Like most people, I think I’m a pretty good driver. And the numbers back me up on that. The only two tickets I’ve got in years came, by some cosmic coincidence, in the same week back in 2013. And the only “wreck” I’ve been involved in during that time came when someone gently bumped me from behind in a drive-through lane.
So why should my car insurance rates be taken from a pool that includes terrible drivers? Where’s the fairness in that? That’s the message that Root Insurance is promoting. They say they price their car insurance based on how you drive.
Their smartphone app measures your driving behavior and sets a price based on that data. I don’t drive much besides my daily commute, and I’m up for anything that’s backed by data, so I gave it a try. (If you're more inclined to try insurance based on how many miles your drive, as opposed to behavior, check out our review of Metromile and this handy comparison chart.)
The signup process only took a few minutes. I downloaded the app, then signed up with an email address. You can also sign up with your Facebook or Google accounts.
There are a few steps at the beginning that may worry you if you’re super-concerned about privacy. For starters, you have to enable some settings on your phone so that the app can gather information while you drive. The location settings, motion detection, and notifications should be turned on and they run in the background while you drive.
How Root Works
Usage-Based Car Insurance Is Based on Your Driving Habits
Root is a fast-growing car insurance startup that uses an app to record information about your driving habits—the number of miles you drive, how fast you accelerate or brake, and even what time of day you drive—and provides a quote based on that data. The industry term is "usage-based insurance (UBI)", with the idea that safe drivers who don't put a lot of miles on their car shouldn't pay the same rates as their more reckless colleagues. Like a lot of services today, you give up some personal information in exchange for a lower price.
A report from CB Insights shows that participation in UBI is growing. They've tracked more than 10 insurers who have mentioned telematics or their specific telematics programs in corporate earnings calls since the start of 2018, indicating that driving apps are becoming a bigger strategic priority.