When you think about your past interactions with car insurance companies, what’s the first thought that comes to mind in regards to customer service? Have you been happy with your insurer? Are you a respected and valued customer, or do you feel as if your insurer just considers you as nothing more than an anonymous policyholder identified by an account number?
And if you’ve filed claims with your insurer, were they handled well? Quickly? Did they impart sympathy and appear ready to help, or were they indifferent and slow to attention and getting you back to where you were before the incident that damaged your car?
How to Select an Insurer that’s Right for You
When a consumer purchases an auto insurance policy, they do so with the expectation and understanding that the insurer will be there when they file a claim or need some other assistance. This means that smart consumers will do more than simply shopping on price alone. They’ll undertake the due diligence and research that will pair them with the best option for their own situation.
Because it can be difficult to pick the right auto insurer, we’ve developed a five step process that you can use not only to select your next insurer, but you can also utilize to evaluate and grade the auto insurance company you’re currently with. Try our five steps to find your next insurer:
Step #1: Visit Your State’s Department of Insurance Web Site:
Because auto insurance is regulated by each of the 50 states, every single state in the union has a website dedicated to insurance matters. These websites are an invaluable resource for research and information.
On these sites, you’ll find things such as a car insurance company’s consumer complaint ratio. The consumer complaint ratio shows how many complaints an insurer has received from its customers for every 1,000 claims filed. Many states also provide rate comparisons on the insurers that operate there as well. To find your state’s department of insurance web site, simply use our helpful guide, located here.
Step #2: Ask Local Autobody Shops About their Experiences with Insurers:
It goes without saying that the professional mechanics at these shops work with insurers on a daily basis. They work not only with auto insurers, but with their employees, such as claims adjusters. Because of this experience, they’re apt to know what companies are the easiest (and most difficult) to work with, which companies treat their customers the best (or worst) and which companies that are best (or worst) at paying for repairs and handling claims quickly. They’ll also have experience with which companies specify OEM parts, which ones insist on aftermarket or refurbished parts and where each cuts corners to keep costs down.
Step #3: See J.D. Power Ratings.
J.D. Power is an independent data collector and research company that sorts and classifies information provided by policyholders nationwide, then uses that information to rate car insurance companies. J.D. Power rankings rate every insurer on things such as price, coverage options, claims service, satisfaction with agents and company representatives, and overall customer service. We think they provide a valuable service and unparalleled information that isn’t available elsewhere, and highly recommend using them to see how your current insurer and any you’re considering purchasing a policy from stack up against the competition.
Step #4: Is Your Insurer Financially Sound?
We can think of few things that would be worse than purchasing an auto insurance policy, only to find once you need to file a claim, you’re unable to get it paid by an insurer. Knowing that a company is financially sound before you purchase a policy – it is simply a must.
Two separate services offer financial strength ratings on insurers: A.M. Best and Standard & Poor’s. This information can indicate if an auto insurance company has the ability to pay claims from its customers. While most of the larger auto insurers have excellent ratings, these two companies also provide ratings for smaller, less well known car insurance companies as well.
A.M. Best rates insurers on a letter grade scale, from A++ to D. We highly suggest you only purchase policies from companies with a B+ rating or higher. Standard & Poor’s ratings are also based on a letter grade scale, from AAA to CC. We suggest you only purchase policies from car insurance companies with a BBB rating or higher.
Step #5: Talk to an Agent:
Insurance agents act as ombudsmans between a consumer and an insurer – meaning you’ve got an extra contact to give you an amplified voice with an insurer, and who will be dedicated to your customer satisfaction. They also are trained in matching you to the right insurer and the right policy for your own unique situation.
We think independent agents are the best bet, as they write policies for multiple carriers, and have specific knowledge about how each auto insurer works. Having a relationship with an independent insurance agent and you’ll likely always get both the level of customer service and respect that you deserve.
You Don’t Have to Settle for Second Best
While we’re all required to have car insurance, there is no reason to settle for any old option. With just a few easy steps, you can find the insurer that will be your best option in terms of customer service, product offerings and fits you. And that may not be your current insurer!