Root Insurance Review

Root Insurance Review

You could get a competitive rate if you're a good driver, but this young insurance company has a high rate of customer complaints.
Root Insurance

Editor's Rating

Root offers great rates to good drivers and a superior user experience on its slick app. However, you may encounter customer service issues and you won't be able to get specialized coverages.

Root Insurance: One of the cheapest options for basic car insurance coverages

Root Insurance's biggest strength is its low rates. Its biggest drawback is its customer service reputation and limited coverage options.

If getting a cheap quote is your top priority, Root is a solid option for car insurance. A usage-based company, Root uses a mobile app to monitor your driving during a test drive period and tailors your car insurance rates based on your performance. Other major car insurance companies offer usage-based programs as an add-on discount, but Root bases its entire business model on this telematics monitoring technology.

This personalized approach means there is no average rate and no way to estimate how much a Root car insurance policy costs without the test drive — but policyholders say their rates are cheaper and the website advertises savings of up to 52%. Getting an auto insurance policy from Root could help reduce your rates if you're part of a demographic that insurers typically consider high-risk, such as teens and drivers with low credit scores. Unless you're using a telematics program, most insurance companies will use demographic data to set your rates. So even if you're a safe driver, you'll pay high premiums just because you belong to a certain demographic.

By contrast, Root calculates rates based primarily on how a driver performs while the app monitors their behavior. Demographic data and credit scores do factor in, but not nearly as much as they do with standard car insurance companies.

In fact, Root denies insurance to drivers who score poorly during the test drive. This keeps rates low for the pool of drivers who do qualify. Additionally, the company plans to eliminate the use of credit scores from its pricing model by 2025 so safe drivers are not penalized for factors beyond their control.

Yet these cheap car insurance premiums do come with drawbacks: Root has a poor customer service reputation, with customers filing complaints with the NAIC (National Association of Insurance Commissioners) primarily for delays and surcharges. A slick app and positive customer reviews touted on the website may obscure Root's lackluster claims review process for car insurance.

Bottom line: If sharing your location data and buying car insurance from a new company doesn't worry you, Root offers safe drivers some of the cheapest auto insurance rates out there. All other drivers, including those in need of specialized coverage, should search for a different insurance company.

How does Root car insurance work?

Root rewards good drivers with cheap rates. Drivers download the Root insurance app and create an account, which monitors their driving during a test drive period and scores it based on the following factors:

  • Your braking habits
  • Your turning habits
  • Safe phone usage
  • Driving during safe hours

If the Root insurance app is installed on your phone and you've turned on location permissions, it will always track your driving; you do not need to log in to the app or the website for it to work. Thanks to machine-learning algorithms, the app also knows if you're driving, biking or riding as a passenger in a plane, subway or car, so Root will not factor these trips into your driving score. Users can check their scores on the Root app to see how the company is assessing their performance.

It takes about three weeks to complete the test drive and get a free Root auto insurance quote. If you decide to cancel your old insurance policy and join Root, you can use the app to request that Root inform your old insurer on your behalf, sparing you an awkward conversation.

You can add other drivers to your Root policy via the app as well. They're not required to take the test drive, but Root suggests you invite them to do so. Without the test drive, Root must rely on standard demographic and location data to set rates and cannot offer the other drivers discounts for their safe driving.

Root insurance payments

Root policies last for six months, and drivers have the option either to make their entire car insurance payment at once or pay in monthly installments. Payments are made via the app, and policyholders can use either a credit card or ApplePay. The app also contains your proof of insurance, though the company will mail you a separate insurance card as well.

If you decide to pay in monthly installments, you will select a payment date in the app. If in a given month, you need to pay Root insurance either early or late, you can bump the payment date forward or backward by five days. This won't change your permanent payment date, though, so you'll need to bump your payment date again the following month.

Root rate increases

After six months elapse, your Root insurance premium may increase for the next policy term. While the main factor that sets your rate is your driving, other factors do play a role and could cause your rate to go up. Those factors may include:

  • The drivers listed on your policy
  • The cars listed on your policy
  • Your driving record (e.g., tickets)
  • The weather patterns around you
  • The crime rates around you
  • The accident rates around you
  • The price of the cars around you

Root also adjusts premiums based on how accurate its predictions of its own costs were during a given six-month period. Rates increase when the revenue from premiums is lower than the costs of paying out claims; rates decrease when the revenue from premiums is greater than the costs of paying out claims.

Some customers have complained of skyrocketing rates after the first policy term, so shoppers should be aware that the rate they're quoted after completing the test drive could increase significantly — even if there's no changes on their end as the driver.

Shoppers should also note that it is unclear whether Root tracks your data after the test drive. The company's privacy policy states that it will collect accelerometer, GPS and gyroscope data "until you otherwise change your permissions." Root needs this data during the test drive period in order to offer you a quote — but the website does not indicate whether the company uses any data collected after the test drive period ends to adjust your rates.

Root auto insurance claims

After an accident, Root policyholders can file a claim and request roadside assistance via the app. Be sure to provide as much information as you can and upload photographs if possible. Root will reach out to you afterwards to assess the claim and determine next steps.

If you'd prefer to speak directly with a Root claims expert, you can call during business hours. You can also file an auto insurance claim 24/7 via the company's dedicated phone number, but you might not be able to access a Root claims expert after hours.

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Root car insurance coverage

Root offers a relatively limited number of auto insurance coverages, so drivers who need specialized coverages will want to look elsewhere.

Root distinguishes itself from major national insurers by including roadside assistance with all of its insurance policies. This is a nice bonus, as most companies charge extra for roadside assistance. Over the course of a six-month policy term, Root will cover up to three services (such as flat tire or jump-start service) that cost less than $100 each.

Root also distinguishes itself from other insurers with its ridesharing rental reimbursement option. Many companies offer a rental reimbursement add-on that covers the cost of a rental car while your own car is in the shop receiving repairs for a covered accident. In this situation, Root allows drivers to opt for Lyft credits rather than for a rental car if they wish.

However, Root policyholders must make do with limited coverage options. While many other auto insurance companies offer products such as gap and rideshare insurance to drivers, Root does not. In addition to basic collision and comprehensive coverage, the only optional coverage that Root policyholders can add to their policy is rental car reimbursement coverage.

Similarly, while many insurance companies offer uninsured motorist property damage coverage to drivers in all states where they operate, Root only offers this coverage in select states.

Drivers in need of SR-22 car insurance can get this coverage documentation from Root. Many states require drivers who have lost their license to submit an SR-22 document, which demonstrates that the driver has sufficient liability coverage in place, before reinstating their licenses. The insurance policy that the SR-22 documents is often called "SR-22 insurance." Root policyholders can file for an SR-22 in the app.

Root car insurance discounts

Root does not offer additional auto insurance discounts. Instead, the company automatically factors into your initial quote any relevant information that would get you a discount at another insurer. This spares you the trouble of inquiring after additional savings and allows Root to keep its rates competitive.

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Root home insurance coverage

Root homeowners insurance offers affordable rates, but it is only available to auto insurance policyholders and only available in certain states.

Root does offer homeowners insurance, but you must hold a Root auto insurance policy to purchase Root homeowners insurance. The company gives homeowners a discount on their home insurance premiums for bundling the two products.

Root offers three kinds of homeowners insurance coverages: coverages to protect your home, coverages to protect your family and guests, and coverages to protect your personal property.

Coverages to protect your home

In addition to standard homeowners insurance coverages such as dwelling coverage, liability coverage and loss of use coverage, Root offers the following insurance coverages to protect your home:

Root renters insurance coverage

You do not need to have Root car insurance to purchase renters insurance, and the company offers competitive rates — starting at $6 a month.

Root renters insurance is available to anyone — not just to Root car insurance customers. However, Root offers a 5% discount on your renters quote if you bundle your renters insurance with your auto insurance. Considering how low both renters and auto insurance are with Root, shoppers who prioritize affordability should consider getting a quote.

Root differs from other rental insurance companies in that it does not allow you to specify particular dollar amounts of coverage upfront. Instead, you must choose between three different tiers of coverage — base, essential and premier — and only after you purchase the policy can you adjust your coverage levels.

Root renters insurance includes two of the following standard renters insurance coverages:

  • Personal property coverage
  • Personal liability coverage

Where is Root insurance available?

Shoppers should note that, as a young company, Root insurance products are only available in certain states and the District of Columbia. The table below shows where these different products are available.

ProductStates
Car insuranceAZ, AR, CA, CO, CT, DC, DE, GA, IL, IN, IA, KY, LA, MD, MS, MO, MT, NE, NV, NM, ND, OH, OK, OR, PA, SC, TN, TX, UT, VA, WV
Homeowners insuranceAZ, CO, CT, DE, GA, IL, IA, KY, MO, NE, NV, OH, OK, OR, PA, TN, TX, UT
Renters insuranceAR, GA, KY, MO, OH, TN, NV, UT

Root continues to grow and its website features plans to expand to more states soon.

Root customer reviews and satisfaction

Although the Root app has a high rating in both the Google and Apple app stores, the rate of customer complaints about the company is unusually high.

MeasurementAutoHome
NAIC2.20
A.M. Best Financial Strength RatingN/AN/A
Google Play3.73.7
App Store4.74.7

If cheap rates and a strong user experience are important to you, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better insurer than Root. Root offers a superior mobile experience, allowing customers to manage their policy with just a few taps and swipes. More than 30,000 reviewers have rated the app in Google Play, with an average rating of 3.7 out of 5. Apple App Store ratings are even higher: More than 45,000 reviews have generated an average rating of 4.7 out of 5.

Root's customer service reputation, on the other hand, leaves much to be desired. The company has not been reviewed in a national consumer survey, but its customers file complaints to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) at a high rate. Adjusted for its number of customers, Root receives 2.2 times as many complaints as the national median for auto insurance.

The most common type of complaint registered with the NAIC is over delays in claims handling, indicating customers may be having trouble being reimbursed when they submit a claim. The second most common complaint reason is related to surcharges.

Root received zero complaints about its homeowners insurance in 2019, but that's because Root only began offering homeowners insurance in 2020. Don't mistake the lack of complaints for reputable customer service. If anything, Root's high volume of complaints for its auto insurance suggests that customer experience for homeowners insurance is likely lacking as well.

Joe Resendiz

Joe Resendiz is a former investment banking analyst for Goldman Sachs, where he covered public sector and infrastructure financing. During his time on Wall Street, Joe worked closely with the debt capital markets team, which allowed him to gain unique insights into the credit market. Joe is currently a research analyst who covers credit cards and the payments industry. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin, where he majored in finance.

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.