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. 

Common Causes of Car Breakdowns in the Winter

If the chaos of the holiday season wasn’t enough to get your stress level skyrocketing, perhaps a car breakdown in the middle of a snowstorm will do the trick? It’s hard to imagine too many travel snafus more inconvenient than an unforeseen vehicle issue during the dead of winter, but luckily, there are plenty of ways to prevent and resolve potential problems. Here’s what you need to know to help avoid a cold weather catastrophe.

A dead battery: Car batteries don’t produce a charge as effectively in cold weather, so it’s more likely in winter to encounter the stomach-churning scenario of turning your key in the ignition to no effect. To help prevent this issue, check your battery’s voltage before the temperatures dip too low. If your voltage is below 12.40 volts, it might be time to get a new battery.

Worn out tires: There are a ton of reasons to routinely check your tire pressure, but many drivers just, well, don’t. In addition to ensuring a longer tire life, proper inflation can contribute to a better steering response, better fuel efficiency, and an overall smoother ride. And since overinflation can cause just as much damage as underinflation (think: treadwear and tire failure), knowing how to gauge the right amount is crucial. Checking the tread of your tires is critical too, so make sure you monitor tire pressure and tread before the weather turns too chilly or the roads get icy. You may be able to get a good sense of the shape of your tires by using one simple tool: a penny

Thickened fluids: Fluids thicken in cold temperatures, and that includes all the motor oil and other liquids in your car that allow it to run smoothly. If the fluids become too thick, they won’t be able to flow through the vehicle, and your car may even overheat. Keep up with your regular oil changes and if you’re unsure whether the fluids in your car are suitable for cold temps, visit a mechanic for some advice. 

Accidents on the road: Yes, accidents can happen any time, anywhere, but wet roads are responsible for the huge amount of weather-related crashes. Be extra vigilant behind the wheel and maybe consider an alternate mode of transportation (or working from home or skipping the social gathering) if winter weather gets too rough. Stick with Metromile to insure you against winter disaster. And keep an eye on out for more advice on staying safe and saving major money.

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

Metromile 101: Pay-Per-Mile Billing

About four out of five Americans have not heard of pay-per-mile car insurance, which could be costing them hundreds of dollars a year in missed savings. From those that have, we’re regularly asked a few common questions. Among them: just how does a pay-per-mile bill work?

No worries — we’ve got a primer for you right here. In future posts, we’ll be tackling some more common pay-per-mile misconceptions,so stay tuned!

Are there mileage caps? Do I buy an amount of miles ahead of time?

Short answer: There are no caps, mileage plans, or prepaid buckets. You’re in control, and you can drive as few or as many miles as you’d like!

Longer answer: Though you might like how your bill looks better if you stick to fewer miles, we don’t impose any mileage caps or maximums. During the sign-up process, we generally offer examples of what kind of bill you can expect based on estimates about your driving habits — but you are not committing to any miles, and your estimates don’t impact your rate.

Instead, think of it like an electric bill. There are no penalties for driving too much, no rollovers, and no limits to keep track of. We offer you a measure of control by billing per-mile, but you only pay for miles you drive. 

By the way, you can still go on road trips if you have pay-per-mile car insurance. All miles over 250 miles in a single day (or 150 if you live in New Jersey) are free, so you don’t have to ever worry about blowing up your budget with a long trip.

How does the base rate work?

Our savvier customers may have noticed that not 100% of their bill is made up of the per-mile rates; there’s also a low “base rate” included. While you pay your per-mile rate for miles driven in the previous month, your base rate is forward-looking — that is, you pay it in advance for the month to come.

Here’s how it works: You’ll pay your base rate to sign up. Then, at the end of your first month, you’ll be charged for your mileage from that first month and a base rate for the upcoming second month. Same thing the month after that: a base rate to cover the upcoming month, and a per-mile charge for the month that just passed.

The two parts of your bill join together to make one convenient monthly charge. Most of our customers save quite a bit by paying this way!

What rates can I expect?

Our billing model is unique, but our rates are personalized based on a variety of factors and the coverage options you select; this will feel really familiar if you’re used to getting a custom rate from another insurer.

That’s it for today. We’ll soon take a look at another common question: how we measure miles driven. Keep an eye out.

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

Taking Care of a Low-Mileage Car

When I look at my car, I sometimes get a little sad. There she sits, obediently parked all week long while I walk, bus, and rideshare past her. She sits through the summer months, collecting pollen and dust, and patiently withstands winter storms. When I do occasionally get behind the wheel, I cross my fingers and silently wish for a successful start of the ignition. My poor, garage-less car is going on 13 years of loyal service, and while I owe her longevity in part to my minimal driving habits, I can’t help but wonder if I’m doing everything I can to care for her.

If you also own a car that doesn’t see a ton of road time, you’ll want to know how to take care of your vehicle so that it stays in the best shape possible, even if you’re not driving it on a daily (or even weekly) basis. Here are the must-know tips:

1. Keep the gas tank full. This one was news to me: if you leave your car parked and idle for too long, the inside of the gas tank can actually start to accumulate moisture and rust. Even if you’re not commuting daily, always try to top off the tank with fuel, which will keep rust from forming and also free you up to readily hop in the driver’s seat for those infrequent trips. 

2. Keep it clean. As a native San Franciscan, I know first hand how tough it can be to secure a covered space for your vehicle. Garages are something of a hot commodity in my town, and as long as I’ve owned my current car, I haven’t had one. As you can imagine, the elements have been less than kind to her exterior. If you’re also stuck leaving your car outside, consider covering it, or at the very least, make sure to clean debris from the windshield wipers so that leaves and other objects don’t accumulate and potentially damage the drains, leading to an interior flood (trust me — I’ve been there). 

3. Drive it a few miles once in a while. No matter how much you pamper the exterior of your car, that internal battery will turn on you if you don’t give it love. That means driving your car at least once every few weeks to keep the battery charged and your car running correctly. 

4. Keep up with oil changes. Many of us think our cars require maintenance based on miles driven, but it’s really all about timing — even if your car is parked more often than not, the oil and additives under the hood are aging. Check what your owner’s manual recommends when it comes to oil changes and other types of maintenance, and stick to the schedule, even if you’re not taking any road trips or daily drives. 

5. Maintain your tires. Yes, items on the road can definitely harm your tires, but even something as seemingly harmless as the weather can affect your tire pressure. Keep a watchful eye on your tires and if you plan to keep your car in storage for an extended period of time, just make sure to inflate the tires the appropriate amount. 

Finally, if you’re a low-mileage driver, you might also consider pay-per-mile car insurance. We’re here to save you money and give you and your ride the best possible care.

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


A Q&A with our Customer (and Exotic Cat) Expert: Prentis Ginn

As Metromile’s Quality and Compliance Manager, Prentis Ginn wears a bunch of hats. The San Francisco Bay Area native holds a diverse set of responsibilities: liaising with regulators, implementing user feedback, and ensuring Metromile’s team members are delivering the best service possible. It’s a busy schedule, which Prentis has worked his way toward over nearly six years at the company, starting as a customer service agent and working his way up through quality assurance before taking on his current role. We asked him to offer a bit of insight into his world, both in and out of the office.

Tell us a little bit about your background.

I’m originally from the San Francisco Peninsula. I went to Chapman University in southern California and after graduating, I moved to New York City and worked for a fashion and design startup. Then I moved back to San Francisco to work for Metromile. 

What initially drew you to Metromile?

Every startup likes to say they’re “disrupting an industry.” Metromile was the first company I interviewed with where I actually believed that. I think I met with around ten people during my interview. Best decision I ever made. I immediately fell in love with my team.

How has your role evolved over your time there. 

Being here for almost six years, my role has definitely evolved over time. I was initially brought in to build out our customer experience team. That morphed into quality assurance and looking out for our CSAT and NPS (two core customer service metrics). Now, as a member of our Legal and Compliance team, I coordinate our regulator inquiries and administer our contract management system, and regulatory and compliance platform. 

What do you think makes Metromile so special?

It’s a unique business model. And the career opportunity is special — I’ve gotten to take on a number of different roles here that I might not have elsewhere.

Your first job at Metromile was Sr. Customer Experience Advocate, which involves talking to customers every day. How has this influenced your career path?

Having the ability to quickly process information, strong communication skills, and a genuinely empathetic mindset — these are qualities I’ve taken with me to other roles. This passion has enabled me to empathize with our customer’s position and think outside of regulatory requirements when communicating with various Departments of Insurance.

To those in customer-facing roles, my advice is: you know more about our customers than anyone else. If you see opportunities for improvement, speak up! You are the subject matter experts.

What do you do for fun when you’re not working?

I’m an exotic cat breeder…

Just kidding. 

However, I do have an exotic breed of cat called a Toyger. Other than that, I play Madden a lot. I play flag football on Saturdays with friends, I’m in five fantasy football leagues…I guess you can say I really like anything football-related. I’m a social butterfly, I’m always out and about on the weekends and I love carbs, sugar, and gluten.

Using Your Metromile Trip Tracker

There are plenty of reasons pay-per-mile makes sense for low-mileage drivers. But one unique feature that many potential customers — and even current customers! — don’t know about is our game-changing trip tracking feature. By tapping into the wealth of useful info provided by the Metromile Pulse device, you can actually keep track of how many miles you’re traveling, how much gas you’re using, your driving speed (or the speed of anyone else — like a teen driver), and more. 

First thing’s first: let’s get to know the Metromile Pulse device. This little tech tool packs a powerful punch, relying on something called telematics to send, receive, and store information related to your car. By combining GPS navigation and onboard diagnostics, your Pulse device can show you where your car is, the trips it’s taken, and your fuel use, as well as send traffic alerts, help you get roadside assistance, and more. But it’s that trip tracking feature (found on the second tab at the bottom of your Metromile app screen) that’s a true hidden gem. Here are some ways to make the most of your Metromile trip tracker:

Make better commuting choices

Whether you use your car for occasional work meetings or you’re driving to your parents’ house to do laundry on a weekly basis (guilty), your Metromile trip tracker will show you where you’ve been, how many miles you drove, the time you spent in the car, and the fuel cost.

If you check your trip tracker and notice that you’re making a lot of unnecessary trips that are impacting your fuel budget, you can start making informed changes that help support your financial goals. And if you take stock of your trips and notice that you’re spending more time in the driver’s seat than you’d like, you might try swapping in a walk, bike, rideshare, or public transportation ride to find more minutes in for work and/or play (and less time behind the wheel) throughout the week.

Keep tabs on speed

The trip tracker lets you know how many miles you drove during a single trip and how long it took to drive those miles. If you have a teen or other driver on your plan who you’d like to keep an eye on, the trip tracker can give you insight into their behaviors so you can have important conversations about safety if necessary.

Or you might notice that your own lead foot is a bit heavier than you thought!

Compare your habits week to week

The trip tracker does a great job of record keeping. Using the navigation arrows at the top of the screen, you can swipe through previous weeks and see how your fuel costs and miles driven are trending.

Perhaps your gas spending has been increasing, but you can’t put your finger on why. Or perhaps you just needed a reminder that you used to walk to the store, and are still capable of doing that. Every person’s story is a little different; the main thing is having clear visibility into your habits when you haven’t previously.

Our pay-per-mile billing gives you control over the cost of your car insurance, and our trip tracker aims to give you a measure of control over your time, your spending, and your life stuck behind the steering wheel.

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


Safety Tips for Night Driving

Just before I got LASIK eye surgery a few years ago, I was informed that one place my newly improved peepers might not perform optimally was behind the wheel at night. And while it’s true that the procedure can create night vision distortions like light halos and glare, you don’t have to have surgically altered eyes to know that driving after dark can be an entirely different — and often dangerous — experience. 

Indeed, fatal accidents are three times more likely to occur at night than during the day. That of course doesn’t mean you need to avoid the roads once the sun sets, but it does mean it’s extra important to take precautions at night to keep yourself, your passengers, and others on the road as safe as possible. As we transition into the shorter days of winter, keep these nighttime driving tips in mind:

Keep things clean. The dirt and smudges on your windshield may not make much of a difference in your daytime drives, but those smears can result in blinding glare if oncoming traffic illuminates them just right. Make sure your windshield is crystal clear before you embark on a nighttime journey.

Aim your headlights. Did you know you can adjust the aim of the headlights in most cars? Get to know how before you hit the road in the dark. Some cars have built-in bubble levels that help you align your headlights correctly, while others require some manual adjustment. A mechanic may be able to help you here.

Prioritize rest. 60% of adult drivers — that’s about 168 million people — say they’ve driven a vehicle while feeling drowsy in the past year, and more than a third have actually fallen asleep at the wheel. Those are some scary stats! In addition to a good night’s sleep, avoiding trips between midnight and 6 a.m. is the best way to avoid drowsy driving.

Make your view as clear as possible. While your night vision will never be as good as your daytime sight, there are some easy measures you can take to ensure you’re getting the clearest view possible and reducing any glare: dim your dashboard, look away from oncoming lights, and if you have to wear glasses to drive, make sure they’re anti-reflective.

Staying alert and calm is part of keeping yourself safe and keeping insurance costs affordable. We can handle the rest by offering competitive, pay-per-mile car insurance rates.

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

What Factors Affect Gas Prices?

If you’ve ever pulled up to the pump and promptly freaked out over the price per gallon, you’re not alone. And sometimes it seems like that number can fluctuate wildly from week to week, or even day to day. So what gives? Here are some of the factors that are influencing the price of gas so you can have a better sense of what’s, er, driving costs:

  1. Crude oil costs. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, over 50 percent of the cost of gas is determined by the cost of crude oil — that is, oil right from the ground. The biggest determinants of these prices are supply and demand — so when production goes up, prices may go down, and vice versa. A lot of this is influenced by the economy, so you may notice that when the economy is doing well, demand for crude oil is boosted, and gas prices change too. 
  2. Taxes. They may not play a starring role in the price of gas (in September 2019, they were responsible for about 19 percent of the average American price of $2.59 per gallon), but taxes matter a ton. Taxes can also partially explain why the cost of gas varies so significantly from state to state. While the federal tax rate charged at every gas station across the U.S. is the same, each state sets its own individual tax rates, meaning some charge sales tax while others tack on environmental fees and other costs.   
  3. Distribution and marketing. You may not think of gas stations as supreme masters of sly marketing tactics, but brand appeal and distribution significantly influence the price of gas (playing about a 15 percent role in the overall cost). Even the assortment of brand-name snack items in the service station can affect the amount you pay at the pump!
  4. Location. As we mentioned with taxes, where you fill your gas tank matters. But taxes are just part of the picture. Other factors, like the distance from the original supply, retail competition, operating costs, and any disruptions to the supply can all factor into the price. If there’s a hurricane that hits the U.S., for example, that sort of natural disaster can cause refinery shutdowns or transportation issues that affect the supply and drive up costs. 

While there’s not a lot you can do about your state’s tax situation or the price of crude oil, understanding the factors that contribute to the price at the pump may help you better prepare for fill-ups. Of course, all these factors only affect the sticker price of each gallon. The number of gallons used is the part you control. Hopping on a bike, the bus, an e-scooter, or relying on your own two feet are great ways to save on gas.And, we must add, this choice can lead to savings for pay-per-mile car insurance customers, too. Get saving!

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

How I Drive: Pay-Per-Mile Pays Off for Weekend Warriors

Meet Jennifer: a city-dwelling marketing professional and bonafide weekend warrior. Jennifer doesn’t drive to work, and loves using the bus to get around — but jumps at the chance to get away on the weekends to explore California’s nooks and crannies. For that, she keeps a car, and her low-mileage habits make her a perfect fit for Metromile’s pay-per-mile car insurance model.

How long have you been a Metromile customer?

It’s been about 3 years now.

Must be a good fit.

I work in downtown Oakland, and I live not too far away. It’s an easy bus ride to work, so I just don’t drive that many miles during the week.

Do you know offhand how many miles you drive a month?

Let’s put it this way: I’ve gotten that notification in the past that asks “Have you driven your car?” I joke that I can check my mileage and tell whether I’ve gone to the gym or not, because that’s the one place I always drive. If I haven’t driven anywhere I know I’ve been skipping my workout.

What do you use your car for?

I do sometimes use my car for everyday errands, grocery shopping and things like that. But what I really like to do is take advantage of where we live in California. You can get to the mountains and the beach and the country in thirty minutes. I do a lot of weekend trips, and use my car for that.

I drove to Los Angeles last weekend. I also go to the Russian River sometimes — that’s only an hour and a half away and a completely different world from the city.

It sounds like driving is about freedom for you rather than the everyday.

I really like the option to be able to get up and go when I want to. I love walking and taking the bus. (And I enjoy telling people I use public transportation, too. It’s my tax dollars at work!)

And I don’t like driving a long way to work. I’ve changed jobs many times, and every time I have a whole system: if I can’t get there within thirty minutes of driving or one hour on transit I won’t do it. I don’t care how much they pay me.

At the same time I like having the option to say, “You know what, it’s a Saturday afternoon. Let’s pick up some sandwiches, get in the car, and just go.

I go with my boyfriend, my sister, friends. I like coming up with something new: “There’s a new speakeasy, let’s go there.” Or “There’s a taqueria in a town we’ve never been to.” I like being able to just explore a new place.

Have you considered selling your car?

I’m very much a city person. But the thing is, it’s hard to get away without that car. With something like Metromile it’s more affordable to own a car and keep it in decent shape than it is to rent a car for a weekend trip.

I’d rather have it conveniently there when I need it rather than have to think about it. My car is a little Scion, a 2014 model with super low mileage. Every time I take it into the shop people are amazed at the low mileage. I probably won’t need to replace it for a while.

Do you use any of the Metromile app features?

Definitely! There’s a running joke with a friend. We go to the movies and I will sometimes drive there if the movie goes past when transit runs. They sweep the streets at night near that theater and my friend will ask if I got the street-sweeping notification.

I’ve also used the app to find my car. I’ll forget about that feature until I lose my car and then remember it’s built in with my insurance. It’s very handy.

It makes life easier?

Yes! Because of the work I do, I’m hyper aware of products I use — I always ask myself, is this is a good customer experience? That’s what I really like about Metromile. Everything’s really easy. Insurance isn’t my first language but it’s broken down so easily; all the info I need is right there in front of me.

Actually trying to please your customers should not be above and beyond, but it’s shocking how many companies don’t do that.

What is an Insurance Credit Score?

Credit: one of those oft-stressful adult considerations that we were blissfully ignorant of as children. Besides being useful when buying a car, house, or securing any other type of loan, did you know that credit is sometimes a factor in your car insurance premium? One key difference: your insurance credit score is not the same as the consumer credit score you might be more familiar with. 

If you’re scratching your head at this one, well, you’re not alone. Today we’re covering what an insurance credit score is, how it affects your car insurance rate, and how it differs from your consumer credit score.

What is an insurance credit score?

In short, an insurance credit score is a number that helps auto insurance companies predict how likely you are to have a future accident or insurance claim. This three-digit number calculated using information from your credit report, such as the age of your credit history and how many accounts you have in good standing.

How does this number differ from my consumer credit score?

Many consumers believe they have one true credit score, but this actually isn’t the case. Instead, there are several scoring models that each produce different numbers. This means your FICO score won’t exactly match your TransUnion Vantage 3.0 score (to use two common models), even though both are built from the data on your credit report.

Your insurance credit score will be different still; it also starts with your credit data but crunches the numbers differently to focus on factors that are important to insurers. Comparing a consumer credit score to an insurance credit score is comparing apples to oranges––they’re quite different and may not even use the same scale to display results. It would be a very big coincidence if the scores matched exactly!

How does my insurance credit score affect my car insurance premiums?

It’s tough to speak in absolutes when it comes to credit; every driver is different, your insurance credit score is just a small piece of the puzzle, and not all states allow insurers to consider credit history (notably, California does not allow it). But it definitely can impact rates.

According to The Zebra’s The State of Auto Insurance Report for 2019, drivers with poor credit scores (579 or less) have an average insurance premium of just under $3,000, while drivers with exceptional credit scores (800 or higher) pay only about $1,250 on average — a 58% savings. Improving your credit score several tiers, such as from fair to excellent, can lower your rates by up to 70%.

The Bottom Line

Remember, a credit score is just a shorthand that speaks to your credit history. And there are several different versions of these shorthands!Our goal at Metromile is to give our customers — with poor credit, great credit, and everything in between — greater control over their car insurance bill. By and large, they seem to appreciate it! Sound interesting? It only takes minutes to get your personalized quote.

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