Nationwide SmartRide

Nationwide SmartRide is a usage-based insurance program that uses telematics technology to track and reward safe drivers.

Drivers automatically receive a 10% discount on their auto insurance premiums for joining the SmartRide program, and Nationwide advertises discounts of up to 40% for safe driving. Through a monitoring device, in-car connected technology or an app, users share their driving data with Nationwide, which in turn offers them discounts on car insurance commensurate with performance.

Our review of Nationwide SmartRide highlights the pros and cons of the program, in addition to explaining how it works. Read on to learn more.

Good for
  • Drivers who struggle to keep their hands off their phone
  • Drivers who don't want to experience continuous monitoring
Bad for
  • Those who frequently drive in congested traffic
  • Drivers who must travel late at night

What is Nationwide SmartRide?

Nationwide SmartRide is a usage-based insurance program. The program uses one of three methods — a mobile app, a plug-in device or an in-car system — to monitor and reward safe driving with discounts on insurance.

Unlike some usage-based insurance programs, the program only monitors your driving for approximately four to six months. Afterward, you get to keep whatever performance discount you've earned for as long as you insure your car with Nationwide. If you'd rather limit the amount of time your insurer is monitoring you, SmartRide could be a good fit.

SmartRide works slightly differently in California and New York.

In New York, only the device-based version of the program is available, and the performance discount maxes out at 25%.

In California, only the device-based version of the program is available, and the participation and the performance discount max out at 5% and 15%, respectively.

Additionally, Nationwide guarantees that your insurance rates will not increase if you use SmartRide. While most usage-based insurance programs come with this guarantee, not all do. This means that you can feel confident adding SmartRide to your policy, even if you're not an especially good or safe driver, since the worst that can happen is that you don't receive a performance discount at all.

Nationwide says the average SmartRide discount is 22%, but discounts can range from 0% to 40%. Only about 10% of all participants receive the full 40% discount.

Users can choose between the device and the mobile app version of the program. Alternatively, if they drive certain connected cars, they can have their driving data collected via the data communication module (DCM) installed in the car.

Below, we provide a brief overview of how the different versions of the program work.

Nationwide SmartRide mobile app

The Nationwide SmartRide mobile app uses your phone to monitor how you drive and award you insurance discounts. This app is separate from the standard Nationwide app, so you can't set up regular payments, pay your bill or store your insurance card on your phone using the SmartRide app. For that, you'll need to download the Nationwide mobile insurance app instead.

If you decide to use the app version, contact your insurance agent to enroll your policy. You'll immediately receive a 10% participation discount for enrolling in the program. Download the app, make sure location services are turned on and drive as you usually would, confirming the trips you take in the app. Continue to check the app to review driving feedback from Nationwide, to see your estimated discount and to check how much longer you have to drive.

Because the app follows the driver rather than the car, all vehicles and all drivers on the policy must be enrolled. To calculate the performance discount, Nationwide averages the discounts that all drivers have earned. If two drivers on the policy are in the car together and the app misidentifies the driver, you can remove the trip by selecting "not my trip" in the app.

At the end of the monitoring period, the discount you've earned will be applied to your policy and you can uninstall the app. If you're not satisfied with the discount you've earned, you can opt for another monitoring period and restart with the participation discount. Additionally, if you add a car or driver to your policy, Nationwide could change your discount at renewal as well.

The SmartRide app is available for both iPhone and Android. Users review the app moderately well, with Apple users awarding it a higher score (3.8 out of 5) than Android users (3.4 out of 5). Other usage-based programs have better-reviewed apps, so if a smooth mobile experience is your top priority in a telematics program, consider another app. Common problems highlighted in reviews of the Nationwide SmartRide app include the app's difficulty determining whether you are a passenger or a driver, and difficulty downloading the app.

Nationwide SmartRide device

The Nationwide SmartRide plug-in program uses a device that you plug in your vehicle's on-board diagnostics (OBD) port that scores your driving habits and rewards you for your good behavior with discounts on car insurance. The device tracks the same behaviors as the app-based version of the program and offers the same discount opportunities.

According to a reference guide for Nationwide company agents, there are two key differences between the app-based version and the device-based version of Nationwide SmartRide:

  • The device-based version of SmartRide follows the car rather than the driver. This means that the discount you earn only applies to the vehicles enrolled in SmartRide.
  • Users of the device-based version of SmartRide will go to nationwide.com/smartride and use their Nationwide login information to review their progress and insurance discount (as opposed to using a mobile app).

If data privacy is a concern, we'd recommend using the Nationwide device program over the Nationwide app. The mobile app follows your movements, whereas the device only follows your car's movements.

Installation is very easy: Simply insert the Nationwide SmartRide device into your car's OBD port, and two blinking lights will ignite to let you know you've successfully installed it. If you register more than one vehicle for SmartRide, you'll get multiple devices in the mail. Each device will come in a box with a label identifying which car it should be paired with.

What happens if you unplug SmartRide?

Nationwide SmartRide program materials show that if your device is unplugged more than 5% of the time, Nationwide will be unable to calculate your discount. At this point, you can either reenroll in the program and start all over again, or you can mail the device back to Nationwide.

Avoid unplugging the Nationwide SmartRide device if at all possible. You don't want to restart the program and forfeit any performance discount you may have earned.

Nationwide prequalified connected car program

If you drive a connected car and allow the manufacturer to gather driving data, you may be able to receive a Nationwide SmartRide discount without downloading the app or installing a device.

When you request a quote from Nationwide either online or via an agent, the company can view your data and let you know whether your performance makes you eligible for a SmartRide performance discount. You can keep this performance discount provided you continue to insure your car with Nationwide.

Cars that are eligible for Nationwide SmartRide include cars with a DCM that were made after 2015 by one of the following manufacturers:

  • Acura
  • General Motors
  • Genesis
  • Honda
  • Hyundai

What does Nationwide SmartRide track?

Nationwide SmartRide tracks the following driving behaviors:

  • Mileage: The more you're on the road, the more likely you are to get into an accident, so Nationwide factors this into your discount.
  • Nighttime driving: Driving in the wee hours is riskier than driving during the day, and Nationwide takes that risk into account when calculating your score.
  • Idle time: If your commute involves a good deal of idle time, you're likely in heavy traffic and therefore at greater risk for an accident.
  • Hard braking and quick accelerations: Nationwide considers speed changes of 7.7 mph per second a sign of high-risk driving.

Is Nationwide SmartRide worth it?

Nationwide SmartRide is worth it if you're a loyal policyholder looking for more ways to shave money off your discount. The program will not raise your rates or surcharge your policy, so you essentially have nothing to lose by adding it. At the very worst, you could receive the initial enrollment discount and then no discount at all after the monitoring period. At best, you could receive a discount of 40% off your auto insurance — one of the larger discounts offered by a usage-based program.

SmartRide is also a good fit if you struggle to keep your hands off your phone on the road. While other telematics programs penalize drivers for phone usage, SmartRide does not. Check out how SmartRide compares to other usage-based programs in the table below:

Program name
Maximum discount
Length of review period
Can premiums go up?
Phone usage impacts discount?
Nationwide SmartRide40%Four to six monthsNoNo
Progressive Snapshot$37 average sign-up discount, $145 average final discountFirst policy period (~six months)YesYes, if using Snapshot mobile app
Allstate DrivewiseNo maximum discount; initial sign-up discount, then drivers receive performance discounts for safe drivingFirst 50 trips (minimum of 60 days), then every six monthsDiscount may increase or decrease depending on driving performance during previous policy periodsNo
Liberty Mutual RightTrack30%90 daysNoNo
Geico DriveEasy25%First policy periodYesYes
State Farm Drive Safe & Save30%, 50% for some customersEach policy renewal period (~six months)Discount may increase or decrease depending on driving performance during previous policy periodsYes
USAA SafePilot20%Each policy renewal periodDiscount may increase or decrease based on performance during the policy period immediately prior to the discountYes

†The descriptions of policies for Drivewise are for the app-based program, as this is the most common version.

SmartRide is likely not the best fit for city drivers or for those who must be on the road late at night. While your rates will not go up, you might be able to score a bigger discount with another telematics program that does not take these factors into account.

What is a SmartRide device?

The Nationwide SmartRide device is a car tracker device that monitors your behavior so that you can receive discounts for your driving. Nationwide mails it to you 10 days after you sign up for the program, and you must install it within 45 days after your sign-up date. The Nationwide SmartRide device is only compatible with cars made after 1996.

Where in my car should I plug in the SmartRide device?

The Nationwide SmartRide device should be plugged into your car's on-board diagnostics port. Most OBD ports are located below the steering wheel. If you're struggling to find your OBD port, you can look up its location. Nationwide partnered with InstallerNet Inc. to develop a useful tool that allows you to enter your vehicle year, make and model and see where your OBD port is located.

What other discounts does Nationwide offer to lower car insurance rates?

Nationwide also offers SmartMiles, a low-mileage discount program. Policyholders pay a set base rate and then an additional amount that is paid per mile. ValuePenguin's review of Nationwide SmartMiles offers overall feedback on the program and explains how it works.

If you avoid at-fault accidents and major violations for five years, you can score a safe driver discount. If you purchase or lease your car from certain eligible manufacturers that partner with Nationwide, you can get $500 cash back via the Nationwide bonus drive rewards program.

Other, more standard discounts from Nationwide include a passive restraint discount for drivers who have airbags in their vehicle, a good student discount and a defensive driving course discount.

Check out our review of Nationwide insurance to learn more about the discount opportunities the company offers.

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.