Your auto insurance provider calculates your premiums based, in essence, upon the risk they’re taking to insure you. If you’re a less risky driver, you’ll receive discounts. Get married? Discount. Clean record? Discount. Drive safely? Discount.
But what if you’re the least risky driver of all: the one who barely drives?
It seems logical that if you drove fewer miles than average, you’d be entitled to a big discount on insurance.
But, despite the overwhelming evidence (and logic) linking low mileage drivers to lower claims, major insurers don’t always reward them with lower premiums.
In 2015, the Consumer Federation of America collected auto insurance quotes from the five largest auto insurers – State Farm, Allstate, Progressive, GEICO, and Farmers – and compared quotes for annual mileage of 5,000 and 20,000. State Farm was the only major insurer that consistently offered a discount for the lower mileage.
Since that report, the major insurers’ stance on low mileage drivers hasn’t budged much. So if you only drive your car a few miles per month to get groceries, you might still pay just as much for insurance as your friend who commutes every single day.
If that sounds totally unfair to you, you might want to look into pay-per-mile insurance. That’s where Metromile comes in.
How does pay-per-mile insurance work?
As the name implies, pay-per-mile insurers charge a very low base rate plus a few cents per mile you drive.
When you purchase a policy, they’ll send you a device that plugs into your car’s computer and counts your mileage to calculate your bill. Basically, the less you drive, the less you pay.
How does Metromile work?
It’s worth mentioning early that Metromile isn’t available everywhere yet. As of April 2019, Metromile is available in:
- New Jersey
You can join the Metromile wait list here to get notified when coverage becomes available in your zip code.
Signing-up for Metromile
What’s it like to get a Metromile quote online?
Well, if you’ve ever gotten an auto insurance quote online before, you won’t find any surprises.
You’ll enter your zip code, driving history, vehicle details, and desired coverage level. Naturally, they place a heavy emphasis on your estimated miles driven. It took me about two minutes.
When you purchase a plan, Metromile sends you a device called a Pulse which you plug into your car’s computer. It sounds complicated, but it’s not. It goes into something called an OBD-II port hiding in plain sight on your driver’s side.
Once your Pulse is installed, you can check your mileage and account information on the Metromile app. That’s it!
How much does Metromile Cost?
To see if Metromile was truly cost-effective, I went undercover as Jaime Lannister (yes, like the Game of Thrones character), a 31-year-old manufacturing rep living in Phoenix.
He’s a single homeowner with a clean driving record, and drives a sensible, practical, 2012 Kia Soul.
As Jaime, we got online insurance quotes from Metromile, GEICO, and State Farm.
Our policies were balanced, with $50k/$100k/$50k coverage, including un- and underinsured motorist.
We got two quotes: one based on 5,000 miles driven per year, and the other based on 20,000 miles per year.
|Insurer||Cost to drive 5,000 miles/year||Cost to drive 20,000 miles/year|
As you can see, our findings produced three interesting takeaways:
- All three providers did offer low mileage discounts (or high mileage penalties), though Metromile’s was by far the most pronounced.
- For a low mileage driver, Metromile was the cheapest by over $200.
- With those curiously high premiums, State Farm must not believe the adage “a Lannister always pays his debts.”
It’s also worth noting that if you end up driving less than your estimated annual mileage, Metromile is the only provider who will offer you a discount in real-time.
The $1,023 figure is calculated using the following equation:
So if you end up skipping a few road trips and driving just 2,500 miles this year, you’ll save an additional $220. And if your car just sits in the driveway all year, you’ll pay even less.
Metromile offers a handy car ownership app that helps you track and optimize mileage, find your parked car, and even get street-sweeping alerts in major cities.
Best of all, because it communicates with the Pulse device plugged into your car’s computer, the app can even help you run diagnostic information and decode check engine lights, saving a trip to the dealer.
You can submit claims right from your phone
Like the major insurance providers, Metromile enables you to submit claims right from your phone and call for 24/7 roadside assistance.
Also, if you purchase comprehensive coverage, Metromile will repair small cracks in your windshield for free.
Metromile stops charging after 250 miles per day
Lastly, Metromile won’t punish you for going on long road trips. The meter stops running after 250 miles per day, or just 150 for New Jersey residents.
So if you take the new family minivan from OR to NY and back, you’ll be totally covered for ~$20 each way.
Despite the Consumer Federation of America calling them out back in 2015, most auto insurers still don’t offer pay-per-mile insurance. Some are offering subtle discounts, like Progressive’s Snapshot program, but none offers entirely separate programs just for low mileage drivers.
Allstate and Esurance are the only exceptions.
Esurance offers a program that directly competes with Metromile, but it comes with three drawbacks:
- It’s only available in Oregon.
- It has a $50 cancellation fee
- Not every Oregonian seems to qualify. We moved Jaime to a nice little hamlet north of Portland, but were curiously denied for Esurance’s Pay-Per-Mile program. We moved a few variables around, but to no avail. We were instead offered a traditional rate of ~$185 per month.
Milewise is Allstate’s pay-per-mile program, and offers a few potential advantages over Metromile.
- Milewise is available in nine states (DC, DE, IL, IN, MD, NJ, OR, VA, and WA) compared to Metromile’s eight.
- The meter stops running at just 150 miles per day, or 100 fewer than Metromile.
- Finally, for better or worse, Milewise factors in much more of your driving behavior. The device you plug into your trip computer captures your miles, but also your speed, location, time of day you drive, and hard braking.
Because Milewise grades your driving behavior, it may be a good option for your family minivan or work truck.
Overall, if you’re considering a pay-per-mile program, your best option is just to do your due diligence and collect quotes from whichever providers cover your area.
What customers are saying
We don’t live in an area covered by Metromile, we were unable to test the service for ourselves. Instead, we went online to see others were already saying about it.
Better Business Bureau
Auto insurance companies aren’t known to have rave reviews online, but early reports for Metromile look above average. In the last three years, the company received 56 complaints through the Better Business Bureau and responded to all of them.
Consumers complained of erroneous charges to their accounts and long wait times, and Metromile responded by assuring them that they’ve mitigated both issues. It’s a good sign that the company is listening to its consumer complaints and composing long, thoughtful responses.
On Reddit, opinions of Metromile tend to be favorable. One discussion thread cited a recent spike in rates, but commenters took a logical stance; as long as it’s cheaper than regular insurance, they’ll stick with Metromile.
Metromile may be for you if…
- You already drive fewer than 12,000 miles per year (the national average)
- Your city has excellent public transportation and your car just sits around
- You’re looking to insure a secondary vehicle used only on special occasions, like a truck or a convertible
Metromile may not be for you if…
- You live in an area they don’t cover yet.
- You drive more than 12k miles per year.
- You don’t like the idea of being charged “extra” for each mile you drive.
Pros & cons
- Low cost — Because of their pay-per-mile structure, Metromile is much cheaper than other auto insurance.
- Easy sign-up — The sign-up process took me just two minutes to complete.
- Good reviews — Both the Better Business Bureau and Metromile customers give decent reviews of the company.
- You’re not charged after 250 miles — The meter stops running after 250 miles per day, or just 150 for New Jersey residents.
- Only available in some states — Unfortunately, Metromile is only available in eight states.
Though we at Money Under 30 love cars and driving, we love the idea of everyone driving less even better. If more insurance providers begin incentivizing low mileage driving, that can mean fewer cars on the road, fewer accidents, and fewer greenhouse gases emitted.
If you’re a low-mileage driver, pay-per-mile insurance might save you hundreds on your annual premiums. Plus, it may incentivize you to carpool more and explore your city by foot, bike, or public transit. If that sounds like a good deal, check out Metromile.