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.
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.
Once the center of the California Gold Rush and the westernmost end of the Pony Express, Sacramento today is the capital of California, and its average cost of insurance reflects that. Within the city, Nationwide, Century National and GEICO had the lowest auto insurance costs. In aggregate, the three companies had an average quote of $1,001 ,or 30% cheaper than the Sactown average. The graph below has rates from Sactown's five cheapest companies:
Ameriprise was the winner of the J.D. Power study, scoring a 5/5 stars overall. They got top marks in their billing practices and in the flexibility of policies they offer to customers. They had slightly lower marks in their claims handling process (4/5) as well as their agents' interaction with customers. We could not get pricing for Ameriprise but the company is generally known for offering affordable and competitive rates.
Results: Insurify produced nine quotes, starting at $78/month, each with the option to contact the insurance company immediately or schedule a phone call for a later time. Some of the quotes included helpful information about the policy or the insurance company offering it. The site allowed me to change the coverage from the left-hand sidebar, and it was easy to click on the different coverages and see the prices change in real time.
Unlike quote comparison sites, lead generation sites simply sell your information to their advertising partners—typically insurance companies. These sites are not built to provide you with personalized quotes and are not much help when trying to compare car insurance rates. Avoid these sites unless you’re eager to receive tons of cold calls from insurance phone banks and desperate agents.
Once you have a few data points, it is time to pick up the phone and negotiate with representatives. Call them and share the cheaper rates you've gotten from competitors, and 1) see what they do, or 2) follow up with: can you do better than this? Afterwards, ask them for any discounts that aren't available on the website, or what they can offer you from the discounts we've listed below.
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.
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.
We surveyed 9 national auto insurance companies to see how their rates stack up for a few sample driver profiles to help you shop for auto insurance. The rates are sampled from select cities across the country, so your actual quote will differ based on your driving history and where you live. Alternatively you can enter your information in the form below to get quotes from insurers that serve your area.
Each insurance company evaluates personal factors in its own way, and they keep their methods as hidden as possible. So we can’t tell you which company puts high value in your occupation or emphasizes a clean driving history more than others. But to help you get going, we can show you a car insurance rate comparison for the same hypothetical driver and car, using average rates from across the country.
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).
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.
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.
Matthew thanks for posting this. You’re absolutely right. USAA has gone down the tubes, I dont get it, a simple claim recently for auto, turned into a nightmare. bouncing my calls all over the country with a bunch of idiots for claim reps answering the phones, and forcing my car into total loss when it should not have been, and paying only a portion of the damage even though I have collision.