Slight Shake-Up In Car Insurance Company Rankings For 2013

USAA LogoIf you’re the type of person who tries to get the best products and services you can reasonably afford, you may be interested in company and service ratings. When it comes to getting car insurance for yourself or your family, there are dozens of annual surveys you can turn to in an effort to evaluate if the car insurance company you are currently working with is a leader in value and customer satisfaction.

One of the industry’s most frequently cited surveys shows that as 2013 came to a close, some of the nation’s largest car insurers fared poorly when compared to some specialty firms, smaller insurers and even some regional carriers.

If 2014 is a year when you may be considering giving you current car insurance coverage (and the company providing it) a more serious look, you may want to include some of these companies in your mix when it comes time to comparison shop:

A few survey details

The following rankings were generated through a combination of survey and evaluation results. Both J.D. Powers & Associates and A.M Best rank a host if financial services companies on multiple levels, from financial stability to overall customer experience, to claims handling satisfaction and overall value.

For car insurance companies, this survey also includes the results of the online service’s annual survey of between 5,000 – 6,000 current car insurance customers, asking for ratings on customer service, agent responsiveness, and whether customers would recommend a current insurer to family and friends. The overall results are tabulated in a fashion similar to J.D. Powers & Associates’ annual awards ranking businesses on a 100-point scale.

Based on this broad and combined survey, here are the top car insurance providers for 2013:

1) USAA – the United Services Automobile Association (USAA) is a membership-based financial services company geared to meet the needs of our nation’s active and retired service members and immediate family members. By focusing on a somewhat limited niche, the company has a little better control over costs and can extend some very generous discounts.

USAA places a big emphasis on customer service as serving as honoring our nation’s military families is a cornerstone of its mission. The company offers very affordable insurance (across several separate lines) as well as financial planning products and services that often work to compliment insurance coverage.

As a car insurance provider, USAA ranks as the nation’s sixth largest car insurer with close to five percent of the nation’s total market share. It scored 96 of a possible 100 points on the combined survey for 2013, earned a grade of A++ (the highest possible) for financial strength and stability, and 88 percent of current customers said they would recommend the company to family and friends.

2) Erie Insurance Group – this regional leader was originally founded in Pennsylvania in 1925 and today. It offers insurance products and services in 11 states plus the District of Columbia. While limited in scope, it still ranks as the nation’s 15th largest car insurance company when measured by direct premium written. A strong network of agents committed to customer service may be one reason the insurer consistently ranks well. On the combined survey’s 100-point scale, Erie earned 92 points in 2013. A.M Best gives it an A+ rating for financial strength and stability and like USAA, 88 percent of current customers say that they would recommend Erie to family members and friends.

3) Auto-Owners Insurance – another regional provider, this insurer literally grew out of the early days of the auto industry in Detroit. Today, the insurer sells and services a wide range of insurance products (including auto) in 26 states and ranks as the 17th largest car insurance company when measured by direct written premium. It earned 88 points in 2013’s combined survey while also nabbing a grade of A++ from A.M. Best for financial strength and stability. An impressive 83 percent of all current car insurance customers said they would recommend Auto-Owners to friends and family.

4) MetLife – maybe having Snoopy and the entire Peanuts gang on your side helps. MetLife is the nation’s 14th largest provider of car insurance (just a shade ahead of Erie) but it easily outranks many of its larger competitors, earning 86 of a possible 100 points in 2013 for overall value and customer satisfaction. The company was given a grade of A from A.M. best for financial strength and stability while 72 percent of current MetLife customers said they would recommend MetLife car insurance to friends and family.

5) Country Financial – while perhaps better known for its full range of financial planning and retirement products and services, Country Financial has increased its presence in lines like car insurance. It ranked as the nation’s 25th largest car insurance provider in 2013 while grabbing an overall combined survey score of 86 of a possible 100 points. A.M. Best gave the company an A+ grade for financial strength and stability and 88 percent of its current car insurance customers said they would recommend the company to family and friends.

Smaller may be better

To put some of these ratings in perspective, consider where the nation’s largest car insurance companies ranked overall in this combined survey:

  • State Farm, the largest car insurance company in the country, earned 82 of a possible 100 points and putting it 9th on the list for 2013.
  • Allstate and GEICO (who last year fought hard to trade places a few times as the #2 and #3 largest car insurance companies) each scored 81 points on the 100-point scale for 2013.
  • Progressive, despite having Flo in its corner, was the fourth largest car insurance company in 2013 and still only scored 79 points on the 100-point scale, which landed it in the 15th spot overall in 2013.

It could be that 2013 was just a bad year for some larger insurers. In 2012, the same survey had State Farm earning the fourth spot overall. The Hartford, which ranked third overall in 2012, fell all the way to the 14th spot in 2013.

While “best” is often in the eyes (and pocketbooks) of the beholder, these annual rankings can serve a useful purpose in giving you some idea as to whether you should take your current car insurance coverage out for a spin this year to see if you can generate a few saved dollars and a noticeable improvement in how you and your policy are handled. It certainly couldn’t hurt to take a look.

Jeffrey Davidson is a writer, researcher and marketing consultant with more than 25 years of experience working with insurance companies and financial services firms. He currently writes about auto insurance products and services for Reply!. You can find his article on getting the best for your car insurance investment.