What Is a Telematics Device?

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A telematics device is an instrument, usually provided by your insurance company, that you install into your car. It records information about your driving behavior, including how fast you drive, how fast you brake, and the distance you drive.

Insurers use telematics devices in special safe driver programs, including Snapshot from ProgressiveDrive Safe & Save from State Farm, and SmartRide from Nationwide. These driver safety programs will help you save money on your insurance premiums by monitoring just how safe you drive.

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Where are telematics devices installed?

You generally install telematics devices in your car’s on-board diagnostics port (OBD II Port), which all vehicles that are newer than 1996 have. This port is typically located beneath the steering wheel of the car, making the device easy to install. As soon as the telematics monitor is installed, it will start recording information about your driving habits and passing them on to a connected app or to your insurer.

What are the advantages of telematics devices?

The main advantage of the telematics device is the potential for car insurance savings. Provided you are a good driver, you can get a hefty discount on your insurance when the device reports your travel history. If you aren’t a great driver, the telematics device can help remind you to avoid hard braking, heed the speed limit, and drive safer overall. When you know you are being recorded, you’re encouraged to have better driving behaviors.

How do I get a telematics device?

There are several options for getting a telematics device in your car. The first is to buy a car that has one built into the vehicle. Newer cars may have this technology built right in.

If you don’t have a car that already includes this technology, then you can simply purchase a device from a tech store or online and install it yourself. Your insurer may also offer a specific model through a program like Drive Safe & Save or SmartRide. In that case, contact an agent to get a telematics device for your car.

Telematics devices are just one element of a safe driving plan. You can also make your car more secure by adding aftermarket safety devices, like dash cams or anti-theft devices. Check out our Dash Cam Buyers Guide to learn more.


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Celeste Tholen
Written by
Celeste Tholen
Celeste has dedicated her decade-long career to reporting and reviews that help people make well-informed decisions. She oversees editorial strategy and production for SafeWise, with a goal to help everyone find the information they need to make their homes and lives safer. Prior to SafeWise, she worked as an editor and reporter for KSL and Deseret News. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Journalism. In her free time, she volunteers at the local botanical garden and writers for the community newspaper.

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