When it comes to car insurance, driving less means saving more.
The number of miles you drive has an impact on how much you pay for your auto insurance policy. Until recently, low-mileage drivers had few opportunities to receive cheaper car insurance. With the advent of new technology — and broader changes to the driving habits of many Americans — more car insurance companies are offering opportunities for low-mileage drivers to save money. But these opportunities can vary based on your insurance company (and even your location).
In our guide to car insurance as a low-mileage driver, we'll review some of the best ways to save on car insurance, including simple low mileage discounts, telematics and usage-based insurance.
Most insurance providers consider someone who drives between 0 and 7,500 miles per year a "low-mileage driver." Most insurance consumers are initially rated by default at the standard U.S. average mileage of 12,000 miles per year. However, some motorists drive far fewer than 12,000 miles per year.
See below the amounts by which your auto insurance rates can change based solely on your annual mileage.
|Annual Mileage||Average Annual Premium|
|0 - 7,500 miles||$1,409|
|7,500 - 10,000 miles||$1,470|
|10,000 - 15,000 miles||$1,485|
This is a general estimate of how car insurance costs change depending on mileage. While the average difference in car insurance costs between those who drive fewer than 7,500 miles annually and those who cover 15,000-plus miles is just $86, occasional drivers save up to $436 per year in California. A low-mileage driver in California will save more money than an infrequent motorist in Texas.
Using the profile outlined here, we surveyed eight insurance companies to see which one offered the cheapest premiums for low-mileage drivers.
|Insurance company||Annual premium|
Insurance companies also offer usage-based insurance programs, usually powered by telematics devices, a new-but-evolving type of insurance. A telematics device — either plugged into your vehicle or tied to an app in your phone — monitors your driving behavior in order to determine your car insurance premium. Most start with a base rate, which is then adjusted to correspond with your driving habits. This way the insurer can more accurately predict the kind of client you will be and more accurately price your premium. For instance, things like hard braking are even your average speed can be monitored by your insurer. Safe driving can lead to lower rates overall.
The benefit of telematics for low-mileage drivers is that you essentially only pay for the insurance you need. It's a "pay as you go" — or "pay as you drive" — version of car insurance, weighing your driving activity alongside traditional rating factors such as credit score, age, homeowner status and location.
If you're looking for insurance companies with telematics programs, consider the options below. Keep in mind: pay-per-mile telematics car insurance programs may not be available in every state.
|Telematics program||Estimated savings|
|Progressive Snapshot||Average of $130|
|Allstate Drivewise||Average of 10-25%|
|State Farm Drive Safe & Save||Up to 15%|
|Nationwide SmartRide||Up to 40%|
|Liberty Mutual RightTrack||Average of 5-30%|
If you're looking for a company-by-company analysis of telematics programs, consult our telematics guide.
Another way to find car insurance as a low-mileage driver is to shop policies from usage-based insurance (UBI) companies. While many companies offer telematics programs, they're not truly usage-based insurance companies. Root and Metromile, briefly detailed below, operate on a true "pay-as-you-go" model.
Compared to the insurance companies mentioned above, Metromile is relatively new to the world of car insurance. Metromile sets a base monthly rate, after which your premium is generated on a per-mile basis. You'll receive a plug-in device that fits into your vehicle's onboard diagnostics port (OBD-II). There's also a corresponding app that you can download to keep up with billing and even find your car if you've forgotten where you parked. The company offers full coverage options that you would expect to find from conventional insurance companies.
Root's philosophy is based on the idea of "car insurance for how you drive, rather than who you are." Instead of relying on credit score and age to price its policies, Root uses your driving habits to determine premiums. If you're a low-mileage driver, this might be a good option for you.
Allstate's pay-per-mile insurance program is similar to those above, starting with a base-rate upon which charges are added for additional miles driven. Similar to Metromile, Milewise uses a plug-in device and a corresponding app to keep track of driving habits and mileage.
Nationwide's Smartmiles program is designed for those who rarely drive, but still want to keep a car for occasional use. Motorists pay per mile on top of a base rate. Nationwide offers car insurance discounts for safe drivers through this program.
Mile Auto is a newcomer in the insurance space. The company's car insurance coverage is relatively straightforward, offering basic liability and full coverage options for low-mileage drivers. Unlike other pay-per mile insurance companies, Mile Auto claims to value your privacy, not requiring a tracking component such as an app or plug-in device. The company has drivers snap a photo of their odometer once a month to determine the amount driven.
If you're a low-mileage driver, look for specific programs catering to you. As we've demonstrated, the only real discount you will receive for low mileage without looking into a specific UBI program is if you live in California. Outside of that, the savings are quite small. While many major car insurance companies offer telematic programs, true UBI companies like Root and Metromile are good places to start. See how much you could save as a low-mileage driver by entering your ZIP code below.