You don't see this company paying big bucks for national ad campaigns, but Amica Mutual Insurance earns more praise from experts and customers than any other publicly available auto insurer. Established in 1907, Amica is the oldest mutual auto insurer in the U.S., and policyholders rank it the top auto insurance company in customer satisfaction at J.D. Power and Associates for 11 years running. It gets high ratings there for claim service and price, too.
More kudos come from the Better Business Bureau, where Amica earns an A-plus rating as an accredited business. Nationwide, far fewer consumer complaints are upheld against Amica than the average auto insurer, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC). But if you like working with a local agent, Amica isn't your best bet; it has scattered regional offices, but most of the time you'll be doing business over the phone. Also, customers say that Amica can be very picky about its clients, even looking askance at people who park on the street instead of in a garage.
If your driving record isn't spotless, some car insurance companies won't even consider insuring you -- but State Farm might, reviewers say. It's the biggest auto insurer in the U.S. and Canada. Consumers rate it higher than most other big car insurance agencies for claims and customer service, and it rates a B-plus at the Better Business Bureau. With State Farm, you'll be working with a local agent because the company maintains far more physical branches than Amica Mutual.
Smaller companies that offer low prices and great service also tend to be very picky about the policyholders they accept. State Farm, Allstate and Progressive are likely to offer you a quote, even if you've had several wrecks or tickets, SmartMoney magazine says. Dairyland Auto, a unit of Sentry Insurance, also specializes in higher-risk drivers, according to SmartMoney, and Weiss Ratings lists it as one of the financially strongest auto insurance companies. Note that big agencies might not offer the cheapest auto insurance rates. If you're a higher-risk driver, SmartMoney recommends getting a quote from a big company like State Farm and then asking an independent agent that works with several companies to see if anyone can beat it.
We found plenty of consumer reviews protesting unfairly denied claims, and State Farm -- like several other huge insurance companies -- earns a spot on "The Ten Worst Insurance Companies in America" list compiled by the American Association for Justice, a trial lawyers' group. But when the NAIC looked at complaints filed with state insurance regulators nationwide, it found that State Farm was in the wrong less often than the average insurance company.
If you're in the military, reviewers say you've got a stellar auto insurance option: the United Services Automobile Association, or USAA. Clients award it the top auto insurance ratings for price, claims and customer service in the J.D. Power and Associates survey of more than 25,000 people. USAA ranked on par with the national average for customer complaints upheld against it in 2009, but policyholders find little to complain about in a major nationwide survey, giving USAA above-average to excellent scores for being problem-free and paying claims promptly. It's extremely strong financially, earning the highest possible scores from all five financial ratings services (A.M. Best, Fitch Ratings, Moody's, Standard & Poor's and Weiss). USAA also earns the highest marks from wealthy clients in a survey by the Luxury Institute, a market-research organization. However, only current or former military personnel and their children are eligible to apply for USAA auto insurance.
These runner-up auto insurers land near the top of car insurance reviews. Reliable sources say they're all excellent companies and definitely worth getting a quote from.
Auto-Owners Insurance offers the same great claims service as top-rated Amica, even edging out Amica in the 2010 J.D. Power and Associates auto-claims study. Customers say Auto-Owners is especially prompt at paying claims, and it earns an A-plus rating from the Better Business Bureau. Auto-Owners has been insuring cars since 1916, and it makes Weiss Ratings' list of the financially strongest auto-insurance companies in America. Auto-Owners operates in 26 states.
Chubb Insurance is "for people who want to be paid off and not bothered when the Ferrari is totaled or the mansion goes up in smoke," CBS's BNET business blog says. Chubb itself says it insures more than 60 percent of the people on Forbes' list of the 400 wealthiest Americans.
If you fit this profile, you'll probably be quite satisfied with Chubb auto insurance, reviews say. The company caters to its clients, who almost never find anything to complain about. However, wealthy people surveyed by the Luxury Institute say they prefer USAA insurance (open only to military families) to Chubb.
American Family, the nation's tenth-biggest auto-insurance company, fares pretty well in reviews. It gets an A-plus rating for handling customer complaints in a trustworthy fashion at the Better Business Bureau, and wealthy customers choose it as one of their top three insurance companies in a Luxury Institute survey (Chubb and USAA are the other two).
American Family handles claims well, say customers in J.D. Power and Associates' survey, and customers in another survey praise it for paying promptly. It displays respectable financial strength, and insurance regulators found American Family at fault in customer complaints less often than the national median for auto insurers in 2009, according to data from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. However, American Family sells auto insurance policies in only 19 states -- Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin.
Two other highly rated auto insurance companies serve smaller geographic regions. The Interinsurance Exchange of the Automobile Club of Southern California serves AAA members in Southern California, and New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance sells policies to people in New Jersey and Pennsylvania who work for certain employers and meet other narrow criteria. Both earn high marks for both financial strength and customer satisfaction.