The Best Auto Insurance
Premium cost isn't the bottom line. See why you've been shopping for car insurance all wrong.
There's no denying price is a big concern when shopping for auto insurance, but it's certainly not the only factor worth considering. After all, a few bucks saved up front could cost you dearly when it's time to file a claim. That's why we considered aspects like coverage options, reliability, and customer service — in addition to pricing — when researching the top auto insurance providers.
Amica scored well in all of our key performance indicators, and earned high marks for both consumer trust and its wide variety of coverage options.
With a streamlined quote process and high marks for customer satisfaction, State Farm is a solid choice that's easy to work with.
For many people, it’s really all about the price. We get it. Still, we looked at much more than price in our review. If all you care about is seeing rates in your area, our recommendation is to compare quotes now to see the best deals where you live.
Last year, auto insurance providers spent just over $6 billion in advertising to consumers. You’ve seen the ads that promise low rates and great service — but how do you know which insurance company is really going to be there for you when you need them?
In 2015, a survey by survey conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International found that 66% of auto insurance policyholders never or rarely check to see if they could get less expensive coverage compared to their current policy. You probably don’t even think of auto insurance as anything other than a monthly expense. That often means picking the cheapest insurance and using that. But car accidents aren’t an “if” — they’re a “when.”
Statistically, the average driver will be involved in an accident every 18 years, which means you’re going to need to use it at least three times in your lifetime. We reviewed auto insurance companies on more than just price — we looked at the claims process, we surveyed experts, and we even talked to the people who deal with car insurance companies the most (auto body shop owners).
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Sometimes, Less Really Isn't More
45% of Drivers We Surveyed Said They Choose Auto Insurance Based On Reliability, Not Price
Car insurance exists to make sure that when the unexpected happens, you’re financially and legally prepared, no matter what.
However, if you’re opting for the minimal amount of coverage, you might end up paying a lot more out of pocket for damages and even medical costs — not to mention spending hours on the phone trying to get your insurance company to pay out.
In 2013, crash victims paid about 26% of the overall cost of motor vehicle accidents. That same year, the average collision claim was about $3,144.
If you don’t have collision coverage, or if your collision coverage doesn’t actually cover at that much, that money could be coming straight from you.
The price you pay for car insurance varies widely, depending on your age, your experience, your car, your city, your state, and a variety of other factors. The only way to know which insurance company is going to give you the best service at the lowest rate is to figure out which companies are the most reliable, then comparison shop for the lowest quote.
If you’re in an accident, you want the insurance company to be easy to deal with rather than bureaucratic or confrontational. They should also provide you with fair compensation without you having to hire a lawyer.
Most Drivers Would Pay More For Better Service
67% of Drivers We Surveyed Said They’d Pay A Higher Auto Insurance Premium That Took Care Of Them
In our research, we found that, while price is a factor in shopping for car insurance, many drivers were also thinking about the companies that would fully cover them, and would deliver the best customer service. To determine the best car insurance companies, then, we determined that there were three main important factors:
- Coverage: How much does your car insurance company cover in the event of an accident — and do they pay special attention to gaps and loopholes in coverage?
- Customer Service: Can you reach a claims professional when you really need one, and will they fight for you if you feel you’re being wronged?
- Trustworthiness: Do they deliver on their promises, both in advertising and during the quotes process? Do they have a reputation for being reliable?
Insurance isn’t just something you buy — it’s something you use. And gaps in coverage often seem theoretical until you actually need to file a claim and find out that you weren’t covered to begin with.
“Because of the commercialized nature of home and auto insurance, it’s often viewed as a pure commodity, as if it’s all the same and price is the only consideration. But it’s not and it isn’t,” says Tim Maurer, finance expert. “The end result is that most people are genuinely under-insured for these risks.”
Classic Cars Need Special Care… And Special Insurance
If you drive a collectable, classic, or antique car, you’ve probably taken no shortage of measures to protect it. From always investing in towel-free drying to filling up with the highest caliber of fuel you can find, you’re meticulous about the care and keeping of your ride — but are you as methodical about how you insure it? Classic car insurance varies slightly from traditional auto insurance, largely because classic cars generally aren’t driven with the same regularity as regular vehicles. If you do drive your classic car as one of your primary vehicles, you may not need special coverage. However, if your car is a collector’s item — and one that you may view as an investment or an asset — there are a few extra considerations to take into account.
- Like a fine wine, your car gets better with age. Unlike a regular car, your classic car is probably actually becoming more valuable over time. Whereas regular insurance policies allow for depreciation, your policy is going to have to take into account the added value of age.
- Policies vary — a lot. If you plan to use your classic car as a vehicle at all, be sure to take that into consideration; some policies are strictly for “showcase” vehicles, which means if you’re driving it, you might not be covered. Some policies may only cover your car when it’s at an event, like a car show or in a parade, but not during regular driving time, or even when driving to reach those events.
- Repairs are key. Classic cars also frequently require different parts or repair processes, which means you’re going to want a policy that allows for the time and consideration to get your car fixed the way you want to if you are involved in any kind of accident. Regular car insurance companies try to keep prices low by being frugal when it comes to repairs — and that’s the last thing you’ll want as a classic car owner.
- Watch out for all the little stuff. Collector car policies sometimes require additional stipulations, so when looking into policies, make sure you read the fine print. Some have provisions for how many miles the car can be driven, where and how it can be stored, and what kinds of modifications, etc, are covered.
Just like with regular insurance, though, the best way to find the car insurance that’s right for you is to get quotes from several insurers and carefully select the one that offers everything that you need.
Does your insurance cover you in the event of flooding, forest fires, or other natural disasters? What about instances where the other driver in the accident isn’t insured? Do you need extra protection if you carpool to work, if you’ve recently had children, or if your specific car has known issues? Shopping based on the comprehensive nature of your coverage, as well as the price, is essential.
An insurer’s ability (or willingness) to pay for damages is also directly related to how much revenue they have, and how they spend it. Companies that promise ultra-low rates are often the same ones which will opt for the cheapest possible repairs — which can be unsafe.
Companies are getting away from real life adjustors that you can collaborate with and negotiate with in real time and more towards automated online claim repair systems with digital pictures and repair approval....There's an increasing lack of response from insurance companies.
We interviewed numerous auto body technicians, and heard the same story: Insurance companies that prioritize low rates are harder to work with, and won’t fight for the needs of the customer.
Finally, car insurance is an extremely competitive industry, so even if you do switch and get a super-low first quote, it might not be the same price you’re paying in a year. Experts agree that it’s smart to make sure the plan itself is good, and not just the price-point — and comparison shop yearly.
Your Business Is Valuable To Companies — And They’ll Do Anything To Get It
The biggest car insurance companies in the country — Allstate, GEICO, and State Farm — are locked in a race to outspend each other. Insurance advertising now routinely tops billions of dollars per year, just to convince you that they’re your best option. They tell you that they’re on your side, that they’ll protect you from unexpected situations, or that they can save you money.
But is any one company really the perfect fit? And is it worth spending a little more each month if, when you do need your insurance, your company really is there for you? We wanted to find out which companies lived up to their claims, and which could really be trusted on that fateful day. From there, it’s the consumer’s job to seek out quotes and pick what fits their budget.
Top Auto Insurance Advertisers, 2013
Source: SNL Financial
Where does all of that money come from? Mostly your premiums. In 2013, SNL Financial found that insurance companies were using a significant amount of their revenue just on advertising.
Quotes Are King
The best thing you can do is get a personalized quote from some of the most highly-rated and reliable companies, and then pick which is best for you — but not all insurance companies make it so easy to do.
Because we knew we’d be recommending that consumers get quotes to shop for car insurance, we wanted to make sure we factored in the ease of the process. To do this, we sent 28 inexperienced shoppers to test the quotes process, both online and over the phone. Then, asked them to rank the ease of the process, and how confident they felt that the coverage they’d receive would be enough. We collected their data and have included it into our final opinions.
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Why 161 Auto Insurance Companies Didn't Make The Cut
Our Decision Funnel
We started with a list of 175 companies that provide auto insurance in the U.S. From there, we used 4 filters to narrow our list of approved companies. For more detail on how we made our cuts, just click on the interactive funnel above and you’ll see where companies got cut along the way.
Must Have an AM Best rating of Excellent or Superior
A.M. Best ratings focus exclusively on car insurance. This trusted rating system determines whether or not an insurance company has the financial stability to pay out on claims. Any company that does not have an A.M. Best rating of Excellent or Superior might not be able to deliver on their promises.
Must be recognized and ranked by J.D. Power and Associates
J.D. Power and Associates is a global marketing information services firm, which conducts surveys of customer satisfaction, product quality, and buyer behavior. Ranking from J.D. Power demonstrates legitimacy and authority.
Must have Above Average JD Power Overall Satisfaction Index Score
Power’s most trusted and important index is the Overall Satisfaction ranking, which focuses on customer approval. We only wanted to recommend companies which consistently satisfy their customers.
Must Be Nationally Available
Lots of small insurance companies might be trustworthy and reliable, but if they’re not available nationally, we didn’t feel comfortable recommending them to nationwide readers.
Reputation Over Price: How We Made The Cut
To be considered one of the best, insurance providers needed to meet several crucial trust indicators. Insurance providers:
- Must have an AM Best rating of Excellent or Superior.
- Must be recognized and ranked by J.D. Power and Associates.
- Must have Above Average JD Power Overall Satisfaction Index Score.
- Must be nationally available.
Why we didn't use price as a primary factor
Premiums are important — 34% of drivers we surveyed said they’d choose a provider based on price over service — but our experts told us over and over again that price should not be the determining factor. Instead, look for a company who will be there for you, and then comparison shop.
The most important consideration when purchasing insurance is that your company will be there for you when a claim arises. This is not just a solvency concern, it is actually a quality of coverage issue. Is your company dedicated to you (their customer) and will they be there when you need them. Price is secondary to quality of coverage but unfortunately most consumers do not look at it that way. Insurance is not a commodity. You are purchasing a promise to pay. Not all insurance companies are alike and not all insurance producers are alike. You should always try to balance a company’s (and producer’s) consumer satisfaction rating and reputation with the cost of the insurance.
The price depends on you.
- Additionally, it’s hard to forecast the cost of insurance for any one individual, because the cost of insurance varies so widely from person to person and state to state. However, reliability and other trust indicators are universal.
- For our review, instead, we found the most reliable, trustworthy, and customer-focused insurers. From there, we hope you’ll comparison shop, and be able to find the lowest premium from the best possible company.
Best Overall Auto Insurance Company
Amica scored highest overall in every one of our key performance indicators, including getting stellar ratings in all J.D. Power lists. Additionally, their coverage and consumer satisfaction are both extremely strong.
PROS: Amica auto insurance offers both comprehensive and collision coverage for your car. Collision coverage protects against damage caused in an accident while comprehensive takes care of damage caused by non-accident-related events, such as fire or vandalism. You can also get GAP insurance coverage, which is great for anyone still paying off their car loan. If your car happens to get totaled, Amica will pay the difference between the value of your car and the balance on your loan. If the totaled car is less than a year old, Amica will even replace it with a brand-new version.
Consumer Reports gave Amica the highest rating of any insurance provider we looked at, noting that customers largely reported having “relatively few” problems when filing claims and receiving payment.
CONS: Amica does still have room for improvement, though. They don’t offer the same discounts as others, such as loyalty rates, and they don’t deliver quite the same personal, agent-focused touch as competitors.
Additionally, their quotes system is slightly less friendly than others, like State Farm. One of our researchers noted that “it took a long time before I actually got to talk to a real human” when calling for a quote.
Still, their strength in trustworthiness and option for add-ons make them the best overall choice.
Best in Customer Service & Interaction
State Farm’s main advertising claim is that their service is reliable and “like a good neighbor.” According to the J.D. Power trust indicators and our own surveys, customers seem to agree. The personal touch of local agents and frequent, friendly follow-ups create ease and trust between the insurer and the customer.
PROS: Of the insured drivers we interviewed, State Farm was far and away the most popular, and had the highest satisfaction ratings.
Our researchers noted that State Farm’s quote process was “very streamlined,” and that their customer service representatives were quick to give examples of the company’s coverage.
“I feel very confident about the coverage quote that I received,” wrote one of our researchers. “[My customer service representative] gave me examples of State Farm being there in the community and how they were able to pay people immediately when they were in need.”
State Farm also manages to offer this great service at a competitive rate, thanks to their wide selection of discounts for virtually all types of drivers.
Unlike many insurers who have been slow adopters of technology, State Farm offers a convenient app, which makes filing claims and getting help quickly even easier.
CONS: If you’re the type of person that likes to get ahead on your bills, you’ll be disappointed to learn that State Farm auto insurance doesn’t offer a price break for paying your full policy premium up front.
Additionally, they have a few holes in coverage. Mechanical breakdown insurance helps cover the cost of engine repairs and parts replacements that aren’t covered by your car warranty, offering you real peace of mind as your car ages. Unfortunately, mechanical breakdown coverage is not an option for State Farm auto insurance.
The Best Insurance Is What's Best For You
Shopping based on price alone may be easy, but when you’re standing next to the steaming wreck of your only way to get to work, you’re going to want an insurance provider who’s in your corner and ready to help out.
The perfect insurance company is the one that offers a combination of great service, solid coverage, and a price that fits your budget. When shopping for car insurance, the best way to find your perfect match is to decide what matters to you, which providers are the most trusted in your area, and then get quotes to find out who will give you the most coverage for the lowest monthly premium.
Top 10 Tips & Tricks for Getting the Best Auto Insurance Coverage
Getting the best auto insurance is about more than finding the lowest-cost coverage. Does your policy protect your assets in the event of a serious accident? Is your provider backed by a strong AM Best rating? These are questions to answer before you secure a policy so you and your family are protected; and we are here to help. Here’s everything on how to get the best auto insurance policy.
1. Shop around for the best rate every year
Experts agree all drivers should compare auto insurance quotes annually. Even if you are satisfied with your provider, shopping around lets you know if you are really getting the best deal. For example, if you recently turned 25, you qualify for a lower rate because you are viewed as lower risk, but your current provider might not notify you of your new eligibility. If you have had a clean driving record for a number of years, you may also qualify for a discount. Price comparing annually will inform you of your options, and it also gives you leverage to negotiate a better rate with your current provider.
But rate isn’t the only thing to consider. You should also check out your provider’s credentials. How did your company, and the companies you are researching, compare? Did you provider recently experience a dip in customer satisfaction? Or did it report a hit to its financial standing? These are important things to look into each year to ensure your own security.
Lastly, look for online deals as well before calling. You will be in a position of power if you are equipped with as much information as possible, including online quotes, before you call an agent.
2. Use a reputable company
When shopping around, you want to make sure you select a reputable company. In our research, we found national providers often have a strong financial backing, offer high coverage options, and have higher customer satisfaction ratings than small providers on average. Still, this doesn’t mean your local provider is subpar. Just do your research.
When you shop around, ensure the providers you research have a strong AM Best rating. That will let you know your insurance company has enough funds to pay out in case of an accident. With this, also check the provider’s JD Power Customer Satisfaction rating, so you know how well it responds to a claim. These are important considerations to ensure you select a provider that will protect you in an emergency.
3. Base your coverage terms upon your assets, not state minimums
One of the reasons we recommend national providers is because local providers sometimes offer low-cost, limited coverage policies that don’t offer enough coverage to protect you in case of an accident (but the provider likely will not tell you the policy is limited coverage). In fact, in San Antonio, customers with this type of insurance found their policies did not pay out on any claims at all, leaving them in the dark during a time of need.
While the minimum amount of liability insurance is mandated by state, these amounts can still be insufficient in fully covering the damage that occurs from an accident. If you get into an accident that involves bodily harm to another passenger for which you are at fault, the injured person could sue you, and jeopardize your assets.
Let’s say you live in California, and only have the minimum amount of coverage: $15,000 for damages to one person, $30,000 for injuries to more than one person, and $5,000 for property damage. If the injured party’s hospital bills total $50,000, and you are at fault, you will be liable to pay those bills if you lose your case in a court of law.
That’s why you must both know your coverage terms, and ensure your auto insurance is based on your assets, not on the state minimums. This way, your assets are protected against the worst-case scenarios. If you are unsure about how to navigate this, speak with an agent that is knowledgeable in this arena. It could make the difference in the event of a serious accident.
One more note: double check that your coverage terms actually meet your state’s mandated liability minimum. Some low-cost, limited policies do not explicitly state this, so do your homework.
4. You don’t always have to get full-coverage
A common way to save on auto insurance is to opt for liability insurance only. When shopping for auto insurance, you can choose whether or not you’d like to insure your own car if you are at fault in an accident. And while you are required to obtain a full coverage policy if you are financing or leasing your vehicle, you are not required to do so if you own it.
If you have liability insurance and are in an accident, understand the actual cash value of your vehicle will still be replaced if you are not at fault. However, in determining which policy is right for you, crunch the numbers to determine if full coverage is worthwhile based on the value of your car.
If you own a 2000 Toyota Camry CE, for example, the actual cash value of your car would likely be between $1,949 and $3,000. If the cost of comprehensive or collision insurance for the Toyota would be equivalent to the price of your car within 12 to 24 months, it is probably not worth the insurance. If you feel financially able to replace the your car on your own in the event of an accident, you can save thousands per year by opting out of full coverage policies.
5. Be a good driver & other discounts/specialty programs
One of the best way to get a discount is to be a good driver. Claim frequency significantly increases your premiums because you are viewed as a riskier insured party compared to someone with a clean driving record. Things like tickets can also increase your monthly premiums, so being a safe driver is a great way to keep your insurance costs low.
With this, drivers with good credit history are also favorable. If you can prove you will pay your premiums on time and are fiscally responsible in other areas of your life, insurance companies are more likely to give you a more affordable policy. It pays to be responsible.
6. Don’t be afraid to ask for a discount
The idiom ‘you never know until you ask’ also applies to auto insurance. You never know if your provider will give you a discount or match a competitor’s quote until you ask. Especially if you have been with a provider for some time, it’s OK to call and see if you apply for any new discounts. Companies want to keep you around, and they’ll do what they can to make it happen.
With this, some life events may qualify you for auto insurance discounts. If you recently lost your job, paid off your car, added an auto alarm system, graduated from a university, etc., you could qualify for a discount and should call to find out.
Also know there are specialty programs for students, veterans, seniors, and drivers with classic cars. Programs like Nationwide’s Young Drivers offers lower cost plans to students and young drivers to make driving safely more affordable.
7. Don’t claim small damages
Since claim frequency greatly impacts your premium, consider fixing small damages on your own. If you find someone has knocked off your side view mirror, for example, that might be a $100 fix (depending on your car’s make/model). If you have to claim that against your collision coverage, however, that could increase your premium by $20 per month, totaling $240 per year for damages that are easy to fix. If the spike in your premium does not offset the cost of fixing a repair, repair it yourself.
8. Consider a warranty & security system
Automobile alarm systems are one of the most cost-effective ways to deter theft and decrease your insurance premium. There are different kinds of alarm systems to fit your budget and needs, and most auto insurance companies will issue you a discount if you install one.
Also, most dealerships offer warranty on vehicles as an add-on option. Some packages cover cosmetic damage in addition to mechanical hiccups. If the price is reasonable, this could be another option to protect your car against damage without having to file a claim. And if you let the agent know your car has a warranty, you might also qualify for an additional discount.
9. Determine if you prefer a local agent
Sometimes the best providers are in your very own neighborhood. The benefit of going local and small is that you get individual attention. An agent might fight for you during the claim process, and if you know them personally, they might also notify you when you qualify for a discount to ensure you get the best deal. This doesn’t always happen with larger providers, because they might not have the workforce capacity to touch base with customers.
Before signing up for a policy, really determine if having a local provider is important to you. Do you prefer to walk into your agent’s office to dispute a claim, or are you more of a hands-off client? Whatever your preference, consider this before you are locked into a long-term contract.
10. Continue research
The most important tip for finding the best auto insurance is ongoing research. The factors that determine your insurance policy are endless. Insurance companies constantly update procedures, policies, and programs to provide the best protection for customers (and that means you). Shop around and stay up to date on your provider’s new initiatives to ensure you don’t leave money on the table.
Most importantly, take action. Mark your calendar every year and set aside time to shop for new providers when your existing contract ends. Be smart, stand your ground, and you’ll find a great policy at a great price to protect you and those you love.
Wondering why your insurance company didn’t make the list?
We went by a very rigid and specific review methodology that brought our list from 159 insurers down to 14. If your insurance company is missing from our list, it is most likely because it didn’t meet the requirements set forth within our review methodology.
If you think that there has been a mistake, please let us know by tweeting @reviews and we will fix the mistake and update our review!