We report below annual premiums quoted by large companies to Checkbook’s undercover shoppers to insure four families’ homes. The locations, property insured, and coverage provided are also described.

We found dramatic company-to-company differences, with some charging more than twice as much as others for essentially the same policy. We’ve done these types of price comparisons for property insurance for 30-plus years, always turning up big differences among large companies.

The homes, policy amounts and features, and family profiles we used likely won’t apply directly to your situation—insurers increasingly use complex formulas to set their rates and often offer special discounts to new customers. You’ll have to collect proposals from several insurers to determine which companies will offer you the best rates. Although it’s a bit of a pain, most of us would agree that saving $500, $1,000, or even more each year is well worth spending half a day requesting pricing and evaluating potentially wasteful coverage.

When looking at company rankings, keep in mind that the rates were collected for policies that would be new business for the insurers; companies often charge existing customers substantially different rates than what they offer to new applicants.

Unfortunately, we found some companies make it difficult to comparison shop. We had to push for weeks to get several to process our requests; a few refused to quote prices at all.

Also, many agents didn’t honor our requests to provide policy proposals with our requested coverage amounts. For example, companies often disagreed on the needed replacement costs for our sample homes. To make sure their prices aren’t influenced by these different higher or lower coverage amounts, we made adjustments to their quoted premiums.

Another complication? Some companies offer dual-policyholder discounts if you have them insure both your home and car. Some knock off five percent, 10 percent, or even more from either the homeowners or auto rate; some knock off a percentage from both.

For consumers, dual-policy pricing makes comparison shopping more difficult. To find the exact savings you’d realize by switching companies, you have to shop for both types of coverage at once. But the discounts aren’t usually large enough to have a major effect on the relative rankings of companies.

Click here for our evaluations of companies for auto insurance.

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