The Best Auto Insurance
Premium cost isn't the bottom line. See why you've been shopping for car insurance all wrong.
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 2011 alone, about 9% of policyholders switched their car insurance, and 27% admitted to shopping around. 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 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 Premium For Insurance 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.
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
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.
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.
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!