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 place to get it.

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Written by Eric Stauffer
Founder & Former Insurance Agent Eric Stauffer

Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products including home, life, auto, and commercial and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs. She has since used that knowledge in her more than ten years as a writer, largely in the insuranc...

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Reviewed by Leslie Kasperowicz
Farmers CSR for 4 Years Leslie Kasperowicz

UPDATED: Jun 1, 2022

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The Highlights:

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

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, including any Nationwide SmartRide problems. 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.

What kind of discount can you get for using SmartRide?

As soon as a driver signs up for the 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 Six-Month Rates
Without SmartRide$714
With SmartRide$571-$645
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While you may not get the full 40 percent discount, you can see from the data above that the savings could be significant.

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%
Claims Free10%
Daytime Running Lights5%
Defensive Driver5%
Distant Student10%
Driving Device/App40%
Early Signing8%
Family Plan25%
Further Education15%
Good Student10%
Multiple Policies10%
Multiple Vehicles20%
Paperless Documents5%
Paperless/Auto Billing30%
Passive Restraint20%
Safe Driver35%
Students & Alumni7%
Vehicle Recovery25%
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While you may not get the full discount, you may also be eligible for additional discounts from Nationwide. Programs like this, 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?

This is Nationwide Insurance’s version of a usage-based program.

There are two different versions of the 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.

This 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, except for 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 the program work?

So, what does it do? There are a few types of telematics devices that can track your driving. The program uses an onboard device. After signing up, 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 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.

The 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 does SmartRide record?

SmartRide records several 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.

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.

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

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How is your information used?

The information 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 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.

Who is eligible for SmartRide?

The program 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 Smart Ride device can be used with any vehicle from the year 1996 or newer. Except for some hybrids and diesel vehicles, cars made after 1996 are compatible with the plug-in device.

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

How do you install Nationwide SmartRide?

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 reviews can help you decide if this product is right for you. Reviews say that installing the device and using it is fairly easy.

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 forfeited 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.

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How does SmartRide stack 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.

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.

In short, 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.

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

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

If we haven’t answered all of your questions today, fear not, because we’re going to be wrapping up with an FAQ section.

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#1– What are the cons to Nationwide SmartRide?

There have been complaints that the device is programmed to make your driving look worse than it is in reality.

#2– Is there a Nationwide SmartRide test?

You do not need to take a test to get the Nationwide SmartRide.

#3- Should you let your insurance company monitor your driving?

Because most people are unfamiliar with insurance trackers, the devices can often seem strange and even frightening. Some people immediately get nervous at the thought of their driving habits being monitored.

However, other drivers have embraced insurance trackers as a fair and legitimate means to save on their insurance. When insurers see that your driving habits present a low accident risk, they’re more likely to give you better rates. And seeing your insurance rate go down could inspire you to become an even safer driver.

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Are Car Insurance Monitoring Devices and Apps Worth It?

It’s really up to you! But our take on it? 100 percent yes! We’ve found that car monitoring systems and usage-based insurance programs like KnowYourDrive are worth a try. This is because you’ve really got nothing to lose your insurance premium will never go above what you originally set.

And besides saving on your policy, the greatest benefit of KnowYourDrive is building safer driving habits by becoming aware of what you need to work on. You’ll make the road a safer place and maybe even put some extra change in your pocket. If you ever want to opt out of the program, it’s as simple as getting in touch with your agent.

Nationwide SmartRide Insurance Review & Complaints: What’s the bottom line?

Usage-based insurance programs are great for parents looking to teach safe driving skills to their teen drivers. The app tells the driver exactly what mistakes they are making and how they can improve their driving. The GPS tracking device can also help parents keep tabs on their kids. As a bonus, some apps will contact emergency services automatically if the driver is in an accident. This can give parents of a new teenage driver some peace of mind.

If you’re a safe driver, this program could be an easy way for you to save money on your car insurance rate while also improving your own driving skills. If the app tells you that you’re frequently driving at excessive speeds or braking too hard, you can work on this and get better to receive a more substantial discount.  The method of collection and type of data collected by car insurance tracking devices varies from insurer to insurer.

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