8 Road Trips That Can Be Done On The Cheap

If you’ve opted to forego the pricey European summer vacation in favor of a more budget-friendly road trip in the States, you’re already ahead of the game in terms of saving. But while low-cost accommodations and meals will undoubtedly cut costs, diving head-first into a spontaneous cross-country excursion could still result in a nasty surprise in the form of a scary credit card bill. Carefully plotting out your journey from beginning to end will spare you any unpleasant financial surprises, and will take the guesswork out of where to eat, sleep, and sightsee. Here are some of the very best American road trips that can be done on a strict budget:

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8 Road Trips That Can Be Done On The Cheap

  1. Big Bear Lake, California.
    The trip from San Francisco to Big Bear is just shy of eight hours—the perfect amount of time to blast your favorite Spotify playlists and still have time for some juicy podcasts. And if you’re in Los Angeles, Big Bear is the ideal quick and easy escape from the big city (it’s about 100 miles northeast of L.A. proper). The mountain resort is a perfect budget-friendly destination, thanks to its comprehensive website full of online coupons for everything from dining and shopping to lodging and recreation. There’s no cost to visit the destination itself, so with a little research, you can tailor-make a stay that’s totally affordable.
  2. Antelope Canyon, Arizona.
    You’ve seen the seemingly endless stream of Instagram pics—now it’s time to get your own stunning selfie. Antelope Canyon is easily accessible from a number of starting points, including Phoenix, AZ, Nevada, or Utah. The epic attraction is also close to the Grand Canyon, so if you’re trying to get the most bang for your buck, this route will pack plenty of action. The canyon is located on Native American Navajo territory and requires a $6 entry fee. You can try your luck with local tour groups at the canyon entrance, or make a reservation ahead of time for under $40 per person.

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  3. Florida Keys, Florida.
    A short and sweet trip south of Miami is the two-hour drive from Key West to Key Largo. The quick escape is packed with historic sites like Victorian mansions and museums (the Hemingway Home was built in 1851 and it’s where the iconic writer lived from 1931 to 1940—admission is jut $14). And if you’re looking for a nature-based adventure, for just $12, you can see hundreds of butterflies, birds, and tropical plants at the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory.
  4. Big Sur, California.
    This central coast California destination is a must for outdoorsy types. It takes less than three hours to drive the 145 miles from San Francisco, and accommodations can be pretty cost-effective since campsites are plentiful (some cost as little as $15 a night, but you’ll have to make advanced reservations). If roughing it isn’t really your thing, you can indulge in some self-care without totally splurging—take a late-night dip in the healing waters at Esalen hot springs for just $35.

  5. Going-to-the-Sun Road, Montana.
    If a 12-mile hike sounds like your idea of the perfect way to cap off a road trip, then consider driving Montana’s Going-to-the-Sun Road. The high-altitude, 50-mile winding route connects the East and West passes of Glacier National Park, and includes access to the Highline Trail, a wildflower-dotted hiking path that’s not for the faint of heart—but totally free to try.
  6. Canyon Country, Utah.
    National park connoisseurs will definitely want to make an adventure out of a Southern Utah excursion. Within just 650 miles of desert, you’ll find five national parks that some people consider among the best in the country. Drive from Moab to Grand Junction in just 90 minutes, and you’ll have a chance to see Arches National Park and Canyonlands (both cost just $30 for seven days’ worth of admission per private vehicle).

  7. Great Lakes Seaway Trail, New York and Pennsylvania.
    Get a serious history lesson on the Great Lakes Seaway Trail, one of the first American roads to be designated as a National Scenic Byway. The 518-mile route follows along the shores of Lake Erie, the Niagara River, Lake Ontario, and the St. Lawrence River and includes an astounding 40 state parks. Presque Isle State Park is one worthy stop in particular. The (free!) natural attraction is a 3,200-acre peninsula that features miles of beach.
  8. The Loneliest Road, Nevada.
    Okay, yes, the name is a drag, but you’re bound to have a pretty great time traversing this largely-isolated section of U.S. Highway 50. Because the route follows the Pony Express path, there are actually quite a few must-see attractions on the drive from Carson City to Baker, including hot springs and old mining towns.

    Nevada

Before you hit the road, you’ll need to have a car insurance company that has you covered. If you’re not a Metromile customer, what are you waiting for? Visit metromile.com for a free quote today.

Michelle Konstantinovsky is a San Francisco-based journalist/writer/editor and UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism alumna. She’s written extensively on health, body image, entertainment, lifestyle, design, and tech for outlets like Cosmopolitan, Harper’s Bazaar, Marie Claire, Teen Vogue, O: The Oprah Magazine, Seventeen, and a whole lot more. She’s also a contributing editor at Fitbit and the social media director at California Home + Design Magazine. She is an avid admirer of shiny objects, manatees, and preteen entertainment.

How Much Should a New Car Really Cost, and How Do You Know If You Can Afford One?

The time has come. You’re finally ready to trade in your old beater and treat yourself to a brand new car. You have an idea of what kind of car you want to get, but with every car dealership advertising their latest “deal,” it can be easy to get suckered into paying more than you should for your new whip. Because of this, it’s important to do your research and have a solid plan in place before ever stepping through the front door of the dealership.

New Car - How Much Should it Cost?

So: how do you know how much your new car should cost? Then, with all the down payments, warranties, and dealership fees, how to do you if you can actually afford the car you want without blowing your budget? Don’t worry, we’ve got the scoop. Step into your future-new-car negotiation with confidence using our fool-proof tips.

How Much Should a New Car Really Cost, and How Do You Know If You Can Afford One?

    Assess Your Assets

    Before kicking your clunker to the curb, find out if the car has any trade-in value. Most car dealerships will take your old car as a trade-in, which will, in turn, knock the price of your new car down. The ol’ trade-in deal is a bit of a double-edged sword, however, because the car dealership will try to lowball you. Since most people are not in much of a position to negotiate the trade-in value of their current car, they are likely to take the deal presented to them.

    Putting the trade-in deal firmly in the “pro” category is the fact that the dealer does all the paperwork. After you and the dealer settle on an acceptable price, all you have to do is sign the vehicle over to the dealership and be done with it. However – the price you pay for the convenience of being relieved of your vehicle will likely be less money for you than if you sold it yourself. The dealer will not give the full retail value of the vehicle and people are often disappointed by the offers presented to them. To avoid any surprises, be sure to get the Kelley Blue Book® Trade-in value of your vehicle before you step foot in the dealership.

    Your Credit: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

    Next up: addressing how you will be paying for your new vehicle. If you plan on financing your new car (90% of people take this route), your credit score will come into play. See, car dealerships assess how likely it is that you will pay your loan on time every month if you’re likely to skip payments, and more based on your credit history. If your credit score is looking less than stellar (above 700 is considered “good”), you’ll definitely need to factor that into your new potential payments. Your monthly payments may increase if your credit score has been looking a little worse-for-wear.

    Calculate How Much You Can Afford

    There’s no perfect formula to calculate how much you can afford, but our short answer is that your car payment should be no more than 15% of your monthly take-home pay. If you’re leasing, it should be no more than 10%. There are a few online calculators that will help you crunch the numbers:

    Did you know that the average new car payment is $499/month for 68 months? Most car loans come in well over $30,000, which is absurd considering the median household income is around $56,000/year. At the end of the day, it’s up to you to figure out how much you can truly afford to spend on a car. No matter what, don’t leave it up to the car salesman to decide how much you can borrow. Why? Because, according to their facts and figures, your credit and income may qualify you to buy just about anything on the lot.

    In addition to the price of your new vehicle, remember that you’ll also need to cover license plates, insurance, and any additional taxes required by your state. Additionally, you’ll need to pay sales tax on your vehicle, although your lender may roll your taxes into your loan (if you ask).

In Conclusion

The reality is that true affordability is never dictated by lenders or big banks. At the end of the day, only you know how much you can afford to spend on a new car payment and your other bills.

Once you have an idea of how your monthly income and expenses look, you can shop for your new car with confidence. When decide to pull the trigger on your new ride, we’ll be here to take care of all of your car insurance needs! Be sure to grab a free quote from us – and happy car shopping.

Julianne Cronin is a Bay Area freelance writer, content creator, and founder/editor of the women’s lifestyle site, The Wink. You can find her working on her capsule wardrobe, collecting cacti, and trying out the latest beauty products on Instagram

How to Save Money on a Road Trip

Ah, the summer road trip. A fun, freeing way to traverse the country, see the sights, and…go totally broke before Labor Day?

While a road trip may be a more affordable vacation option then say, a European cruise or a private jet around the world, that doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed to be wallet-friendly. Without taking the proper precautions, you may inadvertently spend way more on an automobile adventure than you intend to. But taking just a few points into consideration can spare you an unpleasant surprise when that post-trip credit card bill comes through at summer’s end.

Here are the top five tips for saving money on a road trip

  1. Plan, plan, plan.
  2. Sure, flying by the seat of your pants may sound glamorous and exciting, but going wherever the wind takes you will likely take you down an unnecessarily expensive rabbit hole of wrong turns and sky-high hotel rates. Take some time before you take off to plan your route and maybe even eye the restaurants you might want to stop at along the way. Booking hotel accommodations in advance will help you sidestep last-minute price hikes, and getting to know your path before you get on the road may prevent accidental off-course exits that require a lot more gas than you budgeted for.

  3. Download money-saving gas apps.
  4. Speaking of that gas tank—long drives can result in shockingly frequent stops to fill up, and prices can vary a ton depending on where you go. Luckily, there are several apps on the market that take the guesswork out of gassing up. Gas Buddy and Gas Guru are two apps that helps you locate the cheapest fueling stations in your area, and community-based app Waze offers real-time traffic information and current gas prices.

  5. Stock up on snacks the smart way.
  6. Look, we all love a good mini-mart shopping spree, but buying up chips, drinks, gum, and that irresistible-but-sure-to-break-in-two-seconds pair of sunglasses at every stop isn’t a great idea. Stock up on water and snacks in bulk before you hit the road, and if you absolutely have to satisfy a sudden Slurpee craving, put yourself on a strict one-item-per-stop regimen and resist the urge to impulse buy.

  7. Get a pre-trip tune-up.
  8. The worst way to spend a road trip? Stranded by the side of the road. Avoid the inconvenience, hassle, and major buzzkill of an unexpected breakdown by hitting up a local mechanic before you leave. Seeing someone you trust will also lessen the chance for getting swindled by overpriced services on unfamiliar turf.

  9. Pack the essentials.
  10. Again, this is where a little preparation and a pre-trip Costco outing or Amazon order come in handy. Even if you’re road tripping to a major destination with plenty of shops, you can save tons of cash on essentials like sunscreen and batteries if you buy them in advance.

The most important must-have for a flawless road trip? Car insurance that has you covered. So, if you haven’t made the switch to pay-per-mile car insurance, visit www.metromile.com for a free quote today.

Michelle Konstantinovsky is a San Francisco-based journalist/writer/editor and UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism alumna. She’s written extensively on health, body image, entertainment, lifestyle, design, and tech for outlets like Cosmopolitan, Harper’s Bazaar, Marie Claire, Teen Vogue, O: The Oprah Magazine, Seventeen, and a whole lot more. She’s also a contributing editor at Fitbit and the social media director at California Home + Design Magazine. She is an avid admirer of shiny objects, manatees, and preteen entertainment.

Car Insurance Rates Are Rising — Here’s Why

If you’ve had the sneaking suspicion that your car insurance rates have recently skyrocketed, you’re unfortunately not imagining things. Regardless of your location, chances are you’ve noticed a distinct increase on your bill, and that cost spike can be super frustrating. The silver lining is that a better understanding of the state of the auto insurance industry can empower you to make the most informed, educated choices possible when it comes to your plan. More knowledge and awareness means more opportunities to save money and drive smarter — and who doesn’t love that?

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How Much Is Car Insurance Costing Americans These Days?

According to experts, the average American pays more than $1,400 a year for car insurance coverage. And if that sounds like a whole lot, you’re right: auto insurance rates have increased at more than twice the rate of inflation. Current rates are 20% higher than they were in 2011, and every state in the country has increased its rates by anywhere from 1% to 60%. And the past 6 months have been especially rough as rates have gone up by 6% in that time period alone.

What Determines Your Premium Rate?

While $1,427 may be the national average, a lot of factors can impact your personal cost:

  • Local and state laws
  • Population changes and urbanization
  • Your claims history and driving record
  • The addition of any new drivers to your policy or changes of the primary drivers of vehicles on the policy (particularly teenagers: Parents adding a male teenager to their policy may pay as much as $6,186, and in some cases, 227% more than the cost to insure an adult driver alone)
  • Deleting a vehicle from the policy
  • Change of employment
  • Medical conditions that can increase your risk
  • A history of convictions or driving violations
  • Changes to your insurance plan’s structure or payment plan fees
  • Your credit score

But Why The Recent Surge?

While all the factors mentioned above can certainly have an impact on your premium, they don’t account for the recent surge in premium pricing. Experts believe a few different factors could be at play:

  • Extreme weather. In recent months, various parts of the United States have experienced hurricanes, wildfires, and other major natural disasters. Devastating events like these can result in more claims, which drive up the cost of insurance rates.
  • Distracted drivers. Texting and driving don’t mix under any circumstances. As drivers allow themselves to be distracted by their smartphones, they cause more accidents; many of which could be deadly. According to reports, 40,200 people died in 2016 in traffic accidents, an increase of 14% over 2014. Because more road accidents equate to higher costs for insurance companies, those insurers are forced to raise their rates, passing the increased costs along to customers. That’s why in some states if you’re caught texting or using your phone while driving, you’ll see your insurance premium go up by anywhere from 16% to 40%.
  • Better (pricier) technology. While cars are becoming safer thanks to ever-improving technology and design, those very same features are making cars way more expensive to fix in the event of an accident. As insurance companies have to pay more to repair more expensive cars, so do customers.
  • Fraudulent claims. According to a study by the Insurance Research Council, up to $7.7 billion in car insurance injury claims filed in 2012 were fraudulent or included fudged numbers (that’s 33% more than the reported $5.8 billion in 2002). The more claims an insurance company has to pay out, the more the cost of premiums increases. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, “not only does fraud cause higher insurance premiums for all of us, but it also raises our taxes and inflates prices for consumer goods.”

Tips For Keeping Your Premiums As Low As Possible

Luckily, there are some easy ways you can keep your car insurance rates as reasonable as possible:

  • The simplest way: Stop paying for miles you’re not driving and switch to pay-per-mile insurance — you’ll pay a low monthly base rate plus a few cents per mile when you sign up with Metromile. Because you are paying-per-mile, you’ll always have visibility into what your monthly bill is, giving you greater control over your premium amount.
  • Maintain a clean driving record. Staying accident-free on the road may help you score a lower rate.
  • Keep your credit score up. All insurance companies factor your credit score into your quote, so stay on top of those bills. In fact, bumping your score one tier, like from Good to Excellent, can save you up to 17%.

Ready to start saving? Get your personalized quote right now and see how much you could be saving.


Michelle Konstantinovsky is a San Francisco-based journalist/writer/editor and UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism alumna. She’s written extensively on health, body image, entertainment, lifestyle, design, and tech for outlets like Cosmopolitan, Harper’s Bazaar, Marie Claire, Teen Vogue, O: The Oprah Magazine, Seventeen, and a whole lot more. She’s also a contributing editor at Fitbit and the social media director at California Home + Design Magazine. She is an avid admirer of shiny objects, manatees, and preteen entertainment.

New Ways to Save Money in 2017

One of the top resolutions each year is saving money. Maybe you are saving for a big purchase like a new home or car, or just hoping to be more financially responsible this year. With a few small changes to daily habits, you can really make a difference in your bank account. Here are easy to do tips and tricks that you can do to save more in 2017.

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  • Start by brewing your own coffee at home instead of racking up the Starbucks points. There are lots of tricks to creating the perfect brew at home like grinding your own whole beans or using a french press for cold brews. If you’re still in a hurry and a coffee stop is a must, Instead of ordering your favorite go-to tall, nonfat latte with caramel drizzle, try switching to tea or black coffee. Without all those extra add-ons, the price will go way down and will also help you kickstart a healthier habit.
  • Pack that healthy lunch for work instead of dining out all the time will help to add a few extra dollars to your savings. Consider making a bigger dinner the night before so you can bring leftovers for lunch or make yourself a sandwich or a salad so you can just grab and go in the morning. A big trend right now is growing your own garden with fruit and vegetables. Even more reason to buy fewer groceries and also live a healthy lifestyle! If you dine out for lunch socially, set up designated days on your calendar for when you can go out for food or drinks so you can plan ahead for the expense.
  • Find a carpool buddy and rotate days you drive to and from work. There are lots of easy ways to find a work carpool including apps like Scoop and Hitch A Ride. Or be adventurous and try UberPool, where you share a ride with others on your way to your destination. You can always try taking the bus, walking, or biking instead, too. Put the money you would have spent on gas each week into savings and watch your bank account grow!

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Spending & Saving in the City

From new pop-up stores and great nightlife to job opportunities and historical landmarks, city living is exciting and exhilarating on a day-to-day basis. However, it can also be very expensive. Here are some easy ways you can save money, so you can enjoy city living without breaking the bank!

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Create a budget. This may seem obvious, but take some time to look at your take-home pay and monthly expenses. By using a software like Mint, you can create savings goals, categorize expenses, and receive custom alerts when you are close to overspending.

Take public transportation, or opt into a bike-share service. The less you drive your car, the more you’ll save money on gas and car maintenance. If you switch to pay-per-mile insurance, you could save even more money because your bill is based on how much you drive. Read more here.

Walk to your local farmers’ market. Since farmers have more stock of in-season fruits and vegetables, they are able to sell them at a lower price. Bonus tip: if you prefer to buy organic, it’s often cheaper at a farmers’ market than at a grocery store.

Eat in (sometimes). Okay, okay. We know it’s fun to try the trendy new restaurants. You can still budget for a weekly dinner splurge, but spend more time in your kitchen. Plus, leftovers make a great lunch the next day!

Automate savings. Have your bank automatically move cash into your savings on payday. You won’t know it’s not there, so you won’t miss it!

Side hustle. With so many new modern conveniences and resource sharing services, you can side hustle on your time with ridesharing, dog walking, house cleaning and more. Or if you’re crafty, try your hand at selling your art on Etsy.

If you are interesting in saving on car insurance, Metromile could save you $500/year! Try getting a quote to see how much you could save.

Tax 101: Know Your Car-related Tax Write-offs

Everyone dreads this time of year…tax season. But programs like Turbo Tax and H&R Block make doing your taxes a lot easier, and even look for deductions you might otherwise miss. For example, do you know all the write-offs available when it comes to owning a car? See below for a list of potential deductions, and be sure to check with your accountant or tax program to see if you are eligible for anything else.

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If you…

  • Use your car exclusively for business purposes, you can write-off expenses like lease, registration fees, gas, oil, repairs, insurance, tolls and parking.
  • Occasionally use your personal car for business, such as driving to a separate work destination or if you are temporarily reassigned to a location further away, you can write-off your mileage.
  • Babysit or do other odd jobs, you can deduct those miles.
  • Attend professional development workshops or are job searching, you can write-off your mileage to those destinations.
  • Volunteer, transportation expenses are considered charitable donations and may be deducted from your income taxes.

To our dismay, traffic tickets are never deductible. But, if you’re looking to save even more money on car expenses, check out our per-mile car insurance. Get a free quote here.

Metromile Just Made It Even Easier to Save Money

Here at Metromile, we’re all about providing a more fair and affordable insurance option for low-mileage drivers, but we don’t stop at just helping our customers save money. We also have a smart driving app that takes the hassle out of car ownership, with useful features like a car locator and street sweeping alerts (in select cities). Now, we are giving customers an even easier way to save with a new billing feature, which tracks mileage costs throughout the month.

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The inspiration for this feature came from our loyal customers. Since Metromile’s pay-per-mile insurance model is unique in that the monthly bill is based on mileage, pricing can change from month-to-month depending on how much is driven. Many of our customers said that they would find ways to drive less if they could track their bill throughout the month. That’s exactly what this new feature will allow them to do. Now, customers can see how each mile they drive affects how much they pay. By keeping tabs on monthly mileage, it’s easier than ever to stay in control of how much customers pay (and save).

If you are a Metromile customer, the new Billing feature is simple to use. Open our app and you will see the new Billing card appear on the overview screen, giving a quick glance at your charges to-date. You can then click to drill in deeper and see the breakdown of your current bill, as well as previous bills.

If you have an idea of how Metromile’s app could be even more helpful, don’t hesitate to drop us a line. You can reach us at appfeedback@metromile.com. Happy driving!

Easy Ways to Find a Work Carpool

Did you know that a solo drive to work costs an average of $5,000 a year and that many people spend 250 hours alone in a car? If this applies to you, carpooling can be a great way to save thousands on tolls and gas. It also can give you valuable time back to be productive (checking emails, reading the news) when you’re in the passenger seat. The hassle of finding someone who has a similar route and schedule as you might seem daunting, so we’ve got the low-down on simplifying your carpool strategy.

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Looking for someone to carpool with? Try one of these apps that match you to a driver or rider with a similar route.

Scoop allows you to schedule morning and afternoon commutes either independently or together. Based on your route, schedule and traffic, trips are custom tailored for you and the drivers. If you choose to drive a carpool, that’s more cash in your pocket. Scoop even guarantees you a ride home, so you’ll never have to worry about being stuck at work.

Hitch A Ride helps you connect with colleagues to see who lives nearby – and opens the floor to discuss carpool destinations. Payment terms are negotiated between you and the driver- meaning you can either pay a flat rate or pick up a bagel for them in the morning. You can even connect with your social networks to see where your friends are travelling – and hop in for the ride!

UberPOOL matches riders heading in the same direction, and the trip costs up to 50% less than UberX. If you find yourself frequently hopping in a rideshare to save time on your commute, this is a great alternative. It only adds a few minutes to your ride, and you could meet a new friend.

Riding with a friend or coworker? Follow these tips to make sure it’s a smooth ride:

  • Discuss the pickup point. Is the driver picking everyone up at home? Are you meeting at a convenient location for everyone?
  • If everyone is going to take turns driving, create a schedule that you all agree on. Be flexible if there is a day when someone needs to switch drivers.
  • Decide on payment terms based on mileage and fuel cost. If everyone is taking turns driving equally, you may not need to exchange cash.
  • Make some ground rules and be respectful of them. How long will the driver wait if someone is late? When will you exchange payment? Is talking on cell phones OK?

Need a way to fill the silence? Check out our list of commute-friendly podcasts!

If you are participating in a carpool you’ll likely be driving your car less frequently, so you could really save a lot of money with pay-per-mile car insurance. Learn more and get your free quote here.

New Ways to Pay and Save

Managing money can be confusing and downright frustrating. How many times have you spent way too long figuring out how to split the dinner check with your friends? Or funneled money in and out of your bank account without really paying attention to where it’s going? Luckily, technology is helping to take the burden out of dealing with everyday finances. Here are some companies that are making it easier than ever to both pay and save.

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Pay with ease. Gone are the days where you have to find an ATM before a group event, in anticipation of needing exact change to split the check. With mobile payment apps such as Venmo, you can pay or charge people with the click of the button. You can even send reminders to nudge that friend who always “forgets” to pay.

Seamlessly track expenses. You don’t need to be an excel wiz to create and stick to a budget. Mint’s easy-to-use software makes budgeting extremely easy. Just create custom budgets based on your savings goals, and then Mint will do the rest, from seamlessly categorizing expenses to alerting you when you are nearing your monthly budget.

Save on the essentials. Now, it’s easy and affordable to purchase necessities like groceries and other household items. Jet and Amazon allow you to set recurring shipments personalized to your needs so that essentials (like toilet paper) will arrive on your doorstep right when you need them. Not only is this more convenient for you, but you can usually score some big savings by subscribing.

Car insurance is another necessity for anyone that owns a car, and here at Metromile, we’re using technology to save low-mileage drivers a ton of money with our pay-per-mile insurance offering. Because we can track exact mileage with the Pulse, a device that plugs into the OBD port of your car, we’re able to provide a more affordable pricing model. If you want to see how much you could save, you can get a free quote here.