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 insurance companies are not alike.....
Selecting the best auto insurance company – best rates and best customer service
People use different criteria for choosing an auto insurer. Some base their decision on the opinions of friends, some on marketing and advertising promotions, and others simply on the cost of premiums.
Eventually, most automotive insurance buyers place the most importance on how companies treat them after filing a claim. Low premiums become much less important if a company won't pay when they should, or immediately raises rates after an accident.
What's the problem?
Many thousands of auto insurance customers are happy with their insurers. A significant number of people 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:
* Refused claims
* 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.
If you have been involved in an accident and are being sued or are not satisfied with your insurance company, you may need to get help from an accident attorney. See our article: How to Find an Auto Accident Lawyer.
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 administrative managers of accident repair shops about which insurers are the best to deal 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.
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.
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
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.