Just when you thought all auto insurance companies were the exact same, along comes a company willing to disrupt the traditional way of doing business. Our Root insurance review is here to take a closer look at what exactly this insurance company is doing for drivers, and if it’s worth a second look.
Insurance companies are not exactly known for cutting-edge technology and innovation. However, it does have to adapt to the changing needs of drivers. One area where there has been pushback in recent years is with the criteria the insurance companies use to insure drivers.
Insurance companies almost always pull a driver’s credit score and use other personal factors, such as where they live, marital status, and age to name a few, as a means for determining premiums. Is this fair? Some would argue no. And Root insurance was born out of this very thought. Now based in Columbus, Ohio, this startup is trying to shake up how quotes and coverage are obtained.
Root offers car insurance for drivers who prefer their quotes to be based on their driving behaviors, and not on demographics. From Root’s standpoint, basing auto insurance premiums solely on a driver's age, gender, credit score, zip code, and other personal factors are antiquated and rooted in unfair, systemic discrimination.
Root not only bases its premiums mostly on a driver’s behaviors, but it is a technology-driven company. It encourages drivers and policyholders to conduct as much of their business through the app or online. And unlike other companies, there is no paperwork involved to get started.
As a result of using current driver behaviors versus demographics, Root contends it is able to save drivers hundreds of dollars per year by switching.
In addition to auto insurance, Root offers homeowners and renters insurance policies. Although car insurance appears to be the main focus of the company, if you choose to purchase a renters or homeowners policy alongside an auto policy, then you could save even more with a bundling discount.
Getting a quote is a very straightforward process and involves the use of telematics. The first step is to download the Root app. You will start the process of what is referred to as the “Test Drive.” The test drive monitors your driving habits via the app and this information is sent back to Root.
Once Root has your data from the test-drive period, it provides you with a quote. But what exactly is Root looking for when you’re driving around town with your Bluetooth on? There are several categories of interest to the company, including:
Focused driving. If you stay focused on the road and are not distracted by texts, incoming calls, or other distractions.
Smooth braking. Root wants to make sure you allow plenty of time for braking. Sudden braking signals you are following the cars in front of you too closely.
Gentle turning. Slowing down and easing out of turns is the key here. Root wants to make sure you aren’t making a habit of turning corners on two wheels.
Safe hours. Are you driving during more dangerous times, such as at night and into the morning?
The Test Drive Process
The process for the test drive takes about three weeks. The app is running in the background, so even if you forget to engage the app before driving, there’s no need to worry.
Once Root has enough information, it will offer you a rate quote. Root does not guarantee it will make every driver an offer, but if you demonstrate safe driving habits, then there may be a quote available.
Another point of consideration is the app monitors all driving. This means if you drive for a living, such as with a rideshare company, or use your vehicle for a postal route, truck driving, or any other occupation on the road, then Root uses every single drive time for the quote. While this may not be an issue for some, an increase in trips could increase the likelihood of unsafe driving habits getting monitored.
It’s also important to note Root does not exclusively base the quote on driving behaviors alone. It simply puts more emphasis on them than a traditional insurance carrier would.
Selecting Your Insurance Options
Part of the quote process is selecting the coverage options and limits for your Root policy. Root offers the following auto insurance coverage options, although some of these are required by law in some states.
Bodily injury liability (BI). BI is required by law in almost all states. It pays for expenses for other drivers related to injuries, funeral costs, and lost wages as a result of an accident you have caused.
Property damage liability (PD). PD is also required by law for drivers and pays for property damage as a result of an accident you have caused. This includes both other vehicles and property.
Collision. Collision covers damage to your own vehicle due to colliding with another vehicle or falling object. Although not required by law, lenders require this coverage if you finance or lease your vehicle.
Comprehensive. Comprehensive covers damage to your own vehicle resulting from something other than colliding with another vehicle. Common examples include theft, vandalism, weather-related damage, or animals. Like collision, lenders require this coverage if you finance or lease your vehicle.
Personal injury protection (PIP). PIP is required by law in some states and an option in others. This covers medical expenses and lost wages for you and your passengers if you are involved in an accident, no matter who is ruled at fault.
Medical payments. Similar to PIP, but some states require Medical Payments coverage versus PIP. It is for medical expenses only for you and your passengers.
Uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM). UM/UIM is optional in some states and required by law in others. This pays for medical expenses for you if you are in a crash with someone who does not have insurance coverage or high enough insurance limits to cover expenses.
Roadside assistance. This emergency assistance is included in all Root policies. It provides help if your car is inoperable, such as needing a refuel, locksmith, or towing.
Rental car. This reimbursement kicks in if your vehicle is being repaired or replaced due to an accident. You can choose either rental car coverage or Lyft reimbursement to provide rides for you in this situation.
If you are unsure which coverages are legally required in your state, or which ones you should add or dismiss, the Root app will guide you through everything. Once your location is determined, the proper, legal recommendations will be given to you.
As with all auto insurance policies, insurance premiums are as individual as the drivers themselves. This means your quote will be different from everyone else's.
In addition to the behaviors observed during your test drive, the pricing is also dependent on the coverage options you select. Options such as collision and comprehensive (if you own your vehicle outright) will increase the cost of your policy but could provide greater financial protection.
For those who prefer managing everything on your smartphone, you will find the Root app provides the ultimate convenience. Most insurance providers do not allow you to obtain quotes and make changes to your policy through the mobile app, but Root is different with this feature.
Full coverage available
“Full coverage” is not technically a type of coverage in auto insurance. Instead, it typically refers to bodily injury and property damage liability, plus comprehensive and collision coverage, plus any other coverage mandated by your state. Root offers full coverage policies to drivers if needed.
Will file an SR-22 form
If you are one of the many high-risk drivers who must file a court-ordered SR-22 form, which provides proof of auto insurance, then Root can file the form for you.
Root claims because of its unique driver selection criteria, it is able to pass along savings to drivers. While lower rates are not guaranteed, it is possible to save hundreds a year on auto insurance, according to the Root website.
There are certain drivers Root is well-suited for. This includes:
For those who like managing their quotes and policies online or through the app, then Root is definitely a strong choice. Almost all actions take place within the app, from quotes to filing claims, to contacting customer service. You can also update your policy on the go.
Since your premiums are based on your safe driving habits, it’s understandable drivers with the safest behaviors and the least amount of claims would benefit the most from this insurance.
Drivers with Poor Credit
With higher emphasis placed on safe drivers, versus those with a certain credit score, drivers with poor credit may be able to secure a policy with Root. Traditional car insurance companies pull credit as part of the quote process. Root has stated it will cease pulling credit scores by 2025 and will rely on other factors.
Who Shouldn’t Use Root?
Although Root offers plenty of features and is a great option for tech-savvy customers, some drivers may not benefit from this company.
Those Who Want a Local Relationship
There are some drivers who prefer to work with local insurance agents for quotes and policy management. A local option is not available through Root. Additionally, the customer service hours are limited to business hours throughout the week, which means most businesses must be conducted online or through the app.
Not Available Everywhere
Root Car Insurance is limited to specific locations, this applies to auto, homeowners, and renters insurance. When requesting a quote, Root will advise you right away if you live in a state where coverage is available.
Drivers Who Need More Policy Options
Although Root provides coverage to meet all legal requirements, there are options not offered that may be important to you. At this time, Root does not offer options for:
Custom equipment or sound equipment
Pet coverage (when riding in the vehicle)
Vanishing deductibles or accident forgiveness
If you need to customize your policy beyond the basics, you may find Root’s choices to be limited. The discount options are somewhat limited as well. Currently, there are only discounts offered for paying premiums in full and bundling with other Root policies.
Pros and Cons
The unique quote process is based more on the way you drive and less on personal factors, such as zip code, gender, and marital status.
An easy-to-navigate app where you can conduct virtually all quote and policy management.
Potential savings of hundreds of dollars per year based on your driving behaviors and other factors.
Roadside assistance is included in all policies. If you do not need this coverage, you can request to be reimbursed for it.
Numerous customer complaints. Although Root receives an A+ BBB rating, there are currently over 350 complaints registered in the past few years. Additionally, Root has one of the highest rates for registered customer complaints through the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) with a current 4.0 score. The industry average is set at 1, which means Root is 4x the market.
Not available in all states.
Limited specialty coverage options, such as gap insurance or rideshare coverage.
A.M. Best rating not yet established. Until Root is reviewed by a third-party company, such as A.M. Best, it is harder for consumers to understand the financial strength of the carrier.
Root vs. competitors
Full policy management in-app
Available in all 50 states and Washington D.C.
A.M. Best Rating
Number of discounts offered
Not yet reviewed
Geico is one of the largest insurance providers in the country, and there is a reason why this insurer is so popular. In addition to Superior financial strength ratings with A.M. Best, Geico offers a full range of options for policies, including some specialty coverages. With Geico’s list of 16 available discounts, drivers are bound to find numerous methods to save on a policy.
As the largest provider of auto insurance in the U.S., State Farm offers a full range of options for obtaining a quote and complete policy management. From local agents, the mobile app, online, or the 24/7 customer service, State Farm has you covered no matter your communication preference.
Allstate offers full car insurance coverage, as well as specialty options such as coverage for teen drivers. Like Geico, State Farm, and other traditional insurance carriers, Allstate relies on factors such as age, gender, marital status, driving history, vehicle, and credit score to determine premiums. You can, however, save with quite a few discounts, since Allstate currently offers 14 to choose from.
At this time, Root is not available in all 50 states. However, the coverage area is quite extensive and has grown considerably since its first inception. It also currently covers Washington D.C. The states that do not support Root currently include Alabama, Alaska, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Washington, Wyoming, and Vermont.
What if I need to speak to a human?
If you need to speak with someone in customer service, you will need to call between business hours (generally 9 to 5) during the week. There is a separate phone number for filing claims, but you can start the process anytime through the app.
Does Root cost less versus other insurance providers?
The only way to know if you can save money on premiums is to go through the test drive process with Root. There are no guarantees any insurance provider will save you money, but the Root website does claim it can help some drivers save hundreds of dollars per year.
While the concept and mission of Root insurance are definitely one to be applauded, a driver would need to think carefully before signing on. You would need to be comfortable with an app-based relationship, limited financial strength ratings, and a questionable number of negative customer reviews. If all of this is negotiable for you, and Root is able to save you hundreds of dollars each year, then it may be worth considering.
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