The General advertises low rates for coverage, and many customers have confirmed that they were offered lower premiums at the outset of their policy. But after the fact, The General has been known to tack on hidden fees for things as simple as monthly billing, resulting in a rate that can be significantly higher than the initial rate you were given.
Product highlights: USAA is a financial services provider that accepts members only from military and ex-military households. Widows and widowers, spouses, and other family members of USAA members can also join. Many of the company’s benefits are specifically tailored for military personnel, such as the 15% discount on auto insurance for members who garage their vehicles on base.
While it’s easy to get lured in by insurance providers offering extremely low auto insurance rates, try to remember that price is not the only factor to consider when you’re choosing a car insurance company—in fact, it’s probably not even the most important factor. In normal circumstances, the most noticeable aspect of your auto insurance policy is your premium payment, so it’s easy to focus solely on price. However, when something goes wrong—you get in an accident, your car is stolen, etc.—the other aspects of your insurance policy and the quality of your insurance company will suddenly become a lot more important. If you’ve chosen wisely, your car insurance carrier can make the claims process an easy and relatively pleasant experience; if not, your carrier can make an already miserable situation even worse.
Results: The final page offered five quotes ranging from $141 per month to $215 per month, and three links to other websites that I could use to get additional quotes. Unlike the other comparison websites, the quotes weren’t in any order (the others sorted their results from smallest to largest). Each quote included a company rating, policy features and a button that would either take you to the company’s website or allow you to compare it with another company. A list of options on the left side of the page allowed me to check off the features that I wanted to include, and eliminated companies not offering those features.
If you take a defensive driver course through SafetyServe, you’ll be eligible for discounts on Amica premiums. You also get automatic discounts for paying your premium in full or owning your own home. Standard policies also come with some pretty sweet perks, such as zero deductible on lock replacement (whether your keys are stolen or you just lose them).
Customers aren’t very impressed by Liberty Mutual’s claims process or payouts. It’s ranked among “the rest” in J.D. Power’s survey, which falls at the bottom of the scale. It also earned a relatively low Consumer Reports score of 88 (or 23rd place out of 27 companies scored). Finally, Liberty Mutual didn’t quite meet the bar we set for financial stability. Its “A” from S&P Global and “A2” from Moody’s come up a little short of our requirements. These scores are still respectable — indicating an ability to pay out on claims — but mean that Liberty Mutual has a slightly poorer credit outlook in the event of a financial downturn.
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.
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.
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.
Cash in on major life changes. Certain life events could translate to cheaper car insurance, so shop for quotes whenever something major changes in your life. For instance, many companies offer a lower rate for married couples or domestic partners. Or perhaps you moved to a suburb with lower accident and crime rates. If your risk for accidents goes down, your rates just might, too.
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.
USAA is likely the best company for you if you are in the military or were in the military. USAA is highly regarded by the J.D. Power survey, only placing second to the Texas Farm Bureau. USAA also offers great discounts for cars parked on military bases. USAA also offers cheap rates--in many cases cheaper than GEICO. We found you may be able to get liability insurance for around $450 per year, and around $900 per year for full coverage in Dallas through USAA.
Insurance comparison websites can be further broken down into sites that provide real-time insurance quotes versus those that provide estimated ones. Estimated quotes are derived from historic data and are often out of date; to get the most accurate information you should use a site that provides real-time quotes generated by the insurance companies.
Results: After a short wait, the quoting tool produced two quotes, for $299 per month and $971 per month, plus links to two other insurance sites. SmartFinancial allows you to narrow down the results further by selecting desired features such as local agents and low down payment, but given how limited the results were in the first place, that particular option isn’t much help.
The General provides insurance for high-risk drivers. If you have a hard time finding coverage elsewhere, just being able to obtain insurance may be a big draw. But the cost of such insurance can be steep — and we don’t just mean premiums. Insufficient coverage means that you might end up paying extra for accidents that you’re involved in, not only to cover costs for expenses like medical bills or property damage, but also because The General may not pay out as much as you need for repairs or claims.