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 92 percent for Amica and 91 percent for USAA to 50 percent or less for Esurance, Hanover, and National General.

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, Chubb, Erie, and USAA. Shops rated Allstate, Esurance, GEICO, Progressive, and State Auto 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 separate counts of private passenger auto insurance complaints filed in Maryland for a recent two-year period, and in Virginia for a recent 18-month period. It also reports “complaint rates,” which take into account the fact that companies that do much more business than others are likely to incur more complaints. The complaint rates are calculated as the number of complaints per $10 million in private passenger auto insurance premiums written in each state.

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.

There are certain legal restraints on termination in the District, Maryland, and Virginia. It is relatively easy in all three jurisdictions to cancel a policy during the policy’s first 60 days while a company checks the accuracy of its policyholders’ applications. After that, termination is much more difficult. Even at the time of renewal, there are restraints and certain procedures that must be followed.

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.

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