Coloradans love to brag about getting 300 days of sunshine per year, but you probably won’t hear them brag much about the hailstorms. “We’ve had a real bad run on hail in Colorado,” says Scott Foster, A.A.I. of Foster & Associates, an independent insurance brokerage agency based in Littleton. “The claims have been massive with a devastating impact on homeowners premium costs and deductibles in Colorado.” Colorado has the second-most claims for both hail damage and catastrophic claims in the United States. Since 2009, there’s been a surge in inclement weather and natural disasters — wildfires and windstorms, in addition to hail — that has premiums in the Centennial State on the rise.

The hope, of course, is that weather is in a bad cycle and the storms will come to pass. But for now, Colorado homeowners are paying an average of $1,383 per year for an HO-3 homeowners insurance policy, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. That’s higher than the US average of $1,173, but that number will vary considerably depending on your home and where you live in the state. An HO-3 premium in Denver, for example, averages a much higher $1,720 annually, while premiums in tornado-prone Sterling average about $1,934, according to the Colorado Division of Insurance.

Pricing, while important, is only part of the story — the ins and outs of coverage should be top-of-mind while you search for a policy. Many agents miss limitations and exclusions that impact your coverage when providing a quote, so be ready to advocate for yourself to ensure the policies you look at have what you need. “Would you insure half your car?” Foster says. “It’s important to ask questions. Look at all the additional coverage options.”

For this review, we did some of the work for you. We singled out the top five homeowners insurance providers in Colorado by market share: State Farm, USAA, Farmers Insurance Group, Allstate, and American Family Insurance. Then, we used our review of nationwide homeowners insurance providers as a starting point and dug into each one individually. We looked at the five companies' financial standing, pored over customers’ claims, examined satisfaction ratings, and compared coverage options and discounts. We also posed as homeowners of a sample home in Denver to gauge the quote process and helpfulness of customer service agents.

Colorado Homeowners Insurance Reviews

USAA Insurance Group

Creditors and customers alike love USAA. It has the highest financial ratings of any of the top five providers in Colorado (Aaa from Moody’s, A++ from A.M. Best, and AA+ from S&P). It also scored high among the more than 9,000 readers at Consumer Reports, which gave it a 92 out of 100 in overall satisfaction. The rest of the five providers we looked at lagged significantly behind USAA here. The next closest providers in overall satisfaction were State Farm and Farmers Insurance, which both came in at 82; the other two providers scored an even 80.

There's one major caveat with USAA: It only insures active and retired US military members and their families. With several bases in Colorado and the Air Force Academy outside Colorado Springs, though, it’s no wonder why it’s still the second-largest provider in the state.

We used a current customer’s account to get a quote, and we found prices were about 25 percent higher than everyone but State Farm, but it covered us at a higher replacement cost than competitors — nearly the full market value of our home. We also noticed USAA has a flat, one percent deductible for wind and hail, which is about average; though Allstate, American Family, and Farmers also have additional deductible options. Allstate, for example, lets you choose between a one percent wind and hail deductible, or a $1,000 deductible of the same type if you pay $1,000 more on your premium. Be aware, though, if you’re just shopping around: USAA won’t give you much detail on its homeowners insurance up-front, and its website is equally thin on educational materials.

In all, where USAA lacks in slickness and wide availability, it makes up for in its smooth claims process and rock-solid financial soundness. If you or a family member has served or is serving in the military, it’s absolutely worth getting a quote.

State Farm

By a wide margin, State Farm is the largest homeowners insurance provider in Colorado. Its sheer amount of manpower and resources give it an advantage over its competitors in the state. State Farm was second only to USAA in overall customer satisfaction on Consumer Reports, but will provide an average claims process, according to J.D. Power and Associates. Our sample quote was the highest out of the five providers, but remember: Your quote might be lower, depending on your home and area.

One peculiarity of State Farm is its deductible: It’s a flat one percent of the total cost of damage, with a $1,000 minimum, no matter what type of damage your home suffers. State Farm is the only provider of the five we looked at that doesn’t have a separate wind-hail deductible of some kind.

Wind and hail constituted 40 percent of all claims from 2010–2014, according to the RMIIA. To defray their costs, many providers now include wind and hail damage as a separate deductible, which typically costs anywhere from $1,000 to one percent of your home’s quoted replacement cost, out of pocket. For example, if your home is valued at $250,000, you’d pay a $2,500 deductible to repair hail damage. Wind-hail deductibles, while common, are now generally seen as disadvantageous for consumers — since Colorado is in “Hail Alley,” the odds are high that you will pay for hail damage at some point in your homeownership. With State Farm, there’s just one flat fee. That may be good or bad depending on your circumstances, but it sure keeps things simple.

We liked how easy it was to obtain a quote from State Farm online — there was no redirection to a pushy agent, just the facts. Like competitor Allstate, State Farm’s site is comprehensive: Whether or not you’re a customer, you have access to reams of educational materials and tools, such as refinancing calculators, practical videos with tips (like how to thaw frozen pipes), and forms for scheduling your valuables.

And when it comes to the quote itself, State Farm was straightforward. Where Allstate, American Family, and Farmers gave us multiple pricing tiers, State Farm gave us one price for our initial quote. It spelled out coverage options clearly; to negotiate and get deep into the nitty-gritty, you’d have to get in touch with an agent. Overall, though, State Farm is a safe bet for its no-nonsense, well-rounded coverage.

Farmers

Farmers Insurance offers the most opportunities for discounts of the providers we tested (13, by our count). That’s roughly double the number of potential discounts offered explicitly by giants State Farm (6) and USAA (7). It also offered us three separate pricing tiers, with its middle tier comparable in pricing and coverage to the other insurers we reviewed. The claims experience scores even with every other widely available provider (three out of five stars), aside from USAA’s gleaming five-star rating. In keeping with that average experience, Farmers holds a solid, as opposed to exceptional, financial stability rating.

We liked how Farmers Insurance offers a “Premier” option for guaranteed replacement costs (GRC). In the event your home is destroyed — especially relevant for people in wildfire-prone areas — Farmers will replace your home no matter the cost. This Premium tier costs twice as much ($5,765/yr for our sample home) as its Standard option ($2,907/yr), but it sets Farmers apart from competitors, who only quoted us at regular replacement costs, which vary and may not be sufficient to cover your entire home. For what it’s worth, an agent cautioned that the higher-tiered prices are “for reference” and are negotiable depending on need.

Unlike other competitors, Farmers also tacks on a $25 annual “policy/membership fee.” While that cost is negligible over the span of a year (and, remember, you have more chances to qualify for a discount to make up for it), it still sticks out. And one more annoying thing about Farmers Insurance: its online quoting process. We spent 10 minutes entering our information for an “online quote,” expecting a nice, round number to be delivered at the end. Instead, we were directed to an agent. To be fair, that agent promptly contacted us by phone and email and sent us a detailed quote, but for someone strictly shopping around, it’s a hassle.

American Family Insurance

American Family quoted us at the cheapest rate of anyone for our sample home — it was an incredible 60 percent lower than State Farm and USAA. Curiously, though, it quoted our replacement cost at half the market value of our home, which gave us pause, though the agent reassured us that the quote was an “open conversation” and that the replacement cost is negotiable.

The low quote is especially intriguing because, at the time we wrote this original review, American Family Insurance only offered HO-5 policies. All the other providers we got quotes from offered HO-3 policies. Where HO-3 policies cover you on a named-perils basis, HO-5 is “open-perils.” In essence, in an HO-3 policy, the burden of proof is on you to prove that a named peril is included in your policy. In an HO-5, the burden of proof is on the insurance company — the policy covers everything, unless it’s specifically excluded. We spoke with a American Family rep recently, and the company now offers HO3 policies in Colorado as well. So take our original quotes with a grain of salt: You’ll have more options than we did.

One reason our American Family’s prices were cheaper on the surface: It charged more for deductibles. American Family charges deductibles for identity fraud ($250) and property loss ($1,000), in addition to a hail deduction of $1,000. So while the overall annual price we were quoted is appealing, it may even out over time with added deductibles.

Like Allstate and Farmers, we had to go through a few hoops to get our quote. An agent emailed us and requested a Social Security number to get an accurate quote. We told them we weren’t comfortable with that, and the rep was polite and understanding, but contended that it would help us lower our rates. When it comes to quotes, we prefer the ease of State Farm and USAA (for members), where you can get a reasonably accurate starting price with a few clicks.

Allstate

Allstate wins points for its web savvy, discount offerings, and unique coverage options. In May 2016, Allstate rolled out extra homesharing protection for people in Colorado and five other states who rent out their homes on sites like Airbnb and VRBO. Allstate is the first large insurer to offer such extended protection, and it could be a worthwhile consideration for Coloradans with mountain vacation homes or coveted real estate in major metro areas. For its online presence and coverage options, we like Allstate as a provider for first-time homeowners, as we noted in our review of the best national homeowners insurance providers.

One downside for Allstate was its quoting process. Like Farmers and American Family, we filled out a bunch of information on online forms expecting to see a quote at the end. Instead, we were directed to a local agent. While friendly and helpful, the rep asked us for our SSN and driver’s license number, and getting the quote took eight hours to process, where others took a matter of minutes.

It may stand out for its appealing prices and customer service, but Allstate gets a comparable, "meh" score for its claims experience. It's rated three out of five on J.D. Power, just like the other three non-military-exclusive companies.

Allstate, like American Family Insurance, offered us an Elite pricing option with a higher deductible for wind and hail damage ($1,000) and a lower-priced Base insurance option with a costlier deductible (one percent of the total cost). The odds that you’ll make a claim for wind and hail are high in Denver, so we’d be taking a considerable risk by picking the Base option. The Elite tier also includes many optional coverages, such as identity theft protection and building code upgrades. The Elite option averaged about $700–$1,000 less per year for our sample home than USAA, State Farm, and Farmers, but like American Family, it covered us at a lower replacement cost — about 60 percent of our home’s market value. If you feel uncomfortable with the replacement cost quoted by an insurer, be sure to negotiate.

How to Get the Most out of your Colorado Homeowners Insurance

We’ll say it again: Location matters.

According to Allstate, the most common claims in Denver are for theft, water damage, and hail — and according to the Denver Post, a bad hailstorm lasting just a few minutes can lead to far costlier claims than a forest fire that burns for days. Meanwhile, Durango, a smaller city in southwestern Colorado, manages to dodge hailstorms (it didn’t have one in 2017, while Denver had 19, according to StormerSite). Durango also enjoys fewer claims for property crime, hence its more affordable policy prices.

Average Annual HO-3 Policy Prices in Colorado

Denver Colorado Springs Durango Sterling
State Farm $1,967 $1,734 $780 $3,348
Farmers Insurance $2,377 $2,746 $524 $3,413
American Family Insurance $1,530 $1,459 $849 $1,640

Based on government data from July 2017.

Then there’s Sterling. While it’s smaller than Durango in population, it has an unfortunate geography: It averages two tornadoes per year. That risk of disaster drives up the price of insurance.

Colorado’s two largest metro areas, Denver and Colorado Springs, are comparable in price across providers — although those numbers will vary depending on your home, coverage, discounts, and more.

Wildfires in 2012 sparked big Colorado homeowners insurance reform.

More than 2 million Coloradans live in the wildland-urban interface, in idyllic homes amid mountains and pines. Unfortunately, the risk of wildfires is highest there, and it puts pressure on premium prices.

The Waldo Canyon wildfire of 2012 caused more than $450 million of damage, destroying over 300 homes. The devastation exposed a lot of problems with homeowners insurance in the state: Typically, insurers offer 12 months of living expenses for people as their homes are being re-built, but for many victims, 12 months wasn’t enough time, and they were left out in the cold.

In addition, many homeowners were lost in the confusing terms of their policy, and didn’t understand that “replacement costs” did not mean that their home would be replaced, but rather that the insurance company would only replace the home up to a specified dollar amount. Lucy Buck, an insurance agent for State Farm based in Denver, goes to extra lengths to make sure her customers understand replacement costs, but says, “There’s been a lot of litigation and confusion around the term.”

In 2013, Gov. John Hickenlooper signed the Homeowners Insurance Reform Act, with the goal of improving communication and understanding between insurers and the insured. Among its provisions:

  • Homeowners insurance policies must have more detailed disclosures, and be written at a 10th-grade reading level or lower.
  • Homeowners and their insurers must carefully discuss “replacement value” up front rather than after the home is destroyed, and language in the written policies must define replacement costs for customers — i.e., that they may not cover the total costs of replacement for a home.
  • All insurers must offer at least 12 months of living expenses for affected customers, and must offer the option for 24 months of living expenses.
  • Insurers must offer policyholders extended replacement-cost coverage for at least 20 percent of the replacement limit, plus another 10 percent to cover laws and ordinances.
  • Insurers must consider estimates from contractors solicited by the policyholders.

Beware of “stormchasers.”

Hail is such a widespread problem in Colorado that it has spawned its own cottage industry of roofing scammers. After a really bad hailstorm, scammers — known as “stormchasers” — often go door-to-door promising roof repairs, says the Denver Post. If you get an unlicensed contractor to perform hail repairs, you could end up damaging your home and your insurance premium.

Early June 2016 saw damaging hail throughout metro Denver, which spawned a local coalition led by the Better Business Bureau and the Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management to raise awareness about these shady contractors. Most contractors don’t work door to door. Before you sign a contract with a roofing contractor, here are some tips from the coalition on how to avoid getting played.

  • Don’t get pushed into signing a contract right away. Try to compare estimates with another contractor first.
  • Make sure the contractor is registered to conduct business in Colorado by checking this database, and see to it that they have a permanent address and federal tax ID number.
  • Ask for proof of the contractor’s insurance.
  • Don’t pay a contractor in full until the work is complete.
  • Don’t sign a contract with blank entries, or wishy-washy language, where a contractor may be able to add in terms later that you didn’t agree to.
  • Make sure the contract you sign complies with Senate Bill 38.