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Military families are often eligible for discounted rates

No matter what insurer they choose, military families should always ask whether they are eligible for any special discounts or policy flexibility. However, they should be sure to check out one highly rated military-only option first: USAA, or the United Services Automobile Association. USAA scores at or near the top of several car insurance customer-satisfaction surveys, with policyholders reporting positive experiences with claims and superior customer service.

Plans are flexible and there are several discounts available, customers say. While it fulfills a niche in the car insurance industry, USAA retains a nationwide reach and strong financial ratings with most major rating agencies. Potential customers should note that USAA only does business online and over the phone, so those who want to build a close relationship with an insurance agent may need to look elsewhere.

Another option worth a look is GEICO, one of the largest insurers in the country. GEICO boasts a special military program that offers lower rates and special policy flexibility for servicemen and women, including an overseas insurance program for those who are touring or stationed abroad. GEICO also offers a wide variety of policy options and discounts for non-military members, and the company earns solid financial ratings. However, reviews of claims experiences are uneven, and some customers say they've seen their rates shoot up with little warning. While GEICO offers a smattering of local agents, it does most of its business online and over the phone.

Armed Forces Insurance, or AFI, is a reciprocal-exchange insurer open to military families. Like a co-op, policyholders own a part of the company. All customers receive free identity-theft resolution and identification recovery services, but it's hard to track down many reviews of AFI, which is smaller than its competitors.

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