The 5 Best Florida Homeowners Insurance Companies
With miles of white sand beaches, clear water, and bright skies, it is no small wonder that people want to buy homes in Florida. But sitting precariously between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico isn’t all sunshine and rainbows: Florida is highly vulnerable to hurricanes and tropical storms. More than 450 tropical storms, cyclones, and hurricanes have hit Florida since the National Weather Service started tracking hurricanes in the mid-1800s, making it the heaviest-hit state in the nation. With a lower-than-average elevation and coastline nearly surrounding the state, even homeowners inland need protection from potentially catastrophic damage.
In the past, those vulnerabilities have made it difficult for homeowners to find adequate coverage, but in recent years, the Florida insurance market has flourished and homeowners now have several viable options to get that coverage — but it doesn’t come cheap. Homeowners insurance premiums for an average HO3 policy in Florida, the most common policy available, are the highest in the nation. Homeowners pay an average of $2,115 per year, compared to the nationwide average of $1,096, according to recently released numbers from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, but those averages can vary greatly depending on where you live. Homeowners with beachfront properties in the Florida Keys, for example, may pay more than homeowners farther inland. The best way to tell what your premiums might be is by comparing a handful of quotes from reputable providers.
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Given the higher risk of natural disaster, Florida’s homeowners insurance landscape is unique. While homeowners in many states rely on bigger national providers, local insurance companies write the majority of homeowners insurance policies in Florida. This has a lot to do with risk. When areas are deemed riskier (hurricanes, anyone?) national providers often issue fewer policies to protect their interests, and after a run of bad hurricane seasons in 1992, 2004, and 2005, many left the state entirely. But going local isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Local providers offer a higher level of tailored service. The companies understand what makes Florida different and can offer a complete insurance package to cover everything you need.
We evaluated the top five insurance providers in Florida based on market share in the state, following a methodology similar to the one used in our nationwide homeowners insurance review. We examined the financial strength of providers using third-party rating systems like A.M. Best and Moody’s, where available. We compared policy options, deductibles, and endorsements to find the most well-rounded coverage. We evaluated websites and apps, looking for the key features homeowners want. We compared reader reviews and third-party rating systems to see which providers had the best record of customer satisfaction and claims handling. We even got quotes ourselves and called providers to test their over-the-phone functionality.
Not all of our top providers were ranked by customers or third-party rating systems, and some weren’t evaluated by Moody’s or A.M. Best. This doesn’t mean a company is a bad provider — it may simply be too small to track (ratings systems often focus on the bigger guys). Where data wasn’t available, we dug deeper, using our own rating system to see which providers offered the features homeowners really want.
Florida Homeowners Insurance Reviews
As we found out in our nationwide review, State Farm issues more policies than any other major insurance provider in the nation, and is the only nationwide provider to make the top five providers in Florida.
State Farm offers more discounts than any other company we evaluated, even though it was missing some common ones we’d have preferred to see, like discounts for auto pay, customer loyalty, and owning a new or newly remodeled home. That said, State Farm also offered a wide range of endorsements, tying with the Tower Hill Group for the most options.
For people who’d rather skip the in-person chat, State Farm has the most comprehensive website of any Florida provider we evaluated. While we would have liked to see a live chat feature, the company does provide an in-depth knowledge center. State Farm was also the only provider evaluated to offer an app so you can manage your policy, make payments, and even create a home inventory from your phone.
The company rated higher in financial security than Tower Hill by A.M. Best, ranking an A++, which can give you peace of mind that State Farm will be able to weather large-scale hurricane claims without a problem. But the provider only scored an average ranking on both J.D. Power’s overall satisfaction rankings and overall claims process rankings, meaning while the provider has the means, you could be stuck waiting for your claims payout.
Tower Hill Insurance Group
Tower Hill Insurance offers a wide range of endorsements, including options to upgrade to the “Emerald” endorsement plan. That high-touch plan gives customers umbrella liability and secured valuables, and may be helpful for homeowners with antiques or collectibles — something that wasn’t offered by Citizens Property Insurance or Federated National Insurance. The provider also offered a far better range of standard discounts (nearly twice as many as offered by Citizens Property Insurance) but fell a bit short of State Farm, offering two fewer than the mega-provider.
When it comes to educating potential customers, Tower Hill offered a few in-depth videos, but for those who can’t (or don’t want) to watch the company’s educational materials, the website felt lacking and several knowledge center sections failed to load at all. Tower Hill does offer some good features for Florida residents, though. Its CastleCare program works with a network of preferred contractors to get repairs done quickly, and preferred water-extraction services are listed on the website so customers aren’t left to find help on their own.
Overall, Tower Hill didn’t offer as many features or perks as the national provider, State Farm, but was the stand-out local company in our evaluation. With a range of coverage options tailored for Florida homeowners and quick disaster assistance, you could easily overlook a few website shortcomings.
Universal Insurance Holdings
Universal Insurance Holdings is an umbrella group covering two popular providers in Florida: Universal Property and Casualty Insurance Company and American Platinum Property and Casualty Insurance Company. Both Universal Property and American Platinum offer similar policies and provide a range of standard endorsements, such as extended replacement cost and umbrella policy add-ons, but discounts weren’t abundant. While standard discounts for installing safety features like smoke detectors and burglar alarms were available, State Farm offered nearly twice as many discounts.
Insurance is provided through local brokerages, and while some brokers offered slightly better websites, our initial impressions with both companies — and their affiliated brokerages — were underwhelming. We tested seven websites under the company umbrella. Each website had basic info, and a short form for starting an application online, but lacked the more well-rounded experience we found with State Farm.
If you prefer to do business in person or over the phone, Universal Insurance Holdings had knowledgeable reps, friendly service, and minimal wait times (less than 15 minutes at most). Both main companies and the five affiliated brokerages we tested offered the same level of top-notch, in-person service.
Citizens Property Insurance
Citizens Property Insurance is an insurer of last resort. The provider is backed by the Florida government and is provided as an option for people who cannot get homeowners insurance on the traditional marketplace, such as parts of the Florida Keys and low-lying coastal areas deemed too risky to insure by other companies. But don’t let that scare you. In a state as unique as Florida, many homeowners relying on a provider of last resort isn’t all that unusual. These programs commonly spring up in coastal areas to cover a gap left when bigger national insurance companies stop issuing policies.
The provider shouldn’t be considered a first choice by homeowners, but as a last resort, Citizens Property Insurance isn’t as barebones as the last resort options provided in some other states. Customers can qualify for discounts for installing a new roof or safety features like burglar and fire alarms. There are endorsements available for building code upgrades and umbrella liabilities. The website offers a ton of information on general homeownership and hurricane preparedness, and the customer service reps were some of the nicest we dealt with during our evaluation. The rep we spoke too was more than happy to completely explain our options for a property in the Florida Keys, and provided plenty of reassurance of the company’s standing.
Homeowners who end up with Citizens Property Insurance won’t have as many options as those on the private market; the provider only offers a slight expansion of the basic coverage many mortgage lenders require you to have. But if you do need to rely on this provider, it may only be temporary: Many providers are buying accounts from Citizens Property Insurance through a depopulation program, meaning your policy could end up in the private market, which could potentially give you more coverage options.
Federated National Insurance
Federated National Insurance is a well-rounded provider, especially compared to Citizens Property Insurance, but it did have some noticeable gaps. The company offered fewer endorsements than other traditional insurers we evaluated, but customers can still opt for some key features like replacement cost coverage and an umbrella liability. The provider offered more discounts than Universal Insurance Holdings’ Universal Property and American Platinum companies, but was still missing some common discounts like an auto pay deduction, new customer discounts, and senior citizen discounts.
When it came to first impressions, Federated National Insurance’s website felt sparse and missed key features offered by most national providers — like a knowledge center, policy information or a live chat, but over-the-phone reps were helpful and knowledgeable. We waited less than five minutes before getting in touch with a live rep who was able to quickly explain the company’s offerings and set us up with a quote.
Did You Know?
Florida homeowners should expect two deductibles.
Insuring a home in a hurricane zone works a bit differently than other states, especially when it comes to deductibles. Given the probability of a hurricane making landfall, and the widespread damage that can occur, insurance providers do not lump the damage from a hurricane into the typical peril deductible.
“With the hurricanes in Florida, you have two deductibles. The first is a standard loss-theft deductible that covers all other perils like tornadoes, fire damage, burglary. The second is your annualized hurricane deductible,” says Jacob Holehouse, vice president of Regions Insurance.
So what does this mean for you? Any claims made after a hurricane will apply to your hurricane deductible. And while many insurers will go to 1 percent or lower for a standard deductible, hurricane deductibles often run higher. “The standard is 2 percent, but some insurers go as high as 5 percent,” Holehouse says.
Of the providers we evaluated, Citizens Property Insurance, Federated National Insurance, and Tower Hill offered a standard 2 percent deductible. State Farm and both Universal Insurance Holdings companies required 5 percent.
Flood insurance is sold separately — but you’re going to want it.
Not all the damage caused to your home during a hurricane or tropical storm will be covered under your homeowners insurance policy. While you’ll likely be covered if high winds cause a tree to fall on your roof, if your home floods, your main insurance provider won’t be picking up the tab. For that, you’ll need a separate flood insurance policy offered by the National Flood Insurance Program. Having flood insurance may be required by your mortgage provider if you’re living in a flood zone, but adding the policy might be a good idea even if it isn’t mandated. “Practically all of Florida is a flood zone,” Holehouse says.
Not sure where your home falls in the flood zones? The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has a Flood Map Service that allows you to search by address. You can also assess the risk of your home — or any home you’re considering buying — through FEMA’s Flood Risk Evaluator. Homeowners in riskier flood zones can pay hefty premiums to keep flood insurance. For example, residents in higher risk areas like Key West pay an average annual premium of $779, while residents in lower to moderate risk areas like Miami only pay $372 on average.
Getting a Discount
With the highest average premiums in the nation, cost is definitely a concern for homeowners. It shouldn’t be your first concern, but saving a few bucks is never a bad thing. Thankfully, most residents — especially those in coastal regions of the state — might be able to take advantage of a Florida-specific program known as Hurricane Mitigation.
By installing hurricane-proofing features (determined by state government officials) on your home, you may qualify for a discount with any of the five providers we evaluated. “As long as you go up to the current Florida standards, you could save as much as $2,000 to $3,000 on your premiums,” Holehouse says.
Types of mitigation features include:
- Sealed roof decks
- Reinforced foundations with roof-to-wall anchoring
- Roof gable bracing systems
- Shatterproof glass windows
- Roll-down window shutters
- Hurricane-rated garage doors
- Garage door bracing systems
To see if you qualify for a discount, a licensed appraiser will have to conduct an inspection of your home for a fee, but it may be worth it. “I’d say 97 percent of homes that get the inspection get some kind of discount,” Holehouse says.
The Bottom Line
Hurricanes and higher-than-average premiums certainly don’t make getting insurance in Florida fun, but getting great coverage is important in such a natural disaster-prone state. Start by getting quotes from providers in your area.
Find the best homeowners insurance in your area.
Get a quote by entering your ZIP code and start saving today.