Fior Liza Camilo
Some car insurers offer a discount by fitting a special device, known as telematics or a black box, into your car. This device tracks your driving and feeds back data to an insurer to show how well you drive. You’re usually charged a fixed fee to drive a certain amount of miles a year.
Black box insurance policies measure everything from acceleration to cornering, plus the types of roads you drive and the times you drive at. This means your car insurer can get a full impression of your driving habits – and charges you accordingly.
Some black box and telematics insurance policies work by refunding drivers for good behaviour or increasing the premium for those who drive less safely.
Do you accelerate and decelerate gently, slow down for corners and stick to speed limits?
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Last updated: 30 March 2021
A black box is a device fitted to your vehicle that measures how well and safely you drive. This is particularly helpful if you are a young driver or a student, because insurance companies tend to charge much higher premiums for first time and young motorists.
It is also handy for people who only make occasional trips looking for a cheaper car insurance quote.
If you can prove, via the black box telematics, that you drive well, this may be reflected in a lower insurance premium. But if you drive badly, on the other hand, your premium might go up.
The black box tracks how, where and when you drive using GPS – similar to your location app on your mobile phone. It provides your insurer with data on where you are, how fast you are accelerating and driving and whether you brake gently or not. It also gives your insurer a view of your general driving style as well as the sort of roads you are using.
If you are a careful driver, telematics car insurance can count in your favour. Your insurance quote will be based on your own driving, and not on the general risk of someone with your age and risk profile. So you can be rewarded for being a safer-than-average driver
They’re particularly good for new drivers, especially those who have just passed their test. Insurers have no track record on which to base your insurance. Without a black box you may be charged the highest level of insurance, based on your age and inexperience.
Black box insurance is great for careful drivers who are frustrated by the high cost of car insurance.
People who drive infrequently can also make big savings using black box or telematics policies.
The black box in your car links to a satellite to measure your usage, allowing you to check your own driving online.
The black box typically tracks and measures:
If you brake sharply
Whether corners are taken gently, or not
Instances of sudden veering
Your speed compared to the speed limit on any given road
The time at which the car is being driven
The number of miles you drive
The type of roads you are driving on
With a traditional black box and telematics car insurance policy, your insurance provider will send out an engineer to fit the black box behind your car’s dashboard. It will usually take about an hour to install and you may need to present your driving licence and V5C registration document.
The black box will automatically start recording your driving, so you don’t need to switch it on.
If you choose a plug-and-drive device, you’ll be able to install this yourself by plugging it into the charger port.
With a smartphone app, there is no installation at all. You’ll simply need to follow your insurer’s instructions to download the app onto your smartphone. In some cases you may have to start the app before your journey.
In most cases, you can leave a black box in your car for as long as you want to. If your insurance policy comes to an end, your insurer will most likely deactivate your box, rather than remove it. If you would like to have it removed instead, you’ll usually need to pay a fee.
To have a traditional black box removed, you will need to speak to your insurer who will send out someone to remove it for you. If you do it yourself, you may be charged for any damage caused.
If, however, you have a plug-and-drive device, you simply unplug it yourself. If you want to use it in a new car, you can plug it back in. But don’t forget to let your car insurance provider know what you’ve done.
Don’t forget to add removal or end-of-contract costs into your overall insurance budget as it’s important to know the total, or overall, insurance cost for any period of time
If there is a limit on the number of miles you can drive each year and you go over that limit, there may be a fee involved.
However, if you know in advance you need to drive more miles, you may be able to ‘buy’ more. Or your premium may be amended to reflect the higher mileage.
In order to cut the risk of you having an accident and claiming on your policy, your insurer may place some restrictions on where and when you drive.
This might mean you cannot drive late at night, for example, or if you do, that will be factored into your insurance quote and might make it higher.
Some people don’t like the idea that their insurance company is monitoring them and knows where they are and how long they stop for. However, the telematics device will not affect your car’s performance.
Why not read our guide to dispel the myths about black box insurance?
Some insurers can fine you or increase your premium if you’ve demonstrated bad driving behaviours, such as speeding, so you need to be careful how you drive at all times.
If you drive at dangerous speeds on a regular basis, your insurer might even consider cancelling your policy.
Put simply, yes. Because the telematics box records your car's position, if your vehicle is stolen it can help your insurer track it down.
There have even been cases where insurance fraud has been caught, where the telematics box recorded a second indecent at a different location where a criminal was attempting to make the damage to the policyholder's car look worse so they could put in a larger claim.
The black box measures how the car is driven, not who is driving it.
That means if you are handing your car to mechanics, or someone else is driving under their own insurance, how they drive will be reflected in your policy too.
It's best to make sure anyone driving the car knows this before handing them the keys, as their bad habits could push up the cost of your policy - even if they are covered by temporary car insurance of their own.
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