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What is black box car insurance?

Black box car insurance, also known as telematics car insurance, monitors the way you drive through a small device fitted to your vehicle. This allows your insurance provider to give you a personalised insurance quote based on your driving habits.

The safer your driving is, the lower your insurance premiums might be when you come to renew.

What is a black box car?

A black box car is simply a vehicle that has a GPS tracking device fitted to it for insurance purposes. A black box can be fitted to most cars, regardless of the make or model. However, depending on the provider and the black box they use, your car may have to be under 15-20 years old.

What does a black box do?

The black box device records a range of data about your driving, including:

  • Braking and acceleration
  • Speed
  • Cornering
  • Steering
  • Mileage
  • What time of day you drive
  • Where you drive
  • Number of journeys.
  • If you're using your mobile phone while driving.

How is a black box installed?

You can either install the device yourself or have it professionally fitted – depending on what your insurance provider offers.

  • Self-installed black box – you’ll be sent a small device to plug into your car’s diagnostics port or cigarette lighter. You may need to pair it with a mobile phone app.
  • Mechanic-installed black box – your insurance provider will arrange for an engineer to install this device. It’s typically placed out of sight, often behind the dashboard, so it doesn’t distract you while you’re driving.
  • Smartphone app – some insurance providers offer a telematics app that uses your smartphone’s GPS to gather data about your driving. You won’t need to have a device installed.

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How does black box car insurance work?

Once the black box device is installed and activated, or your app is connected and up and running, your insurance provider will be able to collect a range of information about your driving habits using GPS and motion sensors.

Get your driver score

Insurance providers will generate a driver score based on how, when and where you drive. Exactly how you’ll be scored will depend on the provider, but you’ll often be given a score out of 100, with the highest scores given to the safest drivers.

Some providers may break your score down into categories, so you can clearly see what you’re doing well and where you could improve. They could, for example, give you a separate score for: 

  • How you drive – including how smoothly you brake and accelerate, and if you’re driving at a safe speed limit for the conditions of the road.
  • When you drive – including how often you’re behind the wheel and at what times of day. For example, if you frequently drive at night, when it’s statistically riskier to drive, this could mean a lower score.
  • Where you drive – including the types of roads you tend to travel on, whether that’s on motorways, rural roads or in busy urban areas, and where you park your car at night.

Get feedback on your driving

You can track your score via your provider’s app or online dashboard. It will update after a set timeframe, based on how you’ve been driving. Depending on your provider’s terms, this could be once a week, once a day or even after each journey.

You’ll also get feedback and personalised tips on how to improve your score.

Pay less next year if you score well

When it’s time to renew your insurance, your provider will review your driving habits and base the cost on your score. This means you could pay less if you’ve been driving safely. And if you haven’t made any claims, you could earn a no claims discount.

Author image Julie Daniels

What our expert says...

“There’s evidence to show that having a black box in the car can help drivers to be more aware and drive more safely. Plus, a telematics policy could be a cheaper option, and not just for younger drivers. Whatever your age, but particularly if you’re a young driver, it’s well worth comparing to see if a telematics policy is right for you.”

- Julie Daniels, Motor insurance comparison expert

Who is black box car insurance good for?

Black box policies can be especially good for young, new and inexperienced drivers who are typically charged more for insurance because they’re considered higher risk by providers.

Young drivers aged 17-24 pay £2,116[1] for their car insurance, compared to the typical cost of £924[2] for comprehensive insurance.

With a telematics policy, drivers can improve their skills and experience behind the wheel to show they’re less of an insurance risk. By showing that they can consistently drive safely, younger drivers could get a cheaper quote at renewal.

Black box insurance could also benefit drivers with motoring convictions who need to prove they’re safe on the road again.

[1] 51% of young drivers between 17-24 years old could achieve a quote of up to £2115.69 for their car insurance based on Compare the Market data in March 2024.

[2] 51% of our customers were quoted less than £923.46 for their comprehensive car insurance in March 2024.

Is car insurance cheaper with a black box?

A black box could make your car insurance cheaper, but it depends on your age and how you drive. If you’re a safe and sensible driver, then you could be rewarded with cheap black box insurance.

On the other hand, if you behave more like a rally driver, you could face higher premiums at your renewal date.

There are a few things you can do to get a cheaper telematics car insurance policy at renewal, including:

  • Improve your driver score – follow your provider’s tips to become a safer driver.
  • Build up a no claims bonus – every year you go without claiming on your car insurance could help you build your no claims discount.
  • Watch your mileage – spending less time behind the wheel could mean a cheaper quote.
  • Choose your car wisely – choosing a vehicle in a lower car insurance group could mean cheaper premiums.
  • Park in a secure location – the black box can monitor where you park overnight. Choosing a safer location, like a garage or driveway, means your car is less likely to be stolen.
  • Increase your excess – agreeing to pay a higher voluntary excess could mean a lower premium, but make sure you can afford to pay it if you do need to claim.
  • Pay annually, rather than monthly – as with all car insurance, paying for the year upfront means you won’t be charged interest.
  • Shop around – don’t go with the first price you see. Compare black box insurance quotes to see what else is on the market.

How much does a telematics policy reduce insurance?

While fitting a black box might not make your car insurance cheaper straight away, you could be rewarded with a discount on renewal if you continue to drive sensibly and safely.

You’ll also start to build up a no claims discount if you stay claim-free thanks to your safer driving.

But having a telematics policy doesn’t guarantee you a cheaper quote come renewal. Your premiums could go up or down depending on how you drive. If you speed and drive recklessly or carelessly, you can expect to face high premiums at your renewal date.

What are the advantages of black box car insurance?

The benefits of a telematics policy include:

  • Improved driving skills – get customised tips on how you can become a better driver through your insurance provider’s app on your phone.
  • Rewards for safer driving – prove that you’re a safe and responsible driver, and you could get a cheaper quote when it’s time to renew your policy.
  • Theft deterrence – the GPS technology in the black box can be used by police to find your car if it’s stolen.
  • Evidence in an accident – if you’re involved in a crash, data from the black box can potentially be used to establish who was at fault and speed up the claims process.
  • Savings for not driving – if you don’t drive many miles or you drive mainly during off-peak hours, your premium could go down.
  • It’s fairer – if you’re a safe driver, you’re not penalised because other drivers your age drive recklessly.

What are the disadvantages of black box car insurance?

The downsides of telematics insurance include:

  • Hidden fees – some insurance providers may charge for missed installation, as well as cancelling or removing the black box.
  • Journey constrictions – driving at night can lower your driver score and going over your estimated mileage could up your premiums.
  • Higher premiums for bad drivers – regularly driving fast and slamming on the brakes could mean you end up paying more for your car insurance.
  • Less careful named drivers – most black box car insurance policies won’t be able to tell who is driving your car, so be careful about adding other people to your policy.
  • Driver score not transferrable – insurance providers don’t share data on your driving. So, if you have a good record and switch to a different provider, you may have to build up your driving data again.
  • Boxes can sometimes give wrong readings – for example, driving over a pothole or speed bump may give a wrong reading. Weather and lack of signal can also affect the reading.

Black box insurance rules

If you stick to these basic black box insurance rules, then a telematics policy could work well for you.

1. Stick to the speed limit  
All drivers should do this whether they have a black box installed or not. It will help keep down your insurance cost too.

2. Accelerate gently
Smooth and steady is the way to go. Your black box will be measuring how fast you accelerate.

3. Be road-aware and brake in plenty of time
Avoid tailgating. Remember the stopping distances you learned in your theory test and slow down appropriately.

4. Know what your policy says about driving at night
If you regularly need to drive at night, a telematics policy may not be right for you.

5. Watch your mileage
Many black boxes track your mileage. If you go over your expected limit, you might be asked to pay more. Some policies reward safer driving with extra miles.

6. Be careful about who you allow behind the wheel
The box can’t distinguish between different drivers. If someone else is driving and speeding, this will have a negative impact on your score.

7. Don’t tamper with the box
Don’t try to be smart and outwit the box. Don’t try to turn it off, jam it or remove it. The box is there to keep your premiums low. You want your safe driving to be recorded and taken account of.

Remember, your score is based on your overall driving standard over a period of time. One-offs, like braking hard to avoid a car that’s suddenly pulled out in front of you, shouldn’t affect your score.

Did you know?

Factors such as ‘loss of control’, ‘exceeding speed limit’ and ‘careless driving’ are more likely to be recorded in collisions involving younger drivers compared with vehicles driven by motorists of other ages, according to government accident statistics in 2022.

Is black box car insurance right for me?

Although telematics policies are generally aimed at young and new drivers, most are open to all ages so could benefit any driver who doesn’t have the best safety record. Not only could they help save you money on your premium, they could also improve your driving standards.

But telematics car insurance won’t be right for everyone. Regular night-time driving is likely to reduce your driving score, so if you often work late shifts or drive your car overnight, it may not be the best option for you.

The number of miles you drive is a factor too. It might not be a good idea if your driving habits change so much that you risk going over your expected mileage. And if you only drive occasionally, a pay-as-you-go car insurance policy could be a better fit.

How do I get a black box car insurance quote?

To get a black box insurance quote, you’ll need to tell us about:

  • Your car – you’ll need the registration number to buy a policy.
  • How you use your car (for business, leisure or commuting) and how many miles you expect to drive in a year.
  • Your no-claims discount.
  • Your driving history – any claims, accidents and driving convictions from the past five years.
  • Additional drivers – if you want to add other drivers to the policy, we’ll need a few details about them.
  • Your personal details, including your name, address, age and occupation.
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[1] Based on Online independent research by Consumer Intelligence during March 2024, 51% of customers could achieve this saving on their car insurance through Compare the Market.

 

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Frequently asked questions

Can I see my black box data?

You typically need to log into an app or online portal to see data that’s been collected by your black box.

Many apps offer driving tips based on your score. If you have a bad journey, some providers might go as far as calling you to talk through your score and some options to improve your driving skills.

Some apps encourage you to build streaks for safe journeys and achieve badges, as well as save money at renewal. Other policies may offer perks for safe driving, such as bonus miles.

Can I drive my car before the black box is installed?

While it’s always best to check if you can drive before your black box is installed, most insurance providers won’t make you wait until it’s fitted before insuring you to drive. But you won’t build up a driver score until the box is fitted.

What happens if I get a bad score on my black box?

You’ll get a warning from your provider if you repeatedly score badly or your driving is considered extremely dangerous.

If your score remains low, your premium may go up or your black box car insurance policy could be cancelled, which can make it much harder and more expensive to find another mainstream provider.

How long do you need to have the black box?

Black box car insurance policies last for 12 months. The black box will need to be installed for as long as your policy is active.

What happens if you go over your estimated mileage with a black box?

Driving more miles than you estimated when you took out your telematics policy usually means you’ll have to pay more.

Generally, your insurance provider will periodically check your mileage to see if you’re on track to meet your estimate. If it looks like you’re going to be over by more than a certain amount, they’ll usually contact you to say they need to raise your premium.

Check the terms to see how it works for your telematics policy.

Are there any specific eligibility criteria for black box car insurance?

Providers will probably have some eligibility criteria you need to meet to get a black box. These may include the car’s age, value and annual mileage.

Make sure you meet the requirements of a specific provider before you apply for a telematics policy.

Does black box car insurance involve any extra costs?

There isn’t usually an extra charge for installing the black box. Although some providers will charge you if you miss the installation.

If the black box needs to be fitted by a mechanic, this is normally factored into the cost of taking out your policy, along with the cost of the black box itself. However, there can be a charge for cancelling and disconnecting it. Some insurance providers may also charge you if you buy a new car and need to move the box.

Will my telematics data be shared?

No, the information from your black box won’t be shared with a third party, except for the police.

And the police would only get access to your telematics data if they asked for it as part of a formal criminal investigation and legal permission was in place to allow them to access it.

However, it’s worth noting that if you’re the named driver on a telematics insurance policy, then the policyholder will be able to see your data and driving score. Something to bear in mind if you’re on a parent’s policy.

Does a black box know if you crash?

The black box measures G-force, so it will recognise the impact force of a collision if you’re involved in an accident. It will also record: 

  • How fast you were travelling at the time of the crash 
  • Where the crash took place 
  • What time the crash happened. 

If you’re in a collision that wasn’t your fault and the other driver won’t accept responsibility, the information from your black box could be used as evidence to build a case in your favour.

Can I have a named driver with a black box policy?

You should be able to have a named driver added to your black box car insurance policy.

But the black box won’t know who is driving when, because it collects and records data on the car, not the driver. This means if you add a named driver who drives poorly, it will be reflected in the driving score that shows on your policy, not theirs.

There are some black box apps that allow you to assign journeys to named drivers on your policy. However, it’s important to be honest about this or it could invalidate your policy.

What happens to the black box after the insurance policy ends?

If you switch your insurance provider when your policy ends instead of renewing it, you can remove a self-fitted box yourself and send it back or recycle it.

If you have a professionally fitted black box, your old provider will simply deactivate it so it no longer records your driving data. They may send someone out to remove it. If they don’t, you could choose to have it removed for a fee.

If I switch insurance provider, can I take my telematics data with me?

You can’t take data with you if you switch provider. And, in most cases, the black box itself can’t be transferred from one provider to another.

How is the black box removed?

If you have a professionally fitted black box, your insurance provider may arrange for someone to remove it at a time that works for you, normally at a cost.

Don’t attempt to remove it yourself, unless you’re told to.

Will the police be automatically informed if I go over the speed limit?

No, the police can only access your telematics data if they ask for it as part of a formal investigation and legal permission is in place to allow them to access it.

Do all black boxes have curfews?

Some telematics policies used to have curfews to prevent people driving during later hours when accidents are more likely to happen, but they’re much less common these days.

That said, driving regularly in the dark could have a negative impact on your driving score which, in turn, could increase your premiums.

Can you have a black box at any age?

Some black box policies only cover motorists under 25, while others are open to all ages.

Do telematics devices record my conversations?

No, black box technology doesn’t record audio in your car. It only collects data on how, when and where you drive.

Page last reviewed on 31 MAY 2024
by Julie Daniels