How a Free Car Accessory Saves This Woman $720/Year

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Susan Gibbons doesn’t drive much. She works from home. Sometimes she’ll swing by the supermarket or the doctor’s office, but that’s about it.

And she only pays $35/month for car insurance.

Since her new insurance provider gave her a little gadget to plug into her car, she pays by the mile. It saves her about $720/year.

“All my driving is around my neighborhood,” says Gibbons, 55, of Philadelphia. “A few miles here, a few miles there.”

Being such an infrequent driver, she got tired of spending so much money on auto insurance.

“I was paying State Farm $1,100 a year so I could look at my car in my driveway,” she explains.

It made no sense to Gibbons that someone like her, who easily drives less than five miles a day, should pay the same rate as someone who drives 50 miles a day.

She found Metromile, a San Francisco-based startup trying to revolutionize the auto insurance industry. It offers low-mileage drivers a unique new option: Pay-as-you-go insurance coverage.

A Little Doodad That Plugs Into Your Car

How does Metromile know how many miles you drive?

It tracks your mileage through a free device called the Metromile Pulse, which you plug into your car’s diagnostic port. This gizmo transmits your mileage to Metromile via a wireless network.

It’s been compared to Fitbit for your car.

Customers typically pay a flat fee of $35 per month, plus 5 cents per mile — although it varies depending on factors like your location and how long you’ve been driving.

Gibbons figures her car insurance bill has plummeted by $720 a year.

“It’s a huge savings,” she says. “It’s just money that I’m not spending every month. I’m a saver, and any time you can cut a bill, it helps you save.”

Now, because we’re all cynical independent Americans who are wary of Big Brother, some potential customers might have privacy concerns about this system.

Gibbons isn’t worried about it. It’s not like anyone at Metromile is watching her. She knows the device installed in her 2007 Toyota Corolla simply tracks the number of miles driven for billing purposes.

“I understand that some people would never plug anything into their car to give someone access to their data, but it doesn’t bother me,” she says. “This is the 21st century. The younger generation, they’re all walking around with their location on their phone, and every app knows where they are.”

She’s also discovered side benefits to the device that’s plugged into her Corolla’s diagnostic system: It can connect with the app on her phone to remind her where her car is parked. And when her dashboard’s “check engine” light went on, she got a text message from Metromile telling her why.

Like Cord-Cutting for Your Car

She used to drive more. But Gibbons, who works in finance for the federal government, can now do most of her work at home. And she lives within walking distance of plenty of shops and restaurants.

Before she switched insurers in 2015, Gibbons had been a State Farm customer since 1985. Yes, 30 years. Three decades.

But State Farm couldn’t give her the kind of discount she was looking for, and that’s what prompted her to look for alternatives.

She’s the kind of customer Metromile is built for — low-mileage drivers like urban dwellers, retirees and those who work from home. Metromile says its service is ideal for people who drive less than 30 miles a day or about 200 miles a week.

If you’re thinking about signing up, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Metromile’s pay-per-mile car insurance is currently available in California, Illinois, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington.
  • Your car must be made since 1996 to qualify.
  • After signing up, the company will mail you a free device that plugs into your car and tracks mileage (that’s how it saves you money!)

Founded in 2011, the insurer is also betting millennials will be tempted by cheaper, customized car insurance — the same way they’re increasingly cutting the cord, ditching cable subscriptions and a million channels they don’t need.

“I signed up on the waiting list before it was even available in my state,” says Gibbons, a Pennsylvania resident. “It’s a great deal for me.”

Find out if it’ll help you save by snagging a free quote.

Mike Brassfield ([email protected]) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. He’s clearly paying too much for car insurance.