With literally thousands of options to choose from, it’s hard to know where to turn to find reliable car insurance company ratings.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission, there are more than 2,000 businesses in the United State licensed and registered to sell car insurance to consumers. As a consumer, your options range from multi-national corporations with million-dollar advertising campaigns to local mutual insurers who pay high school kids to slip fliers under your car’s windshield at the local grocery store. While each of these insurers can offer you coverage options that will put and keep you in compliance with your state’s minimum requirements for car insurance coverage, and many will have support systems for handling claims and offering you discounts on premium, there will always be a difference between carriers. So how do you go about making objective comparisons? How do you know if the company you insure with (or are thinking of insuring with) is reputable and is offering you a fair and honest proposition?
There are probably as many sources for finding car insurance company reviews as there are car insurance companies. There are, however, a few sources that have established themselves as more useful than others in providing up-to-date car insurance company ratings. Here’s a summary of some places you can turn to next time you are looking to evaluate an insurer for your current or future car insurance coverage needs.
Start with your state
While many car insurance companies advertise nationally and offer car insurance products and services in each and every state, insurance is a state-specific enterprise. States set what the minimum car insurance requirements are for licensed drivers in the state. States also regulate which companies can sell certain types of insurance to its residents, setting rules and guidelines for (among other things):
- Rates insurers can charge for specific lines of insurance
- Coverage options and limits
- Discounts (both types and amounts) insurers can offer to customers
- Marketing and advertising campaigns that are allowed
- Acceptable timelines for claims processing
- Processes for handling disputes
In addition to setting guidelines for operational and product requirements, states also process and make available for public review any complaints or disciplinary actions filed against insurers. Insurance agents (whether independent agent or captive agents) are licensed and regulated through the states and in many cases, consumers can access regular reports on any disciplinary actions that are taken against a specific agent or agency.
If you are unsure how to find your state’s office of insurance or the Insurance Commissioner for your state, a helpful resource may be the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC). NAIC is the standard-setting and regulatory support organization created and governed by the chief insurance regulators from the 50 states, the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories. Through the NAIC, state insurance regulators establish standards and best practices, conduct peer review, and coordinate regulatory oversight of the industry.
Before you decide to purchase a product from a specific insurer, it would be a good idea to check in with your state’s insurance department or Commissioner’s office to be sure it has a clean record and is currently held in good standing by your state’s regulators.
The mission of the Insurance Information Institute (III) is to improve public understanding of insurance—what it does and how it works. For more than 50 years, the III has provided definitive insurance information for consumers, including occasionally highlighting specific insurers and the latest products/services they are proffering. The III is a trusted source among most business media outlets, governments (at all levels), regulatory organizations, universities and the public as a primary source of information, analysis and referrals concerning insurance.
Each year, the III works on more than 3,700 news stories and handles more than 6,000 requests for information. If you have a question about a specific insurer, you can submit that question either in writing via regular mail or by using the online query service featured on the III website.
In addition to direct contact with the media, individuals and organizations, III publishes a host of helpful pamphlets and books ranging in subjects from its popular 9 Ways to Lower Your Auto Insurance Costs to the III Insurance Fact Book.
Consumer Reports is perhaps the most respected consumer reporting resource in the country. Founded in 1936, Consumer Reports is an, independent, nonprofit organization whose mission is to work for a fair, just, and safe marketplace for all consumers and to empower consumers to protect and inform themselves. Consumer Reports accepts no outside advertising and no free samples and employs several hundred mystery shoppers and technical experts to buy and test the products and services it evaluates.
Consumer Reports is one of the top-circulation magazines in the country, and ConsumerReports.org, has the most subscribers of any website of its kind. All of Consumer Reports' work is informed by the more than 1 million readers who respond to its annual questionnaire (one of the largest and most comprehensive consumer studies in the world.)
Each year, Consumer Reports includes a survey of insurance providers in its publication, broken down by major lines of insurance. If you are hoping to use Consumer Reports to check up on a specific car insurance company’s rating, one drawback is that Consumer Reports (both in-print and online) is a paid-subscription service (though most local libraries have current and past editions on file you can refer to.)
ValuePenguin.com is a consumer finance website run by a team of analysts that reviews and analyzes data, facts, filings, and research to help readers make sound financial decisions. They cull reports, databases, congressional bills, and regulatory filings to produce analyses and articles on a variety of topics that affect consumers. The main areas they report on include:
- Health care
- Auto insurance
- Education (both public and private)
The site routinely maintains an updated series of reports on what the best available car insurance rates are (by state) as well as a running evaluation of the “best” car insurance providers.
Each year, MSN and Money Magazine team up to publish surveys of leading providers in specific financial services sectors. They routinely tap into surveys of upwards of 4,500-5,000 customers of car insurance providers to rate and rank levels of satisfaction on five key measurements:
- Customer service
- Claims processing and services
- Value for the price paid
- Whether current customers would recommend the insurer to family and friends
- Whether current customers plan to renew coverage
Companies are ranked on a 100-point scale and the report includes additional details and select customer comments on the experiences consumers have with each car insurance provider in the survey.
Established in 1968, J.D. Power & Associates conducts ongoing surveys involving consumers and business customers, analyzing opinions and perceptions, refining research techniques and study methodologies to offer some of the most advanced product quality, customer satisfaction, and tracking research available. The company's quality and satisfaction measurements are based on responses from millions of consumers annually. J.D. Power & Associates is a business unit of McGraw Hill Financial and its annual surveys and awards are coveted by a broad cross-section of companies in various industries.
They have a two main well-regarded annual surveys of car insurance providers, including its annual awards for Highest Customer Satisfaction Auto Insurance Purchase Experience.
In addition to its annual customer satisfaction surveys, J.D. Power & Associates issues honors for top car insurance companies by certain service regions in the country. If you’re thinking about working with a smaller, regional carrier, you’ll find some nice options from that list.
The People’s Choice award ranking system for car insurance providers, this highly subjective site solicits votes online from current and former customers and tallies the results. While you rarely find negative comments posted, some of the positive remarks people leave on the site regarding certain insurers can be deeply revealing. They also feature a somewhat limited Q & A section where you can post a question or questions about a specific insurer or insurer’s product and receive feedback from other customers with experience dealing with the insurer in question or the product you are considering.
This online resource gathers a wide range of data on an extensive cross-section of industries, products and services. When it comes to car insurance providers, FindTheBest rates companies using its Smart Rating scale. It incorporates multiple expert ratings sources (including input from current and former agents), consumer complaint data, company-specific premium data and company support services to provide a comprehensive, unbiased rating of how each company compares to others. It then rates insurers similarly to the way MSN/Money Magazine’s annual survey does, using a 100-point scale.
Founded in 1899, A.M. Best Company is a full-service credit rating organization dedicated to serving the insurance industry. Policyholders refer to Best's ratings and analysis as a means of assessing the financial strength and creditworthiness of risk-bearing entities and investment vehicles.
A worldwide insurance-rating and information agency with more than 100 years of history, the company was founded in 1899 by Alfred M. Best. Its offices are located in the United States (headquarters in Oldwick, New Jersey, with a large reporting and satellite office in Miami, Florida), the United Kingdom, Hong Kong and Dubai. The company also maintains a news and information bureau in Washington, D.C. Its flagship publication and database (Best's Insurance Reports) offers the largest coverage of insurers and reinsurers in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and worldwide of any interactive rating organization.
Insure.com provides a comprehensive array of information on life, health, auto, and home insurance. It offers a vast library of originally authored insurance articles and decision-making tools. Insure.com has been independently verified as the “No. 1 most-cited independent consumer insurance website” by News Group International, which examined media citations of Insure.com and compared them to its competitors. (Media citations include news websites, television and radio.)
Insure.com annually produces ratings and reports on:
- States with the highest car insurance costs
- Most expensive cars to insure
- Least Expensive cars to insure
- Customer satisfaction ratings for leading car insurance companies
Ask your family and friends, and check online resources
Every day, a new consumer service portal opens on the Internet, rating and evaluating products and services from across a growing spectrum of industries. To keep up with the growth in online information services, more and more car insurance providers are also adding comment sections and bulletin boards to their websites where current and former customers can post comments on the experiences they’ve had with a particular insurer, product or service.
It also doesn’t hurt to ask your friends and family what car insurance provider they use and what their experiences have been. In fact, there are some insurance providers who will actually give your friends and family discounts off premium when they refer a possible customer who eventually purchases a policy for coverage.
Regardless of where your current or any prospective car insurance ranks in any particular survey, you will be best served by spending some time with a local, licensed car insurance agent to go over all the details of any car insurance coverage plan you have in mind. An agent will be able to show you a variety of plans and quotes before you buy and can provide you details about car insurance discounts you may be eligible for. Reply! can be a great asset to you here as we can connect you to car insurance agents near you with the experience to help you craft just the right car insurance coverage plan.