Want to save up to 52% on your car insurance? That’s the promise of Root Insurance, which is doing a big push right now with direct mail and TV advertising to get new customers on board.
They’re even offering a free $15 just for downloading the app and trying it out.
Team Clark downloaded the app and took the test drive — which entailed Root monitoring our driving through our phone for a full month.
In this article, we’ll explain how Root Insurance works, where it’s available, whether or not it can really save you big bucks and more.
Here’s What You Need to Know About Root Insurance
Maybe you’re familiar with those telematics devices offered by some mainstream insurers that plug into your car. These companies promise lower insurance rates for good drivers if you let them monitor your habits behind the wheel.
Root Insurance is part of a new breed of financial tech companies using technology (in this case, the app) to achieve the same end.
Some drivers may balk at the idea of a “pay as you drive” model that uses your smartphone to track you, but not money expert Clark Howard.
“I love it. It’s all voluntary. And I think people drive better when they’re tracked,” the consumer champ says. “I say bring it on.”
Table of Contents
- How Does Root Insurance Work?
- What Kind of Drivers Does Root Insure?
- Where Is Root Insurance Available?
- How Much Does Root Insurance Cost?
- What Else Does Root Insurance Offer?
- My Experience With Root Insurance
How Does Root Insurance Work?
Root Insurance uses an app to monitor your driving and hopefully reward you with a better auto insurance quote. The safer you are as a driver, the more you could potentially save as a policyholder.
Getting started is easy:
After you scan your license, you’ll be asked a series of questions:
- Do you own a home?
- What’s your marital status?
- What driver(s) will be covered under the policy?
- What vehicle(s) will be covered under the policy?
Once you’re approved by the system, you have two choices:
- Start your test drive and get a quote upon completion
- Get an insurance quote immediately and then fine-tune it with a test drive
Basically, the app is the central nervous system of the Root experience. You do everything in the app — from taking the test drive to customizing and purchasing your policy to filing a claim. Such technology completely eliminates the need for traditional insurance agents.
What Kind of Drivers Does Root Insure?
In a word, Root insures good drivers. If you’re a high-risk driver, it’s probably not even worth your time to download the app and take the test drive, which takes several weeks of constant monitoring.
If, on the other hand, you brake gently, drive mostly during daylight hours, take turns slowly and have relative route consistency, Root may reward you with a lower premium.
The basic premise behind Root is that it turns the traditional underwriting algorithm of the auto insurance industry on its head.
Where traditional insurers only pay minimal attention to your driving ability, Root puts much more emphasis on it when setting your premium.
Other factors it considers after your driving score include:
- Department of Motor Vehicles records
- Marital status
- Zip code
- Vehicle type
- Prior insurance
Where Is Root Insurance Available?
Root Insurance currently serves 29 states:
- New Mexico
- North Dakota
- South Carolina
Note that Root Insurance does not use telematics to track your driving or set your rate in California. More info here.
The company is still expanding. The next states on tap include Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Washington, Washington, D.C. and West Virginia.
You can sign up to be notified when Root becomes available in your state if it’s not already.
How Much Does Root Insurance Cost?
Root blares its promise of up to 52% savings on car insurance all over its advertising, website and app. Here’s the quote we got after completing a test drive:
Root Auto Insurance Quote With $1,000 Deductible
|Bodily injury||$100K per person/$300K per accident|
|Property damage||$100K per accident|
|Uninsured motorist bodily injury||$100K per person/$300K per accident|
|Medical payments||$1,000 per person|
|Total premium||$667 for a six-month policy/$817.98 if paid month-to-month
Keep in mind that this quote was tailored specifically for us, so it is just an example. What kind of savings does that represent? We’ll get to that in a moment…
For now, we want to note that you can also purchase add-ons to the policy:
- Uninsured motorist property damage ($100K per accident) for an additional $1.84 a month
- Rental coverage ($30 per day/$900 per accident) starting at $3 a month
The rental coverage allows you to either get car rental or reimbursement for Lyft, according to Root.
What Else Does Root Insurance Offer?
In addition to offering both full coverage and state minimum requirements when it comes to auto insurance, Root has a couple of nice perks for customers:
- Free roadside assistance included with every policy
- Free Lyft rides on select holidays
- Special premium discounts for Tesla drivers
The first perk, free roadside assistance, is included for every policyholder. “Any service under $100 is covered for vehicles on your policy, up to three incidents per vehicle, per 6-month policy term,” the company notes on its website.
Editor’s note: Be sure to read our piece about the Hidden Dark Side of Roadside Assistance before using this perk.
The second perk, Lyft on Us, provides free Lyft rides for policyholders on St. Patrick’s Day, Independence Day and New Year’s Eve — so you can party and still get home safely. However, this offer is void in North Dakota.
Finally, Tesla drivers are eligible to get a tiered discount that exceeds any discount you earn simply through your good driving habits. Why? Because Teslas are shown to have statistically fewer crashes thanks to their self-driving technology.
My Experience With Root Insurance
I decided to try Root when I got their advertisement in my Valpak mailer:
I downloaded the app on October 8 and started my test drive immediately. The test drive takes a minimum of two to three weeks and sometimes longer if you don’t drive too much. For me, I didn’t get a quote until the weekend of November 16-17.
Driving enough to get the quote may involve a real time commitment on your part, depending on your commute patterns. This isn’t instant gratification or “just give us 15 minutes and we’ll save you 15% or more!”
So how does the Root quote compare to my current insurance?
- Current insurance company: $1,436 for 12-month policy with paid-in-full discount
- Root: $1,334 for 12-month policy with paid-in-full discount ($667 x 2)
Root will automatically match the coverage you already have if you tell them who you’re currently insured by. That way you get a true apples-to-apples comparison.
For me, Root represents a savings of about 7% over my current policy, not 52%. But I shop my insurance coverage every year to make sure I’m getting the best deal — so I’m not surprised my savings are much smaller than what Root says they can deliver.
One part about Root I’m not entirely happy with is the promise of getting a free $15 for downloading the app and taking the test drive.
I’ve done my part, but I had to write the company to get the ball rolling on the $15. They don’t seem to make it easy. It took several emails before I was mailed my $15 Visa gift card.
Root Insurance promises you a car insurance premium that reflects your driving ability — not your education level, job title or credit score, as many insurers do. For many people, that’s a breath of fresh air that could help level the playing field and hopefully save some money.
However, if you’re creeped out by the idea of your phone being used to broadcast your every move behind the wheel to Root, this is probably not for you.
In any case, be sure to check out our list of the ‘Best and Worst Auto Insurers.’ It could help you save money even if you want to get your coverage from a company that won’t track you.