Which Auto Insurance Companies Offer the Best Customer Service?
Last updated in April 2016
Although price should be your primary consideration when shopping for auto insurance, you’ll want to consider it in relation to the quality of service companies provide, especially their claims-handling service. Our auto insurance comparison tool shows you how area auto insurance companies stack up on price and quality.
Our Survey of Policyholders
We asked area consumers (primarily Checkbook and Consumer Reports subscribers) who had recently made auto insurance claims to rate their companies “inferior,” “adequate,” or “superior” on several elements of service. Our auto insurance comparison tool shows what percentage of policyholders rated each company “superior” on each survey question. Click here for a further description of our policyholder survey and other research methods and how to interpret them.
Our ratings reveal big differences in how customers rated companies. For “speed of claim payment,” for example, scores range from 42 percent for Kemper to 90 percent or more for Amica, Encompass, and USAA.
Ratings from Auto Body Shops
We also asked area auto body shops to rate the insurers “poor,” “fair,” “good,” “very good,” or “excellent” on “treating their customers (car owners) fairly.” Our auto insurance comparison tool shows the percent of surveyed shops that rated each company “good,” “very good,” or “excellent,” and the number of ratings each company received.
Surveyed shops gave highest marks to Mutual of Enumclaw and PEMCO. The lowest rated shops were Farmers, Liberty Mutual, Progressive, and Safeco.
Another way to assess quality is to look at the number of complaints filed against each company with state regulators. While policyholders might rate a company less than “superior” if its deficiencies are minor, filing a formal complaint with a government regulatory agency presumably reflects serious dissatisfaction.
Our auto insurance comparison tool reports counts of private passenger auto insurance complaints filed with the Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner during 2012, 2013, and 2014, the most recent years for which data were available when we checked. It also reports a “complaint rate,” which takes into account the fact that companies that do much more business than others are likely to incur more complaints. It is calculated as the number of complaints per $10 million in private passenger auto insurance premiums written.
Non-renewals and Terminations
You don’t want to sign on with an insurer that will terminate your coverage or jack up your rates if you get a speeding ticket or file a claim. Getting dropped by an insurer is at best inconvenient—most insurance companies charge very high rates to customers who had coverage terminated by other companies. At worst you’ll have to enroll in a special plan for high-risk drivers, which is the most costly option of all.
Washington State laws place restrictions on insurance companies for policy terminations and non-renewals. It is relatively easy for a company to cancel during a policy’s first 60 days while it checks the accuracy of a policyholder’s application. After the first 60 days, a company may cancel coverage only for serious problems, such as failing to pay the premium, making a misrepresentation in obtaining the policy, filing a false claim, or having a driver’s license suspended.
Our survey of policyholders asked them to rate their companies on “not unreasonably cutting coverage.” But because cancellations are fairly uncommon, we don’t recommend spending a lot more money to sign on with a company with a great cancellation record. Fortunately, because some of the lowest-priced companies also receive high ratings on our survey for termination practices, you shouldn’t have to.
Of course, even if a company doesn’t drop you it can still dramatically increase your premium in response to an accident or violation, forcing you to terminate on your own to find a lower-priced company. Our survey results for “not unreasonably raising premium” reveals big company-to-company variation.