Car insurance is a necessary evil: Premiums can be costly, and when you’re in an accident, you still have to pay a deductible before coverage kicks in. That said, some level of car insurance is legally required in all but two states, and, despite the monthly cost, it can save you tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars should the worst happen.
But you’re here because you’re a Penny Hoarder — and that means you like finding ways to save. That’s where Root car insurance truly shines.
In a market dominated by Australian geckos and overbearing yet upbeat saleswomen, Root stands out not because of its quirky ads but because of its approach to coverage. Rather than rely on your demographics data and credit score, Root provides a quote based on your actual driving patterns. This concept is called usage-based insurance, or UBI.
So if you’re a safe driver with a good driving history, you’ll save money with Root.
The Root Insurance company is in Columbus, Ohio, and has offices in Chicago, San Francisco and Phoenix. The company is a relatively new player in the insurance space, founded in March 2015.
Though Root is primarily known for its auto insurance, the company has started branching out to renters and homeowners insurance. If you bundle renters insurance with Root car insurance, you can save 5%. Similarly, you can bundle homeowners insurance with your Root auto policy for savings.
Some of the hallmark features of Root Insurance:
Within the auto industry, there is no single definition for “full coverage.” Rather, various states have differing requirements. That said, full coverage typically entails liability, collision and comprehensive. Root offers all three and then some.
Here’s what you can get with Root car insurance:
This is the minimum coverage that every driver should have. At Root, it includes bodily injury and property damage coverage.
Root’s collision coverage pays for repairs to your car (or a replacement vehicle) when you cause an accident. It also covers you if you are the victim of a hit-and-run or are involved in a collision caused by someone without insurance.
The more expensive/valuable your vehicle, the more collision coverage will cost.
So what about damage to your car that isn’t the result of a collision? That’s where Root’s comprehensive coverage comes in. Comprehensive covers any damage to your vehicle not caused by an accident, including acts of nature, theft and vandalism.
Again, having a newer, more expensive vehicle will mean a higher rate.
In a break from typical car insurance companies, Root includes roadside assistance with every policy. Usually, this comes at an extra cost. Root makes calling for roadside assistance easy with the highly rated Root mobile app.
Root has coverage options for rental car reimbursement or — another move that gives Root that millennial, start-up feel — Lyft reimbursement, in the event that your car is inoperable for an extended period of time.
Root differentiates between uninsured motorist property damage coverage and uninsured and underinsured bodily injury coverage. Together, these policies cover your property and medical expenses in the event that you are in an accident with someone who is uninsured or underinsured.
If you live in one of 17 states that require personal injury protection, or PIP, you’re able to get this through Root. It can cover medical expenses and even lost wages due to time off work because of an accident for you and your passengers. Root also offers medical payments (MedPay) coverage.
As of this time, Root auto insurance offerings do not include GAP insurance. GAP, or guaranteed auto protection, is useful when you total your vehicle but owe more on it than comprehensive or collision will cover. Thus, it fills the gap between what you are paid out from your core coverage and what you still owe on the car, whether financed or leased. Many lenders require that you carry GAP, which can quickly rule Root out of consideration for many drivers.
Rideshare coverage is growing increasingly popular at major insurance companies, but Root does not offer this as an option. If you drive for Uber or Lyft, you may want to find a policy that offers rideshare insurance, which covers you while you are working but don’t currently have a customer.
Similarly, some companies have begun extending policy coverage to pets who are injured during an accident. Root does not currently offer this.
While standard roadside assistance is a unique aspect of Root Insurance, it’s not the biggest differentiator for the young car insurance company. UBI is.
Root claims it saves drivers significant amounts of money — up to 52% — on monthly car insurance premiums. That’s because typical car insurance companies pull credit reports and examine your demographic data (age, sex, ZIP code, occupation, etc.) to determine what they feel is an appropriate rate for you. Instead, Root analyzes your actual driving performance and as long as you’re a good driver, offers you a low rate.
The quote process for Root is quite elaborate by design. To get a quote, download the Root app to your smartphone and enable GPS tracking. For a few weeks (three on average), drive as you normally would while Root gathers all kinds of data via the app, which must be running in the background. Root calls this its Test Drive period.
During this Test Drive, Root utilizes GPS tracking via the smartphone app to measure:
Once the Root app has gathered enough data from your Test Drive, the company generates a quote. If the data paints you as a bad, distracted or risky driver, Root may deny your request for coverage. Because Root does not take on high-risk drivers, its costs to insure its customers are lower, which means they can pass those savings on to you.
Since Root focuses on this driving data, it’s not a good fit for aggressive drivers. But Root could be a great fit if you are a teen driver, a safe driver on a budget or a driver with a low credit score who is paying insanely high prices because of your personal finances.
In fact, Root intends to stop checking credit scores as part of its pricing model by 2025.
Access to everything you need for your Root insurance policy is at your fingertips.
The Root app makes filing a claim (or requesting roadside assistance) incredibly simple. In fact, Root says its claim process takes just three minutes in the app.
That said, if you would prefer to talk to a live claims expert, you can call during normal business hours. There’s also a 24/7 hotline to file a claim, but you may not be able to speak to a live person.
While Root provides physical paper insurance cards, the company also makes policyholders’ proof of insurance cards available directly in the app.
The Root app is also how you’ll make payments. You can either pay for all six months of the term at once or in monthly installments, using either a credit card, debit card or Apple Pay.
If you need to obtain an SR-22, Root makes it simple within the app. Just a few thumb taps and you’re set.
Note: SR-22s aren’t a policy. Instead, it is a document that your car insurance company provides to demonstrate that you carry enough car insurance. If you have been convicted of a DUI or repeat traffic offenses or have had your license revoked for driving without insurance, you may need this form to have your license reinstated.
Feeling super jazzed to ditch the gecko and switch to Root? Not so fast. Unfortunately, Root car insurance is not offered in every state. (Root’s renters and homeowners insurance policies are available in even fewer states.)
As of writing, Root auto insurance is available in the following states:
That means you can’t get Root if you live in one of the following states (for now):
Alabama, Alaska, District of Columbia (Washington, D.C.), Florida, HawaiiI, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington (state), Wisconsin, and Wyoming
Because pricing is based on your unique driving habits during and after your Test Drive period, there is no standard quote for Root auto insurance. However, because Root rejects many drivers seeking quotes, the insurance company can offer lower rates to drivers who qualify. Some of the advertisements on Root’s site include promises of “up to 52% off your car insurance rate” or “savings of up to $900/year.”
However, after the first six months (and at every six-month mark), Root reserves the right to change your car insurance rates, especially if you exhibit poor driving habits. In addition, Root may adjust your six-month quote based on crime rates in your area, accident rates in your area, average weather in your area, the price of cars in your area, other drivers on your policy and other vehicles on your policy. Even so, your driving record is the number one factor in calculating your rate.
You get what you pay for at Root.
While the price for good drivers is typically far better than what you’ll be quoted at big-name insurers like Allstate, Progressive and Geico, the customer service at Root Insurance is wanting. And the last thing you want to deal with after a stressful accident is poor customer experience when you file your claim.
How do we know the customer service is so bad? While the Root mobile app has exceptionally high customer reviews in both the App Store and Google Play, the company’s customer service scores are among the lowest in the industry. In fact, based on data from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), Root earns complaints from customers at a rate that is 2.2 times higher than the national median for auto insurance.
While complaints run the gamut, Root most commonly receives negative feedback regarding how long it takes to handle claims and unexpected surcharges.
So overall, is Root Insurance a good provider for an auto policy? Let’s weigh the pros and cons:
Because the insurance is usage based, Root auto insurance is ideal for safe drivers — those not known for texting and driving, hard braking, speeding or any other bad driving habits. Teen drivers, drivers with low credit scores or drivers who fit within pricier demographics (think young males with expensive cars) can particularly benefit from Root.
You should not consider Root if your lender requires GAP insurance.
To be eligible for Root home insurance, you must currently have a Root car insurance policy. You can opt for coverages that protect your physical home, your family and guests of your home, and your personal property. The policy is customizable, though as a fellow homeowner, I would advise you get all types of coverage.
Renters, however, are in luck. You don’t need a Root auto insurance policy to get the renters insurance. Even better: Root has policies starting as low as $6 per month, which is not a bad price if you’re just looking to tick the box to show your landlord you’ve got coverage. You can choose between personal property coverage and personal liability coverage.
Timothy Moore is a market research editing and graphic design manager and a freelance writer and editor covering topics on personal finance, travel, careers, education, pet care and automotive. He has worked in the field since 2012 with publications like The Penny Hoarder, Debt.com, Ladders, WDW Magazine, Glassdoor and The News Wheel.