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Since car insurance is regulated at the state level, there are 50 different pricing structures across the country, according to Consumer Reports. Some states require insurance companies to provide transparent pricing. In the many states that don’t, drivers are left to guess — or take their carrier’s word for it — as to why they pay the rates they do.
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Brand loyalty and even good driving rarely have as big an impact on your premiums as all those slick, big-budget ad campaigns would have you believe. The scoring models that insurance companies use to price their customers’ policies are often kept secret, and when they’re not, they’re so complex that even industry regulators can rarely make heads or tails of them.
Some insurance companies rely on that secretive and confusing business model to overcharge their customers — they make the bad list. Others, however, do what they can to break the status quo and provide clear, transparent pricing — they make the good list.
In study after study, Consumer Reports goes out of its way to caution readers against choosing insurance providers based on brand recognition and advertising. Bigger is rarely better, and the carriers with the lowest rates and best overall customer satisfaction ratings tend to be smaller companies with lower profiles than Flo, the gecko, the Limu Emu and the rest.
Of those companies, one stands out above all the others — USAA, which has earned a place among the top three providers in every single category in every single Consumer Reports ranking since 2004.
In 2021, J.D. Power conducted a comprehensive ranking of the major auto insurance carriers in every region of the country. Because it serves only military personnel and their families, USAA didn’t meet the study’s ranking criteria, but if it had, it would have crushed every other insurance company in every region of America. According to Consumer Reports, the average USAA policy costs $817 vs. $1,570 for Allstate.
Best: Amica Mutual
According to CarInsuranceComparison, Amica Mutual has long been hailed for its excellent customer service, honesty, timeliness, low number of complaints and transparent pricing — and the site’s own research confirmed that reputation.
Like USAA, Amica has ranked in the top three of each and every category in each and every Consumer Reports ranking since 2004. NJM (New Jersey Manufacturers) also ranks in the upper echelon of the industry, but its availability is limited to only New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Amica sells insurance in every state but Hawaii.
Best: State Farm
Consumer Reports is adamant that bigger isn’t always better, but there are exceptions — and one of those exceptions is State Farm. In the J.D. Power rankings, State Farm was the highest-rated carrier in Florida, New York and the Northwest. It ranked well above average in California, No. 3 in the Central region, No. 3 in the Mid-Atlantic, No. 2 in New England, No. 2 in the North Central region, No. 4 out of more than 15 companies in the Southeast and No. 2 in the Southwest. The only place in America where State Farm ranked below average — barely — was Texas.
Compared to the other giants, State Farm is cheaper than Allstate, Geico and Progressive, according to Consumer Reports.
In the J.D. Power study — which measured not just policy prices, but intangibles like communication, brand impression and overall customer satisfaction — Farmers ranked at or near the bottom of the list in most regions of the country.
Despite a strong showing in the Central region, Farmers ranked below average in California, dead last in the Mid-Atlantic, well below average in the bottom six in the North Central region, second-to-last in the Northwest, Southeast and Texas, and third from the bottom in the Southwest.
Worst: Liberty Mutual
According to the J.D. Power study, Liberty Mutual performed well in Texas and the Southwest in general — but that’s it. The company ranked below average — often well below average — in every other region of the country.
According to Consumer Reports, the biggest names with the biggest advertising budgets tend to receive the lowest ratings. Of them, Liberty Mutual was at the bottom of the pack, tied with only Allstate in earning the publication’s lowest possible grade. Liberty Mutual was also most likely to see customers leave for other carriers because of price increases.
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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: 3 of the Best and Worst Companies for Car Insurance