Should You Choose a Smaller Insurance Company?
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You’re comparing prices on Compare.com and you see some companies offering great rates, but you don’t recognize some of them. Your first thought may be: I only go with companies I’ve heard of and that advertise on TV.
You can probably hum the State Farm “Like a Good Neighbor” jingle. You know Flo works for Progressive and GEICO’s pitchman is small and green. That’s because large insurance companies have millions (or billions, in GEICO’s case) to spend on advertising and marketing, while small insurance companies don’t.
But that doesn’t mean small car insurers are a bad choice. On the contrary, you may get more personal service or lower rates than the big guys can offer. We’ll take a look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of going with a smaller insurance company…
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Advantages of Small Car Insurance Companies
- Lower rates: Because small car insurers spend less on marketing and have lower overhead costs, they often can provide lower-cost policies – especially for high-risk drivers
- Customer service: The largest companies insure tens of millions of drivers. No matter how many customer service representatives they hire, you’ll still be 1 customer out of 10,000,000. Smaller, regional companies often beat the big companies in customer satisfaction, offering a local, family feel
- Specialty car insurance: If you’re trying to insure a high-powered sports car or a classic car, you may have better luck going with a small insurer that specializes in specialty vehicles
Disadvantages of Small Car Insurance Companies
- You get what you pay for: If you choose a smaller car insurer because you want to save money with a low-cost policy, review the details carefully. The less you spend, the less coverage you’ll get – which could be disastrous if you get into an accident
- Less Access: The benefit of a larger insurer? More money and more staff. This usually means longer call center hours and more brick-and-mortar stores. If you go with a smaller insurer, you may have to accept that you can only speak to someone 9-5 on weekdays.
- Fewer features: Large car insurers are competing to offer all kinds of perks for policyholders, often offering a wider range of discounts and complimentary roadside assistance; small companies can’t always match these
- Limited coverage area: Some small car insurance companies only offer policies in a few states. This means if you move, you may have to find a new insurer.
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Meet Some Smaller Car Insurers
Choosing a car insurance company is a big decision. You need to consider how expensive they are, read customer reviews and research what’s covered by the policy. It’s also good to check A.M. Best Company’s ratings. They evaluate companies’ financial stability, which demonstrates a company’s strength and ultimately their ability to pay out on your claims.
Here are a few smaller car insurance companies and the special services and benefits they offer.
Founded in 1907, Amica Insurance is the oldest mutual insurer of automobiles in the country. The word ‘Mutual’ is significant. The company’s customers are also its owners, meaning the company pays dividends to policyholders. For the last 40 years, the dividends have equaled 20 percent of their annual premium. Amica prides itself on its award-winning customer service and financial strength.
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Elephant Auto Insurance
Elephant Auto Insurance is a newer company, founded in 2009, but it’s no lightweight. Elephant is a subsidiary of Admiral Group, plc, which has nearly 2 million policies worldwide and more than a dozen different companies scattered across the globe. Elephant offers no-hassle service, affordable rates and reliable coverage.
The General Insurance
The General primarily serves drivers who have a history of driving violations or accidents, have let their insurance lapse or have less-than-perfect credit. These drivers are seen as higher-risk, so they may be more expensive to insure. However, The General promises affordable premiums and flexible payment plans for high-risk customers. The General can also help with SR-22 filings, which some states require as proof of insurance for high-risk drivers.
Infinity Auto Insurance
Founded in 1955, Infinity Auto Insurance offers affordable coverage to drivers who may be declined by other insurers because of a DUI, claims history or previous violations. While Infinity is a small company, it’s the third largest non-standard insurance company in the U.S., operating in 44 states.
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Regional Insurance Companies
These smaller car insurers operate only in specific states or regions of the US. This means that they can really focus on a core customer base and get to know the insurance risks that drivers in that area face. For example, you’re more likely to hit a deer in Montana vs California. You also probably don’t need to worry about hurricanes in New York, but it’s an annual concern in Florida.
- Wawanesa is a Canadian insurance company that operates in California and Oregon
- New York Central Mutual (NYCM) is a mutual insurance company in New York
- PEMCO is a mutual insurance company in the Pacific Northwest
- Texas Farm Bureau Insurance insures cars, as well as livestock and ranches, in Texas
- Farm Bureau Insurance of Tennessee was founded by farmers in 1948 and is now the biggest car insurer in Tennessee
A smaller insurer has just as much to offer as a larger insurer. Just because you don’t recognize the name doesn’t mean that they are cheap, untrustworthy or a scam. If you don’t recognize their name, just do some research online.
Don’t pass up the chance to save money and consider a smaller insurance company. Studies show that drivers save an average of 32% on auto insurance when they compare prices, and there are more companies to compare when you consider local and regional insurance companies. Compare quotes today and see if a smaller insurer could save you money.
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