Lost your $400 key fob?

Willing to let your car insurance company ride a shotgun for a chance at a discount? That’s the idea behind Progressive’s snapshot program.

They give drivers a discount if they share their driving information. The Snapshot app monitors the time and vehicle speed, how many miles are driven and the frequency of hard braking. It also offers driving tips. 

Drivers can save an average of $47 upon program sign-up and $156 a year at program completion with Progressive’s snapshot program.

The idea is simple: Drive carefully and save. Drive less, save more. And if you avoid driving during peak accident hours (Progressive says that’s between midnight and 4 a.m.), you save some more.

The device must be installed for at least 30 days, with the option to leave it in longer for a broader profile and perhaps a bigger discount.

All companies offer a good driver discount; Snapshot is a good driver discount on steroids.

Consumer concerns about ‘Snapshot’

Progressive says that the worst outcome from installing snapshot would be a failure to qualify for an additional car insurance discount.

However, some skeptics worry about how Progressive will use the data. They worry that rates may actually go up if they don’t drive well or that their privacy could be compromised if the information is shared with others. Progressive says about 20% of drivers who use Snapshot see a rate increase connected to high-risk driving. 

Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), says his group has concerns whenever a company gathers customer information.

“We’d be concerned that (gathered information) could be shared with third parties” that could compromise the driver, Rothenberg says. Another privacy concern with such programs is that the information could be used in advertising targeted at consumers or shared with the police in driving-related investigations.

Some potential customers share the suspicion that blind pursuit of the cheapest car insurance could backfire.

Progressive says Snapshot won’t increase your rates, don’t share information with a third party unless required to service your insurance policy, prevent fraud, perform research or comply with the law. We won’t use Snapshot data to resolve a claim unless you or the registered vehicle owner give us permission.

Progressive can’t track where you drive because the device doesn’t include GPS technology. The worst that can happen is not qualifying for a discount, according to Progressive. 

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A Snapshot snapshot

Those assurances were enough for William Parsons, who received an almost 15% rate cut for participating in the program. “I didn’t have any hassles,” says Parsons, who lives in New York. “After a week or so I kind of forgot that it was in there.”

Parsons says he was optimistic about the results because he fits the profile of a driver who would qualify for a premium cut. “I’m pretty anal when I drive. Slow and steady, 10k miles a year.”

Parsons adds that he wasn’t “overly concerned” about the company having a detailed report on him.

“If I were a bad driver, I’d probably feel different,” Parsons says. “But I wouldn’t sign up” if that was the case.

In fact, Progressive recommends that only careful customers who don’t drive much or at least avoid peak accident hours should sign up.

Easy on the brakes

Although generally satisfied, Parsons says the brake monitoring seemed inconsistent.

“There were trips where I know I didn’t brake hard but it showed that I did. (Other times) I think I did hit them a little hard, but I’m not sure if they registered. Not really a big deal, in the end” because he still got the discount.

Progressive, however, stands behind Snapshot, saying all monitoring information, including braking statistics, is accurate.

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Mark Chalon Smith

Our Carinsurance.com team is made up of regular people with insurance policy needs, just like you. We just happen to know a little more about insurance than the average bear.