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Last updated: February 2021
Black box insurance can be a great way to keep your premiums down, especially if you are a new or young driver. Here is everything you need to know about how it works, and how to find the best policy.
It is a type of car insurance policy that monitors your actual driving using a GPS-enabled black box, or telematics system, that connects to your insurer.
Depending on your policy, that means you can save money by driving less, driving at safer times and even being smoother in your braking and cornering. If you are in a crash, the black box also records this, and can even alert the authorities that you might be in need of help.
However, speeding, driving too much or at less safe time - as well as harsh braking - could see you pay more.
What are the pros and cons of black box insurance?
You would think that any insurance that sets the premium you pay on your own driving rather than bunching you up with every other driver of your age, would be roundly welcomed.
However, even though black box insurance is designed to offer cheaper quotes, based on your driving performance, it’s not without its critics. Here are the arguments on both sides:
Good driving equals lower premiums
It encourages safe driving
It can help locate your car if stolen
It can alert authorities if you crash
Bad driving means higher premiums, but it is the insurer that decides what constitutes ‘bad’ driving - and this might not take account of road conditions or other factors
Some insurers charge for installation and removal of the black box
It may not suit high mileage drivers
It may restrict your driving
Most insurers will arrange a convenient time for an installer to visit you at your home or place of work and install the box. You will usually have 14 days to have the box installed, after which the insurer may cancel your policy.
Some insurers offer boxes that you can simply plug into the 12V outlet in your car yourself. You must keep it plugged in when driving. Remember, it has GPS tracking and smart functionality, so if you take your car out for a spin with the device offline it will know.
Depending on the policy you buy, your black box will record one or more of the following:
The time of day you drive
The number of miles you cover
Type of roads you drive on
Most policies constantly monitor your driving, sending data after each journey or every day. Some only require you to use the box for a short period, for example three months, after which you return the box and they adjust your premiums based on the data collected.
Some policies set a curfew after which you are not allowed to drive, usually during the night. Driving at night is statistically when you are most likely to have an accident, so your insurer may place a curfew on driving between 11pm and 5am to reduce the risk.
If you know you will need to drive at night, for work for example, find out how much this could affect the cost of your cover.
Most insurers will review any breach of curfew on a case-by-case basis, so if you had to drive at night due to an emergency you may not be penalised.
If you break your curfew your premiums could increase, or you could be charged a penalty of up to £100.
Telematics cover can reduce premiums for different types of driver including:
Drivers aged 17-24 are the most likely to make a claim, and therefore the most expensive to insure. Black box insurance means your cover can be tailored to your driving habits, not those of everyone in your age range.
If you are a sensible driver, a black box policy could prove this to your insurer and earn you a discount.
Black box policies look closely at how much you drive, and the fewer miles you cover, the less you will usually pay.
When calculating your premium, many providers look at when you drive. Night time driving is riskier than driving during the day, so if you rarely drive after dark you could save money. Likewise, people who commute or otherwise travel in rush hours pay more.
Not only can a black box mean cheaper insurance, but it can also make you a safer driver too by encouraging sensible driving.
If you are an experienced driver with a good number of no claims behind you it is unlikely that a black box policy will be of benefit. Your no claims already show you are a safe driver and will offer a better discount, typically up to 75%, than a black box policy can offer.
The best way to save is to drive sensibly and within the rules of the black box policy.
Each insurer will use the data they collect differently, so look carefully at how your premium and driver scores are calculated to make sure you are doing everything you can to get the best rating and cut the cost of your insurance.
Try to plan your journeys to avoid peak driving times and curfews. If you drive at rush hour every day this could increase your premium, even if you drive safely.
Most insurers will provide regular feedback on your driving by email, so if there is something specific that is increasing your score you can take steps to correct it.
Black box car insurance is really intended to help those who either get quoted high insurance because they don’t have much road experience or are in a high-risk age group, or they feel they are paying over the odds for their limited road use.
If you have a good track record behind the wheel, with plenty of claims-free years under your belt, it may not be worthwhile, but that’s no reason not to consider it when shopping around for car insurance.
On this point, be aware that black box policies frequently come with additional fees specific to this type of cover. So check policies before buying for the following:
Black box installation of from £50
Fine for missing installation appointment of up to £100
Changing car, up to £100
Damage to the box, up to £150 if deliberate and your policy could be cancelled
Black box removal, up to £80 of more if the policyholder attempts to remove the box
Penalties for breaking curfew, typically up to £100
There are a number of specialist providers that offer black box insurance. You can find a list of telematics insurers on the black box comparison page.
If you already have a policy, ask your insurer if you can transfer to black box cover. If they do not offer it, work out if it is worth cancelling your policy and paying a cancellation fee, and taking out a telematics policy elsewhere.
It is a small box about the size of a smartphone installed in your car that tracks your driving. Here is how a black box policy works.
An engineer will come and install it under the dashboard, but some insurers will send you a box you can plug into the 12V outlet yourself.
It measures your speed, braking, acceleration and cornering. It also measures at what time of day you drive, the type of roads you use, and how many miles you travel.
The cost of your car insurance could go up. You should only take out a black policy if you are confident you will drive sensibly.
Most insurers will replace or repair the box for free if the damage was not your fault, but If it was deliberate you could be charged up to £150 and your policy could even be cancelled.
You do not need to do anything to the box once it is installed, the data is sent remotely to your insurer.
This will depend on your insurer but most will remove the box if you leave or cancel your policy at no additional cost.
Yes, most black boxes use GPS, so you can track your car if it has been stolen.