The day all parents dread is finally upon you; your teenage child is old enough to drive. But before they pop in a mix-tape (those are still a thing, right?) and step on the gas, they need to learn the rules of the road. ConsumerAffairs asked dozens of driving schools across the country for advice to make the process more enjoyable and educational for you and your student driver.
If you’re an active or former military member — or related to one — then we highly recommend considering USAA for car insurance. USAA provides exceptional customer service and timely, fair claims payments, as evidenced by top ratings in J.D. Power's customer satisfaction survey and Consumer Reports’ claims satisfaction study. USAA also earns some of the best possible financial scores: “A++” from A.M. Best, “AA+” from S&P Global, and “Aaa” from Moody’s. These ratings mean that USAA promises rock-solid backing for your policy, as well as a stable credit outlook in just about any economy.
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.
The General is known for insuring high-risk drivers who may face high premiums or have trouble finding insurance elsewhere. This makes it attractive for customers with poor credit or an extensive accident history. Choosing such an insurer comes with some significant drawbacks: While most drivers will be able to get coverage, they’ll likely face steep rates with minimal protection.
Results: Compare produced seven quotes ranging from $148 per month to $329 per month. The quotes were all from fairly obscure companies; I didn’t see any of the big-name providers. The site allowed me to customize coverage, but only by going back to the coverage selection part of the process—meaning that I had to wait for the quotes to re-load each time. It also didn’t allow as many customization options as Insurify. Only one of the quotes permitted online checkout; all the others required speaking on the phone with an agent. I did like that the quotes all let you choose between a pay-as-you-go policy (with a down payment) or a pay upfront policy (at a slight discount).
A lot goes into an auto insurance rate quote, including your ZIP code, coverage levels, marital status, annual mileage, driving history and vehicle make, year and model. In most states, your gender and credit history are also used to determine rates. And again, the reason auto insurance comparison shopping is so important is because rates between companies are different for each person, too.
The General offers fewer supplemental coverage options than our other picks for the best auto insurance companies, but it does include roadside assistance, a service which keeps you from being stranded on the side of the road after an accident or vehicle failure. If you’re not a member of AAA or another auto service provider which offers roadside assistance coverage, opting for supplemental coverage on your policy will provide greater peace of mind while you’re on the road.
If you have an anti-theft device, Progressive offers a discount for that too. The company also offers pet injury coverage — which is included with collision and comes standard in most states. However, Progressive’s scores across the board were only average, and we couldn’t justify recommending it over our top picks. Also, its mobile app ratings average out to just under 3 out of 5 stars.
Farmers Insurance fell just shy of the benchmark we set for financial stability. It took earned an “A” from A.M. Best (passing), and an “A” from S&P Global (two steps below the required “AA-”). These scores mean that Farmers has strong financials, and offers solid backing for your policy — it’s just a little less likely to weather a major financial crisis than other companies. This is why, like Liberty Mutual, we don’t rank it among the best of the best.
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.
You can sometimes get auto insurance quotes on lead generation sites, but expect them to be far less reliable than quotes from comparison sites. Using lead generation sites most likely means that you’ll end up wandering from one auto insurance website to another in pursuit of the best rate, which rather defeats the purpose of using a quote-generating site at all.
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Product highlights: We’re sure you’ve seen a barrage of GEICO ads dominating your television screen. But besides savvy marketing practices, GEICO also has several programs to help policyholders save money on auto expenses. These include the Fuel Finder feature on GEICO’s mobile app (to find the cheapest gas station in your area) and its Car Buying service (to compare features and prices on new and used cars). Through the Auto Repair Xpress service, a claims adjuster will meet you in the repair shop after you file a claim and help you through the process. In some regions, you can also count on GEICO to provide a rental car for rides to and from the shop.
Geico is the second-largest auto insurance provider in the United States. While they’re considered second-tier by Consumer Reports (listed under parent company Berkshire Hathaway Insurance Group), their customers rate them high in the categories of ease of reaching an agent, promptness of response, agent courtesy, and timely payment. Not bad in terms of customer service.
Keep in mind that these requirements are precisely that: the minimum allowable coverage. If you cause an accident with damages exceeding your policy, you’ll ultimately be responsible for paying whatever’s left, and those costs can add up quickly. If you live in a state with low minimum requirements, it’s a good idea to select additional coverage so that you’re not left footing the bill for auto repairs or costly hospital visits.
The General also has some red flags when it comes to its financial solvency. While A.M. Best awards an “Excellent” financial strength rating to The General's parent company, American Family Insurance, The General itself isn't rated by agencies like like S&P Global and Moody’s. In fact, it has no ratings of its own — from any agency. The Insurance Information Institute recommends choosing providers with multiple financial strength evaluations, so this complete lack of evaluation gave us pause. While The General may still have the ability to pay out on claims, it isn’t backed with the same confidence as companies with many financial strength ratings.