customer JP, a military vet and data scientist, lives in Monterey on the Central Coast of California — not exactly the first place you’d expect to find a low mileage driver. JP doesn’t mind bucking a trend, though; he only puts a few miles on his car every month and mostly relies on an electric scooter to get to work and around town. But what really drew JP to Metromile was the opportunity to view all his driving data in one place — or as he says, to see the “actual patterns of life.”

How long have you been a Metromile customer?

More than two years. I used to have another insurer focused on veterans, with full coverage for a 2015 Camaro. But I didn’t like paying a fixed amount because I basically don’t drive.

When you say you don’t drive…how many miles in a month?

Probably about 20, just around town on the weekends. I don’t drive far. I got a scooter for $300, and I can ride that to work now. It’s great once you get over the nerd factor.

I don’t drive my Camaro that much because it’s a V8 — it’s inefficient. But when it rains I’ll drive to work and it’s nice to be covered for those few miles. And the price was so competitive with Metromile I could get higher coverage for the same amount.

You’ve mentioned that it wasn’t just the savings that attracted you.

I’m also quite interested in the OBD-II sensor [Metromile Pulse]. I’m a data scientist. Recording data has always been a source of curiosity for me. If I didn’t have Metromile and I were to buy my own OBD-II sensor, it wouldn’t do the things I want it to do — like capture where I go, when, and how long the trips are. But with Metromile I can collect diagnostics and do a lot of this stuff myself. I have all my trip data saved in a file — this allows me to use my car as a data collector.

And Metromile takes that same data and enables customers to pay only for what they drive. It appeals to the scientist in me. For me, riding a scooter for 15 mins into work is obviously a better deal when I can see exactly what driving is costing me in time and dollars per mile.

What are you using the data for?

My degree is in geospatial information science. My career is mapping for the military. With my driving data, I’m hoping to find trends in the actual patterns of life. If I can collect my own data I can sort of validate the work of, say, Google Maps or traffic cameras.

But also, imagine this: if I can match up my driving data with my fitness tracker and social media updates and all the other personal data we have, I could get an actual view of what the human experience is like, that’s not filtered or sanitized.

Anything else you’d like to share?

I like the app; I’ve used it to find my car. And when I travel for work I can tell whether my girlfriend has borrowed my car!

The Actual Cost of Car Ownership pt. 2: Alternatives

In a previous post, we explored the true cost of car ownership, including things you typically forget to factor in, like depreciation, maintenance, and car insurance. If your goal is to save money this year, though, you’ll need some practical ways to do it. After all, saving money is one of the most commonly failed resolutions each year.

So if you’re serious about getting rid of one of the most costly expenses — your car — read on for some alternatives. Bonus: these options aren’t just cheaper; some are also healthier for you and those around you!

Cycling

Cost: Very easy to stay under $1,000 for a nice bike — in some cases far under!

Bike prices can vary widely, and the best bike for you will depend on where you live, where you need to go, and how often you’ll be using it. But even in less than perfect weather, a bike can keep you happy, healthy, and on-budget.

Bikes require far less maintenance than cars, zero spending in the way of gas or insurance, are a cheaper one-off cost, and you can usually buy them used if you want to save money. Plus, it’s much faster than walking, and unlike some other options, you can also buy a bike that’ll allow your kids to ride along.

Electric bike

Cost: Usually starts around $1,000.

If you like the idea of biking but don’t have a lot of time, or if you have kids to cart around, an electric bike can be a good middleman between driving and biking. 

In general, e-bikes are more expensive and cost more to maintain than regular bikes—in addition to the normal bike accessories, you also need to charge the battery, replace it occasionally, take the bike in for tune-ups, and more. However, many can help you go faster for less effort, which is ideal if you need to travel more than a few miles, and some are made for family travel!

Electric scooter

Cost: To buy, around $300; to rent, something like $1 per trip plus a few cents per minute.

Electric scooters are all the rage nowadays, especially if you live in a big city — but even if you don’t, they’re incredibly affordable to own, especially when compared to a car. After all, they’re fun to ride, much faster than walking, and don’t require any effort or sweat.

Ride-sharing and car-sharing

Cost: Starts at around $3 per trip plus miles and time for ride-sharing, or $70 a year plus miles and time for car-sharing

If you’re serious about ditching car ownership, there are plenty of options for when you need a ride. Rely on public transit, or your arsenal of reasonably priced options that we’ve covered above, and use ride-sharing or car-sharing services for longer trips or special occasions. You’ll very likely come out ahead; the Environmental Protection Agency estimates car sharing saves consumers anywhere between $154 and $430+ each month!

Walking

Cost: Free!

A no-brainer part of your arsenal that may help you live longer

Bottom line

Many people reflexively dismiss the idea of reducing or replacing their driving, but if you add up the costs, alternatives can make a compelling case. Think about this: a $500 bike, a $300 scooter, and $1,000 of ride sharing over the course of a year all add up to less than all but the very cheapest used cars. You’ll still come ahead even if splurging on a higher end e-bike. And after that, none of those pesky fuel costs, insurance bills, and very little maintenance. (This is, of course, not to mention the peace of mind, muscly quads, and impressed looks from acquaintances.) 

If your goal is to save money this year, consider getting rid of one of your most significant expenses — your car — and becoming healthier and greener while you’re at it.

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Jenna Lee is a content marketer, Oxford comma enthusiast, and cat lover living in the Bay Area. 


6 Tips To Prevent Car Theft

Having spent the majority of my auto-owning years as a San Francisco resident without a garage, I’ve come to accept the dread that accompanies the walk to my street parked car. I’ve seen countless break-ins and heard horror stories of thefts, so every time I see my dear old vehicle safe and sound where I left her, I breathe a sigh of relief. But all this hoping and wishing had me wondering if I could be doing something more to deter thieves and keep my car a little safer. Here are some of the best — and easiest — car theft prevention tips I’ve found: 

  1. Lock the doors — for real. I know, this one is ridiculously simple, but you’d be surprised how many people forget or just think they don’t have to lock their doors. Take the two-second task seriously and make sure you do it every time, even if you’re just popping out for a quick errand. 
  2. Always take your keys with you. This may sound like another “duh” tip, but again, it’s so straightforward, many of us neglect to take it seriously. Always take your keys out of the ignition when you exit your car and keep them with you — that includes every convenience store run, gas station fuel-up, and post office drop-off. 
  3. Remove everything — and I mean everything — from your car seats. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard stories from friends who’ve had their car windows smashed after leaving a work bag, sunglasses, or any other potentially costly item in plain sight. But it’s not only big ticket possessions that can draw the eye of a thief — if possible, take everything out of your car and stash any necessary, must-have items in the glove compartment or trunk. 
  4. Circle until you find a well-lit parking spot. My neighborhood is fortunately pretty well lit, but my boyfriend’s town is pretty much in a perpetual blackout after sundown. Even if it takes a few minutes longer, look for a parking spot that’s in as well lit and highly trafficked of an area as possible. 
  5. Install some tech tools. If you’re already a Metromile customer, congrats! The Smart Driving app and the Pulse device are built-in trackers that have helped countless customers locate their stolen vehicles. If you’re not a Metromile customer (maybe now’s the time to switch?) and/or you want some added peace of mind, consider investing in some anti-theft technology like an immobilizer that can help prevent hot wiring by keeping the engine from running without the correct transponder car key. 
  6. Stay alert. Most of us are in the habit of immediately checking what we’ve missed in the news, on social media, or in our texts the second we park (if not before that!). But being aware of your surroundings when you exit your vehicle may help you sense if your surroundings feel unsafe and give you the opportunity to find a new spot before it’s too late. 

As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. But for those times when the worst happens, and you need a car insurance partner who has your back — Metromile will be here.

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Michelle Konstantinovsky is a San Francisco-based freelance journalist, UC Berkeley alumna, and Metromile customer.

Metromile’s New Chief People Officer: Mark Gundacker

Meet Mark Gundacker, Metromile’s new Chief People Officer. Mark joins us from Salesforce.org, the non-profit arm of Salesforce, where he led its growth from 350 to 1,100 employees — and prior to that brings decades of Human Resources leadership experience.

As we continue to grow our team (now more than 320!) across multiple offices and geographies, we’re excited to have Mark’s steady hand ensure we’re finding and keeping the best talent and remaining a best place to work.

What attracted you to Metromile?

I liked that Metromile is a disrupter. Creating an innovative model in a traditional industry is exciting. After working for a number of different organizations, including in the non-profit space, I wanted to work somewhere that I felt I could be innovative and make an impact. After meeting with Metromile leadership, I felt strongly that this was the right place.

What People philosophy do you bring coming from a nonprofit environment?

After working with passionate team members in the non-profit space, I had a new appreciation for the importance of having team members aligned to a strong organizational mission. If the team shares a common objective and vision it is much easier to work through any inevitable challenges — and this is as true in insurtech as it is anywhere else.

What’s something you wish people knew about People Ops?

Once people get to know me well they always tell me, “I can’t believe you are in HR”. And I always want to say “Take an HR person out to dinner and see how much fun you have!” Without a doubt, some of the most passionate, creative and amazingly fun people I have ever been with have been my HR colleagues.

Your background includes a pretty diverse set of industries. What perspective does that give you?

The big thing it’s given me is insight into how different types of organizations and people solve problems. I find this varied background helpful in being able to look at issues from a number of different angles.

What are your interests outside of work?

I’m on a number of non-profit boards including the Contra Costa Child Abuse Prevention Council, Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano, and CISV — a program promoting peace education for children. Giving back has always been a big interest.

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Welcome, Mark! We’re excited to have you.

The Actual Cost of Car Ownership

If you made New Year’s resolutions this year, you might be one of the millions of others who resolved to save more money. It’s a reasonable goal, but it’s hard to save money if you don’t know what you’re spending on.

Take owning a car, for example. Many drivers focus mainly on their monthly loan or lease payment. Rideshare companies often herald their drivers earnings after deducting only the cost of gas. But both of these are reasonable tendencies, but ignore unavoidable — and very real — costs of owning a car.

Here, we’ll detail a few of those hidden costs and take a look at where you may be able to save.

Depreciation

(Not so) fun fact: depreciation is usually the biggest cost of car ownership. It’s also one we tend to ignore.

Everyone knows a car loses value as soon as you drive it out of the lot. But it probably loses value faster than you’d expect. After a year, it’ll likely lose around 20% of its value. After five years? More like 50% or more. The IRS counts the cost of car ownership at 58 cents per mile — a very large chunk of which reflects depreciation.

Some cars depreciate slower than others, and older cars depreciate at a slower rate, so if you’re serious about saving money, do your research before you buy. Otherwise, limit how much you drive and be sure to do regular maintenance on your vehicle.

Registration, fees, and taxes

By law, you’re required to keep your vehicle registered with your state. Usually, you have to renew your registration annually or every few years, depending on where you live. And the price can vary widely per state. For example, in Arizona, it can cost as little as $8 to register an automobile. In Florida: $225. 

And don’t forget about taxes, either. In addition to sales tax when you buy or lease a new or used vehicle, you may also have to pay a personal property tax, which is usually based on how much your car is worth (though it can depend on your state, county, and municipality). For example, in Boston, you pay $25 per $1,000 in vehicle value each year. 

Unfortunately, there’s no way to minimize these expenses. The best thing you can do is make sure you pay them on time so you’re not penalized.

Maintenance and repairs

It takes a lot to keep your vehicle running smoothly. Between oil changes, tire rotations, new tires, and other maintenance costs, it could cost you upward of $1,000 a year, depending on the age of your car and what work you can handle on your own. (This is not to mention occasional, larger repairs, like a transmission replacement.)

Fortunately, you may be able to do some routine maintenance yourself — or swap services with a friend who knows how. Just remember: maintenance keeps your car running, so it’s not something you want to ignore.

Insurance

Ah, insurance. Our sweet spot. Of course, car insurance costs vary widely based on a variety of factors, such as where you live, what type of car you drive, your driving history, and more. It can also depend on how much coverage you want. Broadly speaking, an average policy will range somewhere between $1,000 and $2,000 annually.

The good news here is that it’s easy to shop around for the best price. The extra good news is that a pay-per-mile option like Metromile gives you far more control over your total bill; on average, our customers save $741 per year.*

The total

It’s hard to estimate the total costs of owning a car, as it can vary widely depending on what kind of vehicle you drive, how many miles you drive each year, where you live, and more. Safe to say, though, that car ownership is an expense of several thousand dollars a year — which, if you’re investment minded, also carries a gigantic opportunity cost of lost earnings over a lifetime.

At the very least, this argues for exploring ways to trim those costs. Plain and simple, owning a car is super expensive—even if expenses are optimized. Might it be time to reconsider just how much you’re driving altogether?

In our next post, we’ll go into the ultimate way to cut costs: minimizing driving or getting rid of your car altogether.

*Average annual car insurance savings by new customers surveyed who saved with Metromile in 2018.

Jenna Lee is a content marketer, Oxford comma enthusiast, and cat lover living in the Bay Area.