Have you been car insurance shopping lately? Then you know that the auto insurance market is packed with companies boasting clever taglines, annoying jingles and little reptile mascots. But beneath the advertising hype, is there really much of a difference between the top players in the industry? (See also: How to Find the Right Car Insurance.)
Actually, as it turns out, there is – and not just in premium costs, although those can vary a lot between companies. Some companies do a much better job with handling claims, and others excel at customer service overall. Some companies offer more policy and vehicle coverage options. The bottom line is that you need to shop around to find the best car insurance company based on your own particular needs and preferences. (See also: Tips for Cheaper, Better Car Insurance.)
That said, a few companies rise to the top across the board, with high marks in customer satisfaction, competitive rates, easy claims processing and overall convenience in managing your policy. So before you sign up for a new car insurance policy in 2017, check out what's available from these top companies.
1. Amica Mutual Insurance Company
If you're scratching your head over the first name on the list, it's because Amica definitely lacks the name recognition of some of the other insurance companies. At number 22 in terms of size, it's not the largest company, but Amica comes out on top when it comes to customer satisfaction according to J.D. Power’s satisfaction survey, with perfect scores in four out of seven categories.
Amica also offers the broadest selection of vehicle and driver coverage of the companies on this list as well as prices near or at the bottom for comparable policies. And as a mutual insurance company, it doesn't have shareholders looking for dividends – premium surpluses are shared with policyholders. It is worth noting that Amica's mobile app offering is not as robust as some of the larger companies, in case that's a deal-breaker for you. (See also: Mutual vs. Publicly Traded Insurance Companies.)
2. State Farm Insurance
State Farm is the largest auto insurer in the country, with roughly 19% of the market. You don't get that big without doing something right. For starters, it's extremely easy to manage your policy – you can call an agent (there are 18,000 of them), use online chat or even use the convenient Pocket Agent app. The shopping experience is pretty painless, too.
State Farm offers great discount programs, including the Drive Safe & Save, which can knock 50% off your premium based on your driving behavior as measured by your OnStar, SYNC system or mobile device. The company also has excellent rental car and travel expense reimbursement coverage. However, State Farm gets dinged a bit on overall claims satisfaction, where it lags behind other insurance giants. (See also: Not-At-Fault Accidents Costing Drivers.)
Geico is known for its low premiums (and yes, the gecko). If affordability is your primary consideration and you're comfortable managing your policy online or over a mobile app, this is a great choice. Overall customer satisfaction is higher than average, as is satisfaction with the claims process.
Geico has some optional coverage choices that are pretty appealing as well, including mechanical breakdown coverage and emergency roadside assistance. There's also a hybrid product for ride-sharing drivers who don't want to have multiple policies for the same vehicle. Discount programs are available for good students and members of the military, while federal employees also get special rates. Geico prides itself on its robust mobile app offering and online tools, but if a full-service agent experience is more your style, this may not be your best choice. (See also: How Technology Is Rapidly Disrupting the Insurance Industry.)
The bottom line
If you're not sure where to start when it comes to choosing car insurance for 2017, this helpful guide from Consumer Reports is a great place to start. Be sure to get quotes from several different insurers, and don't be afraid to ask friends and family for their recommendations. And remember that premiums are important, but they're only part of the overall insurance package – cheapest isn't always best. (See also: 12 Car Insurance Cost-Cutters.)