When shopping for insurance, many drivers care about more than just cost. If you have a claim, you want it to be quickly paid so you can get back on the road with minimal hassle. Our ratings tables evaluate insurers for claims-handling service. We found that some low-priced companies also rate fairly high for service quality.

Ratings from Policyholders

We asked consumers who had recently made auto insurance claims to rate their companies “inferior,” “adequate,” or “superior” on several elements of service. Our ratings tables show  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.

As you can see, the table reveals big differences in how customers rated companies. For our survey question “overall claims-handling quality,” for example, scores range from 78 percent or higher for Amica, Auto-Owners, Chubb, and USAA to 54 percent or less for Esurance, Kemper, Mercury, Metromile, and Progressive.

Feedback from Auto Body Shops

We also asked auto body shops to rate the insurers “poor,” “fair,” “good,” “very good,” or “excellent” on “treating their customers (car owners) fairly.” Our ratings tables show 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 Amica, California Casualty, Chubb, Grange, and Horace Mann. Shops rated Allstate, Esurance, Encompass, GEICO, Liberty, Metromile, Progressive, and State Farm lowest.

Complaint Histories

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 ratings tables also report the number of “justified” private passenger auto insurance complaints filed with the California Department of Insurance (CDI) during a recent three-year period. “Justified” complaints meet certain criteria established by the California Code of Regulations and usually involve an insurer acting against insurance regulations or in some way breaching the insurance contract. The table also reports a “justified” complaint rate for each company, 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 justified complaints per 100,000 “exposures,” which is generally defined by the CDI as vehicles covered by the company.

Non-renewals and Terminations

You don’t want an insurer that will terminate your coverage or jack up your rates if you get a speeding ticket or file a claim. Losing your insurance is at best inconvenient—most insurance companies charge very high rates to customers who had coverage terminated by other outfits. At worst you’ll have to enroll in a special plan for high-risk drivers, the most costly option of all.

California laws place restrictions on insurance companies for policy terminations. The state allows cancellation or non-renewal in cases of fraud/misrepresentation, non-payment of premium, suspension or revocation of license or registration, or substantial increase in the hazard insured against. An insurer may not non-renew coverage solely based on age or the fact that there is an outstanding claim on the policy.

Our survey of policyholders asked them to rate their companies on “not unreasonably cutting coverage after claim.” The results appear on our ratings tables. 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.

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 after claim” reveal big company-to-company variation.

Become a Smarter Consumer Get free, expert advice delivered to your inbox every Wednesday when you sign up for the Weekly Checklist newsletter.