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As my ancient and outdated car reaches the end of her lifespan and I’ve been on the hunt for newer, more tech-savvy, eco-friendly modes of transportation, I’ve been a little overwhelmed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. 

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.