Why Did My Car Insurance Bill Go Up?

Some surprises are pleasant: an unexpected raise, an upgrade to first class, a new puppy. And some — like a mysterious increase in your car insurance bill — are anything but. Some of the most common questions we hear from customers have to do with bill changes, and while there’s no one-size-fits-all answer (insurance is complicated!), there are a few common causes for a price increase.

An accident or traffic ticket. This is the big one. If you were at fault in any fender bender during your term, your insurance company would likely factor that into your rate when your policy renews. That’s because your driving record is one of the most important factors insurance carriers use to calculate your risk. A speeding ticket or other violation may have the same impact. In both situations, you may lose the “good driver discount” that takes three years of flawless driving to qualify for.

A change to your policy. Did you recently add a new driver to your insurance? Any switches to your plan or additions of different types of coverage? Any tweak to your previous plan changes the risk.

You qualified for a discount, but you don’t anymore. Sometimes the low rate you grew accustomed to was tied to a discount on your policy — but if something in your life changed (e.g., you went from married to single, you moved to a new ZIP Code, your defensive driving course took place several years ago) you may no longer qualify for that discount. 

Changes at the state level. It’s common for state-level factors, which individual drivers don’t have control over, to affect insurance prices. Everything from natural disasters to widespread insurance fraud impacts risk, and each state has a distinct regulatory agency that insurers work with to set rates. Since these factors are collective, they tend to produce more modest rate changes than individual driving habits.

Location, location, location. ZIP Code is a primary factor used to evaluate risk. If your area has experienced a rash of stolen cars, has more accident-prone drivers, or is more crowded with cars, you may see that additional risk reflected in your bill. 

If your bill recently went up, chances are one of these factors was behind it. (All of these factors can also contribute to a lower bill — but as you might guess most customers are a-ok with a lower rate.)

We know a rate increase is frustrating, which is why we offer our customers some control over their bill by charging per mile; we can help you get started.

Still have questions about your bill? We’re available by chat, email, and phone to help.

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


Everything you need to know about your upgraded Metromile Pulse

*Disclaimer: the information in this article is intended for Metromile customers who received a specific notification to set up an upgraded Pulse. It is not intended for customers who are learning how to install their device for the first time or those who are replacing a malfunctioning one.

Welcome to your new, upgraded Pulse! If you’re here, then you’re one of a few Metromile customers who have been prompted to replace their old device with a brand new, upgraded Pulse. You may have questions about why you’re getting a new device, how to install it, or just looking for some extra guidance, and that’s why we’re here. Have a look at our detailed instructions below and some FAQs at the bottom of the page. 

How to install your upgraded Pulse device

How to install your new Pulse

Check your cell signal

1. Check your cell signal.

It’s helpful to be in an area that has cell service from the start of this process, but if that’s not possible, make sure that you drive to an area that has service after Step 5. 

2. Unplug your old device

When you locate your OBD-II port, remove your current device and make sure not to mix them up. If that happens, don’t worry, just give us a call and we’ll help you figure it out.

3. Plug in your new device

Insert the new Pulse into the OBD-II port. If necessary, gently push the Pulse in further or wiggle it into place to make sure it’s completely plugged in. You will see a red light appear when the Pulse is correctly installed.

4. Go for a drive

Hop in the car and drive for more than 5 minutes. This will help activate your new Pulse by sending us a signal.

5. Expect to hear from us

In the next 1-2 days, you should see your trip recorded in your Metromile dashboard or app. You’ll also get an email from us confirming we got the signal.

6. Recycle your old device

Help us do some good for the planet and recycle your old Pulse at a proper facility near you.

FAQs

Why do I need to replace my device? What is this upgrade actually doing for me?

As is the case with most technology, sometimes the hardware can use an upgrade. Even if your current device appears to be working just fine, we know that if it doesn’t get replaced, you may have connectivity issues down the road. We’re asking you to replace your current device because it may no longer connect to our network in the near future.

What if I’m away from my vehicle and I need more time to replace my old device?

If you are away from your car and unable to install your Pulse in the time given, you may set a grace period. This means you’ll have extra time to install your new device. If you need to set a grace period, give us a call at 1.888.244.1702 8am-5pm PT Monday – Friday.

What if I didn’t get my device?

It should take about a week for your new Pulse to arrive at your mailing address, and you’ll receive an email from us around the time your new Pulse will arrive. If it’s been several days since you received that email and you still don’t have your new Pulse, then we may need to send you another one. Please call our Customer Service team at 1.888.244.1702 8am-5pm PT Monday – Friday.

What if I received multiple devices?

  • If you have multiple vehicles that are insured with Metromile and you received multiple devices, you are being asked to replace your old devices with the ones that we sent you. On each new device there are stickers that have the year, make, model, and the last 4 digits of the VIN number to indicate which device belongs to which vehicle. 
  • If you have multiple vehicles that are insured with Metromile and you only receive one device—don’t worry. You may only need to replace one device. Just make sure you replace the right one by checking your emails from us.
  • If you only have one vehicle that is insured with Metromile and you received multiple Pulse devices, then please hold on to them and give us a call at 1.888.244.1702 8am-5pm PT Monday – Friday.

Where can I find the OBD-II port?

Depending on your car, it could be in one of several locations:

OBD II port locations

I’m having trouble installing my new Pulse

We’ll walk you through the process. First, you should know that a properly installed Pulse has a red light on it, and your driving data will be reflected in your app or dashboard. If that’s not happening, please follow these steps:

  1. Make sure you’re in an area with cell service.
  2. Check to see that your Pulse is completely plugged into your vehicle. Try taking the Pulse out completely for a few minutes and reinserting it back into the port by gently pushing the Pulse in further or wiggling it into place.
  3. If you still can’t see a light or the light doesn’t appear red, have a mechanic look at your OBD-II port to see if it’s working properly. 
  4. Once the red light appears on your Pulse, go for a drive (for longer than 5 minutes). After your trip, make sure you’re in an area that has cell service and check your app or dashboard to see if the trip details show up. (Note that this may take up to 48 hours to display.)
  5. At this point, you should get an email from us confirming that we got a signal from your new device. If you’re still experiencing issues, please reach out to our Customer Service team at 1.888.244.1702 8am-5pm PT Monday – Friday and request a new device.

I’m about to be charged penalty miles, but I need more time.

If you know you won’t be able to install your new device in time, give us a call and we’ll help you set a grace period. Call 1.888.244.1702 8am-5pm PT Monday – Friday and speak to a Customer Service representative.

Why am I getting penalty miles?

  • As part of your contract with Metromile, your Pulse needs to be plugged into your car at all times in order for us to bill your actual miles driven. When we haven’t received a signal from your new device and your old device has been deactivated, we apply penalty miles to your account. 
  • Please note that if penalty miles are applied to your account during this process, those are the only miles that will be added to your account from this vehicle

Where do I recycle my Pulse? How do I find a recycling center?

Unlike other types of recycling you may be used to seeing (think: big blue bins) that hold your standard paper, aluminum, or glass, electronic devices have complicated parts and need to be recycled in separate facilities. Fortunately, they’re pretty easy to find. Just type in “recycling centers near me” in your search bar and find a place near you. You could even recycle your device at stores you’re more familiar with, like Best Buy or Staples.

Simple Ways to De-Stress Behind the Wheel

A few years ago, Time Magazine ran an article titled “10 Things Your Commute Does to Your Body.” Spoiler alert: none of them were good. In fact, they were downright disturbing. The thorough roundup of research indicated a long list of frightening risks: high cholesterol, increased blood sugar, depression, anxiety, and more. You probably knew your time behind the wheel wasn’t doing you any big health favors but did you expect it to affect your physical and mental wellness significantly?

The root of many of these issues is, perhaps unsurprisingly, stress. From traffic jams and rude drivers to street closures and unexpected car trouble, driving can suck the life out of you. Luckily, there are some simple ways to keep your cool:

  1. Remember to breathe…literally. The first thing that many of us do when faced with stress is to hold our breath. Shocking news: this complete oxygen deprivation won’t help you cope or calm down. The good news is, you have the power to control your breath no matter where you are — even if where you are is stuck in rush hour. An easy go-to technique is to breathe deeply and fully through your nose, pause, and exhale slowly.
  2. Listen to soothing music or an entertaining podcast. The research on whether music and podcasts are driving distractions is mixed, so you have to figure out for yourself whether these auditory additions will greatly improve or further mess with your experience. (Might we suggest music or a light podcast and avoiding oft frustrating subjects like sports or politics?)
  3. Improve your posture. It may sound small and silly, but modifying your position in the driver’s seat can go a long way toward improving your overall outlook. Notice if you’re gripping the steering wheel and gently loosen your grip; lean back and avoid hunching and slumping your shoulders; unclench your jaw. And if you really want to treat yourself, consider an ergonomic cushion or seat back to feel great every time you get behind the wheel.
  4. Create a stress-free schedule. Running late has a way of magnifying the small stresses of driving. Try getting out the door 15 minutes earlier and see how it affects your mood — easier said than done, of course!
  5. Consider an alternative. De-stressing behind the wheel can help, but we’d be remiss not to mention driving less in the first place…it’s our thing. Perhaps you’d appreciate public transit? A morning bike ride? A carpool buddy? It’s tough to oversell the benefits of ditching a car commute altogether.

There’s a bonus if you take that last bit of advice: more money in your wallet from saving on gas, maintenance, and insurance. We can help with the savings; we leave the relaxing habits to you.

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


Not Your Father’s Car Insurance: How Technology is Upending the Industry

Jeff Briglia is our Chief Insurance Officer.

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It’s no secret that mobility is on the cusp of a revolution. Increasingly, autonomous vehicles are transforming the role of the driver, just as ride- and car-sharing platforms are changing car ownership.

What’s less obvious is that these same technologies are also upending automobile insurance. If a car is driving itself half the time, or all of the time, should the driver be held liable for an accident that is caused when the vehicle is in autonomous mode? If a person travels mostly by ride-sharing, and uses her own car very little, shouldn’t she pay a lower premium?

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. An even bigger revolution is being driven by information technology — real-time driving data, or telematics, that makes it possible to know both how much and how safely each individual person (or car!) is driving. 

That promises to profoundly change the century-old approach for how insurers rate drivers for safety and how much they charge.  

Put simply, instead of lumping drivers into different risk-groups based on proxies for risk like age, education, and even gender, telematics makes it possible to rate drivers based primarily on their actual, individual driving practices. 

Done correctly, this will greatly increase fairness for consumers. Imagine this: one of the most expensive times to have auto insurance is when you have a teenage driver on your policy. Taken as a group, teens get into accidents at a much greater rate than adults. Today, your teen is assumed to drive like the average teen and, as a result, you pay for it. In the future, your teen driver’s insurance rate will be based on how she actually drives; not only is this a fairer way to price insurance but it also creates stronger accountability for people of all ages to drive more safely. 

Equally important, the new technology will enable insurers to recognize the kaleidoscope of new approaches to mobility. People who rely heavily on ride-sharing platforms, and only seldom drive their own cars, can now pay less because they drive fewer miles. 

We already have the fundamental technology. Metromile, which insures drivers based on the number of miles they drive and the quality of those miles, gives customers a device that plugs into the car’s diagnostic port and transmits a real-time stream of data about what’s happening. How many miles does each customer drive? Is any rapid acceleration or hard braking taking place? Is it a riskier time of day? Other technologies make it possible to spot signs of distracted driving or falling asleep at the wheel.

In fact, I can imagine a day when we don’t price at all on the basis of which risk-groups a person is in. If we have access to individual data and understand what it means, an extremely careful twenty-something millennial could end up paying less for car insurance than a 45-year-old Gen X’er  who appears shaky behind the wheel.

Telematics can also transform the way we, as insurers, interact with our customers. If we see signs of less-than-ideal driving practices, such as a lot of sudden accelerations and hard stops, we can gently advise them on ways to improve safety and get better mileage as well. If drivers know they may be rewarded for following better practices, and they are receiving concrete tips, they are likely to become safer drivers.  

Until recently, the biggest hurdle to this kind of personalized insurance has been knowing how to process all the incoming data. We’re talking about staggering amounts of data sent from millions of cars every minute of the day. Simply storing all that was a gargantuan task, and analyzing it was many times harder.

That has now changed. The plunging cost of computer processing power, and the explosive advances in artificial intelligence and “deep learning” computers, enable us to make sense out of what would have seemed like chaos just a few years ago.

To be sure, we have a ways to go.

For all the computing and algorithmic power at our fingertips, this is an entirely new approach to modeling driver safety. New approaches require new principles for risk analysis. The leaders in this new field will be companies that can both collect all that data and then actually learn the digital traits of safe drivers. Even after accomplishing all that, insurers will need to translate those risk-profiles into practical underwriting principles. 

It’s also important to acknowledge that insurance is a regulated industry, and most state regulators are still grounded in traditional group-based insurance models. We are already working with several states to test-drive new kinds of policies, but this is a learning process for them as well as for consumers.

Metromile is in a strong position here. Because we started from the ground up with a model based on individual driving rather than group patterns, we enjoy a big headstart in understanding almost every conceivable kind of driver in almost every conceivable situation. We have data on more than 2 billion miles of driving so far…and we’re still in the early stages.  

As a 20-year insurance industry vet, this is by far the most exciting time for innovation and improvement that I have ever experienced. 

We’re putting drivers back in the driver’s seat.

What to Do if You Don't Get the Other Driver's Info

 
You’ve probably heard it a million times: if you have the misfortune of getting into a car accident, you’ve got to immediately swap info with the other driver. That means exchanging details like license plate numbers, contact details, and of course, your insurance information. But what if, for whatever reason, you’re involved in an accident and you don’t get the other driver’s deets? 

There can be a lot of chaos that ensues post-accident. Whether you’re too stressed to remember all the items on your checklist or you experience the unfortunate event of a hit-and-run, there are still steps you can take to make sure you’re taken care of. 

  1. Make sure you’re okay. This may sound obvious, but when the shock of an accident sets in, you may lose sight of what’s happening in the present moment. Take a moment to check yourself and any passengers for injuries, and, if you’re able, to move your car to a safe spot. 
  2. Call the cops. We get it — it can feel silly to involve the police in something as seemingly minor as a fender bender. But a police report can be an essential part of filing a claim, so if everyone’s in okay shape, call the police non-emergency line (use 911 if there are injuries or serious damage). It’s best to get a report number if you can.
  3. Write down what you remember. Pull out a pen and paper, open the Notes app on your phone — do whatever you have to do to start jotting down memories. Any details about the scene of the accident and the vehicle or individual involved is fair game, so things like the license plate number, the color, make, or model of the other car, or anything about the driver can be useful. Do what you can to focus and get it all down on a blank page. 
  4. Take photos. One of the biggest perks of constantly carrying around a smartphone is the ability to snap high quality pics at a moment’s notice. Take pictures of everything you can — the outside of your car, any damage it sustained, the surrounding area of the accident, etc. In the case of a hit-and-run, even the tiniest details could help police find the other driver.
  5. Look around for witnesses. Not only do you have a phone in your pocket — chances are, just about everyone else in the vicinity does too, and it’s very possible someone else recorded evidence of your accident. But even if no one nearby captured a photo or video of the incident, bystanders may be able to tell you about details you somehow missed, like which way the driver went after the accident, or identifying characteristics about their car. Jot down your witnesses’ info just in case your insurance carrier or the police need to touch base with them later. 
  6. Contact your insurance company. Whether the other driver took off after the accident or even flat out refused to hand over their info, you should absolutely still notify your insurance company about the accident. Not only does your insurance carrier likely require you get in touch within a reasonable time, they can make things easier by taking some of the work out of your hands.

And if you want some added peace of mind, perhaps it’s time to give Metromile a shot; one of our unique features is a virtual assistant named AVA who makes filing claims a snap, and can often verify where and when an accident happened and details like how hard the impact was. In some cases she can even ensure instant payment and help you schedule repairs.
Accidents are never convenient, but following the steps above — and considering whether you have the right insurance provider — will make for the smoothest possible claims process. 
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Michelle Konstantinovsky is a San Francisco-based freelance journalist, UC Berkeley alumna, and Metromile customer. 

The #1 Rule of Buying a Used Car

 
If you’re trying to spend less on driving, the thought of buying a vehicle can be a little overwhelming; buying a car can be a huge expense. According to a recent Kelley Blue Book report, the average price of a new car increased to $37,577 from 2017 to 2018. Yikes! And while used cars can certainly cost a pretty penny too, they at least offer a much more affordable alternative…if you know what to look for. 
There’s one major to-do that far too many drivers fail to check off their list before forking over the cash for a used car, and it’s surprisingly simple: run a vehicle history report.

What is a vehicle history report?

Every used car — no matter if it’s in pristine condition — has a past. By reviewing the vehicle history report, you get direct insight into that past. Carfax.com and AutoCheck.com are the two most popular sources for reports, but there are other sources out there as well. They all dig up important information about your potential new car using its vehicle identification number (VIN). While the report can’t tell you exactly what’s happening under the hood of a car, it can offer a wealth of knowledge that reduces the risk around determining the car’s current state. 
Here’s what you’ll typically find in a vehicle history report:

  • Accidents. You can’t expect every minor fender bender to go on a vehicle’s permanent record, but any major accidents have usually been reported to an insurance company. Those accidents will wind up here. 
  • Number of owners/type of uses: Knowing how many people have owned the car and how they might have used it can make a big difference in your decision to buy. Was the car mostly kept in the garage by one occasional driver, or was it put to work as a rideshare vehicle? Knowing the facts — and whether it may have been passed down along a long chain of family or friends — may influence your buying mindset. 
  • Maintenance records: Service visits aren’t always listed on the report, but if the previous owner took the car in to the dealership, you’ll find out about it. 
  • Odometer tampering: One major advantage of the report is its insight into odometer rollbacks. Less-than-reputable lots might tamper with the car’s distance measurement to sell older cars at higher prices. If this ever happened to a vehicle, it will go on its history report.  
  • Salvage title: Even if a vehicle endures a “total loss” (meaning the insurance company declared the cost of repairs would exceed the cash value of the car), it could still very well be drivable. But you’d probably want to know about it, right? Luckily, insurance companies issue something called a “salvage title” that notifies future buyers of the incident. This goes on a vehicle history report, too. 

Bottom Line

Ordering a vehicle history report typically costs between $25 and $40 — sometimes less if you’re checking multiple reports at once — or you may be able to snag a report on the dealer’s or lender’s dime. It’s a good idea to stay informed; you’ll be less likely to be blind-sided by any serious issues, and can save money on maintenance down the road.
And of course, a safer car can mean lower insurance rates (whether you buy that insurance by the mile or through a traditional insurer). The one-two punch of a vehicle history report and great car insurance can help you stay safe before and after you’re in the driver’s seat.
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Michelle Konstantinovsky is a San Francisco-based freelance journalist, UC Berkeley alumna, and Metromile customer. 

More Data: It’s Time to Breakup with Your Car Insurance

 
It’s not you, it’s me. Or is it? Breaking up can be hard, no matter how long you’ve been in the relationship. Recently, we researched how people manage interpersonal relationships and how that compares to their relationship with auto insurance. Our survey of 2,008 adults in the U.S. aged 18 years and older included some surprises.

One in five Americans (a whopping 21%!) think it’s more challenging to find a new auto insurance provider than break up with their significant other!
About half (47%) of Americans have stayed in a relationship with their auto insurance provider for as many as five years, but only 26% have stayed in a relationship with their significant other for the same amount of time. Let that sink in for a moment — many of us are more committed to our insurance provider than we are with our romantic partners!
Evaluating your relationship with your car insurance provider is important. If you can’t remember the last time you thought about your insurance, it might be time to re-evaluate (and possibly break up with) your insurance provider.
Nearly a third of Americans (29%) are not aware of the baggage that comes with marrying someone with a less-than-favorable driving record. 
Additionally, we discovered that roughly a third of women (31%) of all ages are unaware of the impact of their spouse’s driving records on their auto insurance rates. When two become one, the same goes for their car insurance policies. 
Did you know that your spouse’s driving record will affect the premium that you might pay? A poor driving record could increase your car insurance premium. It is critical to discuss driving records with your spouse to prevent any unpleasant surprises after you tie the knot.
Nearly 60 percent of American women of all ages have stayed with their insurance provider for more than five years. Only 53% of American men have done the same.
We were surprised: It seems women are more likely to stay the course with their car insurance provider and to remain committed, even when the waters might get rough. Whatever the case may be, every person should feel empowered to evaluate their relationship with their car insurance provider regularly. If your car insurance is no longer meeting your needs, it may be time for a fresh start with someone new.
61% of women between the ages of 45 – 54 rated discounts for being a low mileage driver as an important quality in a new car insurance provider – compared to just half of men.
We found that women are more likely to prioritize savings and customer service when it comes to auto insurance. Saving money and being a low-mileage driver isn’t gender-specific. By switching to Metromile, everyone (regardless of gender) can benefit from our low-mileage driver discounts and incredible customer service!
Bottom Line
Male or female, it makes no difference – everyone deserves access to the best care and car insurance. Whether you’ve been in a relationship with your current car insurance provider for five months or five years, take a moment to re-evaluate if they are meeting all of your needs. Breaking up with your car insurance provider isn’t hard to do, and grabbing a free quote only takes a few minutes. It’s time for a new beginning – cheers to trying something new!
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Julianne Sawyer is a freelance writer, app producer, and real-life Metromile customer living in the San Francisco Bay Area. 

Survey Says: It’s Time for New Car Insurance

 
Julianne Sawyer is a freelance writer, app producer, and real-life Metromile customer living in the San Francisco Bay Area. 
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When was the last time you took a good, hard look at your car insurance policy? Can’t remember? For many people, car insurance is something they only think of when (heaven forbid) a car accident occurs. All the while, the car insurance policy sits there, gathering dust. Perhaps it’s time to shake the dust off and find out what your car insurance provider is actually, you know, providing. It might be time to try something new.

We polled 2,008 adults in the U.S., aged 18 and older, to learn about the relationship they have with their car insurance provider. We also explored the impact of switching car insurance providers, even when your term isn’t up yet. 
Well, the results are in. You might want to sit down for this one. 
Nearly half of Americans (45%) do not look for low-mileage driver discounts.
This survey finding had us genuinely shocked! Metromile saves low-mileage drivers — some 65% of Americans — money every day. 
Do you mainly use public transportation? Are you no longer commuting to work? Maybe you only drive around your neighborhood for quick errands. Perhaps you’re in your golden years and prefer to walk everywhere. Metromile is currently available in Arizona, California, Illinois, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington, with plans for state expansion — and you could qualify for an average of $741 savings every year just by switching.
Only 1 in 10 Americans (11%) shop for auto insurance every year.
In other words, 89% of Americans don’t shop around for car insurance at least once a year! We all know how much can change in a year — people start new jobs, move, get married, get divorced, have children, teenagers start driving — the list goes on. With life-changing milestones happening minute to minute, a year is enough time for your car insurance needs to change.
Fifteen percent of Americans would rather file their taxes or go to the DMV than shop for auto insurance. 
Shopping for car insurance doesn’t need to be a task you avoid. With Metromile, you can grab a free quote online in a matter of minutes, and switching is easy. Unlike going to the DMV or filing your taxes, we won’t waste your time with complicated forms or time-consuming surveys. Switching to Metromile is so easy, you’ll wonder why you dreaded shopping for auto insurance at all.
More than one in four Americans (26%) say they do not want to give up their bundled auto and home insurance — even if they can save by unbundling.
Initially, bundling your home and auto insurance may sound appealing. However, insurance companies sometimes prey on that “convenience” factor and charge more for the home and auto insurance bundle than if you purchased the two policies separately. Consider taking the time to see how much you could save by signing up for home and auto insurance policies independently. You may be pleasantly surprised!
Almost three out of four Americans (74%) do not consider features like gas or trip-planners, street-sweeping alerts or vehicle health monitors when looking for a new insurance policy.
Does your current auto insurance carrier currently provide gas or trip-planners? With Metromile, our trip planner finds the shortest routes, saving you miles, time and money. Our street-sweeping alerts can save you the hassle of getting a ticket. And our vehicle health monitor decodes common engine problems, which can save you time and money at the shop. 
Metromile delivers all of these handy features (and more) entirely free for our customers. If you don’t consider these features when deciding on a car insurance provider, maybe it’s time to start! 
Bottom line
Switching car insurance providers, even if your current insurance term isn’t up, can lead to significant personal savings, reward you for driving fewer miles, and offer convenience on top of it all. And at Metromile we aim to make the switch painless — much better than doing your taxes or waiting in line at the DMV!
So ask yourself: is it time to break up with your car insurance provider?

Hey Elon, Welcome to Insurance. As You’re Learning, it’s Complicated

 
Dan Preston is the CEO of Metromile.
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When Elon Musk announced that he was getting into car insurance, I wasn’t surprised — this is an industry full of opportunities for fresh thinking. I also wasn’t surprised he ran into some glitches on launch day.

I understand why Musk is frustrated: Tesla cars are packed with pioneering safety technology, but they are comparatively expensive to insure. We know firsthand; Metromile insures many Tesla owners (up 200% in the past year alone). Our data shows they are no more accident-prone than drivers of other cars, while their claims run about twice as much as other cars due to the high cost of repairing the on-board technology. 
From the expansion of autonomous navigation to the explosion of ride- and car-sharing platforms, technology is transforming both cars and car ownership. Insurance is ripe for disruption, too, which is why Metromile was founded eight years ago with a pay-per-mile model based on someone’s actual driving.
But drivers also value the service itself — beyond savings — whether that means a feature that monitors the car’s condition or an intuitive, design-first claims system. Consumers may be attracted to low prices, but how long they remain a customer depends on their experience
The long-term opportunity lies in reducing the conflict and distrust between insurance companies and their customers. Right now, the relationship can be very transactional and full of tension. Insurers worry about risky drivers and fraudulent claims, while customers worry about being short-changed by obscure policy loopholes. It’s an adversarial process, and it can be grueling.
Technology offers massive opportunities for personalized insurance that can lower rates. We save many of our customers hundreds of dollars a year. Likewise, we recently partnered with Turo, a leading car-sharing company, to create fractional insurance to help reduce the costs of car ownership. 
And we’re on the cusp of even larger changes. Sooner or later, self-driving cars will become mainstream. As a result, cars will be safer and experience fewer accidents. While some accidents like a falling tree will happen no matter how advanced a car may be, we understand fundamentally that no two miles driven are the same; a mile driven autonomously could and should be insured differently than one driven by a human.
In the meantime, technology can reduce the tension between insurers and their customers. One way is by enabling personalized insurance customized to individual needs. Another is to make the claims process smoother and easier. Through AVA, our AI-powered claims system, we see the power of using a car’s telematics data to reconstruct an accident and assess the damage quickly — enabling us to pay some claims within minutes.    
That said, irresponsible technology can create traps. Just imagine how fast a fully-automated AI system could alienate customers by spitting out instant decisions they don’t like, or not being able to be guided by an experienced, empathetic claims-professional after a stressful accident. These are very nuanced issues; they require employees with exceptional insurance experience who can bring out the best of the technology while avoiding the roadside ditches.   
Without a doubt, I love Musk’s challenge to the status quo. But as Tesla pauses for an “algorithm update,” I hope they take my advice: insurance is about more than low prices. We need fresh thinking from carmakers and insurers alike.

Do You Need A Car at College?


When I made the brave and lengthy journey to college many years ago (just kidding, my school was 70 miles from home), I spent the first two semesters carless. Freshmen didn’t have the privilege of parking spots, and if we’re honest, my freeway driving skills were still developing.
Weekend trips to visit mom and dad required either the generosity of mobile friends or six spare hours to spend on the painfully slow train. But navigating the tiny college town without wheels was easy, and before long I didn’t miss Kermit (the family name for my hand-me-down green Ford Taurus — may he rest in peace) at all.
When I came back as a sophomore, however, Kermit came too, and having my car at school suddenly opened up new opportunities — driving to the closest big city mall, skipping the dysfunctional bus service and sleeping in, blasting Ashlee Simpson albums on the way to my boyfriend’s house (it was 2006, okay?). But was all that driving necessary? Of course not. So from my dated dilemma arises a modern question: do kids really need their cars at college?
The Pros
There are some compelling reasons to bring a car to campus:

  • The convenience factor. If you live off-campus, a car could help you get to lectures on time or make it possible to snag a job that pays more than any on-campus gig.
  • Grocery shopping is a lot less of a workout. Once you’re out of the dorms, it’s pretty much up to you to bring home the bacon (and eggs, and bread, and heavy arm-crushing produce). Having a car certainly makes it easier to transport a shopping haul.
  • You’ll have a place to call your own. College life can be cramped. Having your own car means you’ll have a sacred space to escape to (and escape in) any time you need a break from your roommates, classmates, study buddies, etc.

The Cons
Yes, having a car at college means a bit more freedom and autonomy, but it also means:

  • Paying for insurance, parking, maintenance, repairs, and more. There’s no way to avoid it: driving is expensive.
  • Spending precious time searching for a spot. Driving may shave minutes off your commute, but that time saved can quickly be replaced circling the block.
  • Being less invested in your campus life. Having an easy escape means you’re probably not spending a ton of time getting to know the people around you or exploring new opportunities and adventures. And isn’t that kind of the whole point of college (besides that coveted degree, of course)?
  • A higher risk of accidents. If you’re behind the wheel at all, you’re already at risk for an accident. But if you’re tired from studying, partying, working, and just generally depriving yourself of proper shut-eye, you’re putting yourself at an even higher risk.

On Balance
Having a car at college can definitely have some perks, but overall, the cost — financial and otherwise — is far higher than the potential benefit. And leaving the car at home means more time and energy to invest in immersing yourself in the college experience.
It won’t come as a surprise that we’re encouraging people to drive less; we think a world with fewer cars, less crowded streets, and cleaner air is something to shoot for. Do you agree? If so, we’ll be here with insurance to make things easier.


Michelle Konstantinovsky is a San Francisco-based freelance journalist, UC Berkeley alumna, and Metromile customer. She’s written extensively on health, body image, entertainment, lifestyle, design, and tech for outlets like Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, Teen Vogue, O: The Oprah Magazine, Seventeen, Slate, SPIN, Entrepreneur, xoJane, SF Weekly, California Home + Design, and more.