By Sarah Hemphill

Root Auto Insurance Review

Root Insurance is a rapidly growing newcomer in the auto insurance marketplace. To get a quote from Root, you don’t call an agent or fill out questions online. Rather, you download the company's app and start driving. The app collects data as you drive and provides you a scorecard as it tracks your driving habits like braking, turning, speed, and time of day.

After this "drive test," which usually lasts a few weeks, the app then presents your quote. Because Root uses your driving habits as the biggest factor in determining your premium, rather than the usual factors like age or gender, Root has flipped traditional pricing methods on their heads. The company even claims that it denies coverage to poor drivers to keep the cost of insurance low for everyone in its pool.

Root’s method doesn’t save everyone money, and it doesn't have as many options for customization and live support — but for safe drivers willing to use Root’s app as their primary interface, there is real opportunity to gain impressive savings.

The Claim

Root Insurance claims that it saves its drivers up to 52% with fast, easy, fair, personalized auto insurance. Its car insurance is based on how you drive rather than who you are, and the entire experience lives in a simple, easy-to-use app.

Is it true?

The savings could be real — if Root finds you to be a safe driver.

Root is upfront about the fact that it doesn’t save everyone money, just those whom the app deems safe drivers, based on the few weeks of data collection. There are plenty of reviews by those who have switched to Root and saved quite a bit on their premiums, but there are also consumers who have taken the test and chosen not to switch. As with all insurance companies, the quote you receive is incredibly personal, so it's hard to know if you'll experience massive savings without taking the test yourself.

As for Root's claim to "fast" quotes, the reality is also a little more nuanced. The app needs a certain amount of data before it can produce an accurate quote, so the speed at which you'll receive your quote depends entirely on how much you drive; if you drive to work everyday, for instance, you'll receive a quote much faster than if you only use your car for trips to the grocery store. If you're looking for immediate insurance, you may find that a traditional online quote from an established provider is a better bet.

Additionally, with a company as new as Root, standard indicators of the company’s financial stability don’t exist yet. However, a recent analysis by S&P Global praises the company for its rapid growth and response to early challenges, commending the company for its operations and for fulfilling its claims obligations. Root’s rapid growth points to effective delivery on its basic promises, and while it's only available in 29 states as of October 2019, it's pacing to soon become a nationwide provider.

Product Overview

  • In business since: 2015
  • Number of states served: 29
  • A.M. Best financial strength rating: N/A
  • S&P Global financial strength rating: N/A
  • Moody's financial strength rating: N/A
  • Standout features: App service interface, usage-based premium pricing, rental coverage, roadside assistance, free Lyft rides on holidays
  • Pros: Premiums based on driving habits, app-focused
  • Cons: Little customization, limited live agent support

Features

Standard coverage options
Bodily Injury
Property Damage
Collision
Comprehensive
Medical Payments
Personal Injury Protection
Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Bodily Injury
Uninsured Motorist Property Damage
Rental
Roadside Assistance (included with all policies)
Add-on coverage options
Rental coverage (or Lyft reimbursement)
Advertised discounts
N/A
Other features
Referral program
Free Lyft rides on holidays
Tesla Autopilot discount

Savings based on driver habits

For all consumers, usage-based insurance can present opportunities for savings that traditional pricing cannot. This is especially true for people who fall into high-risk categories, like teenagers. Many insurers hike up prices for teenagers simply due to their age; with Root, teens (and other "high-risk" groups) have equal opportunity for low rates. And while other providers offer usage-based insurance, Root's business model ensures that only "low-risk" drivers are insured — also helping to keep Root's premiums low.

App interface for all interactions

For those who prefer paperless transactions and as few phone calls as possible, Root’s app provides a welcome new way to execute all dealings with your auto insurance provider. Even your insurance card is stored inside the app rather than provided as a hard copy.

Claims are also handled via the app, which allows you to capture photos of accidents and accident reports to submit all of your information directly from your phone. Claims are then handled via email. However, if you have a particularly complicated question (or just want the reassurance of human interaction), Root does provide a phone number for live agents during regular business hours.

Roadside assistance

Most insurance providers provide roadside assistance as an add-on, but Root offers this service automatically with any policy. Service costs up to $100 are covered for all vehicles on your policy for up to three incidents per vehicle, per six-month policy. If you owe anything additional for the use of roadside service, you can pay through the app.

Root also does not require you to use its roadside network. If you use a service outside of the Root app option, send an invoice to Root and receive reimbursement under the same standards.

Partnership with Lyft

Another unique feature of Root is its partnership with Lyft. If you are in an accident and need to leave your car at the shop for repairs, Root offers you two options with its rental coverage: traditional car rental or reimbursement for Lyft rides. At the time you submit your claim, the Root app will help you determine which solution is easier — but the Lyft reimbursement is a great feature if you have a short commute or don't use your car much.

Additionally, Root offers all of its customers a gift on select holidays. Prior to these holidays, Root emails all members a Lyft code to use throughout the day for a free ride. While it's not directly tied to Root's insurance, it is a nice gesture aimed at keeping drivers safe during high traffic seasons.

Possible drawbacks

Uncertain financial stability

Root is still considered a start-up provider and has yet to earn standard financial ratings that illustrate profitability and risk. We take these ratings from A.M. Best, S&P Global, and Moody's seriously — they're an assurance that your provider actually has the means to pay out on claims.

This said, while there are no official markers of Root's financial stability, it has had no reported trouble fulfilling consumer claims and has earned positive predictions from financial analysts like S&P Global. As the company grows, keep an eye out for these ratings and weigh your priorities: The inherent risk of a start-up company may not be worth it for everyone.

Limited customization options

Traditional insurance companies like Travelers and Progressive help their drivers save money through an array of options, from combining policies to subscribing to paperless billing. These providers also offer policy add-ons that aren’t available through Root, like gap coverage, special parts replacement, and ride-share coverage. Root's coverage is pretty basic, so if you have any more specialized concerns for your vehicle, we recommend looking elsewhere.

Not available nationwide

An obvious pitfall for interested shoppers is that Root Insurance is not available in all states. As of October 2019, Root is available in 29 states and has plans to launch in several more soon, keeping pace to become a nationwide provider. Its website has a quick map-based view of availability, so you can keep track of whether or not Root will be an option for you in the future.

The Competition

  Root Insurance Esurance Progressive Travelers
Our review Our review Our review
J.D. Power 2018 U.S. Auto Claims Satisfaction Study score
N/A 3/5 3/5 3/5
A.M. Best financial strength rating
N/A A+ A+ A++
Number of states served
29 43 50 50
24/7 claims support?
Get a quote Get a quote Get a quote Get a quote

Root Insurance vs. Esurance

Esurance offers similar technology to Root, but it operates on a more traditional insurance model. DriveSense, Esurance’s usage-based program, is transitioning from a device installed in your car to a mobile app, with savings as high as 30%. Unlike Root, Esurance's coverage includes add-on options like gap coverage and customized parts and equipment coverage. Esurance is also offered in 43 states.

For simple insurance needs, it may still be worth taking Root's drive test and comparing that with a quote from Esurance. However, if you need more specialized coverage, Esurance is likely a better bet.

Root Insurance vs. Progressive

Like Esurance, Progressive is a traditional insurer that utilizes similar technology as Root. Snapshot is Progressive’s usage-based program that uses a tracking device or mobile app to assess your driving habits. While you'll receive an initial quote from Progressive, the program monitors your driving for around six months and makes adjustments to your rate from there.

Because of this, it's possible that your initial rate from Progressive could rise if the program determines that you're a risky driver — so the program may be a gamble if you have a low initial quote from the company. And a low initial quote from Progressive may be possible if you're having trouble finding cheap coverage elsewhere; the company boasts lots of discounts, including those for higher-risk groups like teens.

Before selecting a company, weigh your priorities and needs. If you prefer an automated service provider and are confident in your driving habits, Root Insurance is an attractive option. Just be sure you're comfortable sacrificing more customization and 24/7 live assistance.

Root Insurance vs. Travelers

As one of the largest traditional insurance providers, Travelers offers a good range of options for savings, as well as add-on coverage options like accident forgiveness and gap coverage. With its 90-day IntelliDrive program, the company also uses a smartphone app to track and score driving behavior. You receive a one-time discount for enrolling, and safe driving habits can lead to savings of up to 20%. However, like with Progressive, your driving habits could possibly increase your premium over and above the traditional rate.

If you want to try usage-based insurance with a more traditional provider, Travelers provides a faster assessment period than others to help you capture savings, but you can also opt for the traditional insurance model to receive a standard quote. For those seeking a simple auto insurance solution (and for those who are fairly confident in their driving habits), Root Insurance still offers a faster and potentially greater opportunity to gain savings on your policy. If you're on the fence, we recommend comparing your quote from Travelers with the results of your Root drive test.

Root Auto Insurance FAQ

What qualifies me as a good driver with Root?

Root calculates your quote based on braking, speed, turns, times of day, miles driven, and driving routes.

How does the Root referral program work?

Through Root’s app, send a referral link to a friend’s email or phone number. If your friend takes the test drive and accepts insurance from Root, you both earn anywhere from $10 to $100 through gift card, PayPal, Visa prepaid card, or bank account transfer.

The Bottom Line

Root isn't the only usage-based savings provider, nor can it offer coverage for personalized needs. For some shoppers, traditional pricing methods and discount options may be a better route for savings. It depends on how many policies you could combine, how many drivers and what kind of drivers are on your policy, and what sort of coverage add-ons you require. But if simplicity and automation are attractive to you and you follow safe driving habits, then Root Insurance may be worth considering as you gather quotes.

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