Car Insurance Firms Revving up Mobile App Features

Progressive's new mobile app allows anyone with a smartphone to get car insurance quotes by taking a photo of their driver's license.

Called "Image Capture," the app is free and works with most mobile devices, including iPhones and smartphones that run on the Android operating system. Once downloaded and installed (it can be found at Progressive's mobile hub), policy-seekers take a snapshot of their driver's license, their auto's vehicle identification number (VIN) or existing insurance ID card. The app scans the image for necessary information such as name and address.

Once the details are confirmed by the user, Progressive sends a quote "in minutes," according to a company statement.

"The new technology, only available from Progressive, simplifies the insurance quoting and buying process," the statement says. "Image Capture is a first in the insurance industry, capitalizing on the popular technology used to deposit checks in the banking industry."

Progressive hopes to offer the app in every state by the end of the year, says Matt Lehman, the company's mobile business leader. So far, it's available in 15 states:

  • Arizona
  • Colorado
  • Florida
  • Iowa
  • Illinois
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • New Hampshire
  • Nevada
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Texas
  • Virginia
  • Wisconsin

Lehman says the app meets the needs of those who increasingly turn to technology in their daily lives. "We introduced Image Capture with the goal of simplifying the process" of auto insurance quote shopping, he says. "The new technology gives consumers another way [to shop for insurance quotes] by using items most people have in their pocket or purse -- a smartphone and a driver's license."

In regard to privacy issues, Lehman says the information gathered is confidential and "not stored on the mobile device. If the consumer decides not to buy the policy, it's no different than getting a quote online and choosing not to get the policy."

Which car insurance firm takes the checkered flag in mobile app usage?

Many insurers now have mobile apps. Here are some of the key players in the car insurance mobile app market and what they provide:

  • USAA: You can download an app at the company website that's compatible with all the major smartphones. The app provides coverage quotes, policy details, a rental car locator and roadside assistance. The app also helps you obtain an auto insurance ID card. USAA's app was recently rated the best in the insurance market by research group Key Lime Interactive (KLI).
  • Allstate: You can get this one at Allstate Mobile. It also works with most devices and can retrieve premium quotes and review an existing policy. The app also includes an "accident checklist," which lets you take notes after a mishap and list insurance and other information from the other driver.
  • GEICO: You can find apps at GEICO Mobile. You can access coverage quotes, as well as cost and coverage facts for individual policies. You can also contact agents, pay bills, get accident-related information and help, and access insurance ID cards.
  • State Farm: The insurer says it has added new features to its mobile app, "Pocket Agent." Besides quotes, the app now allows you to pay premiums, go through a checklist when filing a claim and access your insurance ID card. The app also provides a list of nearby repair shops if you've been in a collision.

According to KLI researchers, the apps should appeal to many consumers. "The ability to submit bill payments, view their detailed policy information, and enter detailed accident information including photos, scene details, date, etc. are reported to be the elements that mobile auto insurance users rank most critical," according to a KLI report.

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