J.D. Power ranks Farmers Auto Insurance better than most for claims satisfaction — an important endorsement, considering that on-time and fairly-sized claim payouts are the ultimate goal of insurance. Besides that, Farmers has a great coverage selection. A few options, like new car replacement and custom parts coverage, we didn’t see among all our top picks. We also like the company’s accident forgiveness program, which “will forgive one at-fault accident for every three years you drive without one.”
Liability insurance covers you if you’re in an accident deemed to be your fault. It will cover repairs to damaged property, as well as medical bills resulting from injury to the other driver and his or her passengers. Most states require at least a minimum amount of liability insurance, but it’s a good idea to purchase extra protection if you can afford it.
Large insurance companies analyze a huge amount of customers’ personal data, such as social media posts, credit scores, and even your web shopping habits. Then, they churn the data through a proprietary algorithm that estimates how likely you are to shop around or just renew your existing policy each year. By doing so, they can increase your premium just enough to raise their profit margins without attracting your attention and prompting you to shop for a new policy.
Another factor to consider is how often you drive. If you work from home and only drive a few miles once a week to run your errands, you’re far less likely to end up in an accident than someone who has a 50-mile-a-day commute. Rush-hour driving is also riskier than driving at less peak times because you’re dealing with large numbers of often impatient drivers who may be willing to take risks in order to get themselves to work on time. In short, the more you drive, the more insurance coverage you’re likely to need.
If you are smart though, it does not have to be this way. Many insurance companies offer discounts to mature drivers, as well as those who use drive tracking apps, take defensive driving courses, and have up-to-date safety features on their vehicles. If you’ve recently retired and have stopped commuting to and from work every day, you also might be eligible for a discount for driving less.
Some, like deductions for paperless billing, are widely available and don’t have special eligibility requirements. Others will be determined based on conditions beyond your control, like the city you live in or the technology built into your vehicle. While not everyone will be eligible for every discount, the companies that offer more discounts give you more chances to save.
Nationwide pulls lower customer ratings than our top picks. The company scored an 88 from Consumer Reports (putting it in 22nd place out of 27 companies), and an “average” rating from J.D. Power. In other words, Nationwide doesn’t knock it out of the park for either customer service or claims process — which are both crucial for a great insurer. It also missed our financial stability benchmark by a hair, with S&P Global and Moody’s ratings just below the “very strong” or “excellent” benchmarks that we look for.
Many insurers state that their policies offer ‘full coverage’ without detailing what that means, because, well, it doesn’t really mean anything. According to Jonathan O’Steen, personal injury attorney and partner at O’Steen & Harrison LLC, “Some insurance agents use ‘full coverage’ as a shorthand way to describe auto policies that only meet state minimum limits for coverage. True full coverage would provide unlimited protection for all losses arising from an automobile accident.”
Allstate scored in the middle of the pack in J.D. Power’s 2018 Auto Insurance Study (mostly due to its higher premiums), but we’d still recommend it over The General. It dwarfs The General when it comes to discounts and supplemental coverage — meaning that going with The General’s cheaper sticker price doesn’t actually guarantee that you’ll pay less.
Progressive impressed us with a solid array of discounts, including deductions for simple things like signing a new policy early and opting for paperless billing. The company has historically been known for insuring "riskier" drivers than many of its competitors, and it shows: Progressive is our only contender that offers a near unheard-of discount for drivers under 18 (who have a crash rate that’s almost nine times higher than that of middle-aged drivers).
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"Many companies offer discounts for good grades and for completion of an approved driver’s education or defensive driving course," continued Doreen Haughton-James of 123 Drive! Driving Academy. "Some also have their own discount programs. State Farm, for example, has a program called 'Steer Clear' where students receive discounts for logging driving hours and completing a program."
Quite simply, Travelers didn’t inspire enough confidence with its claims satisfaction. We know one survey doesn’t paint an entire picture, but Travelers was the lowest-scoring insurer of our top picks. Its J.D. Power score of 851 out of 1,000 is below the industry average, and since our research consistently pointed to claims satisfaction as the best indicator of customer experience, we couldn’t give Travelers the top spot in confidence.