UPDATED: Feb 6, 2019
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The system is similar to programs offered elsewhere, although The Hartford has not yet moved into the use of a mobile app like most other companies and offers only the option of the device that plugs into your car’s Onboard Diagnostic (OBD-II) port. TrueLane uses information on when and how far you drive as well as your speed and braking habits to determine your eligibility for a discount, which the website states can be as much as 25%.
The Hartford has been on board the usage-based insurance train since 2012 when they first introduced TrueLane. The program has not really changed much over time; unlike other insurance companies that have either added the option to use a mobile app or switched over entirely, The Hartford continues to use the plug-in device that was once the main option for collecting data.
TrueLane collects several pieces of information, including the time of day of each of your trips and the distance traveled. It also collects data on incidents of hard braking and rate of acceleration. The data collected is fairly minimal for this type of program and similar to what other companies use.
The program collects data for 180 days of driving (this may take more than 180 days total if you do not drive every day), which is longer than some companies that only collect for 90 days, but closer to the average. Many companies are choosing to collect data for a longer time frame in order to get a better picture of driving habits; some have even taken the step of keeping the program going on an ongoing basis in order to continually collect data and adjust rates on every renewal. That is usually done by way of a mobile app, however, an option that The Hartford does not offer.
Currently, TrueLane is only available in 12 states, although expansion is planned in the future. The site promises discounts of up to 25%, but is upfront about what drivers can realistically expect, stating that the average discount is between 10-12%. Since that is about the discount amount most drivers get from usage-based programs at any company, it appears to be a more honest approach than what we have seen elsewhere.
How TrueLane Works
TrueLane operates through a small device that you plug into your car’s OBD-II port. After it’s plugged in and activated, it begins tracking all of your trips and driving habits. The information is sent back through a third-party system, Octo, Inc., which gathers data and sends it on to The Hartford.
Although there is no mobile app associated with the program, users can log into the TrueLane website to see what data has been submitted and follow their progress in the program. The device collects data for 180 days of actual driving, after which you can unplug it and send it back in a pre-paid envelope. The 180 days are not the actual length the program will take if you do not drive every day; the device must record at least 180 days of driving before your discount is calculated. This could take more than the 6-month policy term, which means you will not see a discount until the following renewal.
Once the data collection period is over, The Hartford will calculate a discount which will be applied on the next renewal. Like most insurance companies, they offer an initial discount just for enrolling, which is then replaced by the calculated discount when the policy is renewed.
TrueLane can be added to each of the cars in your household individually as long as they meet the requirements (which we’ll look at a little later in this review), and a discount calculated for each vehicle. The discount for one vehicle and driver does not apply to any other vehicles or drivers.
What TrueLane Records
The Hartford’s program records information in four categories, which is actually much less than some other such systems.
The plug-in device will record these four driving habits:
- Time of Day: When you drive your vehicle
- Distance: The total mileage you drive
- Braking: Incidents of hard braking are recorded
- Acceleration: The rate at which you accelerate
Unlike some other systems, TrueLane does not record your actual speed, only incidents of quick acceleration.
How Information Is Used
The Hartford uses the first four pieces of information on the list to calculate your discount. The information is also used anonymously for research that is designed to help improve the program and create a database of driving habits.
Although the device uses GPS tracking to record location information for your car, that is not part of the discount calculation. Location information is intended only for the use of the driver, and it can be viewed on the website.
The Hartford does use a third-party service, as mentioned above, for device management, but this company does not use any of the collected information.
The Hartford offers a 5% enrollment discount just for signing up for the TrueLane program. This discount stays on your policy throughout the program and until your next renewal unless you choose to opt out of the program and discontinue data recording.
After the program term is over, a discount is calculated based on what was recorded. The website states that this discount could be as much as 25%. That is lower than the promises made by other programs, but since we have yet to find someone who managed to get the top-end discount from any usage-based system, the number may not matter much.
Certainly 25% is a more realistic promise than some systems that promise 30% or more in discounts, but it is still unlikely to happen. As we noted above, The Hartford attempts to be straightforward and honest about how much of a discount you can actually hope to get. The average is about 10-12% according to their site, which is right in line with what drivers usually see from any usage-based program.
Unlike some other programs, there is no chance of a rate increase from the TrueLane program. The Hartford does not penalize drivers with higher rates even if the data collected shows risky driving habits. The hope with all of these programs is that being made aware of dangerous habits will result in efforts to improve. Drivers who do not meet the standards for a discount will not have their rates changed on renewal, for better or for worse.
The discounts, both for enrollment and earned, are only applicable to certain coverages. The site does not state which coverages those are, but generally, this means a discount on your liability coverage, but not optional coverages. This is fairly standard for this type of program, since it’s your liability rate that reflects how the insurance company has rated you as a risk based on several factors. The TrueLane data is added to those factors to determine the risk level you actually represent – hopefully, a lower risk if you’ve shown safe habits.
Eligibility for TrueLane
In order to be eligible for TrueLane, you must be an auto insurance customer of The Hartford and have a vehicle that is from 1996 or newer.
The website also notes that electric, hybrid, and diesel vehicles are not eligible for the program due to difficulties with collecting accurate information.
The program appears to be available to both new and existing customers, and it can be applied to any of the vehicles on the policy individually. Enrolling one vehicle doesn’t mean you have to enroll any others.
After enrollment and acceptance of the terms of service, the TrueLane plug-in device will be sent to you through the mail.
The device is plugged into the OBD-II port in your vehicle, which is usually located under the dash. The device is shipped with installation instructions, and it for most vehicles it should be relatively straightforward. CarMD offers a useful guide to finding the port location on your vehicle if you are having trouble.
Once the device is properly installed and a few trips have been recorded, an email is sent out providing information on logging into the TrueLane website where you can view the information being collected and review your trip data.
The device should stay in place for the duration of the data collection period. After the program is complete, you can unplug the device and send it back in the postage-paid envelope.
How TrueLane Stacks Up
TrueLane is a pretty basic and straightforward usage-based program that has not become more complicated over time, unlike some other similar programs. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing depends on your perspective.
The use of the plug-in device is becoming something of a dated procedure, and more companies are turning to the use of a mobile app. Some have both options, but the general trend is towards stopping the use of the plug-in devices altogether. Mobile apps offer several benefits, the biggest one being that they remove the requirement for the vehicle to be of a certain age or type in order to participate in the program. With the app approach, the driver only needs a smartphone and can use any vehicle.
That said, some people may feel that the mobile app is a greater invasion of privacy with a greater risk for data being compromised. An app running on your phone usually collects more information than a plug-in, and by its nature may have access to more personal information than some are comfortable with. Some apps, for example, even track phone usage while driving.
As far as discounts go, TrueLane’s estimated discount is about on par with most other programs. In our research, a discount of between 10 and 15% seems to be the norm for most people who try out a usage-based program. That said, however, customer comments indicate that most people are not seeing discounts even that high. Furthermore, in spite of the fact that there is not supposed to be any risk of a rate increase after using TrueLane, many customers report that they did, in fact, see higher rates on renewal. While those increases are not spelled out as having been due to the program, the drivers certainly felt that they were.
Since we are unable to verify why some customers experienced a rate increase, it generally appears that there is no real risk to using the TrueLane program. Even a small discount is better than no discount – and it does appear that a small discount is what you will get with TrueLane.
TrueLane’s program length is a bit unusual, and it seems to make the program useless to some drivers, such as those that are retired and do not drive often. While most programs have a set length of time during which they record data regardless of how often your car is driven during that time, TrueLane apparently needs to record at least 180 driving days. There will be no discount calculated until you hit that milestone. In order to get a discount on renewal, you would need to start the program right at your policy activation (or current renewal) date, and then drive your car every day for the full policy term.
This setup is a little strange considering one of the areas in which discounts are calculated is driving mileage – lower mileage drivers usually get lower rates. But with the 180-day requirement, it could take a low-mileage driver a long time to collect enough data. Some reviewers reported they gave up on the program because they do not drive enough.
Many of the customers who reviewed TrueLane found the process frustrating, but that is common to most usage-based programs. Drivers generally disagree with the discount calculation and have difficulty understanding why their discount is so low when they don’t see evidence to support it in the collected data. They also complain that the threshold for hard braking and quick acceleration is too stringent – again, a common complaint.
The Bottom Line
TrueLane is not likely to save you a ton of money on your car insurance, but it may earn you a small percentage off with no risk of a penalty if you do not meet the standards for a discount. Considering that there isn’t a lot of effort involved, if you are already a customer of The Hartford it’s probably worth a try. That said, it does not offer enough in the way of perks to make it worth switching insurance companies if you weren’t planning to already. You may well get a better rate elsewhere even without a usage-based discount.
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