UPDATED: Jun 7, 2019
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Like most such systems, DriveWise uses data regarding driving habits in order to calculate a discount and other rewards for safe driving. Among the information collected are things like when the car is on the road, speed, and incidents of hard braking. Although DriveWise originally used a plug-in device to collect this information, the new version of the program seems to have a goal of phasing out the plug-in device in favor of using the mobile app only. The use of apps has become more popular in recent years, shifting telematics away from devices that plug into the Onboard Diagnostics (OBD-II) port in the vehicle; Allstate appears to be moving to eradicate the plug-in altogether, using it only in three states.
DriveWise was initially introduced using a plug-in device similar to that used by Progressive Snapshot and other similar programs. Allstate now offers the program only as a mobile app in most states; only Alaska, Indiana, and Florida drivers have access to the plugin option at this time.
Unlike most such programs, Allstate DriveWise is not only available to Allstate customers. Anyone can use it. DriveWise does not actually have its own specific app, rather it is a feature that can be activated from within the Allstate app. Non-customers can download the app and activate the program. While they do not earn any policy credits or discounts, they can sign up for the Allstate Rewards program. Rewards is a program like many other similar setups in which you earn points for certain activities and redeem them for things like gift cards, travel, merchandise, and other options.
For those who are Allstate customers, they earn Rewards points in addition to earning policy credits and even cash back or policy credits for safe driving.
DriveWise is available in most states, although terms and rewards vary from state to state. The program promises up to 20% in discounts but also states that rewards are given in “cash back”. This is called the performance reward and is separate from the enrollment discount, which is received when you sign up. The Allstate site is a little unclear on how this all works, so we had to do some research.
In the states where the plug-in device is still offered, the program promises up to 30% off and a 10% discount just for signing up.
How DriveWise Works
DriveWise works like most other usage-based mobile apps. It runs in the background on your mobile phone and tracks trip information every time you get into your car. Information collected includes how you drive – speed and braking – and when you drive. Allstate then uses its own calculation system to translate that information into a grade for good driving habits.
The app allows drivers to monitor their progress with the program over time, showing how much of a cashback reward they have so far earned, and what has been recorded in terms of safe and risky driving behavior.
The first cash back reward is available after the driver completes 50 trips, and rewards are then calculated every six months.
Unlike many other apps, Drivewise allows the addition of all of the drivers in the household to the program; when there are multiple drivers the information will be combined in order to determine the discount – individual drivers do not each earn their own discount. The discount can be earned on each vehicle in the household individually.
Drivewise works on an ongoing basis with the opportunity to continue earning rewards for safe driving rather than the one-time discount offered by other programs. Improvements in your driving over time can lead to greater rewards. While you may not earn a reward if your driving habits do not stack up, Allstate will not penalize you with rate increases.
Those in the states that have the plug-in available can also use the app to monitor performance, and in most ways, the program works similarly.
What DriveWise Records
DriveWise records quite a bit of information but not all of it is used to influence your performance reward. The app will record:
- Time of day: Driving between the hours of 11 pm and 4 am on weekdays and 11 pm to 5 am on weekends is considered high risk, and the app counts how many of your driving hours take place at these times.
- Braking: hard and extreme braking incidents are recorded
- Speed: How much time you spend driving above 80 mph
- Location: Where your car travels and where it was last parked
- Miles driven: Miles of each individual trip are recorded
- Trip data: When and where you drove, with starting and ending locations
All of this information is visible to the driver within the app, but not all of it will be used by Allstate.
How Information is Used
Allstate uses only three pieces of information from the DriveWise app in order to calculate your rewards: time of day, braking, and speed.
The app calculates a reward percentage based on how many incidents of hard or extreme braking are recorded, how many hours you are on the road late at night, and how much of your driving is spent at speeds over 80 mph. There is also an overall “trip score” for each trip based on these pieces of information.
This is actually fairly minimal compared to some other programs, many of which also take into consideration how many miles you drive and incidents of quick acceleration in addition to braking.
While the app can record a lot more information, that is mainly provided for the driver. Allstate does not track where you drive or park, or any other trip information; that data is only viewable by you.
The app also includes “driving challenges” which can be completed in order to earn Allstate Rewards points. As noted above, this part of the program is available even to non-customers of Allstate.
Allstate’s program works a little differently from some other programs out there, and it is a bit confusing in terms of how it is presented on the site. Three types of rewards are listed for the app: enrollment discount, performance rewards, and Allstate Rewards. We dug deeper to break those down.
First of all, the site states that there is a 3% enrollment discount. This is applied to your policy right away when you activate the DriveWise function within the Allstate app. It remains on your policy for as long as you keep using DriveWise, regardless of what sort of driving habits are recorded. In New Jersey, the discount is 5% initially and then 3% on renewal.
The next part of the program is performance rewards. This is alternately referred to as “cash back” and “policy credit” along with the name “performance rewards”. It is called performance rewards because the amount of this discount is calculated based on your actual driving habits, hence your performance. Although the term cash back is used, we could find no evidence that anyone actually receives a check from Allstate for the amount earned. Instead, it is applied as a discount on your policy at renewal.
The site also states that drivers can earn up to 15% off their policy in performance rewards. It appears that this percentage and the cash back are the same thing – you can earn a dollar amount discounted from your policy up to the amount that represents 15% off in total, as best we were able to understand it. The app shows what performance rewards you have earned both as a percentage and as a dollar off amount, listing your projected discount on next renewal as a percentage followed by the total dollar-off amount you have earned since signing up.
Finally, we have Allstate Rewards. This points program is similar to a credit card rewards program where you earn points that can be redeemed for a variety of things including gift cards to various stores, travel discounts, and merchandise. 10,000 points are deposited in your Rewards account upon signing up for DriveWise. You will get 5,000 more when you have signed up for Rewards and visited the site for the first time. After that, you can earn more points for various things including completing “driving challenges” such as 10 safe trips, three consecutive trips with no hard braking, and more. There are a variety of other ways to earn points as well.
Allstate Rewards is the only portion of the DriveWise program for which non-customers are eligible, which makes sense given that you cannot earn discounts on a policy you do not have. The hope here appears to be that use of the DriveWise app by non-customers might bring them into the Allstate fold.
There is no rate increase risk from using the DriveWise app, regardless of what it records. For policies with multiple drivers, all driver data is combined to create an overall discount amount.
As mentioned previously, discounts are a little different for those using the plug-in. This system promises that you can earn up to 30% off your bill after the performance review period, and a 10% enrollment discount up until your discount is calculated. Those using the app can still earn Rewards points.
Eligibility for DriveWise
The Allstate site does not list any requirements to be eligible for DriveWise. For the app, it doesn’t appear that there are any limitations to the program based on the age of your vehicle. Those using the plug-in device will need to meet vehicle requirements; usually, the vehicle must be 1996 or newer.
All that is required for the app is that you have a mobile phone capable of running the DriveWise app. The site states that your phone must run Android 4.4 or higher or iOS 8 or higher to run the app. That means the main thing that could keep you from using this app is your phone – that you have one and that it is new enough to have the correct operating system.
Unlike a lot of other programs, DriveWise does not even require you to be an Allstate customer; as discussed above, you can earn Allstate Rewards even if you don’t use the company for insurance.
DriveWise can be activated at any time during the policy period, and it is available to both new and existing Allstate customers. This differs from some programs that are only available on new policies.
In most states where there is only an app option, installation is relatively easy.
The Allstate app must be downloaded and installed on your phone. If you do not have an account, you will need to create one. From there, you can go into the app, find the DriveWise function and turn it on, and then follow the prompts on the screen.
Additional drivers can be added to the program by requesting an activation code, which is sent via email. The driver can then log in, enter the activation code, and begin using the app.
The procedure is the same for non-customers to use the program and earn Allstate Rewards.
If you are using the plug-in, it will arrive in the mail and can be plugged into the Onboard Diagnostic port OBD-II port of your vehicle. The plug-in device is attached directly to your car’s OBD-II, which is generally located somewhere under the dashboard. Instructions for finding the port and plugging in the device are also provided by Allstate.
How DriveWise Stacks Up
Allstate has made some changes to the DriveWise program over the years, and from what we can see those changes are mainly for the better. The program has multiple methods of earning rewards and no risk of increased premiums.
One of the things that stands out about the changes to the program is the discount amounts differ with the app. Allstate promises up to 30% off your policy premium with the plug-in, which is about the same as what other companies offer. The site promises a lower discount of up to 15% for the app, which is the only option in most states. While that seems like you can now only save half as much, the reality is that across the board drivers report an average savings of between 10-15% on any of the usage-based programs. In spite of promises, no one really saves 30%. Reduction of the promises could simply be a sign of Allstate recognizing this reality and adjusting their promises to align more with what customer actually see.
The enrollment discount is not unusual, but while some companies use it as a precursor to the actual discount after recording data (for example, you get 5% off initially, but this is replaced with whatever actual discount you earn after six months of using the program), Allstate lets you keep that discount (again, only with the app). It is a small discount at 3%, but it’s added to whatever performance rewards you earn. Thus, if you earn 5% in performance rewards, the overall discount is 8%. If you earn no performance rewards, you keep your 3%. Other companies may give you no discount at all based on driving performance, or even charge you more for unsafe driving habits.
Finally, the Allstate Rewards program helps DriveWise stand out from the pack, particularly since you do not even have to be an Allstate customer to earn. While we didn’t delve deeply into how many points you need to really get anything out of the program or how valuable the available rewards actually are, it is a nice added perk on top of policy discounts. Among the companies listed as rewards partners are Samsung, Ray-Ban, Nike, Gap, and Applebee’s.
The removal of the plug-in device is a direction other companies also seem to be headed; this is something of a double-edged sword. While some people may feel more comfortable not having a device installed in their car, others may feel that an app gives a company far more access to personal information, leading to privacy concerns.
Some companies still offer the choice, but with Allstate, it is the app or nothing unless you live in one of the three states where a plug-in is still available. We will not be surprised if those three states change over in the near future as well. In today’s mobile-driven world, people use apps for just about everything, so it’s likely that the younger generation will find this method more attractive. The app also allows the driver more awareness of what is being recorded and access to the information.
The Bottom Line
DriveWise is a pretty robust usage-based insurance program that has a lot of perks and not a lot of downside. Existing Allstate customers can benefit from the program in multiple ways, and there is no risk of increased premiums as a result. Although the program does not make the big promises of huge discounts, it does offer a realistic, multi-faceted rewards program that can make a dent in premiums while also offering extra perks on the Rewards program. Since it can be turned on and off at will with a quick tap in the app, it’s likely worth giving the program a shot.
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