Black box is a type of car insurance policy, also known as telematics, pay as you go insurance, or usage based insurance (UBI).
Black box policies allow your insurer to track your car’s usage and driving behaviour to offer you a tailored insurance premium.
Most black box policies are so named because they involve a small device, about the size of a deck of cards, installed in your car (fitted black box). Other types of telematics policies can use an app on your smartphone or a device that plugs into your car’s charger port or cigarette lighter.
Black box policies also vary in what they measure - some are purely mileage based while others are based on behaviour.
Each policy is different, but most black boxes will record:
Time of day
Other factors include the type of road, cornering, location, mileage, G force, impact, familiarity, consistency, and smoothness of driving.
It’s popular among young drivers, but can be beneficial for many other drivers, particularly those who only do limited mileage or those in other high risk categories, such as drivers with previous claims or driving offences.
For many drivers, black box insurance offers a cheaper alternative to a traditional car insurance policy. Insurers take the view that if you’re willing to have your driving monitored then you’re less likely to take risks, so will likely offer you a lower price than traditional insurers if you’re in a high risk group.
While some telematics providers offer fixed premiums, others will regularly review your driving behaviours and could offer you a refund on your premium if you’ve proved you’re driving safely. But bear in mind some insurers can ‘fine’ you or put your premium up if you’ve demonstrated bad driving behaviours - you will be able to monitor your performance and your insurer will advise you of how to improve your score before they charge you.
For fitted black box policies, your insurer will arrange for your black box to be installed by a professional fitter at a safe location, usually within 14-28 days of the start of your policy (although you will be covered as soon as your policy begins). It should take less than an hour to fit the device in a discreet and secure place, usually in your dashboard. You will need to provide the following documents to the technician before the device is installed:
Driving licence (or DSA pass certificate if you’ve just passed and your licence is still being processed) V5C registration certificate Proof of no claims discount (if applicable)
The cost of the box and installation is included in the price of your premium. But if you want to change your car during the policy, you may have to pay for installation of a new box (see ‘what if I change my car?’).
If you share your car, you should be aware that all their drivers’ behaviour will be recorded and count towards your driving score (with the exception of app-based policies).
It’s also important to remember that everyone who drives your car must have adequate insurance cover - they must be either named on your policy or have their own comprehensive policy that includes cover to drive other cars.
When black box technology first came into use, most telematics insurance policies were curfew-based, meaning drivers could be fined or have their premiums increased if they used their car after a certain time of night. Some policies still work in this way, but the industry has moved on from these tactics after concerns that young drivers were acting dangerously to finish their journeys before the curfew time.
None of the black box policies available through Uswitch are curfew-based, but night time driving may affect the driving score for some policies.
Some telematics devices can detect when your car is involved in a crash. An alert will be sent to your insurer if the device detects an impact over a certain measure of force. The insurer can then contact the emergency services and inform them of your location if they believe you are in danger.
Insurers can also use the telematics data to determine the cause of an accident and who is at fault, which could make the claims process easier.
Most installed boxes can help to locate your car in the event that it is stolen. The police can work with your insurer to determine the location of your car based on the black box data.
If you get a new car during the term of your policy, your insurer will deactivate the box in your current car (for fixed boxes) and will arrange to install another box in your new car. Some insurers will do this for free, but others will charge up to £150.
If you decide to change insurance providers, your box will be switched off and the original insurer will not receive any more data from your car. You can also request to have the box removed from your car, but note that you may be charged a fee for this.
Compare insurance quotes now, and see if telematics insurance is the cheapest option for you: