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.
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.
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.
While the above is the lowest amount of insurance coverage you can have, you should consider adding more if you have more to lose. For example, we typically advise drivers to match their liability coverage to what they have in total assets. If you own a house in one of the most expensive zip codes in California, Atherton, and have sizable savings and investment accounts, we'd recommend you increase your liability limits and consider adding umbrella coverage on top. On the other hand, if you're a first-year student at UCLA, you may be fine with liability limits that are closer to the minimum.
Whether this coverage is right for you depends on the value of your car and where you live. If you have a new car and live in an area with lots of storms and a large deer population, you should likely get comprehensive and collision coverage. If you have an old car, however, the current cash value your policy pays might not be worth the cost of the premiums and deductible for the coverage. It's generally not cost-effective when the current cash value of your car is less than $3,000. Weigh the annual out-of-pocket cost to you (both premiums and deductible) against the current cash value to see if it makes sense.
Keep an eye on your credit score: Maintaining a solid credit score is recommended no matter what, but it’s especially important when your score is being referenced to develop your auto insurance policy. Just as you investigate a car’s accident history before purchasing, insurers in most states use a credit-based insurance score to help determine rates. The higher the risk, the higher the policy costs.
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.
Auto insurance comparison websites, which let you instantly compare quotes from multiple insurance providers, can be a huge help in your quest for affordable car insurance. They provide accurate, personalized rates, discounts, and coverage options all on one site—much like your favorite travel comparison site that gives you airline ticket or hotel room options all on a single page.
There are a million things to worry about when you’re involved in an accident. Whether or not your insurance company will be able to pay your claim shouldn’t be one of them. A strong financial rating is the best way to guarantee your provider can pay what you need, when you need it, so we made sure all of our picks had strong ratings based on the Insurance Information Institute’s (III) guidelines.
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.
The best car insurance companies have a few things in common: They have straightforward shopping experiences, take good care of policyholders after a crash and treat their customers with respect and courtesy. That means only insurers with high customer satisfaction scores and relatively few complaints to insurance commissioners make it to the top of our list of the best auto insurance companies.