Nationwide SmartMiles Pay-Per-Mile Insurance Review: Is it Worth It?

Nationwide SmartMiles Pay-Per-Mile Insurance Review: Is it Worth It?

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SmartMiles is a pay-per-mile insurance product from Nationwide. Instead of paying a flat fee for insurance, your bill changes based on how much you drive. If you don't use your car very often, you could save up to $540 per year on car insurance compared to a non-usage-based policy.

But when compared to regular car insurance, it's likely to be more expensive if you drive more than 13,000 miles per year.

What is SmartMiles? Who should consider it?

Unlike a regular car insurance policy, a SmartMiles policy has two parts: the base rate and the amount you pay per mile. The base rate stays the same regardless of how many miles you drive. The per-mile rate changes based on how many miles you drive each month. If you drive a lot, your rates will go up; if you drive less, your rates will go down.

SmartMiles is best for people who don't drive much — such as people who work from home, those who primarily get around on foot or public transportation, and people who have a second car they don't use very often.

Your policy will have a flat cost per mile — you're not charged differently for highway or city miles, or based on time of day. We found our sample rate to be about 5.5 cents per mile. The only exception is that there's a daily limit of 250 miles: if you go further than that in a single day, any additional distance is free, meaning you won't be charged extra if you go on a road trip.

How much does a typical American drive?

According to the Department of Transportation, an average American drives about 13,500 miles per year. That works out to about 37 miles a day, or 260 miles per week. If you use your car to commute to work every day, you likely drive at least this much — this average includes people who only drive a few times a week.

Nationwide estimates that drivers who travel less than 12,000 miles per year can benefit from SmartMiles, and our research about matches that.

Additionally, when you're using a SmartMiles device, Nationwide will also monitor your driving habits to make sure you're driving safely. If you often drive over the speed limit, aggressively speed up or slow down, or drive late at night when crashes are most frequent, you may see your rates increase slightly.

How do I set up SmartMiles?

Signing up for SmartMiles is largely the same as any other car insurance policy. You fill out a quote, including your estimated annual mileage, driving history and what type of car you own. It includes all the same coverage options as a regular Nationwide insurance policy, including liability, comprehensive, collision and other optional items like roadside assistance.

After you sign up for an insurance policy featuring SmartMiles, Nationwide will send you a plug-in device that connects to your car (compatible with most vehicles made after 1996). It tracks your mileage and sends the information to Nationwide automatically. You won't need to install an app or manually report your mileage to Nationwide

How much will I save with SmartMiles?

How much you'll save with SmartMiles depends largely on how much you drive, just like other per-mile insurance policies. If you drive 5,000 miles per year or less, you could save $444 or more annually. But if you drive more than approximately 13,000 miles (around the U.S. average), you won't save any money at all.

Our sample customer who drives 5,000 miles per year (about 14 miles per day, or 37% as much as a typical American driver) can save $540 per year compared to Nationwide's standard auto policy.

But our sample customer who drives 10,000 miles annually (27 miles per day, or 74% of the national average) won't save as much — just $264 compared to a standard policy.

And Nationwide wouldn't give our sample customer who drives 15,000 miles annually (41 miles per day, or 111% as much as the average American) a quote for SmartMiles at all.

What's the per-mile cost?

Nationwide doesn't share your per-mile price when you request a quote, but rates for our sample driver in Austin, Texas, worked out to an annual base price of $984, plus 5.5 cents per mile.

That means that SmartMiles stops being worth it for our sample driver at around 13,000 miles per year, though that doesn't account for the daily 250-mile cap. If a big chunk of your annual mileage is from long road trips, you may be able to save using SmartMiles, even if you drive more than 13,000 miles each year.

Graph comparing SmartMiles with other Nationwide insurance programs

We extrapolated the cost of a SmartMiles policy based on the quotes we received to estimate the cost of a policy for a driver who travels between 5,000 and 19,000 miles per year. Note that Nationwide may not offer a quote to people who drive too much to benefit from SmartMiles.

SmartMiles quotes compared to other Nationwide policy options

Annual mileage
SmartMiles
SmartRide
Standard policy
5,000$630$852$900
10,000$768$852$900
15,000Not available$852$900
20,000Not available$852$900

Actual quotes for a six-month full-coverage policy in Austin, Texas, for a driver with a 2016 Honda Civic and a good driving history. SmartMiles quotes were not available for 15,000 and 20,000 annual mileage profiles.

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Nationwide SmartMiles vs. SmartRide

Nationwide has two related programs that use telematic tracking to give drivers discounts: SmartMiles and SmartRide. They both use devices that plug into your car and track your driving behavior, including when you drive and your habits while you're behind the wheel.

The main difference between the two is that SmartMiles charges you a set per-mile rate. If you drive your car 100 miles in a day, you'll pay directly for that increased mileage.

Meanwhile, SmartRide doesn't have a direct per-mile cost. SmartRide only monitors your driving habits to see how safely you drive. These factors include how fast you drive, how hard you brake or accelerate, how often you drive after midnight and how much you drive overall (since the more you drive, the more likely you are to get in a crash).

Differences between Nationwide SmartMiles and SmartRide

SmartMiles
SmartRide
Best forInfrequent driversSafe drivers
Can your rates go up?YesNo
Includes a per-mile rate?YesNo
Tracks driving behaviorYesYes
Maximum discount30%40%
Connects viaPlug-in deviceApp or plug-in device

SmartMiles' maximum discount is based on the difference between a SmartMiles policy for a driver who drives 5,000 miles per year and Nationwide's standard policy. SmartRide's maximum discount is the top advertised by Nationwide.

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Nationwide SmartMiles vs. other pay-per-mile insurance

Besides Nationwide SmartMiles, there are a few other major pay-per-mile car insurance programs available in the United States. What sets SmartMiles apart is its availability — drivers in 40 states plus the District of Columbia can sign up. The second-most prevalent, Allstate Milewise, is only available in 15 states.

For the most part, these programs all work in a similar way. You pay a base rate each month, plus a set amount for each mile you drive. The main differences between the programs are that some, including SmartMiles, give you a discount for good driving performance, while others do not. And one insurer, Mile Auto, has you send a picture of your odometer each month instead of using a plug-in device. It's an extra step you have to take each month, but it might appeal more to privacy-focused drivers.

Differences between Nationwide SmartMiles and other per-mile programs

Insurer
Availability
Tracking method
Considers driving habits?
Company type
Nationwide SmartMiles40 states and D.C.Plug-in deviceYesEstablished insurer
Allstate Milewise15 statesPlug-in deviceYesEstablished insurer
Metromile8 statesPlug-in deviceNoStartup
Mile Auto Insurance3 statesManual reporting based on odometerNoStartup
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Availability

Nationwide SmartMiles is available in 40 states and the District of Columbia. It's available everywhere except:

  • Alaska
  • California
  • Delaware
  • Hawaii
  • Louisiana
  • Massachusetts
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Oklahoma

Matt is a Technical Writer at ValuePenguin who works on distilling the complex details of insurance into accessible advice. He previously created educational content at Grovo Learning and MarketSmiths Content Strategists. Matt's consumer-focused analysis of insurance has appeared in publications like CNBC, Yahoo Finance and the Miami Herald.

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.