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Telematics car insurance

Compare telematics policies, also known as black box car insurance, and find out how it can lower your premium

What is telematics insurance?

Telematics insurance involves fitting a little black box, roughly the size of a smartphone, into your car so that your insurer can monitor the way you drive.

If you drive safely and sensibly, your premium will be reduced.

Careful though - your insurance prices will go up if you’re a reckless driver.

How telematics works

Telematics insurance tracks your driving so your insurer can see how safe you are on the road.

  1. Your braking habits, speed, distance travelled, and what kinds of roads you travel on are recorded using GPS for your insurer to examine

  2. Most policies will give you access to an online dashboard or smartphone app where you can review your driving habits and learn how to improve them

  3. Your insurance premiums will go up or down based on how well you drive. Some providers will calculate your renewal price based on this, while others adjust your policy price mid-term.

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How you can save money with a blackbox

The fitted blackbox, plug-in, app or built-in telematics software begins collecting data about your journeys and driving habits immediately after it’s installed and switched on.

It uses GPS to track where you’re going, if you’re using busy A roads, like motorways and dual carriageways, or slower and quieter B roads.

It records information about emergency stops, cornering, heavy braking, or impacts.

In fact, every aspect of your driving’s tracked - whether you’re regularly navigating rush hour, your speed, total mileage, if you break up long journeys, and how often you travel in the car.

In your first year of using blackbox technology, it collects and analyses your data. When it’s time to renew your policy, one year later, it applies its learnings to calculate a new, and hopefully cheaper, quote. The better your score, the better the discount.

That doesn’t mean it’ll be the cheapest or best policy for you though. Shopping around and looking at comprehensive, third party (TPO), and third party, fire and theft (TPFT) policies, plus the other options available to you, is the only way to know for certain.

That does mean that in your first year as a telematics driver, you might not see any cost savings until it’s time to renew. But you may get other discounts applied to your policy, for example, if a new customer discount or no claims bonus if you’ve had a few years’ of claim-free driving already.

Average savings for young drivers

Comprehensive car insurance is the highest level of cover you can buy. It covers you, your car, your passengers, plus the driver, passengers and third party vehicle if you’re in a traffic accident.

It’s the type of cover that makes you feel secure no matter what situation you’re facing, particularly if you’re a new or young driver. Unfortunately, it’s consistently expensive if you’re 17.

We discovered that the cost of an annual comprehensive policy was just under £1,000 if the policyholder was 17. That’s around double the average price paid via GoCompare for an annual fully comprehensive car insurance in all of April 2020, which was just £490.[2]

[*]Average price paid annually for comprehensive car insurance purchased in 2018, 2019 and Jan to April 2020 via GoCompare when the policyholder is 17
[2]Average price paid annually for comprehensive car insurance in April 2020 via GoCompare

Average savings for young drivers car insurance

Is a black box right for me?

Telematics insurance is usually aimed at younger drivers. If you’ve not been driving long it’s a way to save money on your car insurance in return for proving you’re a safe driver.

But good drivers of any age could benefit. If you tend to drive in your local area, have a low annual mileage, and mostly travel short distances, your insurers will recognise this and lower your premiums accordingly. But, some providers only allow drivers under 25 to have blackbox policies.

Black boxes are also useful if you want to prove you’re a good driver despite falling into other high-risk categories. For example, if you’re a racing driver or have a criminal conviction.

If you only drive at low-risk times of day, that can bring your premium down as well. This is almost any time outside rush hour, excluding the middle of the night - which is usually considered higher risk.

Telematics is a very useful tool, but any tool is only as good as its wielder. If you ignore your black box and don’t drive carefully or within any pre-arranged limits, you could pay more for your premiums
Matt Oliver - Motoring expert at GoCompare

Having a black box fitted

Most newer cars have telematics hardware pre-installed. If yours doesn’t, don’t worry - the additional tech’s discrete and the insurer might even send an expert to get it installed for you.

If it’s an easy job, the insurer sends you a plug-in device that you install yourself by pushing it into a socket under your dashboard. Others ask you to download an app for your smartphone so that you use that as the black box instead.

If once it’s installed, you think it’s causing damage, obstructing fans, disrupting the electrics, or you just suspect it’s faulty, you need to bring it up with your insurer as soon as you notice.

If the insurer supplied the technology, it’s their responsibility to make sure it’s working for you. If you’re concerned, document your car’s state of repair before having telematics installed and store it with your service record docs, just in case you need to show evidence of damage.

How to choose a telematics policy

Just as with any car insurance policy, you want a policy that works with your lifestyle, not against it.

Every telematics insurer has its own set of exclusions. Those exclusions could cause you grief if you ever need to claim, so take your time to find the right policy for you.

If you work shifts and need to drive throughout the night, check that your blackbox policy doesn’t have a curfew. A curfew stops you driving late at night which is a high risk time to be on the road, according to insurers. If you get behind the wheel anyway, you won’t be covered.

Some telematics policies impose a mileage limit and a fine if you exceed it. Check the mileage is realistic before signing up. If your milage increases after you take out the policy, speak to the insurer about extending your cover.

If you’re concerned about protecting the driving data collected by the blackbox and how it may affect the price of your future policies, your insurer shouldn't share or sell any of your information to other insurers.

What you pay now will have no bearing on what you pay in the future - when the time comes to renew, you’re starting afresh with a new set of quotes. Your price will go up if you make a claim, but if you have a good year and start building up your no claims bonus, you’ll start to see savings.

Car insurers with telematics policies

Some of the insurers who can offer you telematics insurance with GoCompare are:[3]

  1. More Than Smart Wheels

  2. Hastings Direct SmartMiles

  3. Admiral LittleBox

  4. RAC Blackbox

  5. WiseDriving Self Install

  6. Bell

  7. insurethebox

  8. My Policy

  9. Carrot Insurance

  10. General Accident Telematics

Alternatives to telematics

As a named driver, you’re listed on another driver’s policy. You’re not the policyholder. If the policyholder has a number of years no claims discount, you’ll benefit from the savings they recieve as an experienced driver. If you’re the main driver but listed as a named driver, you’re breaking the law by fronting.

If you only need to be on the road for a matter of days, hours, or even miles, short-term car insurance covers you just for the period you need.

Pay as you go insurance covers you for the distance you travel or the amount of time you’re on the road - policies and terms vary between insurers.

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Frequently asked questions

  • Who owns the box and what happens if you remove it?

    Although it’s your car, the insurer owns the physical GPS tracker or blackbox tech. When you want to stop the device tracking your driving, the insurer might deactivate it remotely, or send an expert or engineer to remove it from the car. If you want it removed before the end of your policy, you might be charged a fee.

  • Can a blackbox be fitted to any car?

    It depends on the age of your car, but for most cars which are under 20 years old, there shouldn’t be an issue. The blackbox is fitted under the dashboard - if you have any concerns speak to the insurer about your car’s compatibility.

  • Can I see how well I’m driving, or is that just for the insurer?

    You can usually log into an app to review the data collected by the blackbox. You might be awarded bronze, silver or gold standard driving, as an example. If the insurer doesn’t have an app, it may send you regular updates and feedback, possibly picking out areas where you can improve to help control the cost of your premium.

  • What happens if someone else drives my car too?

    The blackbox can’t tell the difference between you and another driver. If someone else consistently drives your car and their braking, cornering and speeding haits are riskier, your premium is likely to increase. If it’s just once or twice, it should average out over the whole year and you’ll see very little cost difference, in theory. Don’t take the chance - if someone else drives your car, point out the box and ask them to take it easy.

  • What happens if I go over my mileage or drive at a restricted time?

    You could get a fine and at worst you might not be covered. Check with the insurer if you’re uncertain about any exclusions and see if you can tweak the terms of your policy if your situation changes a few months into the agreement.

  • Can I use the data to get cheaper premiums in the future?

    If don’t need to claim throughout the policy and your driving habits are good, your telematics insurer will review the data to generate a car insurance quote based on your driving. If you want even cheaper premiums, the only way to find more quotes is to shop around. You have one more year of no claims bonus (NCB) under your belt, plus your telematics quote which you can use as a negotiation tool. Under GDPR, you can request a copy of all your data and for other insurers to see it in order to get a cheaper premium, but the insurer may not be able to use it.

  • What if I have an accident with a blackbox fitted? Is any data used?

    The insurer will only share data if the police ask for it. The blackbox will have an accurate record of how and where you were driving when you were in an accident. If you or the third party report the accident to the police, they may ask your insurer to volunteer the information.

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[3]Correct as of 24 July 2019

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