The 5 Best Virginia Homeowners Insurance Companies
A coastal view was once a major selling point for a home in Virginia. Now, with the rise of flooding and the threat of hurricanes along the shore, Atlantic shoreline property is now seen as more of a liability.
With the unique concern of tropical storms, insurance companies are treading carefully in the state — some even outright refuse to insure homes on the coast. The ones that do insure homes often try to mitigate their risks by including special, outrageously high-priced deductibles for hurricane, wind, and water damage.
On the other hand, if you don’t live by the water, Virginia’s home insurance prices are pretty reasonable. In fact, a typical HO-3 policy averages out to $911 per year, lower than the U.S. average of $1096. Of course, that price will fluctuate depending on your address, the age of your home, and many other factors. Be sure to use our quote tool to compare the price of premiums in your area.
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To find the best home insurance companies in Virginia, we followed a similar attack plan to our review of nationwide providers. First, we found the top five underwriters of home insurance premiums by market share in the state. We talked to an expert and researched dozens of articles and government sites to find out what makes Virginia’s home insurance situation unique.
After that, we put each of the five companies through the ringer, using their price quote tools to get a sense of the process. We carefully assessed each one’s coverage options and prices, paying special attention to deductibles (companies that offered all-peril deductibles at reasonable prices got bonus points). Next, we consulted independent raters and consumer advocacy groups to score each company’s financial stability and see how companies treated customers after they actually filed claims. We also dug deep into websites to see what tools and educational resources our top companies offered and even reached out to customer service reps to test their skills.
Virginia Homeowners Insurance Company Reviews
State Farm is the largest homeowners’ insurer in Virginia by a mile and the largest in the United States (it underwrites a whopping 19.6 percent of all home insurance policies; Allstate is second with 8.9 percent). State Farm backs up its market dominance with rock-solid financials and customer satisfaction scores. It has an 82 overall approval rating from Consumer Reports readers, higher than Allstate and Travelers, and notched an 80 in claims experience, which edged out all but USAA in the five companies we looked at for this review.
We like State Farm’s coverage options. Its deductible starts at a flat $2,000, and you will pay that price no matter what happens to your home (known as an “all-perils” deductible). This is favorable compared to named-perils deductibles offered by Allstate, where you have to pay a deductible for hurricane damage equivalent to 5 percent of your home value, in addition to other deductibles. Another plus: State Farm allows you to adjust your deductible to a higher rate — either in dollars ($5,000–$10,000) or percentages (one to five percent). Paying a higher deductible saves you money on your annual premium, but of course this out-of-pocket expense will sting harder when damage is done to your home. It’s up to you to decide what plan works best for your home.
First things first: only families with an active or retired member in the military are eligible for USAA. Despite this restriction, USAA is still the second-largest home insurer by market share in Virginia, and it’s our top pick for coverage.
USAA has the strongest financial backing of any of the five insurers we tested with a near-perfect Aaa rating from Moody’s and AA+ from S&P Global. Consumer Reports readers gave it the highest overall satisfaction score of the five, too (a sterling 92), including a perfect 100 in providing “timely payments” for claims.
We really liked USAA’s “Create your own quote” feature on its website. Our premium required two deductibles: one for wind and hail, and another for “all other perils.” Our standard deductible was $1,000, but you can adjust these deductibles to your liking.
In the right scenario, there are discounts galore, too. Our quote included discounts for combining our auto and home insurance, buying a newer home, having a good payment history, having no recent claims, and for keeping fire and burglar alarms. These discounts brought down our quote almost 50 percent off of the retail price. At this discounted amount, USAA was a third the price quoted from Travelers and Allstate. Your price will of course vary depending on location and many other factors, but we were pleased by low prices for such exceptional coverages.
Allstate’s offered us more discounts than any competitor we tested (11 in total), compared to six for State Farm and seven for USAA. Our big gripe with Allstate with deductibles. In the event of a tropical cyclone (aka hurricane), we’d have to pay a deductible at 5 percent of our quoted home value. That deductible is in addition to the wind and hail deductible ($1,000 to $2,000 per occurrence, depending on pricing tier) and all other perils ($1,000 to $2,000). State Farm and Travelers only makes you pay a flat deductible, no matter the type of damage sustained.
With applied discounts, Allstate quoted us at one of the cheapest rates. Its “standard plan” cost 45 percent less than USAA and 25 less than State Farm. But with cheaper prices come cruddy coverage: the Standard plan doesn’t give you identity protection or water backup protection, and you’ll pay higher deductibles. Don’t be too enticed by low prices, says Thomas Simeone, a personal injury lawyer based in Virginia. Low prices often mean you’ll get far lower coverages, and you’ll be underinsured in the event of a mishap.
Allstate offers two higher pricing tiers above the Standard plan: Choice and Premium. These options give you extended replacement costs and extended coverage on items like jewelry and furs. We liked the choices and discounts offered by Allstate, but it’s deductibles and low satisfaction ratings (60 in claims experience from JD Power and Consumer Reports) put the company near the bottom of our list for home insurance in Virginia.
Getting quotes with Travelers in Virginia was a piece of cake, and we were impressed by its all-perils, or open-perils, deductible. No matter the type of damage you sustain, you’ll pay the deductible amount listed in your insurance plan, which can be as low as $1,000, should you choose it. That all-perils deductible cost lower than the one offered by State Farm ($2,000 minimum) and differs considerably from Allstate, who has three different deductibles, including an exorbitant one for tropical cyclones (five percent of your quoted home value). Better still, you can decide the deductible you pay; pay a $5,000 deductible, for example, and our annual premium went down by 16 percent.
When the rubber hits the road, though, the burden is on the insurer to actually pay out claims. And Travelers didn’t overachieve in this respect. Of the five companies we evaluated, Travelers got some of the lowest scores we saw for claims experience. In a survey of the 14 top home insurers, Consumer Reports readers gave Travelers one of the lowest scores for “amount of premium paid” (40 out of 100), and JD Power and Associates nicked them for poor claims process (40) and contacting the insurer (40). This was an odd discovery considering Travelers isn’t exactly in financial dire straits — it had some of the highest financial stability scores of the five companies tested here.
Nationwide, has three different deductibles: One for all-peril (also known as “open-perils”), one for wind and hail, and one for hurricanes. That’s more deductibles than any other provider we tested except for Allstate. However, the Nationwide hurricane deductible was far lower in price: $1,000 compared to paying a minimum of five percent of your total home value for Allstate’s hurricane deductible. In other words, Allstate is less inclined to take on risk than Nationwide is. We also liked how Nationwide offered many optional endorsements: next to State Farm, it was the only one to offer additional coverage for any upgrades you need to make to meet building codes. They even offer Inflation Guard coverage, which automatically increases the amount of coverage on your home based on inflation rates.
Nationwide, in general, wins points for its customer experience. Of the five we tested, they had the highest overall score from readers of Consumer Reports, and tied USAA for having the highest satisfaction rate with claims experience in the same report. It was the only provider that let us opt out of being contacted by an agent after completing our quote. Most other providers are licking their lips waiting to blast us with emails or phone calls from agents trying to get our business. We were impressed with Nationwide’s
Getting a quote with Nationwide was a cinch. The website is clean and easy to navigate, and you can file claims and pay bills through its handy mobile app. Particularly impressive were the company’s educational tools, such as their personal finance guide, which gives homeowners tips on preparing for disasters and making their homes safer.
Did You Know?
Living inland saves you money and headaches.
Take a look at these average HO-3 premiums for a $125,000 home:
*These entries are based on a 2016 Virginia Bureau of Insurance survey of premiums for the top 25 home insurers
In short: You should expect to pay more the closer you live to the water. Coastal cities like Norfolk and Virginia Beach are blessed with sunshine but cursed by threats from hurricanes and flooding. Residents there can expect to pay as much as twice the amount of a homeowner in Alexandria or Roanoke. Many carriers will not write policies for homes along the shore, says the Virginian-Pilot, as the risks are too high and insurers don’t make much money on homeowners insurance. Waterfront property in Virginia has “lost its luster,” says a report from PRI. It’s also worth noting that USAA notched some impressively low premiums in inland cities in this report, which adds to their appeal.
Don’t neglect “contributory negligence.”
Virginia is one of five states with the “pure contributory negligence” law. It won’t necessarily change how you shop for insurance, but it’s important to understand should you ever file a claim, Simeone says.
Let’s say you get hurt in someone else’s front yard in Virginia. You make a claim for damage and hospital bills, and you go to court. If the court determines that you, the plaintiff, are even one percent at fault for your own injury, then you cannot claim a penny’s worth of damages.
“There’s been a lot of talk through the years of [pure contributory negligence] being too harsh,” Simeone says. In Virginia, he says, it means there are less homeowners’ insurance claims than usual.
This negligence law applies to both home and auto insurance. A common example is during a car accident: if someone hits you and injures you in a car but you weren’t wearing a seatbelt, then there’s a good chance the court will not allow you to collect money damages.
In the meantime, as a homeowner, it’s to your benefit, as it’s less likely someone will make a claim against you if they are injured on your property. Still, Simeone reminds, you still need solid well-rounded homeowners’ insurance.
You should mind the trees and dogs.
Virginia has a lot of old trees. If a big tree on your property encroaches on another property, and falls and injures someone or damages another property, you are responsible for the bill, Simeone says. This is what’s known as the “Hawaii rule.”
The goods news is that if you have adequate homeowners’ insurance, you’ll be covered for any damage the tree causes.
However, it’s best to avoid that scenario altogether, isn’t it? “You don’t want to take that chance,” Simeone says. Get your trees regularly assessed and inspected; your homeowners’ insurance company may do the inspections for you. If you don’t get inspected, and a claim is brought against you, there’s a chance you may be liable for more damages.
In addition, if you get a dog, you must consult your homeowners’ insurance company first. If it’s a “high-risk breed,” Simeone says, they may deny you coverage.
Snow is rare in VA, but it’s still a threat.
Virginia doesn’t get many big snow days—only about 10.3 inches per year—but when they do come, most people aren’t ready for it. “It’s a mess, people are abandoning their cars,” Simeone says. “These snows come quick.”
What homeowners need to remember, Simeone says, is that they are responsible for shoveling and de-icing their sidewalks. “That can get a lot of people in trouble. People aren’t prepared for it. You could be liable if you fail to take any steps.”
Make sure you shovel it the right way, too—leave not a patch of ice untouched. “If you leave a sheet of ice, or shovel negligently, you’re still on the hook” for injuries you cause.
Don’t be fooled by cheap premium prices. You should shop based on coverage instead, and do it regularly.
In northern Virginia, where Simeone is based, “Home values are through the roof,” he says. However, many people aren’t changing their homeowners’ insurance coverages to correspond with their higher home values. “You’ll see someone who bought their policy 2002 and just keep renewing it,” Simeone says. “Next thing you know, you’re underinsured.”
If home values are rising in your area — and even if they are flat — it’s smart to shop around, Simeone says. Any changes you make to your home can change its value, and your insurance should change with that value.
“Find out how much your house is really worth, then revisit [your homeowners’ insurance premiums] every six months to a year,” Simeone says. Simeone recommends getting the best coverage possible, especially for people in high-value homes. “If you compare based on premium value, you have less coverage. That’s just not the way to go. Base it on coverage, then do your comparison,” he says.
The Bottom Line
State Farm’s coverage options and huge consumer base in Florida led us to make it out top recommendation for Virginia homeowners. However, premiums vary greatly depending upon where you live — even right down to the zip code. So they best way to find the most complete and affordable policy is to get quotes for yourself.
Find the best homeowners insurance in your area.
Get a quote by entering your ZIP code and start saving today.