Top car insurance companies that won't break the budget


Top car insurance companies that won't break the budget

A Consumer Reports investigation finds two excellent deals

Published: August 20, 2015 05:40 PM

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Since the late 1990s, two companies, USAA and Amica Mutual, have consistently stood head and shoulders above the competition in our car insurance Ratings of claims satisfaction, based on the personal experience of more than 128,000 customers over the past 17 years. Generally, higher quality comes with a higher price tag. But does that hold true for car insurance?

Our investigative report, "The Truth About Car Insurance," found the surprising answer. 

As the tables below show, USAA and Amica were bargain priced for our group of eight hypothetical single drivers with clean driving records and excellent credit scores, averaged across all the ZIP codes in the 23 states where USAA and four other big national brands are all market leaders. This was also true when we looked at a subset of 10 states where we also had apples-to-apples price data for Amica and the five other major insurers. The price quotes were collected in August 2014 and November 2014.

Based on their personal experience, many of our readers found the same thing about these top car insurance companies. For example, Jeannine Sawicki told us via Facebook that she's been with USAA for 40 years, "and they are amazing in every way. Every five years or so, I get a quote from someone else, but it never comes near USAA." Sawicki says USAA's customer service is outstanding and response to claims and questions is quick.

"AMICA! Fabulous; I'll never leave them," commented Rosemary Chieppo, also on Facebook.

Sign our petition to tell insurance regulators and companies "Price me by how I drive, not by who you think I am."

Average annual premium in 23 states*


Average annual premium

USAA $817
State Farm 1,147
Geico 1,177
Progressive 1,414
Allstate 1,570

*New-customer rate for male and female single drivers ages 25, 35, 65, and 75 with excellent credit and a clean driving record in AK, AL, AR, AZ, CO, CT, DE, FL, GA, HI, KY, LA, ME, NH, NM, NV, NY, SC, TN, TX, UT, VA, and WA, the states where all five companies are market leaders.

Lower costs passed on to customers 

It's important to note that the premium comparison above is for a group of example policyholders with the exact same profile, who drive the same vehicle and buy the same coverage. So the only difference is the insurance company.

Why is USAA so much less expensive?

"We work very hard to keep administrative expenses low, so we can pass those savings on to our members," said Rebecca Hirsch, a USAA spokeswoman, who added that USAA's expense ratio, or cost for advertising, sales commissions, and other overhead related to acquiring new customers, is approximately half the industry average.

USAA is not available to everyone. It's open only to members of the U.S. military, honorably discharged veterans, and the families of members. However, USAA estimates that about 60 million people qualify for membership, yet just under half of eligible veterans are aware that USAA exists.

Amica, meanwhile, might seem more pricey than it actually is. The Rhode Island-based insurer is a mutual insurance company, meaning it is owned by its customers. In most states it consistently pays policyholders a dividend at the end of each year. The amount of the dividend is not guaranteed, but it is typically 20 percent and results in a net reduction of the annual premium.

The table below shows Amica's $1,286 average annual premium for our drivers before any dividend, which places it fourth among the six insurers. We've also adjusted that premium assuming a 20 percent dividend, which reduces it to $1,029 and moves Amica to second-lowest-priced in the 10 states studied.

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Average annual premium in 10 states**


Average annual premium

USAA $794
Amica (adjusted for typical 20 percent dividend) 1,029
State Farm 1,097
Geico 1,198
Amica (before annual dividend) 1,286
Progressive 1,386
Allstate 1,567

**New-customer rate for male and female single drivers ages 25, 35, 65, and 75 with excellent credit and a clean driving record in AZ, CO, CT, FL, NH, NY, SC, TX, VA, and WA.

What you can do

If you're looking for superior claims satisfaction and a great price, our findings using these example drivers suggest that you should start your shopping at USAA (if you qualify) and Amica. If you can't get coverage there, State Farm was another lower-priced option in our comparisons, followed by Geico.

But don't stop shopping for top car insurance companies there. Other national or regional insurers might have a better deal in your ZIP code for your specific profile and combination of rating factors and coverage needs. So you should always get quotes tailored to your circumstances from at least a dozen insurers in your state.

You can do that efficiently by visiting, a website that uses independent data from Quadrant, the same company we engaged for our study. It provides customized premium estimates from 18 to 35 insurers, depending on your state. Other websites show quotes from only a handful of companies that do business with the site, so they don’t give you a comprehensive price comparison.

A site like The Zebra will help you more thoroughly assess all of your options and determine how good a deal USAA and Amica are for your individual circumstances.   

—Jeff Blyskal (@JeffBlyskal on Twitter)



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