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.
- March 27, 2018 - We’ve updated this review again to provider a closer look at The General’s specific features, including discounts, supplemental coverage options, and available resources. We also investigated what others have to say about The General’s reputation, so that you can feel confident knowing that you have all the information you need to make an educated decision about your auto insurance.
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 the company 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. 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.
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. If 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 A.M. Best awards an “Excellent” financial strength rating to The General's parent company, American Family Insurance, The General itself isn't rated by agencies like like Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s. has no ratings of its own — from any agency. The Insurance Information Institute recommends choosing providers with multiple financial strength evaluations, so The General’s overall lack of ratings gave us pause.
A Closer Look at Features
|Price||Quotes will differ from person to person|
|In Business Since||1963|
|Best For||Drivers who can't get coverage elsewhere|
|Not For||Customers with good driving records|
|JD Power Insurance Shopping Rating||Not Rated|
|JD Power Auto Claims Satisfaction Rating||Not Rated|
|A.M. Best Financial Strength Rating||A (Excellent)*|
|Moody’s Rating||Not Rated|
|Standard and Poor’s Rating||Not Rated|
*Rating of American Family Insurance, The General's parent company
Our Deep Dive
- Accessible insurance: The General’s main strength is its willingness to insure high-risk drivers, like teens, seniors, or customers with poor driving records or credit. While you might still pay high premiums for coverage, simply being able to obtain protection may be enough of a draw to warrant getting a quote if you have trouble finding insurance elsewhere.
- Quick quotes: The General boasts of a streamlined online quote process that takes less than two minutes to complete, after which point you can simply purchase your policy, print your proof of insurance, and hit the road.
- 24/7 roadside assistance: The General offers fewer supplemental coverage options than our other contenders but it does include roadside assistance, a service which will keep you from being stranded on the side of the road after an accident or vehicle failure. If you’re not a member of AAA or another auto service provider which offers roadside assistance coverage, opting for supplemental coverage on your policy will provide greater peace of mind while you’re on the road.
- Good student discount: Coverage from The General includes a discount for student drivers who maintain a B-average or higher in school. For young drivers or those with poor records, maintaining good grades can be a simple way to save money on monthly insurance costs.
- Safety feature discounts: If your vehicle comes equipped with safety features like anti-lock brakes, anti-theft devices, or daytime lights, you may be eligible for deductions on your premium. Many of these features come included in newer vehicle models, which means that you’ll likely see savings if you’ve recently purchased a new car.
- Custom equipment coverage: This supplemental option provides protection for any custom parts you may have installed in your vehicle, like grilles, stereo systems, paint jobs, or spoilers. If you elect to purchase this coverage, The General will pay for the cost of replacing these parts after an accident (which aren’t usually included under a standard insurance policy). It’s important to note that The General has a limit on custom equipment coverage: in California, the limit is $1,500; in every other state, it’s $5,000. That means if your custom parts are valued at more than this limit, you may not be able to recoup the total value of the loss in an accident. Still, having any compensation for parts you’ve installed yourself makes custom equipment coverage worth consideration.
The General vs. the Competition
The General vs. Progressive
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 pays veterinary expenses resulting from an accident, was rare among insurers, even for companies 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 most drivers than The General.
What Others Are Saying
Quote.com agrees that The General is best for drivers who have trouble obtaining coverage elsewhere
With policy options available for high-risk drivers, The General may be appealing to customers who face exorbitant rates or who have been denied coverage from other insurers. All customers, however, will face The General’s deficiencies. As Quote.com writes, “Many customers complain that The General did not process their claims quickly enough or that there were delays in the investigation of a claim. Others claim that The General did not have grounds to deny their claims, and even more argued that claims were not handled satisfactorily by adjusters.” If you’ve experienced difficulty obtaining coverage from other providers, The General may be able to keep you insured. But if you’re just looking for low rates on coverage, you’re probably better off finding protection from a more reputable insurance company.
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.