5 ways to compare car insurance companies

1. Research the car insurance company’s consumer track record.
To narrow down your search among car insurance companies, start with your state insurance commission's website (State car insurance information).



"Most states have a buyer's guide for auto insurance that lists the companies that sell insurance in your state," says J. Robert Hunter, director of insurance for the Consumer Federation of America in Washington, D.C.Compare insurance quote

For an overall rating of company performance, including complaint ratios (state department of insurance websites and NAIC have reports) and financial ratings (A.M. Best). Insure.com's "Best insurance companies" will give you a great summary of top companies.


Hunter says state complaint ratios are more important than financial ratings for car insurance. Every state has an insurance guaranty fund that will pay some claims if the insurance company goes bust. It's still prudent, though, to check up on the insurer's financial health.

"However, if you're only shopping every few years, then you should look at the A.M. Best ratings just to make sure the insurance company is financially solvent and can pay you if you need to make a claim," he says.

"The two most important things to look at when choosing an auto insurance company are the price and the claims service," says Hunter. "Choose the company that has both a low level of customer complaints and low prices."

2. Compare complaint ratios.
Hunter suggests choosing five to seven companies and checking their complaint records on the National Association of Insurance Commissioner's (NAIC) website or on your state’s insurance department website. "You can quickly knock out the companies with the highest number of complaints, because you never want to work with an insurance company that doesn't offer good customer service," says Hunter.

To access this information, go to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners' Consumer Information Source. The site shows reports of insurer’s national complaint statistics. Enter the company name and type of insurance in the "Find an insurance company" search box and on the results page you can click to see report options. From there click on "complaint trend report."

Here you will see complaint ratio reports that show the ratio of the company's U.S. market share of closed complaints compared to the company's market share of premiums. Using this formula prevents larger insurance companies from being unfairly graded for having more complaints simply due to customer size. Compare the company's complaint ratio number with the national median provided. You can also review the complaint trend report to see whether the company's complaints have been increasing or decreasing over time.

3. Compare the exact same coverage when comparing car insurance companies.
The best way to save on your car insurance is to buy only what you need, says Hunter. Use Insurance.com's calculator to get a recommendation of how much car insurance to buy.

"If you have good health insurance you don't need to pay extra for PIP (Personal Injury Protection), and if you have an older car, you don't always need to pay for collision insurance."

Hunter says most people only need liability coverage and uninsured motorist coverage of $100,000 per person and $300,000 per occurrence.

He says you should establish your desired coverage limits before shopping and then be sure to use those same limits for every car insurance quote.

4. Check for car insurance discounts.
Before you begin comparing car insurance quotes, make sure you know about your potential car insurance discounts for things like bundling home and auto insurance with the same company, good grades, a good driving record, anti-theft devices and anti-lock brakes. Ask each insurance company for any other possible discounts so that you are comparing the lowest possible rates.

You can also raise your car insurance deductible on collision and comprehensive coverage to reduce your premiums. If you do this, make sure you are using the same deductible with each company so that your rate comparison is accurate.

5. Compare optional auto insurance coverage.
Many insurance companies offer optional coverage for things like rental car coverage while your car is being repaired, towing and labor coverage or even CD/DVD replacement costs if these items are stolen from your car.

"Don't take any optional insurance coverage unless you really think you need it," says Hunter.

However, if one company offers optional coverage that you want at the same price or close to the price of another company's insurance policy without the optional extras, it may be worth choosing the policy with the options, says Hunter.

Related article: How to compare car insurance quotes - gives additional details and tips when you're shopping for car insurance.
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