The Best Florida Auto Insurance Companies
Florida’s auto insurance rates are on the higher side — on average $1,257 per year, compared to the nationwide average of $1,009. That said, how much you’ll pay can vary a lot depending on your car, your coverage, and your address. Use our tool to find your best rates:
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Florida requires you to buy the least auto insurance of any state in the nation, which might sound like a great deal for its drivers. But having less coverage always means you carry more risk, and that’s especially true in the Sunshine State, for several reasons. For starters, Florida is one of a dozen states with “no-fault” insurance laws, meaning that each driver’s insurance pays for his or her own damages after an accident. This means that even if you cause a crash, your policy covers medical expenses for yourself and your passengers — but only up to the limits you set. If you’re not at fault, you can potentially sue the other driver for damages beyond what your insurance covers, but given that more than a quarter of Florida motorists are uninsured, it’s not certain how much you’ll be able to recover. Comprehensive insurance, which covers non-accident claims, is also a smart idea in a state that ranks fourth nationally in insurance losses from disasters like hurricanes. The bottom line is that purchasing only Florida’s state minimums leaves you open to financial headaches at best, and a devastating financial hit at worst.
Florida Minimum Liability
Florida only requires that you buy two types of auto insurance. The first is personal injury protection (PIP), which automatically pays for up to 80 percent of the medical expenses for you and your passengers after a crash, regardless of who was at fault. PIP also covers 100 percent of “replacement services,” should you or your passengers need help with daily household tasks because of your injuries, and 60 percent of your wage losses if you’re unable to work. The second type of required insurance is property damage (PD) liability coverage, which pays for damages to other people’s property if you’re the one at fault. The minimum levels can be expressed in the shorthand 10/20/10, which means the following:
- $10,000 personal injury protection (PIP) coverage per person
- $20,000 personal injury protection (PIP) coverage per accident
- $10,000 property damage (PD) coverage per accident
While these amounts do offer some protection, there are many cases in which they wouldn’t fully cover you. Imagine you take your eyes off the road for a second, and cause a collision with a luxury car. If you’re seriously injured and have to take time off work, $10,000 of PIP probably won’t cover all the losses you incur from medical bills and lost wages. Likewise, you might have caused more than $10,000 worth of damage to the other car — a problem if you only had Florida’s minimum PD coverage. And importantly, if the other driver sues you for medical bills beyond what his own PIP covers, you’ll have to pay those out of pocket unless you had bodily injury (BI) liability coverage, which isn’t required in Florida.
But let’s say you weren’t the one at fault — there are still risks to carrying only Florida’s minimums. If your damages are more than your $10,000 PIP covers, there’s no guarantee the other driver will have liability insurance to make up the rest — or any auto insurance at all. In a situation like that, having uninsured motorist (UM) coverage on your policy would take the place of the other driver’s missing coverage, paying for your additional medical costs and the damage to your vehicle. It could be the only thing standing between you and a huge bill you don’t deserve. That’s why it’s a good idea to buy as much insurance as you can afford. (For more information on the various types of coverages, check out the Florida Department of Financial Services’ Automobile Insurance Toolkit.)
Your premium cost depends largely on personal factors: your age, credit score, how much you drive, and the type of vehicle you’re insuring, among other things. But because different providers will charge the same person more or less for the same coverage, the only way to find your cheapest rate is to compare personalized quotes. Still, there are many other important factors besides price, making our reviews of Florida’s top five auto insurers a good place to begin your search.
How We Found the Best Auto Insurance in Florida
We started by identifying Florida’s five biggest auto insurers by market share (excluding USAA, which, while fifth in market share, is only available to current and former military members and their families). We compared their financial strength, coverage options, discounts, and customer service using methodology similar to our review on nationwide providers. Then we looked at how each company’s customers reported their claims experiences to J.D. Power and Consumer Reports, and checked the Florida Department of Financial Services’ Company Complaint Comparison to see how many complaints were filed against each provider in 2017 (the most recent year with data available). Finally, we looked at premium quotes from each company, using the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation’s Auto Rate Comparison Tool.
Florida Auto Insurance Reviews
Judging by its hefty 22.8 percent market share in the state, many Floridians already agree with our assessment of GEICO as the best overall insurer we researched. Not only did it have the lowest rate of 2017 customer complaints among our top picks, but it also quoted the cheapest premiums for all three of our hypothetical drivers. We didn’t even take discounts into account, though GEICO has the most of those too — including one of up to 15 percent for being a good student.
In terms of claims satisfaction, J.D. Power had GEICO at the top (along with State Farm, Allstate and Progressive), and Consumer Reports readers rated it better than any insurer except State Farm, which tied it. To top it all off, GEICO boasts the best financial strength ratings out of all five companies we looked at. The only drawback to GEICO (and it’s hardly even worth mentioning) is that it doesn’t offer so-called “gap” coverage designed to negate the effects of depreciation if you total a new car.
Even though State Farm offered us some of the most expensive quotes of any insurer, it outperformed every company except GEICO in both complaint comparison and customer service scoring by J.D. Power and Consumer Reports. That record, along with its top-tier financial strength, was enough for us to justify ranking it second. Still, the State Farm quotes we received were quite a bit higher than GEICO’s and Allstate’s — typically by 2–3 times. That’s likely a dealbreaker for many, but it’s still worth checking State Farm’s personalized quotes yourself, especially if you’re a teen driver (for which they seem to offer more discounts than the others). Another point in State Farm’s favor is its website, which is good at helping you understand which coverages best fit your specific needs.
Allstate was cheaper than every company but GEICO in our quote comparison, and practically even with the ratings for GEICO and State Farm for claims satisfaction. Its financial strength, while not quite top-tier, is also good enough that you’ll never have to worry about getting paid. Still, we couldn’t help but notice its comparatively high rate of consumer complaints in 2017. Given that the most common consumer complaint is that payment is too low, perhaps Allstate is stingier in its claims determinations than other Florida insurers.
If you’re insuring a brand new car, Allstate does offer so-called “gap” insurance designed to negate the effects of depreciation — something State Farm and GEICO don’t. And a cheaper premium could mean the difference in whether you can afford comprehensive and/or UM coverage, two especially valuable add-ons in Florida.
Progressive lagged just slightly behind GEICO and State Farm in terms of financial strength, and just a hair behind Allstate for claims satisfaction. The differences are so small they likely have no impact on most customer’s experiences, but nonetheless make it hard to justify Progressive over State Farm, GEICO, or Allstate on the basis of anything except price, where it was average. We did like how easy it was to get a quote through the website though, and also the Live Chat option, something only it and GEICO offer.
Progressive has a slew of available discounts — more than any insurer we reviewed except GEICO. There’s even one for adding a newly licensed teen driver to your existing auto policy (surprising given that teenage drivers are among the riskiest to insure). A policy loaded with discounts isn’t necessarily cheaper than a non-discounted policy, but the bottom line is you should get a quote from Progressive and see for yourself.
Liberty Mutual has the smallest market share out of our top five, with just over 3 percent of Florida drivers. While it was fairly close in customer satisfaction, J.D. Power gave Liberty Mutual the lowest “overall” score among our top picks, and Consumer Reports readers were less impressed by its “Timely Payment” (or lack thereof) than they were by the competition’s. The company’s financial strength, while high enough to be trusted, was also fifth out of five companies we reviewed. More damaging was its 2017 complaint ratio, which was more than 4 times higher (worse) than the fourth-place Allstate’s.
Our quote comparison also showed Liberty Mutual to be the most expensive option for all three driver profiles. This basically cemented its place at the bottom of our pack, but it’s always worth getting a quote in case you fit a specific insurer’s “sweet spot” — the driver profile for whom they offer the cheapest rates around.
A note on USAA
We only compared insurers that sell policies to the general public, but if you have a military connection (as many Floridians do), USAA is another excellent choice for auto insurance. It actually topped all the other companies we reviewed in both financial strength and claims satisfaction. So if you or a family member is active or former military, you should absolutely get a quote from USAA.
Florida reformed its “no-fault” auto insurance laws in 2012 in an attempt to curb fraud.
Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage, one of the two types of auto insurance mandated by “no-fault” states such as Florida, was originally conceived as a way reduce costs and delays in claims-paying. The idea was that insurance companies could simply pay their customers’ claims without having to go back and forth between the parties and law enforcement to determine fault, which costs more time and money. In practice, however, PIP coverage became the target of abuse by dishonest doctors who billed for unnecessary and expensive medical procedures. In 2012, the Florida legislature passed HB 119, designed to cut down on the fraud plaguing the system. Among its most essential changes were A) a requirement that injured drivers and their passengers seek initial medical treatment within 14 days of the incident, and B) a PIP limit for medical care of $2,500 in cases where the injured person does not require emergency medical attention. The new law has apparently been successful in its first 5 years, leading to a small decrease in the price of PIP coverage in the state.
Floridians pay some of the highest auto premiums in the country, and rates are increasing — particularly in South Florida.
The U.S. Dept. of Labor estimates that auto insurance premiums have increased by 16 percent nationally over the last two years as roads have become more crowded with increasingly distracted drivers. Experts cite smartphone use behind the wheel as a prime factor in more crashes, which have led to more claims and higher costs for insurers, and higher premiums for consumers — especially in densely populated areas like South Florida. According to data from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, the number of motor vehicle crashes increased 15 percent statewide between 2014 and 2016, more than three times as fast as the state’s population rate grew during that time. Hurricane Irma also contributed to a boost in insurance losses in 2017. All this means that even drivers with spotless records are being asked to pay more in premiums. There’s also an unfortunate byproduct of more drivers going uninsured (26.7 percent in 2016), which pressures risk-averse policyholders to add uninsured motorist coverage.