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Telematics Inside Look: Root Insurance

The Zebra takes an in-depth look at Root's innovative auto insurance technology.

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The state of auto insurance looks a bit different in 2020, as companies work to deliver more personalized options to drivers. Root, a newer telematics insurance company available in about two-thirds of all states, promises its app will be “car insurance, but better.”

So, does Root deliver on its promise?


What’s inside the Root app

In a word — everything. Root offers all of its services through its app, so that’s where you’ll find everything related to your policy.

You can sign up for the Root app with an email address, Facebook or Google account. You’ll want to turn things like location settings, motion detection and notifications on so they can run in the background while you’re using the app.

The Root app works in tandem with smartphone sensors to gather and analyze data while you drive. Here are the main criteria that can impact your premium:

  • Focused driving: How well you avoid distractions, like texting or changing radio stations
  • Smooth braking: Giving yourself ample time to brake while focusing on the road
  • Gentle turning: Easing into and out of each turn by slowing down while handling curves
  • Safe hours: Avoiding late-night trips, particularly on the weekends

Once you’ve entered your information, you can take the Root test drive to get a quote. The test drive is largely dependent on how frequently you drive, though it’ll often be somewhere in between two to three weeks before the app has enough data collected. 

When the test drive is complete, Root will let you know if they can insure you and what your rate will be. Not every driver will make the cut — especially high-risk drivers — but you may find yourself driving more carefully if you know you’re being watched. 

 

Other Root features

Making a claim with Root is simple, taking about three minutes total. Go to the app and answer a few questions about the accident, like whether another car hit you or you hit something besides a car. Then take as many photos of your vehicle to show the damage — and capture more than you think you’ll need. Root will then reach out to complete the claim.   

Root offers a full lineup of auto coverages:

  • Bodily injury liability coverage: Required by law in all states, this coverage pays for medical bills, funeral expenses and lost wages for other people when you cause an accident.
  • Property damage liability: Required by law in all states, this coverage pays for any damage to other vehicles or property when you cause an accident.
  • Collision coverage: Pays for car repairs or a replacement vehicle after an accident you cause.
  • Comprehensive coverage: Pays for covered damage to your vehicle by anything outside of an accident, like storms, wildlife or theft.
  • Uninsured motorist property damage: Required by law in eight states, this coverage covers your property when it’s damaged by an uninsured driver.
  • Medical coverage: Includes personal injury protection, medical payments and uninsured and underinsured motorist bodily injury. 

You have the ability to customize your coverage. For lower premiums, you can choose to only get required insurance. If you want to get a more extensive coverage, you can package Liability, Collision and Comprehensive coverages together.

Root also includes Roadside Assistance with every policy, which you can access via the app. You’re covered for three incidents per vehicle on your policy over a six-month policy term, up to $100 per incident. Root will reimburse you if you use another Roadside Assistance provider and email them the receipt. 

Many auto insurers offer rental coverage, which will reimburse you while your car is in the shop after a covered accident. Root does this but lets customers use the reimbursement for Lyft rides, too. Policyholders can also get free Lyft rides on holidays, like New Year’s Eve and the Fourth of July. (This perk isn’t available for North Dakota drivers.)

Drivers who don’t use their phones on the road receive a discount of up to 10%, and Tesla drivers who use AutoSteer, the car’s automated steering, receive an additional discount.

 

How Root affects your phone

Root is available for iOS and Android phones, and the app doesn’t need to be open to function. While it’s tracking your test drive, the app uses about the same amount of data as other navigational apps. 

While other companies may send an additional device to install in your car, Root only requires you downloading the app and turning permissions on for allowing the app to run in the background of your phone.


Root’s impact on your premium

Will you save money with Root? That depends on how safely you drive, as well as where you live.

You may not even be able to use Root at all. It’s currently unavailable in several states, including Florida, Kansas, Idaho, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, South Dakota, Vermont and Wisconsin. According to the Root website, it’s coming soon to Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Washington.


The final word

Whether you find Root worthwhile partly depends on how safely you drive, especially during your test drive. Root will deny high-risk drivers any insurance at all, so it makes sense to at least do the test drive and see what kind of quote they offer.

It’s worth noting that, despite an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau, Root does have its fair share of complaints from customers. Many of the complaints stem from premiums rising or being canceled altogether without any warning. If that happens to you, don’t be afraid to shop around for other options. 

In the end, it’s your decision. Whether you sign up with Root or not, it's a good idea to reassess your car insurance situation once every six months. Enter your ZIP code below to see what you could save.

 

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