Since its discovery, mobile DNA has fascinated researchers. In particular, many researchers have debated why insertion sequences persist in prokaryote genomes and populations. While some authors think that insertion sequences persist only because of occasional beneficial effects they have on their hosts, others argue that horizontal gene transfer is strong enough to overcome their generally detrimental effects. In this study, we model the long-term fate of a prokaryote cell population, of which a small proportion of cells has been infected with one insertion sequence per cell. Based on our model and the distribution of IS5, an insertion sequence for which sufficient data is available in 525 fully sequenced proteobacterial genomes, we show that the fitness cost of insertion sequences is so small that they are effectively neutral or only slightly detrimental. We also show that an insertion sequence infection can persist and reach the empirically observed distribution if the rate of horizontal gene transfer is at least as large as the fitness cost, and that this rate is well within the rates of horizontal gene transfer observed in nature. In addition, we show that the time needed to reach the observed prevalence of IS5 is unrealistically long for the fitness cost and horizontal gene transfer rate that we computed. Occasional beneficial effects may thus have played an important role in the fast spreading of insertion sequences like IS5.