Is Your Car a Snitch? Your Auto Insurance Premiums Might Beg to Differ.

Not since GM's Oldsmobile Cutlass was the best-selling car in America has it cost so much to insure a vehicle in the United States. With an MSRP starting at $4,290, buying a Cutlass outright 47 years ago would cost nearly as much as some Americans pay for their annual car insurance premiums today. 

According to Consumer Price Index data released earlier this month, auto insurance costs rose 20.6% over the past year, the highest annual increase since December 1976. There are a few reasons for this, with inflation and the rising cost of repairs being largely to blame. But the other contributing factor could be your vehicle's reporting of your driving habits to data brokers and insurers, which you would have never agreed to, of course. Or did you?

(Photo : Getty Images) Auto supply chain

Why Did My Car Insurance Rates Go Up?

Think back on the moment you first laid eyes on it, in all of its glossy beauty and new car smell. You imagined all the scenic road trips and the carefree weekend jaunts to Costco with the family. All the festive drives past the Dyker Heights Christmas Lights sipping hot chocolate with the windows down. You signed all the paperwork, printed out the insurance identification cards, the dealer handed you the keys, and it was yours-your shiny new four-wheeled baby. 

You downloaded the connected-car app so you could listen to that favorite playlist and sync the navigation and contacts from your phone. You scrolled down through all the privacy policies as fast as possible while checking all the boxes and not reading a single word. Because who ever does right? You just wanted to connect that Apple CarPlay and get rolling to some Spotify.

And then six months or a year later, your auto insurance premium spikes. Wait, what? You haven't had any recent accidents. You don't have [m]any speeding tickets. Why would your car insurance premium suddenly increase? Well, today's cars are a bit different than your grandfather's Oldsmobile Cutlass, for one thing. His car wasn't connected to the internet. His AM/FM/8 track stereo wasn't reporting his driving behavior to data brokers to pass on to the insurance companies. In other words, Grandpop's old Cutlass wasn't a snitch.

That OnStar Smart Driver app that you downloaded for your new Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, or Cadillac so you could listen to the latest My Favorite Murder episode on the way home? It's also tracking your quick stops, hard accelerations, locations, speeds, and late-night driving patterns. That shiny new Kia, Subaru, or Mitsubishi you were so happy to pull into your driveway? It's probably sharing your "real-world driving behavior" with data brokers like LexisNexis Risk Solutions and Verisk which then pass along that information to insurers.

Your Car is Snitching

The internet-connected vehicles of today are technological marvels allowing drivers to locate their last parking spot, lock or unlock them, see if the windows are rolled up, or call for roadside assistance remotely. Hot day? Hit the ventilation option on your app. Stuck in traffic, scroll through the news headlines or your text messages on your LCD touchscreen. 

You wouldn't find that in an old Cutlass. It also couldn't rat your late-night Cannonball Run to the airport out to Geico. But then again, it wouldn't be able to tell you that the valet parking attendants at JFK's TWA Hotel were joyriding it through Queens and Brooklyn while you were in Paris for Thanksgiving like your car did. An old Cutlass wouldn't have been able to send a 50-page timestamped report of its driving locations, speed, and mileage to your phone for the Port Authority Police like your car did. 

So don't get me wrong, such conveniences in vehicles today are brilliant. Who wants to worry about valet parking attendants racking up speeding tickets in your absence? Who wants to get into a hot car and sweat if you don't have to? And navigation? Who wants to do that without a GPS? Having your trip curated by Google, Apple, Alexa, and Siri is a luxury your grandfather's generation mostly missed out on. Charting one's path to Rockaway Beach no longer requires spreading that wrinkled old Rand McNally over the car hood and trying to figure out which way is north or which route has less traffic. 

Tips to Avoid High Insurance

These modern innovations come with a price. And unless you make a habit of taking those corners a bit too fast, burning a little rubber at the stoplight, driving without your seatbelt fastened, or cruising above 80 mph from time to time, you shouldn't have much to worry about in terms of your car insurance premiums. In terms of your privacy, though, such technological advancements will cost you. 

If you are concerned about such driving behaviors being tracked and reported to data brokers and insurers, however, there are still some options. Go ahead and run a Vehicle Privacy Report, and see what information your car is capable of collecting and reporting. Click back through all those privacy settings and opt out of any data-sharing options if it helps you sleep a little better. Take a defensive driving course and notify your insurer for a potential discount. 

Or you can dust off Grandpop's old Cutlass and throw caution to the wind and those data brokers off your trail. Vive la résistance. Oh, but maybe leave your cell phone behind. That's a whole other situation. 

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