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How Telematics Auto Insurance Can Lower Your Premium

Oct. 2, 2013
4 mins
A young man with glasses drives down the street

Having the benefit of a younger brother and being cognizant of our role in his development, my sister and I saw it fit to make his learning years a game for us. There were the standard forms of adolescent torture – popping out of dark places, hiding things he liked and my sister’s rare ability to turn him into a "girl" with just a few swipes of makeup.

But there was one game that seems to ring true on a universal scale – the “timing” game.

Essentially, we would track on a stopwatch how long it took him to complete certain chores – most of which had been delegated to us – with the reward being the knowledge of how fast he could complete said activity.

Taking The Game Approach To The Street

From a strictly neurological perspective, risk and rewards are vital for adolescent’s development. So it makes sense that telematics auto insurance, which monitors all activity from the driver's seat, and rewards safe driving with lower premiums, appeals to young drivers. After all, auto insurance is one of the biggest expenses for the 16 - 24 age group.

The new technology, which tracks a vehicle’s mileage, hours on the road, speed, and jolting starts and stops, can put a big dent in premiums paid - often between five and 25%. Combined with the average 15% car insurance discount slated to roll out in Ontario in January, it's a great time indeed to be a safe driver.

A New Focus On Car Safety

The technology also comes with secure online dashboards that let users check their driving status once parked - and it's sparking a competitive spirit among young drivers. This gamification is an accidental by-product of a program geared towards making young drivers more conscious of their habits.

“A lot of people check (their data) every night before going on Facebook and to see how they were driving that day,” says Suzanne Michaud, vice president of customer experience at Mobiliz, a Quebec insurance provider Industrial Alliances telematics program. “Some young drivers tell us ‘I want to do better than the community’ and they have a competition with themselves and the average driver of their age.”

Seeing Real Results

In April, a year after it was launched, 56% of Mobiliz customers improved their driving behaviour and more than 70% got a discount for their safe driving practices.

It took some education, says Michaud, but for Mobiliz they have “reached their goals.”

The Quebec-based program isn’t the first of its kind, either – similar telematics programs have been adopted in Europe, the UK and the United States for several years, and is becoming more prevalent in the rest of Canada.

New Technology Now In Ontario

In Ontario, Desjardins Group launched its own usage-based car insurance policy, Ajusto, in May. “Over 30,000– roughly a third of new customers – are signing up to it,” says Joe Daly, a Desjardins’ spokesperson for the program. With Ajusto, drivers who travel less than 15,000 miles in a year and avoid driving in dicey times (like between midnight and five a.m. and rush hour) make prime candidates for the program.

“We also measure fast acceleration and hard breaking so if you’re slamming on your breaks and then zooming forward right away all the time that indicates a certain driving pattern and probably a higher risk to have an accident,” says Daly.

Ajusto offers up a 5% discount off insurance premiums just for signing up for the free program.

How Secure Is Telematics Technology?

At the moment, one of the biggest concerns is security surrounding the stored data.

“It has a GPS component but only in that it identifies those spots where you hard-braked and accelerated; it doesn’t track your route,” says Daly. “You can’t measure where your spouse is going late at night or anything like that.”

In the meantime, some drivers will likely wait until the program has run a year to see the savings and decide if it’s for them.

But unlike many games, it’s hard to lose at this one.

“It can’t be used to up your rates,” says Daly. “The worst case scenario is you’ll get a 0% discount next year.”

Andrew Seale

Andrew Seale is a freelance writer with an absurdly hyperactive mind and predilection towards the obscure and eclectic. He frequently shares his personal finance experiences and mishaps with TheDot readers but has also been known to profile business leaders ranging from financial savants to bootstrapped entrepreneurs. His work has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Yahoo Canada Finance and News, Profit Magazine, The Toronto Star, Enroute Magazine, and on the back of napkins sometimes tucked into the pockets of strangers. He can be found at whenwedrift.contently.com.

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