Money; Getty Images
December 18, 2019

Auto insurance isn’t cheap these days: According to a recent AAA study, depending on the state you live in, you can expect to pay around $1,251 for full coverage on a medium-sized sedan.

Finding the right auto insurance should take into consideration a few key factors, including the company’s financial stability, customer service reputation, and also your own financial situation and driving habits.

MONEY examined some of the best auto insurance companies and quoting tools on the market right now, so you have an idea of where and what to look for when choosing a provider. Here’s what we found:

Important Things To Know About Auto Insurance

  • Consider whether you need higher coverage limits beyond the minimum state requirements, such as extra liability coverage and personal injury protection (PIP)
  • Think about your circumstances and whether you’ll benefit from extras, like collision and comprehensive insurance or rideshare coverage.
  • To save money on your premium, choose the highest deductible you can afford to pay out of pocket.
  • Get quotes from at least three auto insurance companies to find the best rates.
  • Check your rates with other companies at least every year to see if you can get cheaper auto insurance elsewhere.
  • Reassess your auto insurance coverage needs on a yearly basis, to ensure you’re fully protected.

The Top Auto Insurance Companies and Research Tools

— One of the largest auto insurance companies offering a wide range of coverage options and discounts

  • Allstate

— Offers a wide variety of products, discounts, tools, and local agents for customer service

— Best for discounts

  • The Insurance Center

— Best for Midwestern auto owners

— One of the first major online auto insurance companies

— Offers some of the cheapest auto insurance policies on the market today

  • QuoteWizard

— Compare quotes from up to 30 companies at once

Auto Insurance Company Reviews

Each of these companies can help you sign up for the bare minimum coverage necessary for your state, but you’ll need to vet out each of them when deciding whether it’s the best option for your own financial situation. Here is more information about each provider to help you make that decision.

Progressive

Progressive is one of the largest auto insurance companies in the United States, claiming nearly 10% of the entire market share. Progressive offers many different optional add-ons like custom car parts, rideshare coverage (if you drive Uber or Lyft), and even a deductible savings bank that reduces your deductible by $50 for every six months you go without making a claim. This wide range of coverage options makes it easy for you to choose exactly what you need, without paying for unnecessary extras.

Progressive has several unique ways to help you save money, like its Name Your Own Price tool, which provides you with customized insurance options based on your budget. Additionally, if you’re a good driver you can save money with Progressive’s Snapshot program, which records your driving habits through either a small device that plugs into your car or through an app. Progressive claims that the average driver saves $145 per year with this feature.

Progressive also scores well on measures of financial stability and customer satisfaction. It has a financial strength rating of A from A.M. Best, A2 from Moody’s, and an A rating from Standard & Poor’s. J.D. Power has awarded Progressive with three out of five stars for claims satisfaction and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) has given the company a complaint ratio score of 1.11, which is slightly higher than average. None of these scores are stellar, but they’re relatively good for a company as large as Progressive.

Allstate

Allstate is one of the largest insurance companies in the nation, offering a wide variety of coverages including home, life, auto, boat, motorcycle, renters, roadside assistance and business, among others. There are Allstate agents operating in all 50 states.

One feature that sets Allstate apart from other auto insurance companies is their Drivewise program. Through this app, the policyholder can obtain discounts for practicing safe driving habits, as well as receive feedback on things such as braking and speed. The company offers a 10% premium discount for customers using Drivewise, and the driver has a chance of obtaining an additional 25% discount for every six months of safe driving. Allstate points to this program as one way that teen or inexperienced drivers, who are normally charged higher rates, can lower their insurance premiums.

Allstate also stands out with its Good Hands Repair Network. There are over 3,500 repair shops affiliated to this program across the nation, and all repairs stemming from covered claims that are made at these facilities have guaranteed workmanship for the life of the policy.

Allstate is financially solid, obtaining an A+ Financial Rating from AM Best, an AA- rating from Standard and Poor’s, and an Aa3 Financial Rating from Moody’s.

State Farm

State Farm is the largest auto insurance company in the U.S., garnering 17.05% of the market. It also has expanded to offer over 100 financial and insurance products and operates in all 50 states.

Although other companies offer rideshare coverage, what makes State Farm unique is that it will extend this coverage even if you haven’t picked up a rider yet, as long as you are logged into the app. This coverage is offered in 46 states and the D.C. area.

State Farm has a number of discounts for safe drivers, returning customers, and customers who bundle multiple insurance policies, such as homeowners, life, renters, etc. Another discount is offered through State Farm’s Steer Clear Driver Program. Young drivers under the age of 25 qualify for this program by completing course training, driving practice, and mentoring programs designed to create safe driving habits. The Drive Safe and Save Program is designed for drivers over the age of 25 and allows drivers to obtain discounts ranging from 5% to 30% based on their driving habits as monitored through a mobile app and Bluetooth device (provided by State Farm).

State Farm has a 7.5 score on Trustpilot for its customer service, and is rock solid financially, holding an A++ Financial Rating from AM Best, an A2 rating from Moodys, and an AA rating from Standard and Poor’s.

Esurance

Esurance launched in 1999 and is considered a pioneer in the online auto-insurance space. Now, it’s a part of insurance giant Allstate.

For you, the consumer, this means that you get the cutting-edge experience of a newer, tech-inclined insurance company, but also the financial security from a larger insurance company to back it up. And indeed — Allstate itself carries an A- rating from both A.M. Best and Standard & Poor’s.

Esurance, like Progressive, offers its own version of a drive-recording program called DriveSense. This app scores your driving habits and provides you with customized discounts off of your insurance. Customers also have access to the Fuelcaster fuel price forecasting tool, and access to E-star auto repair facilities that guarantee repairs for the life of your car should you ever need to file a claim.

Esurance’s only downsides are that it has a slightly higher NAIC customer complaint ratio of 1.79 (for reference, 1.00 is average) and that it doesn’t offer auto insurance policies in seven states: Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Montana, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Wyoming.

The Insurance Center

For Midwesterners (specifically those in Wisconsin or Iowa) who want to work with a local agent, The Insurance Center is a good place to start. Founded in 1966 as a service to help dairy farm families connect with good health insurance plans, over the years it has expanded into other areas such as life insurance, homeowners insurance and, of course — auto insurance.

One of the main benefits of purchasing a policy through an insurance agent is that if you have a unique situation, such as a poor driving record or an unusual vehicle, they are generally able to zero in on the best companies for these cases. So, if you live in the Midwest and prefer discussing your options with an expert prior to purchasing any services, then The Insurance Center is worth exploring.

GEICO

GEICO has made a name for itself by offering some of the cheapest auto insurance policies available on the market and is the second-largest auto insurer in the nation, covering about 13% of the market share. GEICO also offers a stellar customer service experience and financial standing. The NAIC has recorded a customer complaint score of a mere 0.56, much less than the industry-average of 1.00. Additionally, it carries an ultra-strong A.M. Best financial rating of A++, and a strong Standard & Poor’s rating of AA.

QuoteWizard

QuoteWizard is one of the largest auto insurance quote comparison websites. It claims to have helped more than 50 million people connect with better insurance companies for the right price. QuoteWizard was established in 2006 in Seattle and was recently purchased by LendingTree, another well-known online marketplace.

Rather than offering insurance directly, QuoteWizard allows you to get up to 30 quotes at once from various auto insurance companies, expanding your reach and simplifying the insurance shopping process. QuoteWizard’s website is very well designed and easy to use. You can also use the website to shop for other types of insurance, including homeowners, renters, life and health insurance.

Another Comparison Site To Check Out

Auto Insurance Green is another quote comparison website that you can use to get quotes from multiple companies at once. At first glance the website doesn’t look like much, and indeed — it is on the simplistic side.

However, unlike other websites that redirect you to the insurer’s site, where you’ll have to go through the entire quoting process again, Auto Insurance Green does provide you with a valuable quote that you can pursue further, and so we’ve included it on our list.

How MONEY Looks at the Best Auto Insurance Companies

There are a lot of insurance companies in the market today, which is good because it creates a lot of competition between companies to drive prices lower, but it also means that shopping can quickly become overwhelming. To simplify things, we weeded out the best auto insurance companies according to the criteria mentioned below.

Coverage Options

Any old auto insurance company won’t do if it doesn’t cover what you need. For example, if you drive for Uber, it’s a good idea to get rideshare insurance coverage so you’re fully protected while running fares from Point A to Point B. Similarly, if you’ve put in a lot of work and money into your car by adding customized parts, it’s a good idea to get extra or specialized coverage, to ensure your investment is protected in case of an accident.

Not all auto insurance companies offer these options. Some, like Progressive and GEICO, are better than others at offering coverage for many situations, so it’s important to always check what each of them has to offer before committing to a policy.

Ability To Get Multiple Quotes

Some of the companies we chose aren’t actually insurance companies at all. Instead, they’re auto insurance marketplace tools that allow you to get multiple quotes from several companies at once, rather than checking with each company individually. This speeds things up for you and allows you to narrow down your choices of potential companies faster.

Although QuoteWizard, The Insurance Center, and Auto Insurance Green provide you with quotes for many of the same companies, including Esurance and Progressive, it’s still a good idea to check with the top results individually on their own sites. The reason behind this is that you may qualify for certain discounts that might not be available through these multi-quote services, or certain coverage options you need might not be included in your quote.

Financial Standing

For the individual insurance companies, we considered the financial standing of the company. After all, you don’t want to have to file a claim only to find out your insurance company doesn’t have the cash to pay out. That’s why we only considered financially-strong companies in this list, as measured by their A.M. Best, Moody’s, and Standard & Poor’s ratings.

Customer Service

While these are large companies and there’s bound to be a few unhelpful customer service reps, by and large these companies have good or great customer service marks as measured by J.D. Power and the NAIC.

How To Choose the Best Auto Insurance Coverage For Your Needs

At the very least you’ll need to purchase your state-mandated minimum coverage levels if you plan on taking your car out on the road. Generally, most states require you to purchase at least some amount of liability coverage if you cause property damage or cause personal injury to others. A few states also require you to purchase personal injury protection (PIP) for yourself, and/or coverage in case you’re involved in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured motorist.

Next, consider whether the minimum insurance coverage is enough to protect you considering how frequently people file car insurance claims, and for how much, in your area. You may be able to get this information by speaking to an insurance agent.

For example, according to the Insurance Information Institute, the state of Florida only requires you to purchase $20,000 worth of liability insurance for bodily injuries. Yet, in 2018, the average claim for bodily injury in the United States was $15,785, meaning that you run a high risk of not having enough coverage by opting for a policy that only covers the minimum liability requirements, especially if you get into a bad accident.

Finally, consider whether you need any other types of common insurance products. If you can’t pay for the following expenses out of pocket, it’s a good idea to get a policy that covers these things as well:

  • Uninsured Motorist and Underinsured Motorist insurance: This covers you if you’re hit by an uninsured or underinsured motorist. This can be especially good to have in certain states, such as Mississippi, where an estimated 24% of all motorists are uninsured.
  • Personal Injury Protection: This helps to pay your own medical bills and lost wages if you’re involved in a car crash.
  • Comprehensive insurance: This covers damage to your car if you hit something else.
  • Collision insurance: This covers damage to your car for most other cases, such as theft or damage from wind, hail, or water.
  • Roadside Assistance: This covers all or part of the costs if you break down and need assistance.

Reassess Your Auto Insurance Company On A Regular Basis

Most auto insurance policies are written for a term of six months. This means that twice a year you’ll get the option to easily renew or drop your coverage.

Every six months you should ask yourself whether your current coverage is sufficient. For example, if you just got roadside assistance coverage through a recently-opened credit card, you may be able to drop this coverage from your insurance plan if you’re currently paying for it. Or, if you decided to take up driving for Lyft as a side hustle, now is a good time to add that coverage.

Similarly, it’s also a good idea to shop around for new auto insurance companies each time your policy comes up for renewal. It only takes a few minutes to shop around for quotes (especially if you use one of the quote-generating websites we mentioned above), and doing so can save you money. This is especially true if your own situation has changed recently, such as if you were recently involved in an accident or your teenager just got their own license.

Summary: Best Auto Insurance Companies

— Best for coverage options and discounts

  • Allstate

— Best for local agents and customer service

— Best for discounts

  • QuoteWizard

— Best place to compare quotes

  • The Insurance Center

— Best for the Midwest

— Great online presence

— Offers some of the cheapest auto insurance policies on the market today

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