Most major car insurance companies determine your rates based on factors like age, driving history, credit score, and zip code, but insurance start-up Root offers an interesting spin on the traditional car insurance model. Root offers to set your premiums based on how you drive, using a smartphone app that tracks things like how fast you drive, the speed of your turns, your breaking behavior and the consistency of the route you drive. You sign up for Root, complete a “test drive” period using the app and then Root sets your insurance rates based on your driving behavior.
Theoretically, Root saves you money by being picky about its drivers. If it only insures the best drivers with the safest driving habits, then it pays out fewer claims and can charge you less for insurance.
Root also has a trimmed-down operation — everything from applying to filing claims happens on the app, there are no agents, just a customer service team. And the app continues to track your driving wherever you go. When your six-month policy is up, it will be renewed, and your rates may change depending on how you drive during your policy period.
Some of the pros and cons of Root are obvious. For drivers who want to be able to speak to an insurance agent on the phone, receive their bills in hard copy and have the security that comes with a nearly-century old insurance company, Root is the wrong choice. It’s backed by venture capital, and it hasn’t been rated by A.M. Best, which rates the financial security of insurance companies. And Root has not yet been rated by places like Consumer Reports or J.D. Power, so there are no large-scale third-party assessments of customer satisfaction.
However, for drivers who are confident in their driving abilities and are willing to take a risk on a new player in the car insurance world, Root could lead to savings. You also have to be comfortable having your driving constantly monitored via the app, although traditional car insurance companies like Progressive, Allstate and Nationwide all have programs that track your driving and give discounts based on your driving.
As with all car insurance companies, online reviews for Root are mixed. Some drivers complained that they didn’t get the savings they wanted because of a low score on the test drive, and some complained about the claims process, while others said they had saved money by choosing Root over a traditional car insurance company.
Market Share: N/A
A.M. Best rating: N/A
Better Business Bureau rating: A+
J.D. Power Claims Satisfaction rating: N/A
As of August 2019, Root car insurance was available in 28 states: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Virginia.
Online, Root listed plans to expand to Alaska, Hawaii, New Hampshire, Nevada, North Carolina, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.
Root is somewhat bare-bones when it comes to coverage options. It offers the basic coverages that many drivers need, but Root does not offer gap insurance. When your car is totaled in an accident and you have comprehensive and collision coverage, you’ll be paid out the actual cash value (ACV) of the vehicle.
But sometimes the ACV isn’t enough to pay off a loan or a lease on your car — so gap coverage pays you the difference. Sometimes your lessor or lienholder will require you to have gap insurance, in which case Root wouldn’t be the right choice for you.
Liability coverage - Liability coverage protects you from the financial burden if you damage someone’s property or injure someone with your car. Liability insurance is required in most states.
Personal injury protection - Pays for your medical expenses or lost wages if you or your passengers are injured in an accident. PIP is required in some states.
Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage - Covers the costs if you’re in an accident caused by a driver without insurance, or whose insurance doesn’t cover the full extent of the damage they caused. This coverage is also required in some states.
Collision coverage - Covers the costs of damage to your car after an accident, regardless of who was at fault.
Comprehensive coverage - Covers the costs of damage to your car not caused by a collision, including damage from extreme weather, fire, flood, falling objects, vandalism and theft.
Roadside assistance - Roadside assistance covers the kind of emergencies that leave you stranded by the side of the road, like flat tires, dead batteries and running out of gas. Root stands out from the pack by offering roadside assistance standard with every policy.
Rental coverage - Pays for a rental car or a ridesharing service if your car is in the shop after an accident.
Root makes the claim online that it can save drivers as much as 52% on car insurance. From some customer testimonials, the savings claim seems to hold up — multiple people said they had saved more than $100 off their monthly payments since switching to Root.
But it’s important to consider more than just your monthly payments: insurance costs also depend on your coverage limits and deductibles. And since Root is based on your actual driving behavior, an accident may raise your rates, and a pattern of accidents could get your policy canceled altogether.
Root offers drivers their rate based on how they drive during their test drive period, plus a few other factors, so it’s difficult to predict what any given driver would be charged for a Root policy. That said, Root does offer drivers a pre-test drive quote. Our sample driver, a 30-year-old married homeowner in Flagstaff, Arizona with a 2015 Toyota Camry, was quoted $671 for a six-month policy before her test-drive. That would be $1,342 for a year at the same rate. Let’s take a look at the details of her policy.
|Basic Coverages||Policy Limits|
|Bodily injury liability||$100,000 each person, $300,000 each accident|
|Property damage liability||$100,000 each accident|
|Medical payments||$25,000 each person|
|Uninsured motorist bodily injury||$100,000 each person, $300,000 each accident|
|Underinsured motorist bodily injury||$250,000 each person, $500,000 each accident|
Total six-month premium = $671
Because Root bases your rates on your driving patterns and ability, it doesn’t have the same discount structure as traditional car insurance companies, which award discounts based on things like going a certain number of years without a claim, completing driver's education courses or having certain features in your car.
You can start getting your Root policy on their website or through the app. Entering your basic personal details takes you to a pre-test drive quote, with two options for coverage levels.
We noticed that the lower-coverage option had extremely low coverage limits, much less than we’d feel comfortable with, and high-deductibles. For example, property damage liability coverage limit they set for the “Root Base” policy covered up to $10,000 per accident, meaning that if an accident caused more than that in damage, we would be on the hook for the rest.
The higher-coverage option they offered us had slightly higher limits than some drivers might want, so drivers who are considering Root should consider researching how much coverage they need and then customizing their coverage levels to those specifications.
The next step is starting your Root test drive, the 2-3 week period during which the Root app tracks your driving and uses data about your driving to calculate a rate. If you qualify, you’ll be offered a rate for a Root policy.
So far, Root has not been rated by third-parties like J.D. Power, which does an annual claims satisfaction survey raking auto insurance, so that information that’s available about Root’s claims process is mostly anecdotal.
As we mentioned earlier, Root’s entire operation happens through their app, and that includes claims. You report a claim through the root app, provide information and include photos. Then, according to Root’s website, a claims expert will get in touch with you to continue the process. If you’d rather speak to a person, you can reach Root’s claims experts by phone, but only during business hours.
Online, some Root drivers complained of slow response times during the claims process, but others said they were happy with their claims payout and had not seen a rate increase after filing a claim.
So far, Root only offers car insurance, and does not insure other vehicles, like ATVs, exotic cars, motorcycles or commercial vehicles.
Phone: 1 (866) 980-9431
Headquarters: 80 E Rich Street, Suite 500, Columbus, OH, 43215
Policygenius’ editorial content is not written by an insurance agent. It’s intended for informational purposes and should not be considered legal or financial advice. The review on this page is only for the carrier’s car insurance products. Not all carriers are currently available through Policygenius. Speak to one of our licensed experts for more information on carrier availability.