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Nationwide SmartRide Review

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Eric Stauffer is a former insurance agent and banker turned consumer advocate. His priority is to help educate individuals and families about the different types of insurance they need, and assist them in finding the best...

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UPDATED: Mar 18, 2020

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SmartRide is Nationwide’s entry in to the popular usage-based insurance market. Like other similar programs, it records a driver’s habits and rewards safe driving with a discount. Usage-based insurance has been around for a while now, and most major insurance companies – along with many smaller ones – offer some type of usage-based program.

Nationwide’s program follows the usual pattern; drivers get an initial discount for signing up and then go through an evaluation period in which information about driving habits is recorded and sent back to the company for evaluation. At the end of the evaluation period, a discount is calculated and applied to the policy on renewal to replace the initial sign-up discount. Nationwide promises, much like its competitors, seriously big discounts of up to 40% with the SmartRide program.
Nationwide SmartRide

About SmartRide

SmartRide operates using a plug-in device that connects with a mobile app and tracks driving habits. It records miles driven, trip information like time of day and amount of time spent idling, and incidents of hard braking and speeding.

While many other companies are moving away from the plug-in device and towards an app-only program for recording information, SmartRide continues to use the device approach. Which of these options is better is a matter of opinion. Some people prefer to use the app, while others find it to be a less private method of gathering information. Some apps gather information from the phone, which makes some drivers uncomfortable.

Plug-in devices provide direct access to the vehicle’s diagnostic information, reducing errors in recording that may be caused by riding in someone else’s vehicle or interruptions in service. So far, Nationwide continues to use this approach, with an app available for keeping track of what the device is recording, providing something of a combination approach.

SmartRide is a discount program with no risk of a rate increase as a result of the information that is recorded. That is true of the majority of such programs, with the exception of a few companies that may increase rates based on a recording of unsafe driving habits. The device records information for a set time period, calculating a discount over time to come to a final percentage off the rate. That discount will then stay in place for the remainder of the time that the policy is in force.

Currently, SmartRide is offered to Nationwide customers as an optional program, and it is not available in all states. Discounts and program details vary by state.

We were unable to find a clear list of states in which the SmartRide program is offered on the SmartRide page of the website, which would be helpful if it was updated. When we went to look at the app, the states listed are Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, Rhode Island, Washington, Washington, D.C., And West Virginia.

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How SmartRide Works

After signing up for SmartRide, the customer will be sent a plug-in device through the mail. The website offers instructions for how to plug it in, after which it will start recording information about how the vehicle is driven.

The plug-in device stays in the vehicle for four to six months, after which it can be removed and returned by mail to Nationwide. During the program, the driver can use the app to monitor what is being recorded, with the hope that seeing opportunities for improvement will lead the driver to adjust over time. Since the discount is being calculated on an ongoing basis during the duration of the program, it will reflect changes the driver makes to their driving habits. A new discount is shown on the app on a weekly basis.

When the time period is over, the final discount is calculated and applied to the policy on renewal. Some programs allow ongoing calculation of a new discount, but SmartRide runs only once. After you have received a discount, that discount will not change, and you will keep receiving the discount for as long as you remain a Nationwide customer.

What SmartRide Records

SmartRide records several different aspects of your driving behaviors, most of which are similar to other usage-based programs on the market. These are:

  • Miles driven
  • Idle time, based on the idea that time spent in stop and go traffic increases the odds of an accident
  • Acceleration at a high rate of speed
  • Hard braking, with abrupt slowdowns in excess of 7.7 feet per second recorded
  • Nighttime driving, which is considered to be time on the road between midnight and 5 a.m.

Idle time is something of an unusual factor for this type of system, and Nationwide is the only one we have seen that records it.

Most recording devices also track the vehicle’s location. The Nationwide site does not say whether or not that is the case with SmartRide, but a look at the app shows that it does record trip information, mapping the driver’s route.

How Information is Used

The information that is recorded is used solely for the calculation of the discount, and of all the information recorded, only the vehicle’s location and trip path information are not used. That information is only provided for the use of the driver.

In the app, the current calculated discount will appear as a combination of four factors: idle time, miles driven, incidents of hard braking or fast acceleration, and nighttime driving minutes.

Nationwide does not use the information to increase rates, nor do they share it with anyone else outside the company.

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SmartRide Discounts

As soon as a driver signs up for the SmartRide program, a 10% discount is applied to the policy. This enrollment discount stays in place while the device is recording driving habits information in order to calculate the final discount.

On renewal, the actual calculated discount will replace the enrollment discount. Nationwide says that discount could be as much as 40%. That is among the loftier promises we have seen made by usage-based programs, and like most other such programs it is unlikely that most drivers will see anything close to that amount taken off their policy.

The full 40% discount is a nearly impossible to attain level of driving perfection, and in all of our research into these programs, we have yet to find a driver who has seen the highest level of rate reduction. On average, these programs result in a discount of between 10 and 15%, which is what most drivers can realistically expect. As we note later, however, Nationwide does appear to perform a bit better in terms of average discount – nearly 20% in many reported cases.

SmartRide discounts are applied not to the overall premium, but only to certain coverages. The website does not spell it out, but in general the discount will apply only to the liability, medical payments, and collision portions of the policy, and not to coverage that is not related to the risk your driving habits represent in terms of the likelihood that you will be involved in an at-fault accident. That means you won’t ever see your overall rate reduced by the earned percentage, but only that part of the cost of your insurance to which it applies.

Eligibility for SmartRide

SmartRide is available to all Nationwide auto insurance customers, both old and new. New customers can start earning the discount from the beginning. The site does not say how it works for existing customers, but it may require waiting until renewal to start earning the discount.

The SmartRide device can be used with any vehicle 1996 or newer, with the exception of some hybrids and diesel vehicles that lack the right technology for the plug-in device to work. This is common to all systems using a plug-in device.

The companion app for SmartRide is available for both Android and Apple devices as long as they have the required operating system, which most modern smartphones should.


Installing the plug-in device is straightforward, and instructions will come along with the device in the mail.

The Nationwide website had a video that will walk customers through the process of installing the SmartRide device. This involves plugging it into the Onboard Diagnostics (OBD-II) port on your vehicle. In most cases, that can be found underneath the dashboard. If you have trouble finding it, you can turn to CarMD’s guide to find out where it is found on your particular vehicle.

In order to monitor the device’s activities, drivers will need to download the app. That can be found in your device’s app store and obtained at no cost. Once downloaded, just follow the installation instructions in order to start monitoring your discount.

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How SmartRide Stacks Up

SmartRide is right about in line with most of the other similar programs we have seen in terms of how it operates.

The program only allows you to earn a discount once, which means you have a short time period in which to get the most out of it. Some other programs, particularly those that use only an app, allow the drivers to continually improve upon their results. The flip side of that, of course, is that you may have the opposite experience and get a smaller discount if your driving habits do not get better. Some drivers will likely prefer having it over with rather than being constantly monitored.

A few of SmartRide’s competitors do come with the risk of a rate increase if your habits turn out to be less than stellar, but there is no risk with SmartRide. Your rates will not go up as a result of using the program. That said, there are a number of customers that have complained of seeing their earned discount essentially disappear on renewal as a result of a general increase of the base premium. It is likely that the increases were going to happen either way, but it’s still a frustrating experience when you have been promised a discount. It is also worth noting that we have seen similar comments with other insurance companies.

Interestingly, while the average discount for usage-based programs falls in the 10-15% range, we saw quite a few Nationwide customers reporting that they had earned closer to 20%. That is a pretty good discount for not a lot of effort.

Nationwide is one of the companies that is still using the plug-in device method of tracking driving habits. We touched on that a little bit above and how it may or may not appeal to you depending on your opinion of using mobile apps on your phone. While other companies, like Allstate, are phasing out the devices, at the moment there’s no sign of such a move on Nationwide’s part.

The plan is not available in all states, which is not entirely unusual, but for a company as huge as Nationwide we would expect to see more availability. State laws do have some bearing on this; the program details differ specifically in California.

Overall, SmartRide is a pretty solid entry into the usage-based market, with most of the same options and tools as are offered elsewhere. It is worth noting that Nationwide itself usually ranks on the high side in our rate comparisons. With rates that are already higher than other companies, even a large discount earned from the program may not be enough to make the policy competitive with other companies out there.

The Bottom Line

If you are already a Nationwide customer and not looking to switch, it can’t hurt to give this program a try; you will get a discount right off the bat and likely earn a larger discount for the duration of your policy. It is unlikely, however, that SmartRide is going to provide the impetus for many people to switch to Nationwide given the fact that they’re generally expensive, to begin with, and similar discount programs are available from pretty much all the big players in the industry.

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Review Information

About Eric Stauffer

Author: Eric StaufferI am a former insurance agent and banker turned consumer advocate. My priority is to help educate individuals and families about the different types of insurance they need, and assist them in finding the best place to get it.


  1. I called twice to complain about the hard braking citation if that’s what you’d like to call it.

    Every time I have received this it has been due to the fact that I have stopped my vehicle and turned off the motor. I “guess” that’s a hard break?

    On two separate days, trips were not recorded at all. Hmmm.

    My initial 40% discount all of a sudden took a drop for no apparent reason to 32% and although there has been improvement, no hard braking, less miles driven, the discount has not increased.

  2. The problems we’ve experienced with SmartRide:

    1. The original devices we received were for T-Mobile, whose signal is weak in our area. (Remedied by sending AT&T devices)

    2. At the end of our time, the discount for my personal vehicle was 31%, my wife’s was 40% (since the car barely moved), both girls were 25%, and my son (justifiably) was 5%.

    — Nationwide didn’t want to give me my discount because they had “incomplete data” for my vehicle.

    They wanted me to start over. I argued and told them that the “tracking” data was easily viewed on the website, so they “looked again” and had to “retrieve the data” so they just went with what I said.

    3. One of our daughters used to sit in her car while it was warming up, and she sat in her “warm” or “cool” car in the *parking lot* at work while waiting for the doors to open.

    This information should be easy to prove since they track your every move while on this program. They can confirm every other data point but that one…. c’mon… really?

    — she has since started shutting the engine off and opening and closing the door to make sure the engine and electronics were all off, and she’s still getting tons of idle time.

    4. When buying a new car… it can either help or hurt since they make you start over.

    — You’d think that driving habits would transfer to the new vehicle since they’re based on the same driver. This is not the case. It hurt my wife’s discount (down from 40% to 31%), but it could help one daughter (up from 25% to 28%).

    5. It also seems to me that the way they calculate things incentivizes the running of stop lights (I didn’t do it — since it’s dangerous — but it makes sense).

    If you get to a light that changes while you’re in no man’s land you will get a double penalty in that you’ll get hit for sudden braking (for which they do give you a little bit of leeway before penalizing you) AND the idle time that will also count against you.

    So, my opinion is that if you don’t mind someone tracking your every move, dealing with a program that only uses data points that work in their favor while using a top-secret, proprietary discount algorithm, this program could actually benefit you.

  3. This is a WRONG STATEMENT: “In the app, the current calculated discount will appear as a combination of four factors: idle time, miles driven, incidents of hard braking or fast acceleration, and nighttime driving minutes.”

    Nationwide also watches WHERE you are going, what cities you drive.

    My car is in Oregon, but I was doing a project for work in San Francisco.

    My premium went from $756 a year ($380 every 6 months) to $1,100 a year ($550 every 6 months) upon my 6-month renewal.

    The agent said that the data showed I was driving in San Francisco, which is correct.

    I had my car insurance with Nationwide because I have my home insurance with them (HO5 policy).

    When using SMART RIDE, Nationwide is spying on you. They know where you drive and when.

    DON’T SIGN UP FOR SMART RIDE! In fact, avoid Nationwide for Auto insurance.

    Nationwide has great home insurance, though.

    Today, I switched to Progressive Insurance paying $362 a year ($181 every 6 months).

    I have a clean driving record, no accidents, never been arrested, a credit score over 780, and never made a claim on my car insurance.

  4. Tracking the idle time is complete BS.

    There are many legitimate reasons your car might be idling other than you are driving in traffic.

    But, lets assume that it does sometimes indicate you are driving in traffic.

    They are measuring the amount of time you are “NOT” driving.

    If I am in traffic I can’t think of a safer place to be than stopped.

    So the more idle time you have the greater your discount should be.

    It’s complete BS and just another way to prevent you from getting your full discount.

    • How do I improve my idle time?

    • Agreed. Idle time waiting in line at McDonald’s can cost you.

  5. I signed up for Nationwide Smartride a couple of weeks ago…

    I am getting some trip data but have not received a plug-in device so not sure if I am fully enrolled?

    Do I need the plugin device to be fully functional?

    • No…. you can use just the app. That’s what I’m currently using.

  6. I was not told that I had to put that crap on my vehicles.

    Next thing I know they arrive in my mailbox.

    For the past month, I’ve been getting warning notices that they need to be installed.

    I’ve been driving a long time (30+ years). No tickets, No accidents, No DUIs, etc.

    My record is squeaky clean and speaks for itself!

    Nobody or nothing is going to track me or my vehicles.

    I don’t wear an ankle bracelet and I’m not on parole, and neither are my vehicles!

    There’s absolutely no way, I’m putting that crap in my cars! I will cancel my policies if my insurance goes up one damn penny because of these stupid trackers.

    Got a better rate with State Farm anyway, so go ahead try it!

  7. I get punished for sitting idle in a drive through ?

  8. I have had the smart ride on my vehicle for about a month…

    I’m wondering at the end of this program how will this percentage work.

    That idle track is BS tho…

    I’m in traffic every day for about 5-10 min… where my street is.

    It is crazy cause I rarely drive and I work 5 minutes away…

    so what I’m thinking is I should have a high discount guess we will see…

    My rate should have been gone down….

    sometimes I don’t know why I stay I have been with Nationwide since 2008!!!!!!!!!!

  9. Just took out an Auto and Renters Ins. Policy with Nationwide.

    No mention of this stupid plugin.

    Today I get an email telling me that 2 of these stupid plugins are on their way, and I have so many days to plug them in.

    I’m not plugging this crap into my cars! I have a squeaky clean drivers license, no DUIs, Points, Accidents, Ect.

    My driving record speaks for itself! This is like me and my cars having to wear parole bracelets!

    I refuse to let you monitor where I am, what I’m doing, and how I’m driving.

    I REFUSE to plug these d@#$ things in!

    If you raise my insurance rates one darn penny, you will be canceled immediately!

    This is ridiculous and an invasion of my privacy!

    I never agreed to this crap! 😡😠😡

  10. Yes it’s funny how all of the complaints suddenly disappear…

  11. Congratulations!
    You’ve completed the SmartRide Program.

    Your Final Discount:

    18 percent
    icon-lock DISCOUNT
    2015 BENZ GLK350

    17 percent
    icon-lock DISCOUNT
    2014 BENZ E350

    Final stated discount is an approximation.

    Final discount does not apply to all coverage elements; actual savings vary by state, coverage selections, rating factors, and policy changes.

    Final discount applies at the next policy renewal and is subject to change based upon actuarial support at subsequent renewals or with changes in drivers or vehicles on the policy.

    An agent told us it only applies to components over which your driving habits have an impact, so probably just collision.

    Our 35 percent was eaten up by a 37 percent rate increase.

  12. I achieved the 40% smart ride discount “in the app”, I could send you a video to prove it… logging into my smart ride account.

    It was dreadfully painful, but a fun game. In the end, I was screwed out of that discount though.

    Now my new game with my new car is to see how many hard braking and acceleration dings I can get on one trip.

    I drive a manual and sometimes the shifts count as hard breaking.

    The device is very sensitive and doesn’t actually track the 7.7Mph/second like they claim.

    They offer 15 percent just for trying now, so that’s worth it if you can get over the fact that “they” know exactly where you are at all times (they provide maps).

    • LVXXLR8, you said you achieved the 40% off SmartRide discount, but you were screwed out of getting the discount.

      You left out important information here.

      Can you please elaborate with detail as to how you were screwed out of getting the 40% discount?

      It would be very helpful to me, and to everyone else for that matter.

      I’m personally set to get the 40% off discount when the program ends for me, but I would like to know how you were screwed.

      Thank You

  13. There were a bunch of comments here… Where are they now?


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