More thoughts on Progressive Snapshot

Google search results for “Progressive Snapshot” (Google/Progressive)

Since I published my review about Progressive Snapshot nearly four years ago, it has helped more than 340,000 people learn from my experience with Snapshot. I didn’t expect as much of a response from visitors. I’d like to share more thoughts on these vehicle telematics devices and respond to a few themes in the comments people posted.

Although Progressive never contacted me, it was evident they reacted by providing more education for prospective Snapshot users. When I signed up, Progressive didn’t outline precisely how driving behavior affects discounts, aside than being a “good” driver. Currently, their website doesn’t get into the minutia, but I would contend that the minutia is what will determine if a driver is a good candidate for the program.

Thoughts on My Experience with Progressive Snapshot

I believe the application of Snapshot is rarely in the driver’s interest. The use of Snapshot would be great to only inform and educate drivers from their vehicle’s telematics and how they can improve their behavior. When drivers alter their driving behaviors under the duress of a financial penalty, it creates moments of indecision. Indecision costs thousands of people’s lives every year. Vehicle telematics can be valuable to educate drivers, but if it alters the execution of an evasive maneuver by even a fraction of a second, it renders more harm than good.

In 2015, I was involved in a collision with an SUV, which was the other driver’s fault. Progressive handed my claim fairly and promptly even though the other driver’s insurance carrier, Amica, was mostly nonresponsive until the end of arbitration. It was a total loss, so I was able to learn more about the claims process since it was my first major collision. (At the time, I held full coverage, of which, I strongly recommend if you don’t have it currently.)

One limitation of telematics is that it’s only as good as the data it collects. It doesn’t have context. For instance, most vehicle telematics devices are unable to know if a vehicle was hit from the side or knows the road conditions (other than VSC/ABS kicking in). Without context, it would look like I would have had a hard brake, WOT acceleration, and another hard brake. Unless there’s a 360-degree video camera mounted on the roof, it’s difficult to make a competent understanding of the data. Of course, I’m sure the value of the data is more valuable than the revenue gained from modest rate increases.

Following that incident, I purchased a house and soon after a 2014 Ford Focus Hatchback and my rates were expectedly higher following the accident, but they weren’t unreasonable. Earlier this year, I eventually switched to USAA for automotive insurance and saved a lot on my premiums while I doubled my coverages.

Feedback on My Progressive Snapshot Review

My original post on the Progressive Snapshot attracted many unique and passionate opinions. I’d like to share my thoughts on them. It was clear that people appreciated the depth and the supportive data on how the Snapshot works and it was a useful piece of content that factored in their decision to use a Snapshot device or not.

RE: Insurance Coverage Amounts
 
One insurance agent who commented about my coverage amounts for the Mustang. His sentiment was right. I previously had $15K/$30K/$10K coverage, which would not perform if I hit another vehicle valued at more than $10K, let alone the occupants. At the time, I needed more cash than I needed protection for my assets. I checked with one of my friends in the industry, and he mentioned that higher coverages are very affordable compared to being underinsured. I’ve also learned how costly skipping vehicle rental coverage is — it’s about $300 for about two weeks of downtime.

When I moved to USAA, I now have much higher coverages, and I pay less in premiums. Thanks for the feedback so I could revisit my thinking on coverages!

RE: Usage-based Insurance
 Progressive Snapshot isn’t the only driving measurement device out there. Many trackers function like the Snapshot. This category of insurance is known as Usage-Based Insurance (UBI), which potentially can be cheaper, but not necessarily as I’ve explained.

Here are OBD-II based insurance trackers that function similarly to Snapshot:

  • Allstate Drivewise
  • The Hartford TrueLane
  • Nationwide SmartRide
  • Safeco Rewind/RightTrack
  • State Farm Drive Safe & Save
  • Travelers Intellidrive

When an insurance company offers to lower your rate further by “driving safely,” it’s a signal they want you to plug in a vehicle telematics device and monitor your driving activity.

RE: Premium increases following Snapshot use
 It became clear from the comments that I wasn’t alone. Dozens upon dozens of people have reported after their Snapshot discount, their base premiums increased, consistently. And that was one of the points of this post — to show the sleight of hand in offering a discount ‘here’ but raising your premiums ‘there’. It can be difficult to track because there are a lot of changes in a given policy and after six months, I would reason that most people would forget about their discount.

Many insurance companies would counter with the fact that premiums tend to fluctuate based on statewide actual claims and risks to insurers.

I believe it would be innovative and fresh for an insurance company to disclose the facts and figures into their policy underwriting. I appreciate companies that offer more transparency in their pricing, and if indeed rates are a “statewide” factor, they should be able to provide supporting documentation.

Beginning in 2015 (two years after I wrote about my experience), it appears that Progressive has increased rates on about 20% of Snapshot users.

RE: People fear beeps and negative feedback
 Like me, many of my readers shared the sense of terror that strikes when they hear the Progressive Snapshot beep that they just got dinged. It’s like having that driving instructor asking, “are you sure?” when executing a driving maneuver.

Unless you are very comfortable with complying with the hard braking rules and don’t trigger alerts, you had better get used to hearing the beeps and ignoring them.

Final Thoughts on Vehicle Telematics Devices

If you’re not directly benefiting from the use of vehicle telematics like Progressive Snapshot, realize you are the product. For some people, it’s worth it. For me and many others, it’s not. As usage-based car insurance increases, vehicle telematics and risk management will become even more important. It’s up to us to inform ourselves on how it all works and how our behavior should be modified before plugging in these devices.

I’m also a believer in the usefulness of large datasets. Progressive was one of the first auto insurance companies to underwrite policies based on creditworthiness versus driving behavior. Now with vehicle telematics, those worlds have converged. Is it for good? Will it further penalize people in lower income brackets who drive well? Or will it reward higher income individuals who just can’t find their Mercedes’ turn signal with lower premiums? Maybe this could potentially shift insurance premiums to be a reflection of merit, not merely economic circumstance.

As our privacy becomes more and more scarce, can’t we just drive in peace in our car without an insurance company scoring every single stop and go? For now, I hope so.


Originally published at Joe Manna.