New car insurance programs charge by the mileage

February 5, 2011 12:26:48 AM PST
New car insurance programs are rolling out beginning this month that could save you some serious money. Seven On Your Side looks into a deal that seems like a real win-win. Car owners will get a better deal, insurers get to peg their costs to risk and the Earth will be a better place.

Let's say you are stuck in traffic, something that doesn't happen to you much, but in the car next to you is a guy who is in this traffic every day. Is it fair that you pay the same for car insurance?

"Whenever you have insurance, you want to be rewarded if you are not as much of a risk as the other guy," says Nick Chertock from Alameda.

And now you can be rewarded. The state of California is just now allowing insurance companies to base rates on how much you drive. State Farm is the first to offer a program in Northern California and program starts in a couple of weeks.

"The program is called 'Drive Safe and Save' and essentially what it is, it means the less you drive, the less you pay," says State Farm agent Dave Stewart. "I think it does a better job of matching risk to price, which is something we are always concerned about."

"I don't know if I've ever been on the same side of State Farm in a news story," says Douglas Heller from Consumer Watchdog.

Heller says the State Farm program is following the spirit of the law by allowing savings, even a little at a time.

"Which means if you are driving 9,000 miles a year right now, and you are able to carpool or take the train once or twice a month, you're going to go down maybe 500, 700, maybe 1,000 miles a year and with that you will see real savings," says Heller.

For every 500 miles less you drive, your insurance premium will drop between 1 and 2 percent. So drive 1,000 miles less and you save 2 to 4 percent, drive 1,500 miles and you save 3 to 6 percent, drive 2,000 miles and save 4 to 8 percent...and on and on.

"...For doing nothing really, except just showing what I am driving, just telling them the miles I am driving," says Chertock.

And it's not just about the money to Chertock or to Sara Werner Costa from San Francisco.

"I live in a green building, a Leaf-certified building too, so I am always about reducing the carbon footprint. So while I spend a lot of time in my car as a realtor, also I do like to take public transportation," says Werner Costa.

"Now the catch is if you drive more, you'll pay more. So there is a catch, but it is an honest one," says Heller.

If you have OnStar, that will keep track of the mileage. If you don't, then you self-report.