Hi Eric – What you’ve seen is not an unusual situation. A company that’s good in one state isn’t in another. Liberty Mutual worked for you in California, but not in Florida. This is why it’s not possible to say one company is the best. That will vary by state and by your own personal profile. That’s why we produce these “10 Best” lists, to give you companies to investigate.
But liability coverage levels come in threes — you’ll probably see something like 50/100/50 up to 250/500/250 in typical policies. You can think of these limits like: individual injuries / total injuries / property damage. Insurers are a little more technical, calling them bodily injury liability, total bodily injury liability and physical damage liability.

So how much liability coverage should you get? We recommend purchasing as much protection as you can afford and reasonably covers your exposure if you're at-fault in a collision. For reference, the average auto bodily injury liability claim is over $15,000, and the average auto property damage liability claim is over $3,000. But the severity, or size, of a claim will vary significantly. If the driver or passenger in another vehicle was killed, for instance, the costs could easily exceed $100,000, as fatal claims are some of the most expensive. Or if the other vehicle was very expensive, such as a Mercedes, you will face much higher property damage costs as opposed to an accident with a cheaper vehicle.
Car insurance rates vary greatly depending on age. Your risk profile as a driver will change throughout your life, so you may be eligible for discounts at some points in your life while other times you may see your car insurance premium increase. This is why you want to keep shopping for car insurance throughout your life so you ensure the best value.
In a recent survey, we found that our readers’ biggest complaints about their current insurance company related to customer service and their final settlement amount. So, we used J.D. Power’s 2017 claims satisfaction study to find out which insurers had done the best job settling claims for their customers. Scores are assessed on a 1,000-point scale, and all of our final contenders ranked above 850.
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.
How it works: Like other comparison site flows, Gabi asks for some fundamental information, like your name, address, and prior insurance company. Early on, however, I had to create an account linked to my email address and mobile phone number, adding some extra steps to the process. Since Gabi specializes in comparing insurance rates against your current plan, it isn’t ideal for the first-time insurance shopper. However, if you aren’t currently insured, you have the option to indicate “I Don’t Have Insurance” early on in the flow, and you should still be able to find quotes – this is what I selected, to see if the experience would differ from someone not currently insured.
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.
I LOVE USAA! I am surprised it’s not higher on that list. I had Allstate and they never fought for me or my family even though we were paying more than we are paying now. Over where we are at, the speed limit for the highway is 70. There was hardly anyone on the road so my husband drive on the far left since there is a lot of exits in the far right lane. This woman pulled out in the far left lane doing 20. My husband didn’t have time to break because she pulled out right in from God us with no turn signal. But Always was already assuming it was his fault even though they can review the car to see how fast he was going and who was in the wrong. I am glad we dropped them and moved to USAA. They are the best!
The Zebra is another free auto insurance comparison website. The site’s name refers to its founders’ goal of presenting “insurance in black and white.” TheZebra.com has a few articles about choosing car insurance, a car insurance calculator, and some basic information about other types of insurance in addition to its quoting tool. It is rated 4.7 out of 5, and has 565 user reviews on ShopperApproved.
Auto insurance rates in California are among the most expensive in the nation, with annual premiums of $1,665 per year on average. Additionally, auto coverage rates in the state have increased 13% from 2017 to 2019 across the 10 largest insurers. While some price hikes are unavoidable, the best way to get low rates is to shop around and compare quotes.
How it works: The quoting process was similar to that of other comparison websites, although it offered me the option of connecting my Google or Facebook account to speed up the process. After I entered the requested information, the Zebra announced that it had matched me up with nine possible discounts, although it warned that not every insurance company offered all of these discounts.
We researched 36 of the best auto insurance providers based on their ability to serve customers and actually pay out claims; not just on premium cost. Of course, premiums matter, but since rates depend on many different factors — like your age, driving history, and even your ZIP code — the best way to find the most affordable price on the policy you want is to compare quotes. Use our quote tool above to get started.
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.
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.
If you are or were in the military, or if your spouse or parents were, you are eligible for USAA car insurance. USAA scores five out five stars across the board for customer satisfaction in California. Customers of the military company are apparently very satisfied with how they handle claims, interact with customers and the number of policies they offer.
We researched 36 of the best auto insurance providers based on their ability to serve customers and actually pay out claims; not just on premium cost. Of course, premiums matter, but since rates depend on many different factors — like your age, driving history, and even your ZIP code — the best way to find the most affordable price on the policy you want is to compare quotes. Use our quote tool above to get started.
As we mention above, Nationwide was the best company in California for cheap car insurance. The large auto insurer even bested typically cheap insurers like GEICO and Progressive. In most cities that we surveyed in the Golden State, Nationwide was the go-to local company for low cost rates. In terms of the company's customer satisfaction however, Nationwide is only mediocre according to the J.D. Power auto insurance study of California. Nationwide scored mostly 3/5 stars in most categories including interaction with agents, and their method of billing. They did score 4/5 stars however when it came to the claims handling process
Uninsured / underinsured motorist (UM / UIM) covers costs associated with an accident involving uninsured or underinsured motorists, or hit and run drivers. You can’t control the coverage of other drivers on the road, but if you get in an accident with someone who doesn’t have insurance — or who has insufficient protection — you’ll be forced to deal with the costs yourself. We know it’s frustrating to have to pay for someone else’s negligence, but opting for UM / UIM coverage will be well worth it when you need it.

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.
Disclaimer: NerdWallet strives to keep its information accurate and up to date. This information may be different than what you see when you visit a financial institution, service provider or specific product’s site. All financial products, shopping products and services are presented without warranty. When evaluating offers, please review the financial institution’s Terms and Conditions. Pre-qualified offers are not binding. If you find discrepancies with your credit score or information from your credit report, please contact TransUnion® directly.
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