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Metromile is a San Francisco-based newcomer to the auto insurance market that offers pay-per-mile car insurance and a highly technological insurance system- just what you’d expect from Silicon Valley. The startup offers a revolutionary approach to car insurance rating and is currently available in a handful of states, with plans for expansion in the near future thanks to investors and growing popularity.
Metromile was founded in 2011 in Redwood City, CA with the goal of making car insurance more affordable to those who do not spend a lot of time on the road. Two years later the company moved to San Francisco, where the headquarters is located today.
In 2015, locations were opened in Boston as well as in Tempe, Arizona. While Arizona is one of the states they cover, Massachusetts is not currently covered, in spite of the opening of the Boston office. Currently, the company serves California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Illinois, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. They are looking to expand to other states in the near future.
Shortly before this review, in July of 2018, the company secured Series E funding with investments from Japanese insurance company Tokio Marine and Canadian company Intact Financial. This new investment will likely lead to the expansion of Metromile’s market in the near future.
Metromile has a modern and unusual approach to car insurance, rating vehicles based on a combination of the actual number of miles they are driven blended with the traditional approach. While all car insurance companies take annual mileage into account, they do not rate based on actual mileage. Monitoring systems offered by traditional insurance companies can offer rate reductions based on driving habits, but it’s not true pay-per-mile.
Metromile uses a device that plugs into the car’s onboard diagnostic system, called Pulse. It transmits information back to the company to determine how many miles the car is driven. Through the Metromile app, the device can also provide the car’s owner with current information about the car’s “health” by reading mechanical codes. It can also be used to help locate a stolen car via GPS.
Plans for even more technological advances in the future include the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the claims process.
Previously underwritten by American General Insurance company, Metromile began underwriting its own policies in 2016 – although they note that some (older) policies are still underwritten by American General. All new policies are underwritten directly.
The company currently employs nearly 250 people, and it is growing fast. Policies are sold directly online as well as over the phone.
How Metromile and Metromile Pulse Works
Although they operate a little differently from other insurance companies in terms of rating, Metromile offers the same type of coverage options. We will take a look at the coverage options as well as breaking down the rating system Metromile uses to determine how much each driver pays.
Currently, Metromile does not handle SR-22 or FR-44 insurance filings in any state except California – and then only under specific circumstances. Drivers who require a filing will need to obtain coverage elsewhere.
Metromile offers multiple levels of liability insurance, with the low end starting at the state legal minimum. Personal injury protection, medical payments, and uninsured/underinsurance motorist coverage are all available either in compliance with state laws or as optional coverage.
Comprehensive coverage and collision coverage can be added, with deductible options at $250, $500, or $1,000. All policies with both of these coverages include $1,000 in pet injury coverage at no extra charge, a benefit only offered by a handful of car insurance companies.
Additional add-on options are similar to those at other insurance companies, including rental reimbursement and roadside assistance. Metromile keeps things relatively simple as part of their approach to car insurance, they do not have any of the more gimmicky and trendy add-ons we see at other car insurance companies, like accident forgiveness or disappearing deductibles.
It is in the pricing department that Metromile really stands out. They start with a base rate that is calculated in a more traditional way – your driving record, where you live, the type of car you drive, and your years of experience all have an impact on this rate, just as with any other insurance company.
The base rate is calculated on a per-day basis so that in shorter months the bill will be smaller and in longer months a little more.
On top of this base rate is the per-mile rate. This is based on the information transmitted by the Pulse device, and it will differ each month.
Each bill will, therefore, include next month’s base rate, calculated based on the number of days, and the per-mile charge for the previous month. Thus, if you are paying a bill at the end of June, you will be charged a base rate for the 31 days in July, as well as the total miles, driven in June. What this means is that no two bills will be the same, which may be a bit frustrating to those who like to keep a tightly planned budget.
The rating amounts (the base rate and the per-mile rate) are guaranteed not to change during the 6-month policy duration unless you make a policy change. They may increase on policy renewal, however, based on a number of factors.
To allow for occasional longer drives – like road trips – Metromile caps the number of miles charged in a single day at 250 (150 in New Jersey) so that even if you drive 1000 miles in a day, you will only be charged the daily limit.
This system is likely to mean much lower rates overall for those who do not drive a lot of miles, but it will probably prove more expensive if you have a long commute or drive long distances on a daily basis.
Since Metromile handles things differently from other insurance companies, they do not have the same type of discounts we see from other companies.
They do offer a multi-car discount for insuring more than one vehicle with the company, but we were unable to find any sign of other discounts. Their pricing system encourages drivers to earn their own discount by driving less whenever possible.
The Pulse device is the heart of the Metromile auto insurance system. It works similarly to the telemetric devices used by other insurance companies to monitor driving habits, but unlike most others, it isn’t keeping tabs on your driving habits other than the miles you drive.
In addition to submitting your monthly mileage to the insurance company, Pulse also transmits information to the app, which customers can use to keep tabs on their vehicle. It is not necessary to use the app, but it’s offered as an added bonus.
The Pulse device connects to the same system that monitors your car and sends up what are known as “codes” when something is wrong – otherwise known as the check engine light. The Metromile app receives these codes and can decode them for you – telling you what is going on with your car.
Additionally, Pulse is a GPS device. That means it can help you find your car, whether it has been stolen or you just forgot where you parked. It will even notify you of impending street sweeping so you can move your car, and help you track your own driving habits. These features can be disabled if desired, although the mile tracking cannot since it is necessary for rating your policy.
In keeping with their modern approach, Metromile offers more than one electronic option for claims filing.
Claims can be filed online on the Metromile website. They can also be filed on the app; their app filing system does not just start the claim, but it also allows the customer to complete the entire process.
Claims can also be filed over the phone at 888-595-5485.
There is an email address, firstname.lastname@example.org, but it appears to be for inquiries on an existing claim rather than to file.
Roadside assistance has a different phone number to call for claims, 800-983-3400.
Glass repair claims can be handled without a deductible, which is a common feature offered by most insurance companies. We were unable to find a different phone number listed for glass-only claims, however, so these appear to be filed through the main claims system.
Metromile does have a network of recommended repair shops, but the customer can choose any shop they prefer for repairs. Claims status can be monitored using the app, by calling the claims center, or by using the email address listed above.
Metromile has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau (BBB). They have been accredited since 2013, and there are only 38 complaints on file in the past three years, 12 of which were closed in the past 12 months.
Google has 213 reviews of Metromile, with an overall 3.8-star rating. The main complaints appear to be about rate increases every 6 months, but there are also some complaints about claims service. There are also plenty of positive reviews, with a lot of comments regarding a good customer service experience. While the complaints talk about rate increases, the positive reviews talk about how much money was saved for occasional and low-mileage drivers.
Metromile responds to each review, whether positive or negative, which is something we always like to see in an insurance company. The complaint volume isn’t particularly high for the size of the company, and the positive reviews offer a good balance.
The California Department of Insurance conducts consumer complaint studies on all admitted carriers. Their study not only counts complaints but also examines them to determine which are justified and which are without merit. Of the 17 complaints they found for Metromile in 2017, only three were found to be justified. Seven complaints were found to be without merit, while the rest were closed either with company correction or other methods.
The justified complaints examination gives a different view from the complaints found online, and it is often more helpful. This is due to the fact that negative reviews may be a result of many causes, including the customer’s lack of understanding in regards to how the insurance policy actually works or what is covered and not covered.
The Bottom Line
Metromile is well worth a closer look for those who do not drive very much. If you work from home, are retired, or often use public transportation instead of driving, they may offer you a much lower rate than you can find anywhere else. For those who do a lot of driving, Metromile is likely to be more expensive than a traditionally rated insurance policy.
Metromile’s reputation appears to be solid and they are growing; we would not be surprised if a few years from now they are covering all 50 states. This company, and its approach to rating drivers, will be one to watch in the future.
For a list of companies that we recommend, visit our Best Insurance Companies page.