Swapping your Mum for a Car Insurance Black Box
As young drivers, you have probably experienced the shock of finding out the cost of your first car insurance. Then, having passed your test, you will experience the cost of that insurance going up. This comes as a surprise to a lot of people. However, there is a logic in play here. When you are learning, you are under supervision. Someone is with you and your focus is learning to do things right and practice for a test. Once that is behind you, you’re free! On your own, or even with a bunch of friends the same age in the car with you. Its no longer your mum giving you sensible advice, it might be your your annoying younger brother instead. One way to possibly help with cost is to swap your mum for a car insurance black box. It’s a form of “supervision”, but without the constant er…shall we say…”advice”.
What is a “Car Insurance Black Box”?
It can also be known as “Telematics” or “Pay as You Go Car Insurance” by some companies. Keeping with the insurance industry’s exciting and innovative way of naming their products, this gets its name from the fact that the small device is both box shape and usually black. It is about the size of a smartphone and its job is to send information back to the insurer about your driving.
Myths and Bunkum
There are a lot of urban myths about these devices, some are complete bunkum, others are kind of based in a sort of truth which has been through a politicians speech edit. Here’s some examples:
The Insurance Company will automatically inform the Police if you are Speeding
Bunkum. Don’t get me wrong, you shouldn’t speed, it is illegal, dangerous and wears your tyres and brakes out faster, so trying to save money on insurance while at the same time regularly speeding, makes you a bit of a twit. If you are involved in an incident and the police are interested, they can request information obtained through the black box, and use it either to help you, or prosecute you, depending on what it shows.
Having a Black Box fitted will Void the Cars Warranty.
Bunkum. Nothing really to add here. Just Bunkum.
The Insurance Company will use the Information to prove you were to Blame for an Accident
Maybe. If an accident was your fault, the information may help to prove it. On the other hand, it can just as easily do the opposite. If you say you were hit while stationery, the Black Box may well be your best friend.
The Black Box will Interfere with my Sat Nav or Car Radio
Not at all likely. Fitted properly, a Black Box is extremely unlikely to interfere with any other electric devices in the vehicle.
My Insurer will not Cover me if I Drive outside of Certain Times
Mostly Bunkum. Some insurers will insist that you drive only at certain times, during the day for instance. You may have put a restriction on yourself in order to keep costs down and you, in all good faith, had every intention of keeping to those restrictions. However, things can change. You may get a call from someone asking you to take them to hospital during the night. Or you may have been out for the day and the traffic is so bad on the way back it takes hours longer than you anticipated and into your “curfew”. No decent insurer is going to question this. Where they get rightfully interested is when the information being sent back to them via the Black Box shows a constant disregard for the restrictions in place. In that situation, its time to review the restrictions.
It Costs to Have a Black Box Fitted
Sort of True – sometimes. The fact is that a few providers will make a charge for fitting the device, many do not. Like all insurance policies there can also be admin charges for any changes to your policy during the term and a charge for the removal of the device is not uncommon. I may have mentioned this before….READ THE TERMS AND CONDITIONS FIRST!
What Information Does it Send Back?
The purpose of the box is to build up a profile of your driving style. The information it can send back may include:
Time of Day
Types of road usually used
Length of time driving
It is easy to become a little paranoid about what could be described as a “Big Brother” system where all your movements are constantly monitored. It certainly is not for everyone, and that’s fine, but if you are comfortable with the idea it can save you money. Remember, the insurance company is building up a profile of your driving style in order to assess you in terms of risk. If you suddenly have to brake hard in an emergency, you shouldn’t be worrying about whether you are going to be penalised by the insurance company. They honestly do not care two figs if you occasionally brake late, speed or once in a while drive for four hours without a break (though its really not a good idea is it?)
Who is it Good For?
It is mainly promoted for newly qualified or young drivers. There is no getting away from the fact that this group has statistically more accidents than any other. If you are in this group, then your insurance is based on the statistics amassed from everybody in the same group. Using a Black Box is a way of personalising your insurance to just your style of driving, and may potentially save you money.
Everyone can in fact use this method for their insurance, though far fewer experienced people with full protected no claims bonus use them. Other groups that may find it worth looking into include:
Drivers that do very low mileage
Newly UK resident drivers
Drivers with convictions
Drivers with a poor claims history
Can I See the Information that is being Collected?
Most insurers give you website access to your account and you can see all the information that is being collected about you. You can see how your driving style affects your profile and then adjust the way you drive in order to make improvements, and possible reduce the insurance cost.
What are the Drawabacks?
The main one, and most uncomfortable, is that you may not be as good as driver as you thought you were! It is entirely possible that your particular driving style is not one the insurer likes and the whole exercise could end up costing you more. You could turn this into a positive though and use the evidence to have a bit of a think about improving your driving habits.
Another is that you may have underestimated the amount of miles you drive and the cost of insurance will increase as the true number of miles you drive becomes apparent. Like going over your limit on your mobile phone though, the insurer should keep you informed as to whether you are getting close to the mileage you gave them.
If it turns out that you are actually driving at peak times on busy roads, when you originally told the insurer something different, then you could find the cost of your insurance increasing.
Although the principles are pretty much the same with all providers, there are some subtle variations so if this is something that may interest you, then be sure to find out all the details before applying. One last thing, having a Black Box fitted means that if the car is stolen, it will be easy to track and find!