One of the more interesting features of insurance is the degree of trust the insurer shows in what you say. Unless you are asking cover for something expensive and unusual, no insurer is going to ask to see whatever it is. You are allowed to add the vehicle or top-of-the-range electronic gizmo to the policy without question. But, if it later turns out you were less than honest, the insurer is allowed to cancel the policy and leave you without any cover. So the insurer is always protected and you pay the price of facing any claims without a policy to pay. Yet, while this has been standard in the insurance industry as a whole, there’s been a reluctance to trust drivers to report their mileage honestly. Younger people claiming unusually low annual mileage have been greeted with skepticism. To qualify for a discount, people have been forced to drive to the local office of the insurer to have someone verify the odometer reading once a month. This has been inconvenient and not so many people have taken up the discount offer.
With new technology, all this is changing and insurers are now moving into the pay-as-you-drive market with more enthusiasm. In part, there are also environmental reasons for this change. No matter what you think of the climate change debate, there’s no doubt more cities are being affected by smog. So whether this is big picture or the number of people lining up with asthma attacks at the local emergency rooms, there’s a move to encourage people to drive less. Accompanied by improvements in the mile-per-gallon performance of new cars and better emission controls, there’s now hope the air will stay breathable for longer. The pay-as-you-drive option gives people a direct incentive to drive less. Fewer miles driven means fewer accidents. If the full technological capabilities are introduced, it will also be possible to monitor whether drivers keep to the speed limits. Any vehicle reported stolen can automatically be tracked and recovered.
The first real signs of activity are coming in California. State Farm Mutual and the Auto Club of Southern California are introducing new policies in February 2011. Drivers will be given the choice of independent verification of their odometer readings or fitting a data transmission device. State Farm is estimating that people driving less than 2,000 a year will see their premiums fall by 45%. Using this as a base, State Farm is aiming to sign up at least a quarter of their current policy holders. Everyone who drives modest distances will save with rates set in 500 mile steps. Auto Club has four steps of 2,500 up to 10,000 miles and then the premium rises in 5,000 mile steps. At present, the Californian Insurance Commissioner is protecting drivers’ privacy, so no general data will be collected by insurers.
So, if you live in California, your auto insurance quotes should include this option come February 2011. While this is not a revolution, it’s certainly a change for the good, protecting the environment and encouraging better driving. Auto insurance is going green.