Help us pick an insurance agent.
December 10, 2010 6:45 AM   Subscribe

How do I pick a company for renter's insurance in the Boston area?

My wife and I live in Cambridge, MA, and we need renter's insurance. It's been put off for far too long, mostly because figuring out the logistics is daunting. I don't just want to pick the local guys only to find out that when we need them, they're a pain in the ass to deal with.

Confounding the issue is that I have a relatively large collection of Magic: the Gathering cards that I want to make sure are insured in the case of fire, theft, or whatever. An insurance agent who understood the value of collectibles would be a bonus.

Other than that, it seems like it should be easy. No kids, no pets, just lots of electronics, kitchenware, books, and games. So, who should we call? Any other tips for dealing with renter's insurance?
posted by explosion to Work & Money (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Just pick one of the big guys and go for it. Most carriers will enable you to specially schedule items of unique or unusual value such as collectibles, but be prepared to pay for it. Not a huge amount, but far, far more per dollar of coverage than for your basic personal property coverage.

Seriously, State Farm, Progressive, Allstate, anybody that writes homeowners policies will be able to deal with this. Whether it's jewelry, art collections, furs, whatever, they'll insure it.
posted by valkyryn at 6:51 AM on December 10, 2010

Do you already have auto insurance? See if your provide offers renters', too. Many do, and because you are already a customer it's easier and you may get a price break.
posted by Miko at 6:57 AM on December 10, 2010

Response by poster: We don't have auto insurance (ZipCar is it for our occasional driving needs), so there's no great starting point.

I guess I could just pick a company and go with it, but if someone has specific advice ("X was terrible, avoid!" "Y was easy to work with, and helped us rebuild.") that would be great.
posted by explosion at 7:07 AM on December 10, 2010

I've been super happy with State Fund Insurance for the past 15 years. They take care of all of our insurance needs.
posted by reddot at 7:12 AM on December 10, 2010

USAA is awesome if you have access to their services.
posted by litnerd at 7:13 AM on December 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

I went with Liberty Mutual for my car insurance after shopping around between them, Allstate and locals like Arbella and Safety. When my car was totalled in the flash floods that we had in Somerville/Arlington this summer, they ponied up with a very fair (and actually kinda generous) assessment of my car. No dickering or back and forth or adversity. My girlfriend's been encouraging me to get renter's insurance for years, so when I went back to Liberty for insuring my new car and asked about adding in renter's insurance, they basically threw it in for free (ie. gave me a discount on my automobile premium that was equal to my renter's insurance policy)
posted by bl1nk at 7:16 AM on December 10, 2010

We've been very happy with Amica (we now use them for homeowner's insurance, auto, and umbrella policy, but started with them years ago on just renter's insurance).
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 7:21 AM on December 10, 2010

I use Liberty Mutual because that's what my family has used and they've been pretty good over the years. I know a bunch of folks who swear by Nancy Bender, who is an independent insurance agent.
posted by rmd1023 at 7:22 AM on December 10, 2010

I went with Liberty Mutual, and they've been easy to work with. Haven't had to make any claims yet, but the reps I've spoken to have always gotten me as many discounts as possible (alumni associations, work discounts, etc.).

What you want to ask for when calling any insurance agent is a renter's policy for approximately the value of all of your property (minus the Magic cards), and then a "rider" for the valuable stuff.
posted by backseatpilot at 7:23 AM on December 10, 2010

Best answer: We had Amica and a Library of Alexandria.

I sold the Library, but we've stuck with Amica for the past seven years. They do recognize collections, but you need to cite them separately when you get your policy. If the collections are over a certain value then (I think) there's an extra fee.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:29 AM on December 10, 2010

Best answer: We recently got Amica. The base plan is pretty cheap, and the electronics extension is an extra $30/year or so, and is kind of better than Apple Care. It covers stuff that is your fault, like spilling water into your computer or dropping your iPhone, if you're prone to that sort of thing.

I think the agent said collections fall under some valuables extension for which you also have to pay extra if they're worth more than some small amount. I didn't get that, but I don't think it was outrageously expensive, either.
posted by ignignokt at 7:49 AM on December 10, 2010

I've had State Farm insurance one way or another for 24 years now; longer if you credit the time I lived in my parents' home which was insured by them. I've had to collect on car insurance a few times and my family once had to collect somewhat big due to hurricane damage.

My experience and observation is that with the big guys like State Farm or Allstate that your pedestrian interactions are going to be with the selling agent and there's a huge variation in quality there. When it comes to collecting you'll be dealing with the larger machine and it's pretty well-oiled.

So I have come to the belief that what's important is having a good agent for the pedestrian stuff, who can help you pick the right insurance amount and get the riders for things like your cards. I've had an outright horrid one (someone so bad that I replaced him 18 years ago and was STILL happy to hear it when my father told me the jerk had retired recently) and mediocre ones and have a very good one right now.

I'd suggest you ask friends who their agents are and if they have any impressions of them. Reject anyone with bad reports. Put positive reports on the top of the list and just start calling. Chat with them. Anyone who seems uncertain of how to help you or impatient with talking to you... move on. You're never going to get more positive attention from them than when they're trying to land your business.

I really think that, so long as you are dealing with reputable underwriting organizations, this is the most important thing: someone who you feel will be helpful and who you're comfortable talking to about your needs. If you talk to 10 different (for example) Allstate agents the underlying policies they all sell are the same. It's the exact one they help you select and the coverage amount that matters.
posted by phearlez at 8:01 AM on December 10, 2010

I'll second Nancy Bender Insurance as an agent. My experience has been strictly auto (starting with getting my uninsured car out of a tow yard on a Friday afternoon before a 3 day weekend) but they were quick, nice and stellar.

Depending on where you live, (have a finished basement, basement apartment, really close to water) consider flood insurance. I believe homeowners/renters doesn't cover damage by flood.
posted by zix at 8:16 AM on December 10, 2010

Another recommendation for Liberty Mutual. Started with renters insurance with them, now I have home and car policies with them. Luckily, I haven't had the need to make any claims so far, so I can't provide feedback on that end.
posted by puritycontrol at 2:49 PM on December 10, 2010

If you're looking for something slightly more objective, maybe check the state insurance commissioner's office for customer satisfaction reviews. And if they don't publish, check with another state for at least something comparable.
posted by pwnguin at 2:53 PM on December 10, 2010

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