The General Review
- January 23, 2018 - This review has been updated to reflect the latest evaluations from consumer studies and customer reviews — The General has continued to perform poorly in both. We’ll monitor these rankings and update this page accordingly to ensure consistency with any future research.
The General is an auto insurer known for insuring high risk drivers — those who may face particularly steep premiums for coverage or have trouble finding insurance elsewhere. This makes them attractive for customers with poor credit or an extensive accident history. Choosing such an insurer comes with some distinct advantages, but there are also significant drawbacks: while drivers who struggle to find insurance may be able to get coverage, they will likely face steep rates with insufficient protection.
The General makes it easy to get a quote and streamlines the process of obtaining coverage. But many drivers who have had to deal with The General after accidents have found its protection to be the bare minimum, with a complicated claims process that often results in unsatisfactory payouts. This also holds true for repairs — customers have noted that The General did all that it could to keep from paying for coverage it promised. If you’re at the end of the road when it comes to insurance options, The General may be able to provide you with a policy. But we wouldn’t recommend it.
The General claims to offer insurance for drivers with a history of accidents or driving violations, poor credit, or lapsed coverage, all at a “good price.”
Is it True?
In some ways. But that doesn’t mean you should choose it.
The General provides insurance for high risk drivers. If you have a hard time finding coverage elsewhere, just being able to obtain insurance may be a big draw. But the cost of such insurance can be steep — and we don’t just mean premiums. Insufficient coverage means you might end up paying extra for accidents that you’re involved in, not only to cover costs for expenses like medical bills or property damage, but also because The General may not pay out as much as you need for repairs or claims.
The General’s coverage options are, quite frankly, barebones protections. While there are some supplemental options like roadside assistance and rental reimbursement, don’t expect the luxury of accident forgiveness or GAP insurance, which covers the difference between the value of your wrecked vehicle and the amount still owed on its loan. And when you need to file a claim, you’ll have to do so over the phone — though it offers live chat and online policy management, The General doesn’t allow its customers to file claims without talking to a representative.
No one likes to consider themselves a high risk driver, but if you have an existing history of accidents or driving violations, it’s important to recognize that you’re more likely to be involved in future accidents. When that time comes, having sufficient coverage will be essential to protect you and your assets. And The General just doesn’t deliver.
The General advertises low rates for coverage and many customers have confirmed that they were offered lower premiums at the outset of their policy. But after the fact, The General has been known to tack on hidden fees for things as simple as monthly billing, resulting in a rate that can be significantly higher than the initial rate you were given.
Customers have also been quick to note that when they needed The General to come through, it either failed to do so or provided an insufficient and unsatisfactory resolution. For repairs, this means you may not get the amount you need — several people reported sending over bills from repair shops only to receive compensation that was less than half the actual cost. And refunds for contested fees were also hard to come by, even if there was no history of driving violations or accidents. This reluctance to pay out is reinforced by some questionable assessments of financial solvency: while The General’s parent company, American Family Insurance, has an “Excellent” financial strength rating from A.M. Best, The General itself has no ratings of its own — from any agency.
All in all, The General makes it as difficult as possible to pay you what you need. Plus, they may take more in fees than you were told to expect.
If you’re drawn to The General because of a poor driving record or credit score, we recommend looking at Progressive first. Progressive scores lower in financial strength and claims satisfaction than the top insurers in the industry, but it offers unique discounts and supplemental coverage options specifically tailored for high risk drivers. This includes a rare discount for drivers under 18, who are among the most likely to be involved in an accident. Plus, Progressive offers enough supplemental choices for you to be able to tailor your policy to your needs. Coverage like pet protection, which covers veterinary expenses resulting from an accident, was rare among insurers — even those like GEICO, which took the top spot in our review of the best auto insurance. While it may not hold the strong financial ratings of its competitors, Progressive is a still a better option for riskier drivers than The General.
Travelers is backed by strong financial ratings and more discounts and supplemental coverage options than any of our other top picks. In fact, Travelers might have been our overall favorite auto insurer were it not a below-average score for claims satisfaction. While this factor won’t impact your coverage, claims satisfaction generally reflects the quality of the relationship between insurers and their customers. Nevertheless, we were impressed by Travelers’ coverage choices — including GAP insurance and ridesharing policies that were hard to find elsewhere — and rare discounts. Travelers will undoubtedly be able to provide you with strong coverage, and it may even come at a cheaper rate than you’ll find from other insurers. Just don’t count on a painless claims process.
The Bottom Line
The General is intended for drivers who may face steep rates from other insurers, but that doesn’t mean it will be able to provide those drivers with the protection they need. Few coverage options and a history of making claims resolution extraordinarily difficult keep us from recommending The General, even if it can offer lower rates than the competition. Plus, you might eventually get hit with unexpected fees that drive the price of your coverage up. If you can avoid it, we would — there are better insurance options out there.