My Experience Using Allstate's Drive Wise Device to Save Money on Auto Insurance
Tracking How I Drive With An Automated Device -- Will I Save on my Insurance Premium?
It does feel a little strange, like Big Brother is watching as I drive. But, then again, Allsate says I have the chance to save up to 30 percent on my auto insurance (which, for me, would be about $100 every six months) and it makes me more conscientious about my driving habits, which overall I think is a good thing. So I'm giving Drive Wise a test run for six months.
I found out about Drive Wise from my Allstate agent, when he called me just before my policy renewal. He told me that, yes, it would probably feel a bit intrusive at first, but I could give it a try and then return it at any time if I didn't like using the device. He told me I'd save an automatic, one-time minimum 10% discount for trying this system.
The device arrived by FedEx and was easy to install. I now monitor my driving on the Drive Wise website, along with my projected discount. I'll keep you up to date on my experience.
Please let me -- and others -- know what you think of using a device like this to save money in the "duel" comments below.
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Do You Currently Use Drive Wise or a Similar Device?
What Drive Wise Monitors
Here are the driving details monitored by the Drive Wise device. Not all of these things are counted toward or against your discount, and not all parameters are given equal weight towards that discount. But we, the drivers, don't know the actual algorithm.
- Hard and Extreme Braking
- Hard and Extreme Acceleration (These are not yet used in calculating the savings, because Allstate is still evaluating the risk-predictive value of these events.)
- Miles Driven Over 80mph
- When You Drive -- Days and Hours of the Day
- Total Cumulative Miles Driven
- Trip Time, Duration and Distance, and Speed
This is what the Drive Wise site says about the risk for various driving times on weekdays and weekends. When you log into your account, you'll see charts showing you when you've been driving based on these time slots...
- High Risk 11pm - 4am
- Moderate Risk 4am - 12pm
- Low Risk 12pm - 11pm
- High Risk 11pm - 5 am
- Lowest Risk 5am - 11pm
Notes on the Discount and Hard/Extreme Braking:
Per the Drive Wise site: For your first full policy cycle, you'll get a 10% enrollment discount on your "major insurance coverages." (I now need to find out exactly what THAT means. I'd ASSUMED the discount was on my whole policy cost but apparently not.) After that, your discount -- if any -- will be calculated on a rolling basis, based on the previous 12 months (or 6 months when you begin) of driving.
As the program is currently set up, your performance rating cannot increase your premium, but your rating doesn't guarantee you a discount either.
Regarding hard braking, the scoring model is said to take into account the fact that some hard braking is occasionally necessary, even for the very safest drivers. (For example, someone might pull out in front of you.) So you're not supposed to be overly concerned with any one event recorded on your device.
The Drive Wise risk models are designed to look at "the big picture," and they say that if your driving habits are generally safe, you'll perform well over the long run. Likewise, if you or someone driving your vehicle could stand to leave a bigger space cushion between your car and others, the device is supposed to help you see that, and then you can monitor your progress.
If you have questions about Allstate's Drive Wise program, you can contact them at (877)431-7670.
What My Auto Insurance Agent Didn't Tell Me
I really like my agent and have known him for a long time. But he did neglect to tell me a couple of things about Drive Wise.
First, AFTER THE INITIAL TRIAL POLICY PERIOD, there's a $10 fee for each 6 month policy period per enrolled vehicle, for the use of the device. So that cuts into any discount right there. IF one gets a discount at all (because it's not guaranteed). That could mean paying $10 extra! (Update 3/2013: A comment was posted on this page by an Allstate agent in another state, telling us that this $10 is only charged in some states, not others.)
Also, the rules specify a minimum number of days that the device must be installed for you to earn a "Performance Rating." Specifically, that's 90 days over the course of the six-month renewal period. And there are no exceptions to this rule, even if your car breaks down or you're in an accident and your car is out of commission for a while. If you fall short of the 90-day minimum, your Performance Rating will be 0%, and you won't earn a discount for that policy cycle. (But you'll still have the $10 fee. At least, I don't see where it says you won't.)
After getting my DriveWise device and reading the fine print, I spoke to my agent, and he said he didn't know about the $10 fee (now apparently discontinued in some states) or the part about "major coverages" and wasn't even sure what the latter means exactly. He said I'm the first one of his clients to use this thing. He asked me to keep him posted ... which I will.
Installing the Drive Wise Device
As my agent said, it was indeed very easy to install the device. But he did tell me that if I had any trouble with it, I could come by and he'd take care of it for me. I didn't need any help at all.
There's a port on or just under your dashboard, where auto mechanics stick a device that does engine diagnostics. That's where you put Drive Wise.
Just be careful not to hit it with your leg or foot when getting in and out of the vehicle, if the port is just to the left and below the steering wheel like mine is. I hit it once and knocked off the back cover. I was able to pop it back on and made sure the device was still installed properly, but there's the potential of breaking it, I would say.
Maximizing Your Savings with Drive Wise
And being a safer driver
- Give yourself enough time to get where you're going, and "drive easy."
- Eliminate distractions. (I'd say that includes using a cell phone while driving.)
- They say, "Practice the art of not being there in the first place." (But I'm not exactly sure what that means. Stay home?)
- Mileage management. (I suppose this could mean planning your trip--ie errands--so you drive an efficient route with the least possible miles.)
- Time management. (Kind of seems like the first point to me. That and not driving during the riskiest times if you can avoid it.)
The Latest Update on My Drive Wise Results
My Driving with Drive Wise So Far
I'll track my driving "events" here
I work at home and, on a daily basis, don't usually drive outside of the small city of Flagstaff. So my average daily mileage and speeds are relatively low. The exceptions are road trips, usually no more than about three or four hours, one way, from home.
Those road trips usually involve driving on the freeway, where speed limits are as high as 75mph. Since the device monitors miles driven over 80mph, I'm expecting to have some distance in that category over time, since I occasionally speed up to pass a slower driver or semi truck.
Here, I'll keep track of any "events" the device records:
- 12/29: One instance of hard braking on my first day with the device installed. I was going the speed limit and approaching a green light. It changed very quickly from green to yellow to red as I got close, and I made the decision to brake hard and stop rather than go through the light as it turned red.
- 1/16: On a long weekend trip to Phoenix (a 2.5-hour drive), my husband did the driving and apparently had 2 instances of hard braking. I was a passenger the whole time, however, and I don't recall anything that I would have thought qualified as such. I do know other drivers occasionally veered into our lane or made a turn without signaling, and I'd certainly notice that we braked -- we had to! -- but "hard breaking? Well, Drive Wise says so.
- 1/12: A hard acceleration event was recorded from about a week ago. I don't recall doing that, but it may have been when I pulled out into a lane of traffic and needed to get up to speed fairly quickly. Acceleration "events," however, aren't supposed to count against our Drive Wise discount, and I don't see that the recorded event made any difference in mine.
- 2/17: Hard braking ... so it says. I'm so careful these days, I think I would have noticed. That Drive Wise device is either super touchy or lying.
- 2/27: Hard braking ... are you kidding me?! Is this thing programmed to SAY you braked hard every so often? I've been ultra careful about this, and I was paying attention on that short drive yesterday. I definitely take issue with the device.
- 4/3: Well, the device says I have a total of 9 events so far, with two hard braking events added since the last time I updated here and one hard acceleration. I still take issue with some of the "hard braking" events (you might want to read some of the guestbook comments below about strange hard braking statistics with DriveWise), but my projected discounted has remained at 24% for some time now.
- 4/10: Now, that is TOTAL B.S.! The gizmo apparently thinks I had a hard-braking event today, and I know I did not. Never once in my short trip to town and back did I step on that brake in any way that would constitute hard. I never stopped short or even close to short. Now I'm convinced there's something fishy about the hard braking results. We'll see what my discount percentage does in the next few days, but it had better not go down. How bogus.
- 4/30: Two more totally bogus hard braking events were (supposedly) recorded two and three days ago. I'm convinced that the device is calibrated incorrectly or too sensitively OR dishonestly, penalizing safe drivers for slowing down to stop for lights that turn yellow then red. I've been paying close attention when this happens, as I approach lights at or below the posted speed limit. I don't brake hard when this happens. If I were close enough to the light to require hard braking, I'd be able to legally and safely go through the yellow light. I tried to write to Allstate about this, but their contact form continuously says, "No special characters allowed" in the message when there are not. I'm frustrated with this program, to say the least.
- 5/16: I think my Drive Wise device is picking up data from someone else's vehicle. (Sarcasm) Now it shows an extreme braking event that I know did not happen. I looked at the trip it "claims" included the event, and it was a short, slow drive at about 5am, when I was on my way from home to the Search & Rescue building for a non-emergency call. There were hardly any other cars on the road and I was paying close attention to my driving and the way I rolled to a stop for a red light. I barely had to touch the brake. So, I went onto the website and wrote a message to Drive Wise about the bogus results. Here is the response I got:
"Thank you for writing to us. A hard braking event will feel different in different vehicles, but in general, it's coming to a stop with enough force to pitch the car forward, if even only slightly. A hard braking event triggers when there is a deceleration of at least 8 m.p.h. in one second.
The threshold for an extreme braking event is a deceleration of 10 m.p.h. or more in one second. For the most vehicles this kind of braking event will activate the passenger restraint system (momentarily locking the seatbelts in place). It might also activate the vehicle's anti-lock brakes - though some extreme braking events are too brief to do that."
...Which even makes me MORE adamant that NO hard or extreme braking happened. Oh, but my discount went down, and it's not long before my renewal. How convenient. For Allstate.
Does Drive Wise actually encourage unsafe driving?
I feel like Drive Wise encourages running red lights. Maybe that's an exaggeration, but if I'm driving along at or even slightly below the speed limit, and the light I'm approaching goes from green to yellow to red very quickly--which seems to happen a lot around here--I have to make a decision to brake a little harder than usual or speed up and go through the red light just after it turns. I don't SLAM on my brakes to do that, but I sometimes have to slow down rather quickly. And each time that happens, Drive Wise records an "event" and lowers my projected discount. I'd be concerned that people who install Drive Wise might be tempted to run through those lights more often.
Obviously, Drive Wise can't detect someone talking on a cell phone or texting while driving, or doing other distracting things while behind the wheel, and those are much more dangerous habits than some hard braking. And, believe me, it doesn't seem to take much for Drive Wise to record hard braking.
One year later:
After all of the above, this might seem strange, but I haven't had a recorded hard-braking event in many months. I don't know if it's the new vehicle which drives differently or MY driving or what. Still, my discount won't go up beyond 20%. The max is supposedly 30, but I guess that, even though I've had no events, I must be doing something wrong.
And several months later: Turns out, my device was apparently on the fritz. I kept getting emails from the program, telling me there was no communication from it, thinking I'd taken the device out, which I hadn't. So they ended up sending me a new one, along with postage to return the old one ... and now the new thing is recording hard braking events, which I STILL don't think are accurate at all. But there goes my 20% discount.
Tracking My Projected Auto Insurance Discount
The website shows that percentage as it changes
As I check in with my Drive Wise account online, I'll update my project discount, cumulative miles driven and cumulative "events." My renewal date for my auto insurance is 6/24/12, so that's when my first discount will be finalized.
- 12/29 -- 10% enrollment discount showing
- 1/10 -- 24%: 86.1 total miles driven, 1 event
- 1/12 -- 19%: Strange. Why did my discount go down 5% in two days when I've hardly driven and had no "events"?
- 1/16 -- 12%: Down 7 percentage points after a long weekend in Phoenix -- drove down from Flagstaff -- with apparently 2 instances of hard breaking but never going over 80mph, even on the freeway where the speed limit is often 75mph.
- 1/19 -- 5%: What!? How did it go down even more when I've done only a few miles of driving since Phoenix and with no events? And if I'm guaranteed a 10% discount for the first policy period using this device, HOW can it go BELOW 10%? Hmm...
- 1/23 -- 14%: Going back up. The more I drive without any events, the more the events the Device has recorded are "diluted.")
- 1/30 -- 17%
- 2/12 -- 21%: One "event" was added, but it's a "hard acceleration," which they say doesn't count against you.
- 2/23 -- 24% even with a hard breaking event added
- 4/3 -- 24%: Nothing new to report. Says I have a total of 9 events--2 hard accelerations and seven hard brakings.
- 4/30 -- 24% but waiting to see if this will drop, because of two BOGUS events supposedly recorded
- 5/16 -- 21%
- Final Policy Period Discount -- 21% BUT ... of course my base premium went up for no particular reason (that is, no accidents, claims, or changes on my part) and this discount only applies to "major coverages," so my final premium ends up only a few dollars less than my last renewal.
My total discount ended up being $23.00 after all of this. So 21%, when applied to "major coverages," doesn't amount to very much.
- 9/28 -- 24% projected discount: I have a new vehicle now, a Rav4 instead of a Corolla. What feels like a hard braking now doesn't usually register as one on DriveWise. Did they tweak the device, or is it due to the new, heavier vehicle?
- 10/16 -- 20%: My discount was reduced for no apparent reason, because I've had no new events for a long time. I called DriveWise, and the rep suggested "maybe" it was because of mileage. That makes no sense, as I've not driven any more than usual, and I really don't drive a lot considering I work from home. I questioned this reason, and he said he really couldn't give me a "better" explanation. Nice, huh? I'm getting close to policy renewal time, and my discount mysteriously drops.
- 6/20 (8 months later): Still at 20%, where I've been since my last update. Sure, it's a nice discount, but I haven't had a SINGLE hard-braking or other event. So, I don't know why I'm not receiving the full (max) 30% discount.
- 8/20 (2 months later): STILL at 20%. No additional events recorded. No matter what I do or don't do, it's like they've fixed my discount at 20%.
Returning the Drive Wise Device and Exiting the Program
I read on the Drive Wise website that f you decide not to continue in the program, you can cancel at any time. You have to notify your Allstate Agent or call 1-800-ALLSTATE (1-800-255-7828). They'll update your policy information and adjust your premium, then give you instructions on returning the device to Allstate at no cost to you.
Would YOU Use a Device Like Drive Wise?
What do you think?
If it meant possibly saving 30% on your auto insurance, would you use Drive Wise or a similar device?
Other Articles About Drive Wise
- Allstate Drivewise: An Honest Review | Club Thrifty
I signed up for Allstate Drivewise and am less than thrilled with the results. Is this program all that it's cracked up to be? Read my thoughts in this post.
- Allstate tracks, then rewards safe drivers
In-car device records braking, speed and mileage figures. It's voluntary, but some worry about how data will be used....
And if this Isn't the Hokiest Commercial - Are they serious?
Love how she drives. Very attentive!
© 2012 Deb Kingsbury