Wawanesa or Mercury car insurance
October 21, 2014 11:07 AM   Subscribe

Has anyone in California used Wawanesa or Mercury car insurance? They're offering significantly lower rates than the big guys but are they sketchy?

I'm a 27 year old male getting full coverage on my car, paying about $180/month to esurance. All State, Progressive, Geico, and other big companies generally offer similar quotes.

However, Wawanesa is offering about $100 and Mercury offering $140. Wawanesa won't let me buy online - instead, the quote gave me a PDF application which I'm supposed to mail in, with the first payment upfront. I think this is a bit weird - I'm supposed to pay them before I even know if they're offering me coverage? Mercury generally gets terrible reviews, including people saying that they raise insurance rates automatically for no reason and then canceling can be tricky.

Has anyone used either of these companies? In fairness to esurance, I do think every interaction with them has been smooth and painless, including when I had to submit a claim when someone rear ended me. But is that worth $40 or $80 more dollars a month?
posted by lewedswiver to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Mercury is legit, and every time I've shopped around, all the other companies have had higher rates. (I'm in L.A.) Mr. BlahLaLa and I have been with Mercury for 20+ years. We've had several accidents in that time -- a mix of our fault vs. the other person's fault -- and every single incident has been dealt with easily. Any problems have been resolved smoothly. Like most insurance companies, they have contracts with many local repair shops, so getting repairs nearby has never been a problem.

One of the accidents was a bigger deal, and one of our cars was totalled. Resolving the value of the totalled car was easy, and frankly they gave us more money than I would have hoped for.

Our rates did go up quite a bit after Mr. BlahLaLa had 3 fender-benders that were his fault. (Dammit!) But I think that's to be expected, and our insurance agent told us the rate will go back down as those accidents drop off his record in time.
posted by BlahLaLa at 11:32 AM on October 21, 2014

I used to use Mercury. They weren't so helpful when I got in a car accident, and I had to (or at least they led me to think I had to) go to a body shop in a kind of sketchy area to get my car fixed. I switched to State Farm after that, and have been much happier with them. YMMV, of course.
posted by Anne Neville at 12:37 PM on October 21, 2014

I have not used Wawanesa myself, but I was hit by someone 2-3 years ago who had Wawanesa. Wawanesa never responded to my insurance company (State Farm), so I ended up using my uninsured motorist coverage. Someone else probably has better info on whether they're legit, but that incident made me a bit suspicious.
posted by karbonokapi at 2:53 PM on October 21, 2014

I've had Wawanesa; they're legit, just very old-school when it comes to their forms and online presence. They don't really advertise much, and you have to be a very good driver to get their rates, so they're a bit under the radar.
posted by culfinglin at 3:12 PM on October 21, 2014

I lived in California from about 1994 to 2003. I had Mercury for a brief while. I can't quite remember this long-ago order of events anymore, but I think that after I had signed up with them, they required an inspection of the car. I had recently gotten a small dent in the fender when I bumped a post in a parking garage. I wasn't making a claim on it, and I think I was only signed up for liability insurance. Nevertheless, Mercury decided to raise my premium for that. I dropped them with bitterness, and that's why I'll advise you and anyone else that they're a bunch of dirtbags.

I signed up with 21st Century, who I believe were cheaper than Mercury anyway. I never had a claim, so I can't vouch for their quality. I did enjoy their free towing service a few times.

These days I use Amica, based on their great rating in Consumer Reports. I don't think they're cheap like 21st Century, but they might be less than State Farm et al. We have comprehensive coverage and have actually had a few claims (people just love to hit a bright orange parked car), and everything has been smooth.
posted by polecat at 4:05 PM on October 21, 2014

Best answer: I think people have a difficult time understanding insurance rates. It's not like buying, for example, a car where price and quality are broadly correlated. Insurance companies are constantly tinkering with risk pools--making prices too expensive for customers in areas where they want to reduce risk and lowering prices for customers in other areas where they want to increase risk.

Anyway, the California Department of Insurance collects data on consumer complaints. You can search here. Some relevant data:

Wawanesa: market share 1.794%, share of complaints 0.99%, ratio of 0.55
Mercury: market 6.212%, share of complaints 1.86%, ratio 0.30
State Farm: market share 13.882%, complaints 9.81%, ratio 0.71
21st Century: market share 2.718%, complaints 3.48%, ratio 1.28

There's also this comparison table.
posted by mullacc at 6:24 PM on October 21, 2014

FWIW, 30 years ago Mercury was sketchy and the lowest priced. After an accident where I was not at fault, they gave me a list of shops from which to pick. I selected one I passed everyday on the way to work. Mercury then told me what day to drop car at shop. For 3 days it sat, untouched, in their fenced in area. The shop failed to replace my trailer hitch. Mercury told me to return to shop, they'll reimburse. Up till now, everything had been in writing. I asked them to put it in writing. They refused.
posted by Homer42 at 7:17 PM on October 21, 2014

I've been using Wawanesa for 14 years. They've been fine, but I've only had to make 1 claim (other driver's fault).
posted by Horselover Fat at 12:45 PM on October 22, 2014

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