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Black box insurance guide

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Telematics insurance, commonly referred to as black box car insurance, is when a small tracking device is fitted to your car to monitor your driving habits. 

The black box is designed to monitor how you drive on a day-to-day basis – the good and the bad. The safer your drive, the lower your insurance premiums could be when it comes time to renew. It can be a great option for younger drivers with a limited driving history looking to get cheaper car insurance long-term.

What is black box insurance?

With black box insurance, your driving habits will be tracked and monitored via a device in your car. This device will use telematics technology – hence the proper name, telematics car insurance.

The ‘black box’ will monitor your driving style to establish if you’re a safe driver and, if you are, it could help you save money. When your car insurance provider gets to know how you drive, they’re more inclined to offer you a personalised quote.  

As for the car insurance element, you’ll still be picking between the usual three levels of cover: third party-only, third party, fire and theft, and comprehensive car insurance.

What types of black box devices are there? 

There are three main forms of black box device you can have installed when taking out telematics insurance:

  • Mechanic-installed black box device: the traditional black box device would be installed behind your dashboard, or near your engine, by a mechanic. If you opt for this kind of black box insurance, your provider will arrange for a mechanic to come and fit the device once you’ve taken out your policy. It’ll likely be paired with a mobile phone app
  • Plug-in device: increasingly black box car insurance policies come with self-install, or ‘plug-in’, devices that don’t require a visit from a mechanic. Nowadays these will often stick to your front windscreen, and be plugged into a USB port or your cigarette lighter. You may also need to pair the device with an app on your phone. If you choose this option, your device will be sent in the post
  • Smartphone app: it’s possible to take out telematics insurance that does away with the ‘black box’ element entirely. Instead, you’ll download an app on your smartphone that will work in the background while you are driving to track your performance
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What will a black box record?

Your black box will record:

 

  • Speed
  • Steering
  • Mileage
  • Braking and acceleration 
  • Cornering 
  • Mobile phone use
  • Crash detection
  • Distance driven
  • Number of journeys
  • Date and time of day
  • Where you drive
  • Where you park
  • How often you rest on long journeys

How does black box car insurance work?

  1. Your black box is fitted: depending on your policy, you’ll either book an appointment with a mechanic to have your device installed, wait for a self-install device to arrive in the post, or simply download an app on your smartphone  
  2. Get your driver score: after your device has been activated it will record data about your driving habits via motion sensors and GPS. This information is then used by your provider to calculate if you’re a safe driver
  3. Renew your premium for less: providing you have been driving safely, when it is time to renew your car insurance you should see your premium decrease for the following year

Who is black box insurance for?

Black box car insurance is most commonly for inexperienced or young drivers – usually those between the ages of 17 and 25. 

Young drivers draw a short straw when applying for their first car insurance policy. For example, car insurance for drivers aged 17 to 19 cost on average £1,268.54, compared to an overall UK average of £651. That’s based on annual comprehensive policies purchased through MoneySuperMarket between October and December 2023.

This is because young drivers are considered to be more at risk of being involved in a car accident due to inexperience. But, with a black box, your car insurance provider can monitor your driving skills and habits. 

Installing a black box provides new drivers with the opportunity to show their provider that they are safe drivers. This should help you save money on your car insurance premium. 

This isn’t to say you can’t get black box insurance if you’re over the age of 25. However, you may find it harder to find a policy, as many telematics cover providers have an upper age limit on their policies.

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What are the advantages and disadvantages of black box car insurance?

Telematics car insurance can be highly beneficial for young drivers. The cost of car insurance for under-25s rose by over 73 per cent in 2023, according to Consumer Intelligence, and black box insurance can be a way to soften an eye-watering premium.

However, as with any product, it’s always a good idea to have an idea of the advantages AND the disadvantages of black box insurance before committing to a policy.

Advantages of telematics car insurance:

 ✓ Improve your driving skills

With telematics car insurance you will receive customised tips on improving your driving skills via your provider’s apps. 

Saving money on your premiums

By driving safely, and having a good driving score you could save money on your premiums.

It’s fairer

You won’t be penalised for other drivers in your age group driving recklessly. If you’re a safe driver, your black box will record this and let your car insurance provider know. 

Theft-deterrent 

If your car is stolen, your black box might be able to provide valuable data and help the police locate your vehicle. 

Evidence in an accident

If you’re involved in an accident, data from your black box could be used to determine who was at fault. This can in turn help speed up your claims process.

Disadvantages of telematics car insurance:

X Hidden fees

Some car insurance providers may charge for fitting or disconnecting your black box

X Higher premiums for unsafe drivers

Regularly slamming on the brakes or accelerating fast could increase your premiums, as this goes against some of the safe driving rules for black box car insurance. 

X Journey restrictions

Most policies have limitations on mileage. 

X Driver score not shared

Your driver score and any other data are not shared with other insurance providers. If you decide to switch providers, they won’t see your good record and you may have to rebuild your good driving data. 

X Named driver 

If you have a named driver on your policy who doesn’t drive safely, this could work against you. Most likely, your insurance provider will not be able to tell who is driving the car at that time; if their driving skills are poor this would be reflected in the overall driving score.

Is black box insurance cheaper than normal car insurance?

You shouldn’t expect your premium to be lower just because you have opted for telematics insurance – the effect is not immediate. You would need to obtain the policy for a year and your driving score will be reviewed when it is time to renew. If you have driven safely, you should be rewarded with a lower premium. However, if your black box records poor driving skills, such as speeding, your premiums could increase. 

However, not all black boxes need to be permanently installed on the car. Some providers have options for a plug-in device or a sensor connected to your smartphone. With the latter, some car insurance providers may update your premium more regularly or at any time before your renewal. This could work in your favour, if you have a good driving score.

How to get the most out of your telematics insurance

By installing a black box, young drivers are given the opportunity to avoid high premiums simply because the rest of their age group might drive with less caution than older drivers. To get the most out of your black box, there are particular rules to follow. 

Your car insurance provider will consider you a safe driver if you follow these guidelines:

  • No speeding
  • Accelerate gently
  • Brake in plenty of time
  • Stick to the mileage agreed on in your policy
  • Be cautious about who you let drive your car – your black box will record this data and won’t know if it’s your or someone else’s poor driving skills
  • Do not modify the black box in any way
  • Follow the highway code 
  • If your provider has set our rules for which times of day you should drive, follow them. Most prefer you to avoid driving at night time or during rush hour, when you’re more likely to be involved in a car accident 

How to compare and find the best telematics insurance quotes

Just like you would with any other type of car insurance, you should always shop around and compare deals. 

The best way to find telematics insurance quotes is via comparison websites. This way, you can receive multiple quotes to compare prices and coverage. 

To receive telematics car insurance quotes, you’ll usually need to provide the following:

  • Your car registration number and related documents
  • Your personal information 
  • Your driving experience and history including previous accidents, if any
  • Proof of any no-claims bonus
  • Information relating to how you and when you use your car 
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Frequently asked questions about telematics car insurance

This can vary from provider to provider, but usually, you can view your black box data via a mobile app. Through the app, you can view your journeys and see how safely you have been driving. Data may take up to a few days to appear in your app and it can take longer than that when you have recently installed the black box. 

No, the data from your black box will never be shared. The only time data from the box would be shared is if a police inquiry has been made or you’ve been involved in a serious incident, at which point the police might request the data. At no other times will it be shared with third parties.

Black box insurance policies typically last for one year at a time. But, this can vary from provider to provider and it will depend on how long you agree to have the black box installed for with your provider. If you’re unsure how long this is, you can always check your policy documents or contact your car insurance provider to find out. 

When you agree to a black box insurance policy, one of the requirements is usually to disclose your mileage. If you end up exceeding this agreed mileage, your premium is likely to be affected.

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Rachel Sadler

Home Tech Writer

Rachel is a seasoned writer who has been producing online and print content for seven years. 

As a home tech expert for Independent Advisor, Rachel researches and writes buying guides and reviews, helping consumers navigate the realms of broadband and home security gadgets. She also covers home tech for The Federation of Master Builders, where she reviews and tests home security devices. 

She started as a news and lifestyle journalist in Hong Kong reporting on island-wide news stories, food and drink and the city’s events. She’s written for editorial platforms Sassy Hong Kong, Localiiz and Bay Media. While in Hong Kong she attended PR events, interviewed local talent and project-managed photoshoots. 

Rachel holds a BA in English Language and Creative Writing and is committed to simplifying tech jargon and producing unbiased reviews.

Connor Campbell

Finance Writer

Connor Campbell is an experienced personal and business finance writer who has been producing online content for almost a decade. 

Connor is the personal finance expert for Independent Advisor, guiding readers through everything they need to know about car insurance and home insurance. From how much it costs to the best insurance providers in the UK, he’s here to help you find the right policy for your needs. 

In his capacity as writer and spokesperson at NerdWallet, Connor explored a number of topics close to his heart, such as the impact of our increasingly cashless society, and the hardships and heroics of British entrepreneurs. His commentary was featured in sites such as The Mirror, the Daily Express and Business Insider

At financial trading firm Spreadex, meanwhile, his market commentary was featured in outlets such as The Guardian, BBC, Reuters and the Evening Standard

Connor is a voracious reader with an MA in English, and is dedicated to making life’s financial decisions a little bit easier by doing away with jargon and needless complexity.

Amy Reeves

Editor

Amy is a seasoned writer and editor with a special interest in home design, sustainable technology and green building methods.

She has interviewed hundreds of self-builders, extenders and renovators about their journeys towards individual, well-considered homes, as well as architects and industry experts during her five years working as Assistant Editor at Homebuilding & Renovating, part of Future plc.

Amy’s work covers topics ranging from home, interior and garden design to DIY step-by-steps, planning permission and build costs, and has been published in Period Living, Real Homes, and 25 Beautiful Homes, Homes and Gardens.

Now an Editor at the Independent Advisor, Amy manages homes-related content for the site, including solar panels, combi boilers, and windows.

Her passion for saving tired and inefficient homes also extends to her own life; Amy completed a renovation of a mid-century house in 2022 and is about to embark on an energy-efficient overhaul of a 1800s cottage in Somerset.