Like most insurance products, how much you pay for car insurance will depend on your perceived risk of getting into an accident and filing a claim. Many insurers have taken steps to get a clearer look at driver’s habits, offering telematics programs that track your driving. If you have good habits, these programs can save you some money. One such program is Nationwide’s SmartRide program and understanding how it works can help you decide if the program is right for you.

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What is Nationwide SmartRide?

Nationwide SmartRide is a program that rewards drivers for good habits with discounts on their auto insurance premiums. SmartRide is optional for Nationwide policyholders and even includes up to a 10 percent discount for signing up. Nationwide advises that the smartphone app is the best way to participate in the program, but if you prefer, you may have the option to have a plug-in device mailed to you.

However, if your car was manufactured before 1996, you may not be eligible. Nationwide SmartRide is entirely free, and, unlike other telematics programs, there is no risk of your premium going up if your driving habits do not qualify for a discount. You may lose your 10% participation discount at the end of the policy term, but you will not see a surcharge put on your policy.

Once you sign up, your driving habits will be monitored for four to six months. Throughout the driving period, you will get regular updates from Nationwide. These updates will include your current estimated discount and suggestions for ways to improve your driving habits, which could increase your discount. Once the initial period has been completed, you will be advised that you can delete the app or return the device in the prepaid envelope provided.

What does SmartRide monitor?

SmartRide monitors four aspects of your driving behavior that are commonly associated with your overall risk of getting in an accident. These include:

  • Miles driven: The more miles you drive, the higher your chances of being involved in a crash, because you are on the road more often. Driving shorter distances or fewer overall miles may help you earn a larger discount.
  • Hard braking and acceleration: Being too heavy on the gas or the breaks can be a sign of aggressive driving. Accelerating or decelerating at a rate greater than 7.7 mph per second will reduce the discount you can earn.
  • Nighttime driving: Trips that occur between midnight and 5:00 AM have the highest chance of resulting in an accident. If your car is usually parked during these hours, you might get a larger discount.
  • Idle time: Areas with heavy traffic can be riskier to drive in because of higher chances of getting into an accident. Measuring idle time — the amount of time your car sits while turned on but not moving — is a way for Nationwide to estimate traffic in your area.

Each week, you will get reports from SmartRide. Nationwide fills these reports with a breakdown of each of the factors it tracks. You will know exactly how far you drove, how many times you braked or accelerated too quickly, how much time you spent driving at night and how long you idled. These reports could help you make changes to your driving behavior that might increase the chances of you getting a larger discount.

How much can you save with Nationwide SmartRide?

SmartRide has a car insurance discount that focuses on your driving habits, so how much you can save will depend on how well you drive. Generally, you’ll get a 10 percent discount as soon as you sign up for the program. After four to six months, Nationwide SmartRide reviews your driving habits and offers a final discount ranging from 0 percent to 40 percent.

It’s important to note that the program cannot cause your premium to rise. However, if you have poor driving habits, you might lose the initial 10% discount you get for signing up. Also, the discount is not based on your total premium. The discount only applies to certain types of coverage, so the total discount will vary based on local law and the coverages you’ve selected.

Who should sign up for SmartRide?

Most Nationwide policyholders can participate in SmartRide, but certain participants have a better chance of benefitting. Drivers whose premiums are high due to circumstances out of their control — such as age or location — may be able to use SmartRide as an opportunity to show Nationwide that they drive safely. SmartRide might also be a great choice for drivers with low annual mileage or who avoid driving at night, rarely idle and avoid rapid acceleration or braking.

On the other hand, there could be problems with Nationwide SmartRide for people who drive aggressively or do most of their driving after midnight. You’ll get the initial discount for signing up but likely won’t get much of a discount after Nationwide reviews your driving habits.

The table below lists the pros and cons to consider with the program.

Pros Cons
No participation cost Savings is applied at next renewal, not immediately
Will not increase premium Vehicles older than 1996 are not eligible
Monitoring only lasts up to six months Sign up discount removed at next renewal
Discount lasts as long as vehicle remains insured with Nationwide Not ideal for high mileage or regular nighttime drivers

Those who have seen their car insurance go up after an accident might benefit from SmartRide if they have worked to improve their driving habits. Since SmartRide is free and cannot result in your premiums increasing (with the exception of losing your 10% sign up discount), you may want to give the program a try.

Nationwide does offer a second usage-based program called SmartMiles. If you work from home, are retired or drive low annual miles, the program could be a good fit. To participate, you must agree to pay your premium monthly, rather than in larger installments. Your monthly mileage will be monitored and your monthly premium will then be adjusted so that you pay for just the miles you drove.

How does Nationwide SmartRide compare to other programs?

The Nationwide SmartRide program is not the only telematics program available. Other major insurance carriers offer this way to save, though not all programs are the same. Here is how Nationwide SmartRide compares to other programs.

Program Discount amount Program review period Premium increase possibility
Nationwide SmartRide Up to 40% 4 to 6 months No
State Farm Drive Safe and Save Up to 30% 6 months No
Allstate DriveWise Varies 12 months No
Geico DriveEasy Varies 6 months Yes

Frequently asked questions

    • No. Although the program does use GPS to track your braking and acceleration speed, SmartRide does not track your location or movements.
    • Yes and no. The program does track speed — your weekly report will show what your average speed was — but it does not use it as a discount factor.
    • If you are using the Nationwide SmartRide plug-in device, you can unplug it a few times each month with no repercussions. You might choose to do this if someone is going to borrow your car, for example. If you are using the app and forget to turn your smartphone’s location services on, the app will not be able to track your driving. Just like with the plug-in device, this is not generally a problem a few times a month. However, if you repeatedly unplug your device or forget to turn your location services on, you may lose your participation discount and will not earn a final discount.
    • After the evaluation period, the discount you earned is added to your car insurance policy at the next renewal. It is locked in for as long as that particular Nationwide car insurance policy is active. However, Nationwide does add that the discount availability is subject to change and may be affected by changes to drivers and vehicles on the policy or policy changes in subsequent renewals.
    • Nationwide SmartMiles and SmartRide are both usage-based insurance programs. However, SmartMiles is focused on people who don’t drive often, as it charges a base insurance rate plus an additional charge per mile driven each month.SmartRide, on the other hand, is a discount program that can reduce your overall insurance rate based on your driving habits. There is no additional charge per mile driven, but driving less can help increase your SmartRide discount.