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ByTaylor Moore Finance & Insurance Writer

Taylor Moore is a finance writer for Reviews.com. Her work has been published in Chicago magazine, the Chicago Reader, and elsewhere.

Direct Auto Insurance Review

Direct Auto Insurance is a no-frills auto insurance option for high-risk drivers living in its 11-state coverage area, which is primarily in the southern United States. You may know the company from its recent advertising campaigns, which feature former athletes and musicians like Tonya Harding, Johnny Manziel, and Fat Joe to show that the company is willing to insure people regardless of their pasts. While it’s true that the provider does extend benefits like flexible payment schedules and discounts to help those with less-than-stellar records, it falls short on customer service and company reputation. For example, Direct isn’t rated by two of the three major insurance rating agencies, and it has also run into legal issues for allegedly discriminating against people with disabilities.

We always recommend shopping around for quotes from multiple insurance providers so you can see who will offer the best price for the best coverage. In evaluating Direct, we recommend exercising caution. If you’re someone who can afford to spend the extra money on a more reliable provider, Direct is likely not the best for you. You can instead review our rundown of the best auto insurance companies in the U.S.

Direct Auto Insurance is available in:

Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia

The Claim

Direct’s claim: “You can get the coverage you need, the services you want, and the respect you deserve, regardless of your insurance history” (emphasis theirs). The provider promises discounts and low rates, flexibility in payment method and schedule, and superior customer service.

Is it true?

Yes and no. Direct does provide coverage to people who are considered riskier to insure, like people who have experienced lapses in insurance coverage, been in car accidents, and been charged with DUIs. Every insurance company weighs risk differently, but more often than not, these situations will result in higher insurance premiums. Direct offers low rates and discounts right off the bat, and the flexibility in its payment system can offer relief to people whose financial situations may be more precarious.

However, in terms of customer service, the signs don’t look great. Direct wasn’t rated in the J.D. Power 2018 U.S. Auto Claims Satisfaction Study, which calls into question the company’s customer service record. It also receives more than the average number of customer complaints for an auto insurance provider, according to the NAIC. We don’t feel confident that a person who is approved for a cheap auto insurance policy through Direct would receive the quality of customer support that’s promised on the website.

Product Overview

  • In business since: 1991
  • A.M. Best financial strength rating: A-
  • Moody's financial strength rating: N/A
  • S&P Global financial strength rating: N/A
  • J.D. Power 2018 U.S. Auto Claims Satisfaction Study score: N/A
  • States served: 11 (Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia)
  • Pros: Flexibility, coverage in Mexico
  • Cons: Poor customer satisfaction and limited availability

Features

Coverage types
Bodily Injury Liability
Property Damage Liability
Collision Coverage
Comprehensive Coverage
Deductible
Medical Payments
Personal Injury Protection
Uninsured Motorist Coverage
Rental Reimbursement
Towing and Labor
Accidental Death Coverage
Advertised discounts
Military
Safe Driver
Good Student
Senior Citizen
Multi-Car
Mileage
Multi-Policy
Prior Coverage
Homeowner
Renewal
Welcome Back
Affinity

Flexibility in payments

Direct offers accessibility to those who may want flexibility from their providers. Through Direct, you can adjust your monthly payment date to fit your schedule and pay through whatever method is convenient for you, whether that’s autopaying online, talking to an agent over the phone or in an office, or by paying via text message.

Discounts

Direct offers a variety of ways to save on your monthly car insurance premiums. There are the standard ones, like those for having multiple cars on one policy or bundling your insurance policies, but you can get up to 25% off by switching to Direct from another auto insurance company and additional savings for being in the military, being a senior citizen, being a homeowner, or being accident-free. Direct offers affinity discounts for members of particular churches, associations, retiree groups, employers, universities, and governmental organizations, as well. You’ll have to reach out to the company directly to see if you qualify, but the sheer number of advertised discounts means that you likely have many ways to save on your policy.

Mexico insurance coverage add-on

If you are in Mexico for vacation or work, your personal auto insurance policy that covers you in the U.S. won’t cover you in Mexico. Direct offers short-term liability coverage that protects you in the event of an accident. We recommend picking a policy that includes much of the same coverage that your personal policy has, like comprehensive and collision, medical expenses, civil liability, and assistance for legal, bond, and bail expenses.

Roadside assistance

Direct offers a 24-hour roadside assistance coverage option that promises to cost only a few dollars a month. This service helps a lot if you get a flat tire, run out of fuel, or lock yourself out of your vehicle.

Possible drawbacks

Only available in 11 states

As of September 2019, Direct only serves drivers in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. Most big-name providers provide coverage to all 50 states, so Direct’s limited service area is a huge drawback. If you’re not a resident of those 11 states, we recommend checking out Geico, State Farm, Liberty Mutual, Amica, and other top picks from our review of the best auto insurance companies.

Not rated by two major agencies

When evaluating insurance companies, we always look at financial strength ratings, as measured by the three major rating agencies: A.M. Best, Moody’s, and S&P Global. These measure the likelihood that a company will be able to pay out on your claim by weighing the company’s total financial holdings against its policies. Direct is rated A- by A.M. Best, but the company isn't rated by Moody’s or S&P Global. We consider this to be a red flag, as most major insurance companies are rated by all three agencies, and it means that we aren’t able to put together a full picture of the company’s financial strength and reliability.

Poor customer satisfaction

In a complaint-saturated industry like insurance, it’s difficult to find a provider that has what’s considered a great record. However, according to the NAIC, Direct receives more customer complaints than average. Direct also didn’t make it onto J.D. Power’s 2018 U.S. Auto Claims Satisfaction Study, so we aren’t able to compare it to the top 22 auto insurance providers that were evaluated on repair process, claims servicing, and other factors.

For us, selecting an auto insurance provider comes down to priorities. We don’t recommend getting a quote from Direct if customer service is a big priority for you, but if cost is the major factor — especially as someone who may have a spotty driving or insurance record — then Direct may still be worth considering.

Legal issues

In 2017, Direct Auto settled a lawsuit filed by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan over alleged discrimination against people with disabilities. Madigan claimed that the company “sought broad information about physical and mental health disabilities that was not relevant to Direct Auto’s underwriting practices” and that Direct refused to cover accident damages to consumers based on disability status, which violates the Americans with Disabilities Act. We haven’t heard any major news or consumer complaints on this front since 2017, but we don’t think this is promising behavior from an insurance company. As of September 2019, Direct doesn’t seem to offer auto insurance in Illinois anymore — perhaps a result of the suit.

The Competition

  Direct Auto Insurance Liberty Mutual Geico State Farm
Our review Our review Our review
A.M. Best financial strength rating
A- A A++ A++
J.D. Power 2018 U.S. Auto Claims Satisfaction Study score
N/A 2/5 3/5 3/5
Customer complaints*
More complaints than average More complaints than average Fewer complaints than average More complaints than average
24/7 claims support
Number of states served
11 50 50 50
Get a quote Get a quote Get a quote Get a quote

*Customer complaints are registered by the NAIC and measured relative to the company's market share.

Direct vs. Liberty Mutual

Neither Direct nor Liberty Mutual have great records when it comes to customer service. Both rake in more complaints than average according to the NAIC, and Liberty Mutual received only a two out of five rating from J.D. Power. However, we still recommend Liberty Mutual over Direct for its solid financial strength ratings and its wider array of coverage options, such as gap coverage and new car replacement. Liberty Mutual is also available in all 50 states, versus Direct’s near-exclusive presence in the southern states.

Direct vs. Geico

Between Direct and Geico, Geico has a much stronger company history and reputation. It receives fewer complaints than average according to the NAIC, and its three out of five score from J.D. Power is respectable in an industry known for unhappy customers. Geico also has the highest financial strength rating offered by A.M. Best (A++) and strong ratings from the other agencies, S&P Global and Moody’s. In comparison, Direct has a A- rating from A.M. Best and no ratings from S&P Global and Moody’s — a fact that doesn’t paint a positive picture of the company’s financial performance.

Direct vs. State Farm

State Farm will likely be more reliable than Direct. With insurance agents across the 50 states, a decent customer service history, and a slew of online educational resources, it’s established itself as a leader in the category. If you’re a ride-share driver, State Farm is a particularly good bet because it extends coverage to you while your Uber, Lyft, or other car service app is on. State Farm also offers unique discounts; you can save money if you’re a student away at school, if you take a defensive driving course, or if you install anti-theft equipment in your vehicle. Direct is only worth considering if you travel to Mexico often with your car. It offers liability coverage and other protections that your personal auto policy won’t cover while you’re in Mexico.

Direct Auto Insurance FAQ

Does Direct offer roadside assistance?

Yes. As a coverage add-on, Direct provides 24/7 roadside assistance for “a few dollars a month.” This includes emergency towing, lockout service, gasoline and fluid delivery, and jump-starts for dead car batteries.

What states does Direct Auto Insurance serve?

As of September 2019, Direct only operates in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.

The Bottom Line

Direct Auto Insurance prides itself on serving high-risk drivers, but it may not be worth it for drivers who can afford to get better service elsewhere. The company has a spotty reputation when it comes to customer service, financial strength ratings, and fair business practices, so we recommend steering clear if you can afford a provider that can offer better service.

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