Typically, new auto insurance buyers tend to choose the lowest cost provider, assuming that most providers are essentially the same. As they become more experienced, and after having made a claim or two, they become more wise to other factors that determine a good car insurance company. Let's be clear, all car insurance companies are not alike.
Many thousands of auto insurance customers are happy with their insurers and have been with the same insurance company for 15 years or more. However, other customers don't find their companies very satisfactory. The most frequent complaints that customers have with car insurance providers are:
Slow settlement process
Unsatisfactory payout on claims
Feel forced to use insurer's repair shop Poor repair quality High premiums Company raised rates after accident Lack of personal attention or compassion
Billing, policy, and other non-claim issues Unfortunately, most of these problems don't surface until after a claim has been filed, when it's too late to find another company. That is why it is important to do your homework before selecting an insurance provider.
How to choose the best car insurance company
There are a number of ways you can go about choosing a good insurer
Research consumer opinions - Consumer Reports magazine frequently surveys readers on auto insurance companies. The last large survey results were reported in the March 2006 issue. The survey measures overall customer satisfaction and claim problems. Of the 27 companies reported, satisfaction score differences between the best company and the worst company was only 16 points out of 100. This is hardly enough of a difference to make for a solid decision choice based on this information alone. Find the report on Consumer Reports' web site (a subscription fee is required) or look for the magazine at your local library.
Browse online forums - Consumer forums and automotive discussion boards often have sections in which car insurance is discussed. These sources change frequently and the quality of the information can vary widely, so don't use this as your only research source. Remember that people who have experienced problems are more likely to post comments than those who don't have problems.
Ask repair shop managers - Nobody knows about car insurance companies any better than body shops that have to deal with them. Ask the owners or managers of accident repair shops about which insurers are the best to work with – which are the least trouble when settling claims and paying for proper repairs. We've seen body shops in which auto insurance company ratings were actually posted on the wall in the waiting room. Don't forget your new-car dealer's body shop, if he has one.
If you have poor credit - Choose an insurance company that does not check your FICO® credit score. Many do, but some do not. If you have a good credit score, there's nothing to be concerned about. Get your credit score at FreeCreditScore.com.
Check state government data - Most states have departments that regulate insurance companies and and handle complaints against them. This may be the Attorney General's office of consumer affairs or it may be the office of the Insurance Commissioner. You can often find which auto insurance companies have the best and worse complaint rates on your state's website. Actually, it may be helpful to look at other state's web sites as well. Just be aware that most state web sites are not well designed or are out of date, and it may be somewhat difficult to find the information you need.
Use broker web sites - Insurance broker web sites (see recommended sites below) are one of the best and easiest ways to compare auto insurance companies online. Brokers work with multiple insurance companies so that they can offer customers a variety of choices to meet their needs. It's easier than shopping individual companies on your own. Their services are free. Some of these broker sites contain comparative information and ratings.
Get rate quotes from as many companies as you can (quotes are free) so that you have plenty of data to compare. The more information you provide when asking for a quote, the more accurate your quote price will be. Many people overpay for their insurance simply because they do not shop around enough.
The absolute best, fastest, and easiest way to find the cheapest auto insurance rates is to get online rate quotes from muliple insurance companies and compare them. There is no other way that will let you get actual car insurance rates as easily and quickly — no other way.
Recommended auto insurance sites
Even if you're happy with your car insurance company, you should compare rates every year or two. Rates change often. Discounts come and go. State insurance laws change. Get rates from several different companies and compare. Rate quotes are free and it might just save you money — lots of money.
NetQuote.com, is the nation's oldest and largest such insurance broker company (see this CBS News article that mentions NetQuote). They get you the lowest cost car insurance by comparing rates from Allstate, Progressive, 21st Century, Farmers, and others. Since these companies are competing with each other for customer's business, rates are as low as you'll find anywhere. If you like one of the quotes, it's easy to get set up with that company right online. You are not obligated to accept any quote.
InsureMe is a well-known and respectable online auto insurance broker that works directly with the big names in insurance, including Progressive, Nationwide, GEICO, and Liberty Mutual. You can get fast rate quotes by simply filling out an online form. You'll get back a set of competitive rate quotes that you can choose from, although you are not obligated to select any of them.
In Canada, go to Kanetix for auto insurance quotes.
After you choose a company
Many of the differences between car insurance companies are hidden in the details of their policies. Before you sign, make sure you read and understand these details. If you have questions or concerns, get it resolved before you sign. Later may be too late.
After you have selected a company, it's a good idea to reexamine your choice every year or two because company policies and rates change frequently. The best auto insurance company this year might not be the best next year.
If you change from one car insurance company to another, and have already pre-paid some of your premiums, your old insurance company will refund your unused premiums.
After you've selected car accident insurance, and you have a used car more than 3 years old, make sure you are also covered against expensive breakdowns and repairs after your new-car warranty has expired.. We recommend Warranty Direct®, the largest and oldest provider of direct-to-consumer automobile warranties.
Finding the best auto insurance company requires finding those with the best combination of rates, discounts, and customer service. Finding the best rates is quick and easy if you get online rate quotes and compare them.