Making a car insurance claim is usually a pretty bad experience. Your car is probably damaged, or you’ve caused damage to another person’s car or other property. Someone, maybe you, could be injured. No one wants to face any of those scenarios, and having a terrible car insurance company can take a bad situation and make it much, much worse.
Bad auto insurance comes in many forms. With bad car insurance, premiums are higher than they should be, or the company offers low premiums but minimal coverage. Some car insurance companies have poor customer service and don’t effectively communicate the status of your auto insurance claim. Others require you to use only repair shops that they approve of, and those shops can be inconvenient to access, forcing you to travel across town for repairs or wait weeks for an appointment. Still other auto insurance companies don’t have a comprehensive network of adjusters, so you have to wait longer for your claim to be processed so you can get the repairs you need. In a worst-case scenario, a car insurance company may not have the financial resources to pay claims, leaving its customers high and dry.
So, what does the best car insurance look like? The best car insurance companies balance their rates with the amount of coverage they offer, so their customers don’t pay more than they have to and are covered when they need to make a claim. The best car insurance companies work with you to figure out how much car insurance you need and explain your policy to you. When you need to file a claim, the best auto insurance companies walk you through the process, keep you informed, and work with you to resolve any issues you have. The best auto insurers will help you understand how car insurance works and make you feel like you’ve gotten the best value for your money when you insure your vehicle. The best car insurance companies will also offer you auto insurance discounts for things like having multiple policies or a good driving record. Finally, the best car insurance companies have great customer service, keep their customers updated on the status of their claims, and make sure the customer is satisfied with the way the claim is resolved.
Our Car Insurance Ranking
How We Did This Comparison
At U.S. News, we’re all about helping people make life’s important decisions. Our college rankings, launched in 1983, set the standard in educational rankings. Our ranking in other fields, like healthcare, government, and the automotive sphere, help people and thought leaders make choices that make lives better. Now we’re continuing to empower you with the information you need to make the right choices for your life with our Best Car Insurance Rankings.
We surveyed 2,799 consumers who filed a car insurance claim in the last five years, asking questions about their car insurance company. These questions covered satisfaction with the ease of filing a claim, customer service, claim status communication, claim resolution, and overall value. We also asked whether they’d recommend the company and if they planned to renew their policy. We used their responses to build our Best Car Insurance Companies ranking.
Our Study Rates
To get comparative insurance rates for this study, U.S. News also worked with Quadrant Information Services to analyze a report of insurance rates in all 50 states from the 10 largest national car insurance companies, though not every company operates in every state. Quadrant obtained publicly available rate data that car insurers file with state regulators. Our study rates are based on profiles for both male and female drivers aged 25, 35, and 60. Vehicles used include the 2015 Honda Civic, 2015 Toyota RAV4, and 2015 Ford-F-150, with annual mileage ranging from 6,000 and 12,000.
Three car insurance coverage levels were used, as were credit tiers of good, fair, and poor. Clean driving records and records with one accident, one speeding violation, and one DUI were also used in the calculations of certain driver archetypes. To get the state-wide study rates shown here, we computed the mean rate for male and female drivers ages 24, 35 and 60 who drive 15,000 miles per year, have medium coverage, good credit and a clean driving record. The rates shown here are for comparative purposes only and should not be considered “average” rates available by individual insurers. Because car insurance rates are based on individual factors, your car insurance rates will differ from the rates shown here.
How to Choose the Best Car Insurance Company
In a best-case scenario, you’ll never have to use your car insurance. After all, making a claim on your auto insurance means you’ve suffered some sort of loss, and no one wants that. However, going through life without ever having a fender bender or other damage to your car is unlikely. In some cases, you’ll be making a car insurance claim after a harrowing experience, like a serious accident. After going through something like that, you want to be sure your insurance company isn’t going to make things worse.
While all car insurance companies offer a similar product, they differ in how they deliver it. Some car insurance companies are basically self-service, allowing you to shop for and choose a policy completely online. Others use local agents who can meet with you and talk you through the process of buying a policy and personally handle any claims you have. Some companies use a mix of the two. Make sure you find a company that has the type of service you want.
Cost is another major consideration you’ll have when choosing the best car insurance company for you. After all, you need insurance you can afford. While you should compare rates from several companies, make sure you’re comparing rates for your situation. Insurance companies can charge drastically different rates depending on a person’s age, gender, driving record, credit history, ZIP code, the number of miles they drive per year, the value of their car, and other factors. It makes no sense to compare rates for a 16-year-old male from one company with the rates for a 60-year-old female from another – especially if you’re neither a 16-year-old male nor a 60-year-old woman. It’ll take some time to gather quotes to compare rates, but rates can vary by several hundred or even a few thousand dollars per year from company to company. The time you spend can pay off in the end. When comparing rates, make sure you consider any car insurance discounts you may qualify for.
Once you've selected a few companies with the kind of service you want at rates you can afford, read our reviews of each company. They’ll give you plenty of information on what real customers say about each insurer, so you can find the one that’s right for you.
The Best Car Insurance Companies
- USAA: USAA is the best car insurance company we found. Customers report that they love USAA for its customer service, ease of filing a claim, and frequent updates on claim status. USAA customers also report that USAA is a good value, and USAA’s average annual rates are some of the lowest in the business. The only downside we could find to USAA is that its insurance products are only available to veterans, members of the military, and their immediate families, so not everyone will be able to work with the top-ranked insurance company.
- Travelers: Travelers is the second-best car insurance company. Travelers' customers report that they appreciate the customer service Travelers provides, and the company gets high marks for how it resolves its customers’ claims. Travelers' lost a few points from customers who didn’t feel like they got good value from the company, and Travelers' average annual rates are a bit higher than average among all companies on this list.
- State Farm: State Farm is the third-best car insurance company, though its overall score is very close to second-place Travelers. State Farm gets high marks from its customers for ease of filing a claim, and many State Farm customers say they're likely to renew their policy with the company. State Farm customers report being satisfied with the value they get from the company, and it’s no wonder they say that: State Farm rates are, on average, lower than most of the competition.
- Geico: Geico is the fourth-best car insurance company, and even a cave man can see why. Geico customers say it’s easy to file a claim with the company, though some were unhappy with status updates from the insurer. That said, most Geico customers would recommend it and plan to renew their policy. Their rates may have something to do with that: Geico offers lower rates on average than most other auto insurance companies.
- Farmers: Farmers is the No. 5 insurance company on our list. Farmers gets somewhat uneven ratings from its customers. It gets high marks for ease of filing a claim, customer service, and how claims are resolved but lower scores for value. That might be because Farmers' rates, on average, tend to be higher than the competition.
- Nationwide: Nationwide is the sixth-best car insurance company. Nationwide’s customers are generally happy with the company’s customer service and how claims are resolved, but some don’t consider the company’s insurance a great value, and fewer would recommend Nationwide to someone looking for insurance than customers of other companies.
- Progressive: Flo, Progressive’s perky pitchwoman, might be No. 1 in the heart of advertisers, but Progressive is the No. 7 insurance company on our list. Progressive customers are satisfied with how easy it is to submit a claim to Progressive but are less positive about the company’s customer service, communication, claim resolution, and value.
- Allstate: Allstate is the eighth-best insurance company, with many Allstate customers in our survey reporting that they didn’t feel like they were in good hands. Allstate customers were particularly unhappy with the value they felt they got from Allstate, with many of them saying they wouldn’t recommend Allstate and didn’t plan to renew their policies.
- American Family: American Family car insurance is the lowest-ranked company on our list. While a fair number of customers said filing a claim with American Family was easy, that was about the only positive thing they had to say, with the company faring poorly on measures of customer service, communication about claim status, value, and claim resolution.
How to Get the Cheapest Car Insurance Rate
There are many factors that go into determining your car insurance rates. Some, like your age and gender, are out of your control. Others, like where you live and your marital status, are somewhat in your control. Finally, there are several factors that affect your auto insurance rates, like the insurance company you choose to work with, your driving record, your credit score, the kind of car you drive, and the amount of coverage you choose, that are completely within your control.
How much car insurance costs depends on the amount of risk you pose to your auto insurance company. Remember, if you have an incident and make a claim on your insurance policy, your insurance company must pay – even if you’ve only paid them $1,000 in premiums and you make a claim that costs $100,000. If it’s more likely that you’ll need to make a number of claims on your car insurance, you’ll get charged more. It’s just the insurance company making sure they don’t lose money on your policy.
To get the cheapest car insurance, start by comparing rates. You can use our list of the Cheapest Car Insurance Companies to see which company has the cheapest rates in our study for your situation. Don’t stop there, however. A company with cheap rates may not have the best service or very satisfied customers. Balance cheap auto insurance rates with the kind of service you want to live with when choosing an insurance company.
Next, take a good hard look at your driving record and credit report, and clean both up if they’re not in good shape. Moving violations, citations for driving under the influence, accidents, and a low credit score all tell car insurance companies you’re at higher risk of being in an accident, making a claim, and costing them money. Some car insurance companies will give you a discount if you can prove you’re a safe driver by installing a tracking device in your car, which can lead to lower rates over time (however, if the tracker shows you routinely drive in an unsafe manner, your rates might go up). A few years without a citation or an accident, as well as a steadily improving credit score, can help you save on car insurance.
When it comes to certain types of car insurance, you can save by owning a car that’s less expensive to repair or replace. Comprehensive car insurance and collision car insurance coverage cover damages to the car as the result of a collision with another car, or because of another event, like a natural disaster. If your car is going to cost more to fix or replace, your car insurance rates will be higher. As your car ages and becomes worth less money, contact your insurance company to see if you can get a decrease in your rates.
You can also save on car insurance by choosing the lowest amount of coverage you can get while still making sure that you’re meeting your state’s legal requirements for insurance and giving yourself the coverage you need if you’re in an accident. For example, let’s say you choose to get the legal minimum for liability coverage, which we’ll say is $30,000 for this example. If you are at fault for an accident that hurts someone, resulting in $100,000 in medical costs for them, you will be on the hook for the $70,000 difference between your insurance coverage and the harm you caused. You can be sued and lose assets, like your home or retirement savings, if this happens – so make sure you have enough insurance to keep your assets in the event of an accident where you are at fault.
One of the most common ways to lower your car insurance rates is by choosing a higher deductible. The deductible is the amount of money you must pay after an accident before your insurance kicks in. So, for example, if you are in an accident and there is $10,000 worth of damage done and your deductible is $1,000, you pay the $1,000 and your car insurance company pays $9,000. A higher deductible means less risk for your insurance company and lower rates for you. However, it also means that you need to have that much money on hand in case of an accident. If you go for a $2,000 deductible and don’t have $2,000 available after an accident, you won’t be able to get the repairs you need.
Another good way to get the cheapest auto insurance rates is to use as many car insurance discounts as you can. Car insurance companies offer many discounts, including good student discounts, paperless billing discounts, discounts for multiple policies, and discounts for going a certain period of time without making a claim. Some also offer discounts for things like having a tracker in your car. Read more about the car insurance discounts that can help you get the cheapest car insurance.
How Much Car Insurance Do I Need?
How much car insurance you need depends on how much coverage you are legally obligated to get, as well as how much coverage you need for your situation. Each state has certain legal requirements for car insurance, and not meeting them can result in negative consequences. Check out our car insurance state guides to see the legal car insurance minimums in your state.
- Car Insurance in New York
- Car Insurance in New Jersey
- Car Insurance in Texas
- Car Insurance in Michigan
- Car Insurance in Arizona
- Car Insurance in Florida
- Car Insurance in California
- Car Insurance in Massachusetts
- Car Insurance in Pennsylvania
- Car Insurance in Virginia
Beyond how much car insurance your state requires, you’ll want to look at various coverage types to see if you need them.
Liability insurance is required in nearly every state. If you cause an accident, your liability insurance will pay for any damages or injuries you cause.
Collision car insurance covers damage to your car if it collides with another car. If you lease your car or have a loan on it, your financing company will require this type of coverage. As your car ages or you pay it off, you can drop it. However, that means that if your car is damaged in a collision with another vehicle, you’ll have to pay for all repairs on your own.
Comprehensive car insurance covers damage to your car if it collides with something other than another car, like an animal or a tree, or if it’s damaged by vandalism, theft, or natural disaster. Again, if you lease your car or have an outstanding loan on it, this type of coverage will be required, but if you pay your car off, or it becomes worth less money than it would cost to repair, you can decline this coverage.
Gap insurance is insurance that may be required if you lease or finance a car. Gap insurance covers the difference between what your car is worth and what you owe on your auto loan should your car be a total loss in an incident. For example, let’s say you have a car loan with a balance of $20,000, but your car is only worth $15,000. If it’s totaled in an accident, your insurance will only pay out $15,000 and you will owe $5,000 to settle your loan. If you have gap insurance, that policy will pay the $5,000 to settle your loan balance.
Personal injury or bodily injury protection, which is often a part of full coverage car insurance, covers medical costs for you, your passengers, or other people injured in an accident. This type of coverage is required by most states, but keep in mind that the legal requirement may be too low for real world application. As medical costs soar, a policy that only pays out $30,000 is not likely to be enough, and you will be responsible for any difference between what your policy pays and what the actual medical costs are. It’s tempting to skimp on this coverage, but that can be a costly mistake.
Non-owner car insurance is just what it sounds like. It’s insurance that covers the driver instead of the car. That is, if you don’t own a car, but frequently drive a friend’s car, rental cars, work cars, or use a car-sharing service, non-owner insurance covers your liability in the event of an accident. It can cover your liability for medical costs and property damage. In some states, non-owner car insurance can also help you regain your license after it’s been suspended. It can also lower car insurance rates if you buy a car later since there won’t be an uninsured period on your record. |