How do I find a good insurance company?
March 15, 2017 1:30 PM   Subscribe

Currently with State Farm for renters and car insurance, looking to get some new quotes. How do I judge if an insurance company is good or not? Recommendations?

State Farm has just raised their rates, and they take a week to answer an email, if they answer it at all. I'm really unhappy with them, although I feel like they are a good insurance company - it's just the same company that my dad and grandparents had, so it's who I have.

I'd like to get some quotes, but I want a reliable company - I am happy to pay a little more if I need to, and likely wouldn't switch from State Farm if they hadn't had so many communication issues.

How do I determine if an insurance company is reliable and responsive? We would have auto and renters insurance, and we have decent records.

Is there anyone that you have that you would highly recommend? Maybe we just need to change agents? We're in Atlanta.

Looking at previous questions, we are not eligible for USAA.
posted by needlegrrl to Grab Bag (9 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
After getting pissed off at State Farm car insurance (more at my agent, who couldn't sort out a recurring billing problem, than the company) two years ago we switched to Travelers auto insurance, at a much better rate and with better coverage. Our one experience with claims service was impeccably smooth and trouble free. We combined auto (at max levels of liability and uninsured motorist along with C&C on a 2014 compact) and home and personal liability, and the car insurance portion is *ridiculously* cheap compared to what SF was getting out of me and beat standalone car insurance quotes from GEICO and Allstate substantially.
posted by spitbull at 1:43 PM on March 15

As long as you're comfortable with the terms of your particular policy and the reputation of the company issuing it, the big variable is the agent. Having a good agent is really the key. That's how you make sure you have someone who will answer the phone and cares what happens to you. Independent agents may even represent more than one insurance group and can sometimes help you find the right match, where an insurance company is concerned.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 2:19 PM on March 15 [1 favorite]

There are two aspects, and I'm not entirely sure which you're asking about: the agency and the company. The company is who writes the policy. The agency is who sells it, and generally who you call for customer service.

In general, there aren't very many terrible insurance companies. Some are better than others, but there are very few that are actually awful. The industry is too heavily regulated for scammers and fly-by-night companies to establish a foothold. USAA is the gold standard, but you're not eligible, alas. If you're in a state served by Amica, they're the other universally beloved company out there, but they only serve the northeast. In terms of companies to stay away from, the only one I really don't like is Allstate, and that's for somewhat personal reasons. They're an ok company; I just think they raise their rates too often compared to other companies. Aside from those three, the best insurance company is the one who can write the coverage you need at the best price.

Insurance agencies, on the other hand, vary widely. I work with agencies for my job, and while I've met some of the sharpest businesspeople I've ever seen in agencies, I've also seen people who I literally wonder how they're able to get dressed in the mornings. The thing to keep in mind is that the majority of agencies are mom-and-pop businesses. Some agents are first-generation entrepreneurs who are passionate about helping their clients. Some inherited the agency from their dad and are slowly squandering that inheritance. Some people just want to make money without working very hard.

The best way to find a good agent remains word of mouth. Ask your friends who they have their insurance through. That's how I found my agent, and I couldn't be happier. Don't just google it, and whatever you do, don't buy a policy directly from the company's website. Yes, the sales process is easy, but what do you think the service process is going to be if you ever have a problem?

There are two kinds of agents, captive and independent. Captive agents write for one company only. State Farm is the classic example of this. Independent agents write for multiple companies, and are thus better equipped to give you a better deal. When you ask a State Farm agent which company will give you the best deal, the answer is always going to be State Farm. When you ask an independent agent, the answer may be Travelers, it may be Progressive, or it may be Auto Owners. The independent agent will actually plug your info into each company's algorithm and compare. Captive agents can't do that. The independent agent can also give you better information about each company. For example, my agent gave me two quotes and said "company A is $7/month cheaper, but their service is just average, while with company B has the best service of anyone".

It's not a bad idea to talk to multiple agents the first time you shop around. Call multiple agencies and see how they treat you. Do you feel like, if you're in a car accident, that person will take care of everything for you? Or do they just want to cash your check every month? It's not as time-consuming as most people expect. You probably won't spend more than 15 minutes with each agent. It's worth it.

Your profile says you're in Atlanta. I have a couple of clients in Georgia that I think are really good. If you MeMail me, I'll give you their names and contact info. And if you're not actually in Georgia, let me know where you are. If you're on the east coast or in Ohio, Texas, or the upper midwest, I might know someone.
posted by kevinbelt at 2:33 PM on March 15 [4 favorites]

Just a data point here - I use Amica for both car and renter's and I live in the midwest. Also share viewpoint of OP in that I've been with them for ages and might be time to shop around a bit. Thanks for the reminder!
posted by erebora at 2:50 PM on March 15

(and i've used amica from car insurance in NC/VA, renters insurance in NC and homeowners in VA).
posted by noloveforned at 3:37 PM on March 15

Definitely shop around, or at least find an agent that can quote from multiple insurers. In my experience, the insurance companies tend to offer good prices to get new customers, but then keep increasing the price by a significant amount each year despite a clean driving record. They seem to do this in the knowledge that most people won't go through the hassle of shopping around and switching companies. I currently use an agency which is a subsidiary of my credit union. At first they got me a good price from Travelers, but it went up substantially each year. After two years of that I had the same agent try to find a better price, and they did. I am now with New York Central Mutual. My understanding is that they keep prices low by only accepting drivers with a clean record. I found that out when I was insured by them about 20 years ago and had a claim. It was paid fairly and promptly, but when renewal time came the price was raised by such a large amount that it was obvious they no longer wanted my business. After 20 years with no accidents or tickets, they were once again willing to insure me at a good price.
posted by jkent at 4:43 PM on March 15

My preference is to work with independent brokers rather than agents. A broker will work with a hand full of companies. Insurance companies rates change all the time, my broker compares rates for me with all the companies he works with and if I can get a better rate by changing companies, he let's me know what the options are. They'll shop around for you and they're experts.

The above points about agencies holds true for brokers too.
posted by VTX at 5:55 PM on March 15

kevinbelt: "If you're in a state served by Amica, they're the other universally beloved company out there, but they only serve the northeast."

Amica is nationwide. We have them in CA.
posted by crazy with stars at 8:31 AM on March 16

State Farm was 50% cheaper than any other major insurance company when I insured my first car back in 1990, and every time I've shopped since then, they've still been less expensive than their competitors by a wide margin, due in part to all the discounts I have accumulated by being a long-time policyholder.

So, shop around once, but don't be surprised if you end up sticking with State Farm. If you find what I found, then you can probably just not bother ever again. The insurance industry is not exactly a fast-moving or competitive one.
posted by kindall at 11:32 AM on March 16

« Older Help me memorialize my fuzzy slippers!   |   Cheap Canvas Awning Replacement for house Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments