Updated on 05.24.16

Best Car Insurance Companies of 2016

Saundra Latham

The best auto insurers offer more than just a low price.

The best car insurance companies offer comprehensive coverage, superior customer service, financial strength, and painless shopping experiences to get you the best car insurance quotes. The barrage of TV ads underscores that there’s no shortage of competition in the industry, either. Whether you’re staring at Progressive’s Flo or Allstate’s “Mayhem,” it’s hard to escape any commercial break without hearing from an auto insurer.

Fortunately, that’s good news for you. Competition usually translates into lower rates and better perks as companies battle for your business. In fact, my husband and I recently switched insurers and cut our car insurance costs by about 35%, all without reducing our coverage levels. All it took was a little time, and now we have a few hundred dollars back in our pockets each year.

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The best way to start searching for the best auto insurance companies is to find the best deals in your area. You can do that by entering your ZIP code in the quote tool below.

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Enter your zip code below and be sure to click at least 2-3 companies to find the very best rate.

The Four Best Car Insurance Companies in 2016

Whether you’re new to car insurance or are simply shopping around for a better deal, here are the best car insurance companies, according to my research:

  • Best for Customer Service: State Farm
  • Best for Military Members and Their Families: USAA
  • Best for Claims Handling: Amica
  • Best for Policy Options: The Hartford

Read on to discover why these companies stand out from the competition. Further down, I’ll explain how I made my picks and discuss the pros and cons of using insurance agents or skipping them entirely.

You can also learn about how to save on car insurance by reading our guide How to Get Cheap Car Insurance.

Best Car Insurance Company for Customer Service: State Farm

State Farm is the largest car insurance company in the nation, according to Insurance Journal in 2016. Fortunately, they’re also one of the best. Customers give State Farm consistently high marks for their handling of claims — in other words, they don’t feel like they get the runaround when they need help.

That could be because State Farm makes it very easy to get in touch: You can call one of the company’s 18,000 agents, go online, or even send a picture of your damaged car with your smartphone using the Pocket Agent mobile app. State Farm also gets top marks for a pain-free shopping experience that lets prospective customers call their local agent or chat with a representative online if they have any questions.

Pros

  • Highly rated for superior claims handling
  • Highest financial stability rating
  • Wide range of coverage options
  • 18,000 agents nationwide
  • Easy-to-use website and mobile app
  • Excellent customer support

Cons

  • Mixed reviews for pricing/value
  • Missing a few discounts, including pay-in-full and automatic pay

Best Car Insurance Company for Military: USAA

USAA is the only company that consistently either matches or bests State Farm in customer satisfaction surveys. Indeed, USAA customers are very happy with their claims experiences and customer service. They also give the company top-notch marks for value, which seems to be State Farm’s weak spot.

USAA’s website has plenty of educational materials for drivers, but the quote process is a bit more involved than it is with many competitors.

The major downside to USAA is their limited availability: You or a close family member must be a member or former member of the armed forces to get coverage from USAA.

Pros

  • Highly rated for superior claims handling
  • Highly rated for pricing/value
  • Highest financial stability rating
  • Solid online educational resources

Cons

  • Only available to U.S. military members and their families, and certain affiliates
  • Quote process is more time-consuming

Best Car Insurance Company for Claims Handling: Amica

Amica may keep a lower profile than the car-insurance giants, but their claim to fame is customer claims satisfaction. Amica is J.D. Power’s top-ranked company for customer claims satisfaction in 2014, and they take the runner-up spot in Consumer Reports’ rankings.

Amica does not have agents, which means they deal with all their customers without a middleman. This could be a pro or a con, depending on your perspective. Another of Amica’s high points is that they allow you to work with your own repair shop after you’re in a crash. This often isn’t the case with car insurance companies.

On the downside, customers are less satisfied with pricing — certainly a major consideration for customers looking for a deal.

Pros

  • Highly rated for superior claims handling
  • Highest financial stability rating
  • Customers can choose their own car repair shops
  • Easy-to-use website and mobile app

Cons

  • Lower ratings for pricing/value
  • Fewer online educational resources

Best Car Insurance Company for Policy Options: The Hartford

Though not as much of a household name as State Farm or Progressive, The Hartford is the nation’s 11th largest insurer. They are highly ranked for value — customers are satisfied with the price of their policies relative to the competition. They also offer a wide range of policy options and benefits, including rates based on how much you actually drive your car and a new-car replacement program for cars totaled shortly after purchase.

The online quote process is quick and easy, but the website lacks some of the educational material that larger companies often feature. The Hartford is also in the middle of the pack for claims satisfaction.

Pros

  • Highly rated for pricing/value
  • Wide range of coverage options
  • Very strong financial stability rating
  • Easy-to-use website and mobile app

Cons

  • Average ratings for claims handling
  • Fewer online educational resources

The Rest of the Best Car Insurance Contenders

Progressive is worth noting because of their wider-than-standard range of discounts that could save you a lot of money. Their Snapshot tool will even monitor your driving habits to see if you can get a bigger break. But, like many of the big insurers, they’re in the middle of the pack for customer satisfaction with pricing and claims.

Allstate shines with comprehensive online tools and resources that help you manage your policy and learn more about car insurance in general. They also have a comprehensive agent network that’s second only to State Farm, so they could be a good pick if you want personal service. Allstate fares a bit better than Progressive in claims reviews, but still nabs average customer-satisfaction scores overall.

Two companies with more limited service areas that fare very well in customer satisfaction are Auto-Owners Insurance and Erie Insurance. Auto-Owners is available in 26 states, mostly in the South and Midwest, while Erie serves parts of the South, Midwest, and Mid-Atlantic.

Both companies are highly rated for claims. Erie has particularly comprehensive coverage options that include extras such as money toward rental cars after a crash (this is usually an add-on policy with most insurers). Auto-Owners uses an agent-only model that promotes customer relationships, so they might be a good pick if you value personal service.

Buying Car Insurance: Should You Use an Agent or Go Online?

Depending on who you choose in your search for the top auto insurance companies, you may face yet another decision: Should you do business with an insurance agent or should you deal with the company directly online?

If you value face-to-face relationships and personal service, it’s hard to beat going with an agent. But all agents aren’t created equal. Some are “captive,” meaning they sell car insurance for only one company. Others are “independent,” meaning they can sell car insurance for multiple companies.

Captive agents

Going with a captive agent makes sense if you already know you’re committed to a particular company. A captive agent will know that company’s car insurance options top to bottom and will be able to help you build the exact coverage package you need.

A captive agent probably doesn’t work on as much of a commission model as an independent agent, so they may take more time to answer your questions and really get to know you and your needs.

Independent agents

Independent agents can help you shop around with several companies, potentially nabbing you a better rate for car insurance. Because they aren’t directly employed by any one company, they won’t have as much of an incentive to push one particular product.

If your rates go up after committing to a policy, they can help you find a lower price when it’s time to shop again. However, because commission figures into their pay more heavily, they may be under more pressure to make a deal as quickly as possible.

Online

Of course, there’s a third option. You may be able to skip agents entirely and do your business directly with the company online, depending on which one you select. Most companies that have agents don’t require you to work with them, and some companies don’t have agents at all. This is undoubtedly the most convenient option, and probably the best if you’re in a time crunch. It may also be the cheapest option.

However, if you’re not sure what your needs are, buying your policy without an agent could leave you buying too much insurance, too little, or even the wrong kind.

How I Picked the Best Car Insurance Companies

Most people consider the top auto insurance companies the ones that will give them the lowest rate. Of course, that will vary according to each driver’s unique circumstances, including age, location, driving habits, and even credit score.

For that reason, I took a broader look at the factors that separate the best auto insurance companies from the rest, including whether customers are satisfied once they plunk down their money. Here are the factors I considered:

  • Ease of shopping: I evaluated insurers’ websites to determine how easy it was to get a quote, determine my coverage needs, and receive customer service help if I needed it. I also considered J.D. Power’s 2014 Auto Insurance Purchase Experience Ratings, which asked customers about their experiences with insurers’ local agents, call-center representatives, and websites.
  • Range of coverage options: Does the insurer provide a wide range of coverage options for its customers? Do customers feel the policies meet their needs? I looked at insurers’ websites, Insure.com’s Best Car Insurance Companies for 2014, J.D. Power’s 2014 U.S. Auto Insurance Study, J.D. Power’s 2014 Auto Insurance Purchase Experience Ratings, and Reviews.com’s auto insurance company reviews to find the best auto insurance companies for coverage.
  • Satisfaction with claims: How happy are customers who have dealt with their insurers after a crash or other incident? I looked at J.D. Power’s 2014 Auto Claims Satisfaction Study, J.D. Power’s 2014 U.S. Auto Insurance Study, Insure.com’s Best Car Insurance Companies for 2014, and Consumer Reports’ 2014 Car Insurance Ratings to find the top auto insurance companies for claims.
  • Satisfaction with price: Do customers feel like they’re getting a good deal? I looked at J.D. Power’s 2014 Auto Insurance Purchase Experience Ratings, J.D. Power’s 2014 U.S. Auto Insurance Study, and Consumer Reports’ 2014 Car Insurance Ratings to find the best car insurance companies for value.
  • Financial strength ratings: I looked at each company’s A.M. Best rating to gauge stability. Ratings range from A++ (superior/most stable) to D (poor/least stable). A few special ratings below “D” denote companies that are under regulatory supervision, are being liquidated, or have had their ratings suspended. A.M. Best considers any company with a “B” grade or below vulnerable.

Finding the Best Car Insurance Companies

Sure, you want the best possible rate on car insurance, and there are several ways to keep yourself from overpaying. One of them is to figure out what type of coverage you really need and brush up on other rate-lowering strategies using our guide on How to Get Cheap Car Insurance. But you also want to do business with a company that offers financial stability, a wide range of coverage, and the fair, attentive service you want after a crash. We think State Farm, USAA, Amica, and The Hartford are all good bets.

You can also begin your search by finding the top car insurance companies in your area by using our online comparison tool. Looking for car insurance online will make comparison shopping easy and save you the time and hassle of calling around to get quotes. And if you want more information about your state’s rules, regulations, and best providers, check out our guides below:

Find the Best Car Insurance Rates

Enter your zip code below and be sure to click at least 2-3 companies to find the very best rate.

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