Progressive’s Snapshot is the latest program to be unleashed from the insurance juggernaut’s formidable discount arsenal. Of course, this is much more than a typical discount, it’s a physical device you install in your car.
So let’s get to the nuts-and-bolts of how this product may save you money on your auto insurance (or not).
According to Progressive.com, Snapshot, formerly known as the Pay As You Drive® (PAYD) program, is a type of usage-based insurance.
Once enrolled, you can earn a personalized car insurance discount, known as your “Snapshot Discount,” by driving less, in safer ways, and during safer times of the day.
You can supposedly save up to 30 percent via the program, making it their “biggest discount ever!”
How Does Snapshot Work?
Progressive is able to track your driving habits by having you install a small device called a dongle (pictured at left) in your vehicle that ties into your car’s diagnostic port (“computer”).
The device works with vehicle model years 1996 and newer. If your vehicle does not have a diagnostic port, you’re out of luck. If it does, plug it in and look for a blinking light. That means it’s working.
Next, you drive as you normally would. The device creates a “snapshot” of your driving habits, thus the name…and the information is reviewed by Progressive to determine what level of discount, if any, you qualify for.
Typically, the first snapshot is taken after 30 days of driving, then finalized when your policy renews.
What Driving Habits Are In Question Here?
Thankfully, the device cannot measure how far off the ground all four tires go when you are jumping railroad tracks!
Progressive is looking at some very basic characteristics at this point.
Miles Driven: Prior to this technology, this information was based on the honor system. Progressive may be smart to question how many of their insured (and agents) may guess incorrectly!
Time of Day: What time of day you drive your car may determine your chances of getting into an accident. Rush hour: “bad.”
Sudden Stops: Our guess is that people who make a lot of sudden stops have higher odds of running into the back of someone and filing an insurance claim. See distracted driving (29% do what behind the wheel?!). This also means your vehicle speed is tracked! If you stop suddenly, the Snapshot device might make a “beeping” sound to warn you of your “bad driving.”
What they calculate depends on the state you buy your policy in.
The Good and the (Potential) Bad
If you are a low mileage driver, who typically doesn’t commute during peak driving hours and pays attention to the road, you may save a boatload of money here.
Remember, up to 30 percent maximum discount is available (depending on what state you live in). But don’t expect your insurance premium to drop from $700 to $70 for the same term if you simply don’t drive your vehicle very often.
It doesn’t use GPS or track a vehicle’s location, nor does it track whether you’re exceeding the speed limit.
Depending on which state you live in, you may be subject to a $30 fee, referred to as the “technology expense.” Alabama, Georgia, Kansas, Rhode Island and South Carolina…we’re talking to you.
This means you may not only miss the discounts based on your driving habits, but end up paying more for your policy due to the “Snapshot” technology.
Can My Rate Go Up If I Don’t Drive Like a Saint?
Let’s face it – this is the real question here. Is having a device in your car that tracks your driving habits by the second going to end up causing you more trouble than it’s worth?
If you live in Kansas or Rhode Island, your policy premium may increase by as much as nine percent as a result of your “snapshot,” so driver beware.
But note that you can cancel the program at any time and Progressive will stop using any driving information you shared with them.
Where Is the Progressive Snapshot Available?
Currently, Progressive offers the program in every state except for AK, CA, HI, IN, NC.
But be sure to contact Progressive directly to ensure availability, as it will probably change since this is a new program.
Update: Now you can try Progressive’s Snapshot on a free trial basis for 30 days.This way you don’t have to switch insurers and risk seeing your car insurance rates jump after the device reports your aggressive driving habits back to the Progressive mothership. You simply install the device and it tracks your driving habits for a month, with no obligation. If you like the discount afforded, you get six months to decide if you want to switch.
During the trial, you’ll get updates to gauge your driving habits. Progressive even encourages drivers to determine who is the best in the house, presumably so you will drive as safely as possible to ensure their rates are the lowest available. They even go as far as to recommend that you tell people about it on the social networks.
Of course, you have to wonder if the Snapshot device will lead to unnatural driving patterns, at least initially. This could rope in new drivers, who after becoming used to the presence of the device will go back to their wild ways. This would obviously lead to higher premiums in the future once the road rage resurfaced.
Still, it looks as if Progressive is a trailblazer and is reshaping how car insurance will be determined going forward.
Introducing the Progressive Snapshot App!
This just in – Progressive has released an “app” version of Snapshot for iPhones, which is free of charge.
Now, instead of having to commit to installing the Snapshot device in your vehicle, you can preview how Progressive views your driving habits, and also see how you stack up against others, such as friends and family.
The Snapshot app tracks and maps your driving, then spits out a driving score based on hard braking, rapid acceleration, and the amount of driving you do.
You can earn badges, score points, dissect your driving data and share your results with family and friends.
Even if you aren’t interested in the Snapshot device, this app could make you a safer driver.
The Snapshot Hack
In early 2015, it was rumored that hackers could control vehicles with the Snapshot device installed. An Israeli security firm called Argus Cyber Security made the claims on a similar device.
And an American company by the name of Digital Bond Labs reportedly found “major problems” with Snapshot.
When reverse engineered, the company apparently was able to access a vehicle’s critical functions, such as steering, braking, and throttle. Clearly that would be a pretty scary thing if it fell into the wrong hands.
Of course, Progressive was quick to fire back that the researcher couldn’t actually control a vehicle and no evidence has been brought forward that anyone else could either.
Progressive also said they would investigate the matter because security is a top priority. It’s unclear what has been done since this issue was brought to light.
Additionally, there’s a hack on Reddit that apparently shows Snapshot users how to trick Progressive into thinking they’re super safe drivers to get the maximum discount.
Clearly this technology is still in its infancy, and with that comes a lot of potential headaches as the kinks are worked out.
Read more: Esurance DriveSense review