Personal Finance

Root Insurance Review: App-Based Car Insurance

Overall Ranking

3.9/5

Overview

Fees

4/5

Features

4/5

Ease of Use

3.5/5

Customer Service

3.5/5

Root Insurance is changing things up by using your driving habits as the main factor in your car insurance rate.

Editor's Note

You can trust the integrity of our balanced, independent financial advice. We may, however, receive compensation from the issuers of some products mentioned in this article. Opinions are the author's alone. This content has not been provided by, reviewed, approved or endorsed by any advertiser, unless otherwise noted below.

Root is an app-based insurance provider that tracks your driving to give you price breaks based on safe driving habits. It also offers homeowners and renters insurance in select markets.

Most car insurance companies decide your rate based on factors like your location, marital status, and even your credit score. Root Insurance is changing things up by using your driving habits as the main factor in your car insurance rate.

In this review, we’ll take a look at what Root offers, as well as the pros and cons. I’ll explain my experience with the signup process and what customers are saying about this new insurance company. Although Root offers homeowners and renters insurance in limited locations, we’ll mostly focus on its auto insurance offerings.

What Does Root Insurance Offer?

Root’s main offering is auto insurance for residents in 30 states across the country. Residents in certain states can also get a homeowner’s or renter’s policy from Root.

  • Car Insurance: Auto insurance coverage options vary by state based on state minimum requirements and the available types of coverage in your area. For example, you may be able to get Personal Injury Protectionmy in Illinois, but not in California.
  • Homeowners Insurance: Root currently offers homeowners insurance in 18 states, called Root Home. It allows you to tailor your policy with endorsements for customized coverage.
  • Renters Insurance: Renters insurance is available from Root in nine states. It has several coverage plans available based on your needs.

Related: How Much Car Insurance Do I Need?

Unique Features of Root

By far the most unique feature of Root car insurance is the driving-based rating model, known as the Root Test Drive:

  • You download the Root app to your smartphone and sign up through the app.
  • You input your vehicle and license information right in the app.
  • The Root app works in the background and uses the sensors on your phone to track your driving habits.
  • You drive normally for a few weeks.
  • Root gives you an insurance quote based on your driving habits.

Root’s app-based driving monitor is designed to help the company limit its risk when insuring drivers by only insuring the safest drivers. Safer drivers generally have fewer insurance claims, which means Root doesn’t have to pay out as many claims to drivers who have been in accidents. The company claims to pass these savings on to you by offering lower rates.

If you accept the insurance offer and start getting coverage from Root, you’ll manage almost all aspects of your policy from the app. Features of the app for policyholders include:

  • Claims management
  • Driver Scorecard a report card on your driving habits
  • Achievements earn badges for your Root profile for meeting safe driving criteria
  • Ability to add or remove coverage
  • View your insurance card

A bonus feature of Root is that every policy comes with roadside assistance. Many other insurance providers only offer roadside assistance as an add-on to your policy, but Root includes it at no extra cost.

Synchronization

As app-based insurance, Root is only available for drivers with a newer smartphone. You’ll need an iPhone 5s or above. Root also works on most Android phones, but you’ll need to check the Google Play Store to find out if your model is supported.

Security

Root alleges it will never sell your data to third parties. The website and app itself seem to be developed with modern security standards. Some drivers may not like the idea of an app tracking all of their movements while driving, however.

Mobile Support

You can do almost anything in the Root app, making its mobile support some of the best available. If you need to make a basic change, such as increase your coverage limit, you simply request it in the app. Your monthly premium price will automatically update to reflect your change.

Customer Service and Support

Although Root offers 24/7 claims service in the app but has limited customer service hours. You can call its customer service line Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET. You can also email customer support. It claims to return most emails within 48 hours.

Promotions and Discounts

Root’s main focus is to insure safe drivers at lower rates, so there aren’t many traditional car insurance discounts available. However, Root does offer some discounts and promotions you could use to lower your insurance costs:

  • Discounts for Good Drivers: You’ll get a low rate from Root if you’re a safe driver. Continue your safe driving habits and you may be eligible for lower rates in the future as well.
  • Referral Program: Root offers a referral program with a cash bonus and you don’t even have to be a policyholder to refer drivers. Even if Root isn’t the right insurance for you, you can download the app, make a profile, and refer friends to the company. Your friend will need to download the Root app and take the Test Drive. If your friend qualifies for a quote, you both get a cash bonus ranging from $10 to $100.
  • Bundles with Homeowners or Renters Insurance: If Root Home or renters insurance is available in your area, you might be eligible for a discount by bundling your car insurance and home coverage.

Related: The Best Home and Auto Insurance Bundles

Root Insurance Pricing

Root Test Drive: A New Insurance Pricing Model

Unlike most traditional insurance companies, Root uses its smartphone app to track your driving habits. This allows them to offer better rates for better drivers. The company uses its Test Drive program to follow your driving for a few weeks and get a better idea of how safe you drive. While it also uses traditional factors to set your insurance rates, the company says it is committed to eliminating some traditional factors in the future, such as credit scores.

Car Insurance Pricing

Root claims to offer fair rates for safe drivers. If you qualify for a quote, you can expect to pay below-average premiums for your initial 6-month policy.

Homeowners Insurance Pricing

The cost of a Root Home policy will vary based on your location, potential discounts, and whether or not you bundle auto coverage from Root.

Related: The Best Homeowners Insurance Companies

Renters Insurance Pricing

According to the Root website, renters insurance starts at $6 a month, depending on availability.

Related: The Best Renters Insurance Companies

The Sign-Up Process

You can sign up for Root car insurance through the Root app. You can also request a quote online, but you will likely need to download the app and complete the Test Drive program to get an official policy offer.

My Personal Experience

Root is not currently available where I live, so I used a friend’s address in San Diego to get a car insurance quote online. I had trouble getting the website to work the first time I tried to request a quote. The pages were slow to load and regularly crashed throughout the process. I decided to wait a couple of days and try again.

On my second attempt, the process was smooth and the prompts loaded quickly. I was able to get a quote on the Root website within a few minutes. However, I never received an email with my quote directly, only being able to view it on the website.

Pros and Cons of Root Insurance

  • Low Fees — Root can offer lower prices than many competitors by being selective about which drivers it insures.

  • Mostly Based on Safe Driving — The biggest factor in your car insurance quote is your driving. If you’re a safe driver, you could potentially save money just based on how you normally drive.

  • App-Based — You can do almost anything with your policy from the convenient smartphone app — including asking Root to request to cancel your old insurance for you.


  • Limited Coverage Area — Root isn’t available everywhere. You’re out of luck if you don’t live in the service area, like me, or if you move to a state that’s not supported.

  • Young Company — Root was only founded in 2015, making it much younger — and unproven — over other insurance companies, some of which have been around over a hundred years. Currently, Root doesn’t have an AM Best or JD Power insurance rating.

  • Rates Often Increase After 6 Months — Many of the complaints on Root’s BBB profile mention increases in rates after six months. Even if you’re a good driver, you might face a jump in your car insurance premium after your initial term.

Alternatives to Root

CompanyOverviewBest For
RootAn app-based insurance company offering car insurance in 30 states.Safe, tech-savvy drivers looking for basic coverage
AllstateOne of the largest insurance providers, offering all types of insurance (including car, home, and life).Drivers looking for traditional coverage and discounts
MetromilePay-per-mile auto insurance that charges a base premium and additional cost per mile driven.Drivers who rarely drive their vehicles

Allstate

Allstate offers almost any type of coverage, discounts, or insurance bundles you might want. You’ll also probably be able to find a local agent in your area. Working with a local agent could make it easier to handle claims, get coverage, or qualify for discounts, as you’re able to build a personal relationship with your agent.

However, not everyone wants or needs a traditional insurance experience. Although you could qualify for Allstate discounts, you may not want to deal with piecing together different discounts for the best rate.

Metromile

Metromile is a unique type of insurance that could potentially save you hundreds or thousands of dollars on car insurance — if you don’t drive much. Metromile policies work on a pay-per-mile program, meaning you pay a certain amount for each mile you drive on top of a base premium. If you work from home or don’t drive a lot, this could be a great option.

Of course, you have to live in one of only eight states where Metromile is available. If you’re outside of California, Oregon, Washington, Illinois, Arizona, Virginia, Pennsylvania, or New Jersey, you won’t be able to get pay-per-mile insurance from Metromile.

Who is Root For?

Root car insurance is best for safe, tech-savvy drivers who are looking to get basic, affordable coverage. It’s ideal for someone who doesn’t drive a lot, as less time spent on the road means less chance of logging unsafe driving behaviors in the app.

What Others are Saying About Root

Root has a BBB rating of A+ and has been BBB accredited since 2017. However, there are more than 347 complaints on the Root BBB profile. The good news is that every one of these complaints has been resolved — which could indicate that the company is keeping up with complaints and doing its best to make things right for the customer.

I took a look through the reviews on Root’s BBB profile to get a better idea of what actual customers were saying:

“I received a 6-month, $600 policy after receiving a good driving score on their app. It had good coverage, not great. After maintaining a perfect 10/10 driving score in their app for 6 months, they quoted my renewal cost at $980 for the same policy! They had no explanation for the increase, and when I asked, they said it was a combination of the weather and the risk in my area. I haven’t moved or significantly changed driving habits, and the weather sure doesn’t justify a 60% cost increase. It’s a classic bait-and-switch, so I’m canceling and moving to a more reputable, established insurance company.”

—  William M via BBB 12/05/2020

“I’ve really enjoyed having my insurance through this company. My rate has gone down, never up. I like being able to see how well I’m driving and what I could work on. They have always been easy to get in contact with. I really have nothing bad to say about this company. I wish I would have switched earlier.”

—  Mona C via BBB 08/22/2020

My Recommendation

As mentioned above, I don’t live within Root’s service area, but was able to request a quote online using a friend’s address. One of the annoyances of the signup process was the amount of outdated information Root seemed to be pulling from unknown public sources.

After inputting my name, the program requested my driver’s license number and vehicle information. This is pretty standard, except that Root auto-filled my information with outdated data. It included my driver’s license from a previous address in an entirely different state. It also suggested I add each driver in my household — which included my parents, myself (as an additional person), and my aunt and uncle. I have never lived with my aunt and uncle and haven’t lived with my parents in over 5 years. When it was time to add my vehicles, Root suggested my parent’s current vehicles, but not my vehicle.

This incorrect data made me question where Root was getting customer data — and what it is doing with the data it collects in its app. Its privacy policy states it won’t sell your data to third parties, but I would contact customer support and ask about customer data collection and use before signing up.

Even with these concerns, I’d recommend Root to drivers who want basic coverage and a no-hassle approach to insurance. I wouldn’t recommend Root if you’re looking for high levels of coverage or personalized support.

How I Scored Root

I scored Root insurance based on my personal experience signing up for a quote, the information on the Root website, and the customer reviews and complaints from the BBB. I made sure to consider the fact that most people will leave a negative review after a bad experience but not a positive review if they’ve had a good experience. Some reviews had to be disregarded because they came from someone who was confused by its car insurance policy, not because Root had done something wrong.

Bottom Line: Is Root Insurance Right for You?

Root seems to have some growing pains, especially related to price increases after initial insurance terms. It’ll likely need to address this issue to become a major player in the insurance market. However, Root’s model of pricing insurance based on driving habits could be beneficial for many drivers. If you’re looking for affordable car insurance and only need basic coverage, I suggest taking the Test Drive and seeing if you qualify.

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