Clearly, we have reached the dog days of summer.
How can we tell? Because companies of every stripe have announced promotions to keep cash registers humming during these traditionally slower months.
Yesterday, we heard about a special offer from Chevrolet. Earlier, we told you about one from Chrysler. Now, Progressive is getting into the act by offering everyone -- even people who aren't insured by Progressive -- the chance to test drive the company's Snapshot program.
Snapshot debuted two years ago, becoming one of the first programs on the market to monitor customers' real-world driving habits. (At the time, Progressive said that Snapshot could make individual rates go up or down, but the company has since changed its policy: Progressive now says very clearly that Snapshot can't make insurance premiums increase.)
The gist of Progressive's new Snapshot promotion is pretty straightforward: just visit the Snapshot website and sign up for a free, 30-day trial. Progressive will send you a Snapshot device in the mail, which you'll then plug into your car's OBD port.
Then, drive as you normally would. Progressive says that it's most concerned with three things: "How often you make hard brakes, how many miles you drive each day, and how often you drive between midnight and 4 a.m."
You can visit Progressive.com to track your score and get a quote based on your driving habits. When the 30-day trial is up, you'll have six months to decide whether to accept Progressive's offer.
Progressive has tied this promotion to a study it conducted, which showed that 70% of drivers would qualify for cheaper insurance if they used a device like Snapshot. (You can view a PDF of that study here.)
To reach that conclusion, Progressive used Snapshot to analyze five billion miles of real-world driving and discovered what most of us already knew: a minority of drivers cause the majority of problems on the roads. Those high-risk drivers cost insurance companies up to 250% more than their low-risk cousins.
Until tools like Snapshot came along, however, insurance companies haven't been readily able to distinguish between high-risk and low-risk consumers, other than through accident reports. And so, most of the time, the 70% of safe drivers have ended up paying for the other 30%.
If you try the Snapshot program and fall into that 70%, Progressive says that you could save up to 30% on your insurance. Current Snapshot customers have shaved about $150 off their premiums through the program.
When Progressive's press release first hit our inboxes, we were a little skeptical. After reading over the fine print, though, it seems to be on the up-and-up. There are, however, a couple of things to note:
- The Snapshot test drive isn't available in every state. Residents of Alaska, California, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Washington, and West Virginia can't take part.
- You have to return the device after your free trial ends (unless you switch to Progressive, that is). If you lose it or just don't return it, it'll cost you $50.
Other than that, everything looks fine to us. Of course, we haven't seen the contract that Progressive offers to new customers who take advantage of this program, so we don't know if there's a requirement that new customers use Snapshot after switching. However, Progressive says elsewhere in its FAQ that policy-holders can discontinue the Snapshot program any time they like, so we assume that rule applies to new customers,too.
In the end, the biggest drawback to this Snapshot promotion would seem to be the general sense of unease that such tracking programs can engender. Thankfully, Progressive seems to have listened to squeamish customers over the past couple of years, since it now insists that Snapshot can't cause a driver's insurance rate to increase. Progressive also says very clearly that Snapshot contains no GPS technology (though neither do LoJack devices, so this doesn't necessarily mean that Progressive can't track you).
If you're curious about Snapshot, have a look at this quick promo video:
Are the changes to the Snapshot program enough to pique your interest? Does this free trial seem like something you'd like to check out for yourself? Drop us a line, or leave a note in the comments below.