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Nationwide SmartRide Insurance Review & Complaints: Auto Insurance

Nationwide SmartRide is a usage-based insurance program in which drivers use a device that records driving habits for a chance at lower insurance rates. Drivers can save up to 40% on insurance rates by using the Nationwide SmartRide program.

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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: Sep 15, 2020

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Things To Know:

  • SmartRide is Nationwide’s usage-based insurance program
  • The SmartRide Device plugs into your car and monitors driving behavior
  • Nationwide promises discounts of up to 40 percent with the SmartRide program

Interested in lowering your car insurance rates? Read our Nationwide SmartRide review to see if this product is right for you. Nationwide SmartRide is one way you might save on your auto insurance through usage-based insurance. SmartRide is Nationwide’s entry into the popular insurance discount program market.

What is a SmartRide device? Like other usage-based auto insurance programs, it’s a device that records a driver’s habits and rewards safe driving with a discount. 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, significant discounts of up to 40 percent with the SmartRide program.

If you think you might be interested in SmartRide, look no further. We’ll go over all the details of this program so you can decide if it’s right for you. We’ll also help you to compare car insurance so you can make the right choice.

To search for lower rates before jumping into our Nationwide SmartRide review, just enter your ZIP code into the free tool above to start comparing rates from different insurance companies.

SmartRide Discounts

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

On renewal, the actual calculated discount will replace the enrollment discount. Nationwide claims that discount could be as much as 40 percent. That is among the loftier promises we’ve seen made by usage-based programs, and like most other such programs, the majority of drivers report a lower discount.

The full 40 percent discount is nearly impossible to attain even with virtually perfect driving. In all of our research into these programs, we’ve yet to find a driver who has seen the highest level of rate reduction. On average, these programs result in a discount of 10-15 percent.

Nationwide does appear to perform a bit better in terms of average discount awarded, with nearly 20 percent given in many reported cases.

Nationwide Average Six-Month Car Insurance Rate Savings with SmartRide
SmartRide StatusAverage 6-Month Rates
Without SmartRide$714
With SmartRide$571-$645
Get Your Rates Quote Now

While you may not get the full 40 percent discount, you can see from the data above that the savings could be significant.

SmartRide discounts are applied only to certain coverages, not the entire premium. The website doesn’t spell it out, but in general, the discount will apply only to the liability, medical payments, and collision portions of the policy. Usually the discount will not apply to coverage that is not related to the risk your driving habits present.

Nationwide also offers a multitude of other discounts.

Car Insurance Discounts Offered by Nationwide
Discounts OfferedPercentage Savings
Anti-lock Brakes5%
Anti-Theft25%
Claims Free10%
Daytime Running Lights5%
Defensive Driver5%
Distant Student10%
Driving Device/App40%
Early Signing8%
Family Plan25%
Further Education15%
Good Student10%
Homeowner5%
Loyalty5%
Membership/Group7%
Multiple Policies10%
Multiple Vehicles20%
Occupation15%
Paperless Documents5%
Paperless/Auto Billing30%
Passive Restraint20%
Safe Driver35%
Students & Alumni7%
Vehicle Recovery25%
Get Your Rates Quote Now

While you may not get the full discount from SmartRide, you may also be eligible for additional discounts from Nationwide. Programs like SmartRide, as well as other options, could help save you money when it comes to your plan rates.

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What is Nationwide SmartRide?

SmartRide is the Nationwide Insurance version of a usage-based program. There are two different versions of the SmartRide program. You may opt for a plug-in device that connects to your car and tracks your driving habits. If the plug-in device is not for you, there’s also an app program that will track your driving through GPS.

While other companies are moving away from plug-in devices, SmartRide continues to offer this option. Some people prefer to use the app, while others are not comfortable with this method of gathering information.

The plug-in device uses telematics science technology to remotely monitor and collect data from the driver and the car. It will track things like speed and braking. 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 along with an app alternative. An online dashboard is available for keeping track of what the device is recording.

Take a look at the video below to learn how you can link your SmartRide account with your Amazon Alexa.

SmartRide is a discount program with no risk of a rate increase as a result of the information recorded. That’s true of the majority of such programs, with the exception of a few companies that may increase rates based on the 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 that will be taken off your car insurance rates. That discount will stay in place for the remainder of the time that the policy is in force.

How does Nationwide SmartRide work?

So, what does SmartRide do? There are a few types of telematics devices that can track your driving. SmartRide uses an onboard device. After signing up for SmartRide, you’ll 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 your vehicle is being 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. While enrolled in the program, you can use your online dashboard to monitor what’s being recorded. You can also use your Nationwide Insurance SmartRide login to access the information. Real-time monitoring allows you the opportunity to observe your own habits and improve them over time.

If you choose to use the app to monitor your driving, the process is a little simpler. Once you’ve installed the app and set it up, you simply drive as you normally would and your habits are recorded through your phone. You’ll be able to check the app to monitor your driving and your discount.

Nationwide SmartRide app is simple to use, according to Nationwide SmartRide app reviews. The instructions will walk you through the setup and the information will be generated and updated automatically.

Since the discount is being calculated on an ongoing basis during the duration of the program, it will reflect changes you make to your driving habits. A new discount will be shown on the app on a weekly basis.

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

What SmartRide Records

SmartRide records several different aspects of your driving behavior, most of which are standard across usage-based programs. Through the plug-in device or the app, this data is transmitted back to Nationwide. The data is then used to determine your discount.

To learn more about how this device works, check out this brief video.

Allstate’s SmartRide collects the following data:

  • Miles driven
  • Idle time
  • Acceleration at a high rate of speed
  • Hard braking, with abrupt slowdowns in excess of 7.7 feet per second
  • Nighttime driving, which is considered to be time on the road between midnight and 5 a.m.

Nationwide SmartRide’s choice to track idle time is something of an unusual factor for this type of system. Nationwide is the only company we’ve seen that records it. This is based on the idea that time spent in stop-and-go traffic increases the odds of an accident.

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

How SmartRide Information Is Used

The information recorded by SmartRide 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 at all. 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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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. Nationwide 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 from the year 1996 or newer. With the exception of some hybrids and diesel vehicles, cars made after 1996 are compatible with the 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 s0martphones should.

Nationwide SmartRide Installation

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

The Nationwide website has a video that walks 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 the CarMD guide to find out where it is located on your particular vehicle.

Looking up Nationwide Insurance SmartRide reviews can help you decide if this product is right for you. Nationwide SmartRide device reviews say that installing the device and using it is fairly easy. 

Take a look at the video below for a quick installation explanation.

Plugging in the device amounts to an agreement between you and Nationwide. So, what happens if you unplug SmartRide? Unplugging the device could mean that you have terminated the agreement and forfeit your discount. If for some reason you accidentally unplug the device, you should contact Nationwide for guidance.

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.

Some customers have asked how to trick Nationwide SmartRide or look for a Nationwide SmartRide hack. With the plug-in device and the app monitoring, it would be hard to get around the information monitoring.

Since this is a legal agreement that you are entering into with Nationwide, it is not recommended that you try to tamper with or “cheat” the program devices. Doing so could not only cost you the discount and even your insurance policy, but you could also be subject to legal consequences.

How SmartRide Stacks Up

SmartRide is right about in line with most of the similar programs we’ve 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 don’t 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. Nationwide explains that there is no risk of this with SmartRide. Your rates will not go up as a result of using the program.

There are a number of customers that have complained of seeing their earned discount disappear on renewal as a result of general increases in the base premium. It’s likely that these increases were going to happen either way. It can still be a frustrating experience when you’ve been promised a discount. It’s also worth noting that we’ve seen similar comments with other insurance companies.

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

Nationwide is one of the companies still using the plug-in device method of tracking driving habits. As discussed before, it may or may not appeal to you depending on your opinion of installing a mobile app 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 currently available in all states, which is not entirely unusual, as Nationwide’s program is fairly new to the scene. For a company as huge as Nationwide, however, we would expect to see more availability relatively soon. State laws do have some bearing on this.

Reviews for Nationwide SmartRide on sites like Reddit show that most customers agree that that program functions as advertised.

Overall, SmartRide is a pretty solid entry into the usage-based market. Nationwide offers most of the same options and tools that are offered elsewhere.

With rates that are slightly higher than other companies, however, even a large discount from the program may not be enough to make the policy competitive.

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Is Nationwide SmartRide worth it?

If you’re already a Nationwide customer and not looking to switch, it can’t hurt to give this program a try. If nothing else, you’ll get a discount right off the bat. You will also likely earn a larger discount for the duration of your policy. It’s unlikely, however, that the SmartRide program alone is going to provide the impetus for many people to switch to Nationwide.

With so many options, you might ask, “is Nationwide Insurance any good?” Nationwide has been in business for over 90 years. It’s a reputable company with quality insurance, but higher rates. There are certainly cheaper options that offer comparable coverage. Read our complete guide to buying liability car insurance if you want to learn more.

What is Usage-Based Insurance?

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners says that Usage-Based Insurance (UBI) programs arrived around a decade ago as mileage-based discount programs linked to GPS. Designed to reward good drivers with discounts, current versions of usage-based auto insurance programs use telematics devices to record driving information.

In 2018, the Insurance Information Institute estimated that there were 10 to 11 million telematics-enabled insurance programs in place in the U.S That number is likely even higher today, as many consumers are looking for ways to save on insurance premiums.

With car accidents costing over $230 billion annually, insurance companies are looking for ways to make America’s roads safer. Their customers are looking to save money on their auto insurance premiums. Thus programs like SmartRide can work out well for both parties.

Tale a look at the following table outlining how much an incident on your driving record can impact your auto insurance rates.

Average Annual Auto Insurance Rates by Driving Record
CompaniesAverage Rates with Clean RecordAverage Rates with One Speeding ViolationAverage Rates with One AccidentAverage Rates with One DUI
USAA$1,933.68 $2,193.25 $2,516.24 $3,506.03
Geico$2,145.96 $2,645.43 $3,192.77 $4,875.87
American Family$2,693.61 $3,025.74 $3,722.75 $4,330.24
Nationwide$2,746.18 $3,113.68 $3,396.95 $4,543.20
State Farm$2,821.18 $3,186.01 $3,396.01 $3,636.80
Progressive$3,393.09 $4,002.28 $4,777.04 $3,969.65
Travelers$3,447.69 $4,260.80 $4,289.74 $5,741.40
Farmers$3,460.60 $4,079.01 $4,518.73 $4,718.75
Allstate$3,819.90 $4,483.51 $4,987.68 $6,260.73
Liberty Mutual$4,774.30 $5,701.26 $6,204.78 $7,613.48
Average Annual Rates$3,123.62 $3,669.10 $4,100.27 $4,919.62
Get Your Rates Quote Now

Having just one accident could cost you over $1,000 annually. Safe driving is in your best financial interest and one reason why SmartRide might be a good option for you.

Programs like SmartRide have grown in popularity over the past few years, with most major insurance companies offering some form of discount for allowing them to monitor your driving habits.

It’s an optional program aimed at giving you a discount for good driving, while also allowing you to track your own habits and see what you can do to improve your performance. Take a look at the video below to see how this trend has shaped insurance plans and drivers.

The Insurance Information Institute states that insurers are capturing data from millions of vehicles to create information profiles on driving behaviors to support UBI programs. These programs are saving drivers money all across America.

Now that you’ve finished our Nationwide SmartRide review, if you’re in need of cheaper car insurance, start with our FREE tool below to compare rates and plans available in your area.

References:

  1. https://content.naic.org/cipr_topics/topic_telematicsusage_based_insurance.htm
  2. https://www.iii.org/article/background-on-pay-as-you-drive-auto-insurance-telematics
  3. https://www.carmd.com/wp/locating-the-obd2-port-or-dlc-locator/

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.

17 Comments

  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.

    Reply
  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.

    Reply
  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.

    Reply
  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.

    Reply
    • How do I improve my idle time?

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

      Reply
  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?

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

      Reply
  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!

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

    Reply
  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!!!!!!!!!!

    Reply
  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! 😡😠😡

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

    Reply
  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.

    Reply
  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).

    Reply
    • 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

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

    Reply

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