How do I find a *good* insurance company?
April 2, 2007 8:13 AM   Subscribe

How do I find a car insurance company that has good service and won't screw me over if something happens?

My Progressive insurance is up for renewal in a month or so. I'm thinking of shopping around. I got a quote from Geico, which for less insurance was about 20% higher than Progressive. That spooked me a bit (probably for no reason) into thinking that perhaps Geico has better service than Progressive.

Have people here had good claims experience with Geico, Progressive, &c? Should I be looking for a "name brand" insurer like Allstate? What about AAA? I'd love to hear about people's experiences. Even better, if there are unbiased consumer surveys out there, I'd love pointers.

Basically my concern is that I'm not that price sensitive; I'd rather have a company that's not going to be impossible to work with if something happens. But since I won't know whether they do until something happens, I don't have full information about companies when I buy. How do I make certain I don't get screwed?
posted by raf to Shopping (26 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
We've had good experiences with Progressive, but also no major claims.

The internal BB here at work recently had a question very similar to this and many, many people posted service horror stories about Geico. I'm guessing their higher price for less product is more a function of their name recognition.
posted by DU at 8:20 AM on April 2, 2007

My experience has been that the quality of service from the insurance company has much to do with the customer service ethic of the agent. Agents who represent a number of companies will not give you the same service as an agent tied to one company. Some companies like Geico don't even have agents so there is no personal touch. My agent has advocated for me with the company and deals with their beauracracy when claims hit roadblocks.

If price is not a concern then interview agents from State Farm, Allstate, Nationwide, etc and give the business to the one who will provide the best customer service.
posted by Xurando at 8:25 AM on April 2, 2007

My in-laws swear that having a local agent, one that has an office you can physically visit, is what's important to preenting you getting screwed over. They can work on your behalf against the corporate group, if the service you get is sub-par. By this reasoning, it doesn't matter which company you go with as long as you have an agent. However, they've always been with Allstate and have used the same agent for years and years.

On the flipside, my husband and I bought insurance with AmeriGroup, through a Costco member benefits program. Our insurance was 30% cheaper. We don't have a local agent, nor have we filed any major claims. We're willing to save the $1000 a year and risk lower service satisfaction. YMMV.
posted by parilous at 8:28 AM on April 2, 2007

We had unimpressive service from Geico (it went up after our initial contract, though we hadn't used it or ever talked to them or anything). Our Allstate agent has a name and a voice (never met him, but we've spoken with him a couple of times) and Allstate has a web interface for all the things that I'd rather not talk to a human being about (adding cars, etc). We got his name from a friend.

Insurance companies are like banks and airlines - somebody somewhere has gotten bad service from every one of them. It's always a crapshoot, which is why this is still one of those "get a rec from a friend" kinds of services. If customer service is important to you, though, I would definitely recommend those companies that have agents at all rather than an unagented service.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:31 AM on April 2, 2007

We are through Allstate (or State Farm, I can never remember) and it has been absolutely invaluable having a local office with an agent who knows us. Due to some really bad circumstances a few months ago, our payment was going to be late. Our agent was able to do some wrangling with the computer system and somehow set it up so that our payment wasn't recognized as late. Some random stranger on the phone wouldn't have done that.
posted by arcticwoman at 8:33 AM on April 2, 2007

Get a price from Travellers. I was able to get car insurance AND renters insurance for the price of car insurance I would have paid elsewhere. The car insurance price is actually the cheapest car insurance I found, but when I called to order it the pleasant insurance saleslady got me prices for renters insurance and it ended up costing the exact same for the car insurance with AND without the renters insurance. In addition, Travellers has been around a long time, and while I have not filed any claims, I feel secure with them. They just draw an EFT from my bank account on the same day every month and they DO NOT charge fees for monthly payments (like progressive does) if you have it set to transfer out of your checking account.
posted by ijoyner at 8:33 AM on April 2, 2007

I've had excellent experience with Progressive. I was in a pretty bad car accident a while ago, and totaled my car. We called them the next morning (I didn't get out of the hospital until late evening), and they faxed us everything we needed immediately. We didn't even have a fax; but they had no problem sending it to my uncle's.

The ladies who handled our claim were fantastic. They took care of my medical bill almost immediately, and everything fo rthe car was taken care of soon after. Pretty much everything was resolved in a week.

I got a used car soon after, and the CSR faxed us new insurance info and cards for the car immediately after. We had that within an hour.

Progressive is SO quick, it was amazing. My life was back to normal very soon after.

About Geico... when I called to get a quote from them (we were having four vehicles & drivers on a policy, which is apparently very difficult for them to do online, even though Progressive does it just fine), the guy was pretty pushy about getting me to sign up right away, even though I told him several times that I was shopping around for quotes. He also kept saying stuff like "Well, this is your quote IF none of the drivers have any incidents on their records," as if we're all bad drivers or something. I told him "Yeah, we all have clean records, thanks." He acted like that's amazing. It might be uncommon, but I didn't really appreciate the way he kept reiterating it.

Anyway, stick with Progressive. I and sever friends of mine have it, and none of us have ever had any problems.

On preview: In re: agents, we had a Nationwide agent a while back, but for whatever reason, our insurance was over $1300/year higher than the quotes we got from Progressive, Geico, and a few other places. I dont' know if it was the nature of Nationwide, but the amount was pretty exorbitant. I wouldn't have believed it had I not seen it myself (car insurance in this house is through my mom).

The agent was pretty indifferent toward us. I have no idea why. My agent never fought for me against the insurance company when some guy rear-ended me, but maybe you'd have better luck with an agent than I did.
posted by Verdandi at 8:37 AM on April 2, 2007

I recently was hit by an AllState driver. They didn't seem very together about processing the claim; I got frustrated with them after four days with no rental car and decided to subrogate with my own insurance company, State Farm. Of course, I'm not AllState's client, but the general feel of the organization was kind of cheesy.

I had a great conversation with the very nice local body shop owner, and he says that State Farm is the best company for him to deal with, followed by Amica.

In conversations with folks like this, AllState hasn't sounded that great.
posted by amtho at 8:47 AM on April 2, 2007

Yes, talk to auto shops and mechanics (off the record); they deal with a _lot_ of insurance companies.
posted by amtho at 8:50 AM on April 2, 2007

Consumer Reports does a roundup of this every year. Amica was at the #1 spot when I read it >10 yrs ago and we still have car insurance with them. They were great on several occasions, when my car was stolen, and a couple times when it got dented while parked.
posted by selfmedicating at 9:03 AM on April 2, 2007

I am very pleased with State Farm. They too handled a subrogation when a semi truck backed into my car and the truck's owner's insurance was hard to find. They asked me where I wanted it fixed and they said that body shop was on their approved list so I just went in and dropped off the car and left with a rental. There was no nitpicking about using OEM parts and they didn't even bother me when after they got the hood open found more damage. They just worked it out with State Farm.

Insurance companies are one of those things you hope you never have to deal with, but having the local agent and his office manager is helpful when I do need something. And of course, when they aren't there, the 800 number can get the ball rolling on anything.
posted by birdherder at 9:14 AM on April 2, 2007

I have PEMCO - when I was shopping for a quote ~3 years ago, they were the best price for the best coverage.

I was hit by a Geico driver 2 years ago. It wasn't major, but I was in chiropractic care, massage and acupuncture for about a year.

For simplicity's sake, I subrogated the PIP (Personal Injury Protection) part of the claim with PEMCO, and had Geico settle with them when the claim closed. The agents on both sides were always polite and responsive, and the claim process went without a hitch. Both companies seemed to know what they were doing, and did great on service.
posted by puddleglum at 9:16 AM on April 2, 2007

GEICO is the most useless company on earth. I just got done holding for 45 minutes just so I could find out the adjusters number to get some info on my claim.

I just want to throw that out there.

GEICO is the devil and their hold music will haunt my nightmares
posted by ZackTM at 9:16 AM on April 2, 2007

State Farm has been great for me, and they also beat Prog and Geico on price (I'm in Philadelphia, FWIW).
posted by Mister_A at 9:25 AM on April 2, 2007

I'd third Amica. They have been fantastic - our car recently got entirely flooded because of a clogged drain. $4500 dollars, a new electrical system, and new drive computer later, I'm entirely happy with everyone I worked with at Amica and the company as a whole.
posted by gregchttm at 9:48 AM on April 2, 2007

I always had very good prices and service from my State Farm agent. So good that even though (through a generous employee discount) I am now saving over 20% with MetLife, I considered staying with State Farm.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:49 AM on April 2, 2007

I've had really good service from Permanent General for several years, with several claims (our-fault and not-our-fault) handled quickly and well; they paid up even when they could reasonably have refused. And I've never had any trouble talking to a real person there.
posted by anadem at 10:48 AM on April 2, 2007

Fourth on Amica. Terrific company. Even better than USAA, which was my litmus test for good insurance companies.
posted by plinth at 10:55 AM on April 2, 2007

I've had State Farm for.... 22+ years. Like any large insurance company, they have their share of dissatisfied customers. I am not one of them. They have treated me right in every instance and I can't complain. I have them for home, auto and life insurance.

I've shopped around from time to time but found that every other company is either more expensive or only marginally cheaper (not enough to switch). We've had our current agent for nearly 20 years. Their schlocky slogan "Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there" has been true in my case.
posted by Doohickie at 11:13 AM on April 2, 2007

Oh, and on claim performance, State Farm has been good. I was hit by an uninsured driver several years back. They paid me immediately, less my deductable. They then went after the other driver (who, as it turned out, *did* have insurance but didn't want them to know about the accident), and within days of verification of the accident, we had a check from State Farm for our deductible. (In other words, they didn't wait to get the money from the other insurance company, they just sent us a check and got the money from the other company later.)

A couple years ago, we had three claims within a year, but our rates stayed miraculously constant. I'm not sure what our agent did to do that, but we appreciated it.
posted by Doohickie at 11:21 AM on April 2, 2007

FWIW, I've only had one claim in with Geico -- a broken windshield. They were courteous and prompt to fix it, with no arguments or increase in premium. Sounds like I'm in the minority, though...
posted by Opposite George at 11:50 AM on April 2, 2007

Progressive has always treated me well, and they're the cheapest option for me, too. I've been in one accident, where they took care of everything without any hassle whatsoever.
posted by knave at 11:54 AM on April 2, 2007

In the same boat as raf. I'm a fairly new driver in America so I opted to pay out the nose for better coverage for the first year or so, but I'm feeling ready to pay less (MUCH MUCH less). Progressive has been great so far, but I just want to see what's out there.

Has anyone tried AIS?
posted by kitalea at 12:20 PM on April 2, 2007

I had a Geico policy, which I didn't really shop around for much (I checked with Farmer's insurance and they were $1,000 more than Geico for the same coverages). It was easy to set up, and I liked the internet focus, because that's how I live the rest of my life anyway.

Then I got in an accident where I was at fault. First time ever. They took care of everything promptly, and I was all happy about it, until my policy expired and they sent me a letter saying they wouldn't renew it because of the accident. _Major_ hassle for me to deal with getting new insurance, but I went with Mercury, and it was $1,000 _cheaper_ than Geico, _after_ taking into account a pretty major at-fault accident.

So yeah, I wouldn't advise Geico, just based on their stupid policy. If you can get Mercury where you are (I'm in California), they were cheap, personable, and easy to get set up with. I haven't had to file a claim with them though, and that's the true acid test of any insurer. If I were shopping around again, I wouldn't put much stock in anecdotes like, "they were so nice on the phone" and whatnot. It's easy for a company's agents to smile while they're screwing you over : )
posted by autojack at 12:25 PM on April 2, 2007

"My in-laws swear that having a local agent, one that has an office you can physically visit, is what's important to preenting you getting screwed over"

I had service like that through Farmers Insurance years ago and they fucked me over like there was no tomorrow. The local agent was completely useless, and I was paying through the nose for the service. I was 19, it was my first car & insurance, and I didn't know any better.

I switched to what sounded like some off-name company called Western General (through Eastwood Insurance) and never had any problems. I got in a minor accident years later and even after I had cancelled the policy (went car free for a while) they still stuck up for me and helped me out a lot. The person that I rear ended in 5mph traffic tried to claim that she had whiplash and 'bodily injury' and was hoping for a big payout. The insurance company fought back successfully and was able to help me get my DMV record sorted out. (I needed this because *her* insurance company reported to DMV that the accident had bodily injury. *My* insurance company reported that no, there was none, the police report backed it up, and they paid out nothing for bodily injury. DMV corrected my report and I was able to get insurance again.)

Currently I have 21st Century Insurance and they've also been fantastic. My rates are low, I can always get someone that speaks English on the phone, and I can do most everything else I need to do online.
posted by drstein at 12:29 PM on April 2, 2007

Are you eligible for USAA? Everyone I know loves them from a service standpoint. I've had them since I turned 16 and they've always been very helpful whenever I've had a problem, as well as working with me on my policy to get me a price that would still cover all my bases should something happen. My wife just had a fender-bender this weekend and they had her claim in about 5 minutes, including recommendations for 2 body shops near our house, one of which called me at 8:00 this morning to follow up on a call from USAA. I haven't really shopped around on price because the service component is worth any extra I might be paying.
posted by sbrollins at 4:21 PM on April 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

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