Bad driving habits

Most drivers who buy car insurance from GEICO are able to participate in DriveEasy2, a safe-driving program that rewards or penalizes drivers based on their driving behaviour, also known as usage-based insurance (UBI).

Using sensors in your phone, DriveEasy automatically logs your driving behaviours — like how fast and far you drive, how hard you brake and how often you use your phone — and calculates a safe driving score. GEICO then factors your score into your insurance rate (either with a discount or a price hike) upon renewal.

In Canada, there are two types of UBI options on the market: pay-as-you-drive and pay-how-you-drive insurance. The former uses a telematics box that is plugged into your car to measure how much you travel, offering a lower flat rate that increases the more you drive — it is most beneficial for people who drive less than 9,000km a year. CAA's MyPace®3 and Allstate's Drivewise®4 are two examples of this type of insurance product.

Pay-how-you-drive, similar to DriveEasy, measures your driving behaviour rather than distance. Someone who breaks with enough time, doesn’t speed, and limits their driving to off-peak hours can see their premiums reduce. Furthermore, it can also record important information about a collision, such as your direction and speed prior to the accident and the force of impact. A selection of auto insurers offer similar variations on this type of coverage, including Belair Direct's Automerit®5, Intact's MyDrive6 and TD's MyAdvantage7.

This is supposed to incentivize drivers to practice safe habits on the road — but it can also catch bad drivers, as Ayrial found out. Her problem with that was, as she claimed in her TikTok, she wasn't always the one driving.

To protect herself from a bad driving score, Ayrial said a GEICO customer service rep told her she should have switched her DriveEasy app settings to ‘passenger’ mode every time she got a ride with somebody else.

“That’s extra work for me. I don’t understand,” she said, adding that she didn’t “read the fine print” on her policy, which explained how the safe-driving app impacts insurance rates.

As such, Ayrial claimed the “huge increase” in her bill from USD$129 to USD$202 is uncalled for.

“Give me a base pay and that’s what I pay,” she said. “If I’m not in an accident, it shouldn’t be extra. That’s like when you’re sick, you pay extra for health insurance. I’m not sick!”

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Other factors causing auto insurance rates to rise

While bad driving habits can make a sizeable impact on a person's auto insurance rates, car thefts and costly repair/replacement costs to tech-heavy vehicles are also causing prices to increase, according to The Globe and Mail8 .

Speaking to the news outlet, Ratehub.ca vice president of insurance, Matt Hands, cautions drivers that they there is little end in sight for larger year-over-year increases in the average cost of auto insurance premiums across the country.

"It does feel like, at least from my experience, that we’re in an unprecedented time," he said.

"Replacing a windshield back in the day cost around 300 bucks, but these days windshields have a heads-up display," which alongside other newer technologies, can cost upwards of CDN$2,000 to replace or repair Hands added.

The persistent threat of auto theft is also causing insurance rates to spike throughout Canada, where in 2023, claims for replacing stolen vehicles in Canada rose 20% from the previous year to a record-breaking CDN$1.5 billion, according to the Insurance Bureau of Canada9. This is the second year in a row auto theft claims costs have topped CDN$1 billion, compared to CDN$556 million in claims that was filed from 2018-2021.

Elsewhere in the report, between 2018 to 2023, auto theft claims costs increased by 254%, with Ontario being hit the hardest by criminal activity.

A silver lining

While Ayrial’s car insurance rate increase was allegedly deemed a direct result of her driving score, many other drivers across the country have seen frustrating rate increases in recent years as a result of broader insurance market trends.

There are several factors driving up the cost of car insurance — from an increase in accident claims, litigation and medical costs for insurers to pay out (and price for), to higher repair costs due to inflation in the price of new and used vehicles, car parts and labour.

There is one silver lining to this dark cloud, which is that car prices are moderating after exploding by record amounts during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prices for new automobiles seem to be levelling off according to a report from Auto Trader10 . In 2023, prices decreases of 0.4% in October, 0.1% in November and 0.3% in December, coming off an historic high in September.

Sources:

1 Ayrial.dan: "I hate it hereeee!"

2 Geico DriveEasy

3 CAA MyPace®

4 Allstate Drivewise

5 Belair Direct Automerit®

6 Intact MyDrive

7 TD MyAdvantage

8 *The Globe and Mail*: "Auto insurance rates to rise in 2024 over record thefts, higher replacement costs car parts"

9 Insurance Bureau of Canada: "New data shows severity of Canada’s worsening auto theft crisis - Theft insurance claims top $1.5 billion in 2023"

10 *Auto Trader:* "Good News for Car Shoppers: Vehicle Prices Are Dropping"

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Bethan Moorcraft is a reporter with experience in news editing and business reporting across international markets. Before turning her talents to personal finance, she was the senior editor of Insurance Business, a global insurance industry publication.

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