15 April 2007

Insurance Companies

Not all insurance companies suck.

I got my first renter's insurance and car insurance policies from Allstate, a boring, mildly annoying, major property and casualty insurance firm that charges market rates and has a huge market share. I stuck with them for about 16 years, across four different states, through a number of minor claims. While nothing to write home about, the company did do its job well enough for me not to leave them in disgust, or even think about it very often.

It isn't that I didn't shop around. For example, I called up Geico to see if their claims were too good to be true. They were. While the "standard rate" at Allstate was more than the "standard rate" at Geico, nobody pays Allstate's standard rate. Almost everybody gets multiple policy discounts, good driver's discounts, safety features discounts and the like (even though my car has only standard safety features for its make and model, and my home's most sophisticated safety feature is a battery powered smoke alarm). So, when the dust settled, I couldn't find a better deal.

I could have looked at Allstate's close competitor State Farm, but having done Plaintiff's personal injury cases for a while, it was hard to overcome my distaste for the fact that they have engaged in more systemic bad faith claims handling (some of it technically legal, some not -- maybe their better now after having been sued often enough, but I don't believe it). I didn't want to get sucked into State Farm's strategic litigation strategies the next time I got sued and needed my insurance company to back me up.

One day, I get junk mail piece from Amica and decide to check them out. It turns out that Amica is a truly great insurance company and one of the great undiscovered secrets of the property and casualty insurance market. For one thing, it is a mutual company. That means that it is owned by its policy holders, a bit like a credit union or a cooperative, not by third party shareholders motivated solely by the bottom line. It is fiscally sound, something that is a worry with any insurance company that isn't a household name, because unlike banks, insurance companies aren't federally insured. And, get this, once I sign up for a policy, a month later they actually call up and tell me that due to an underwriting mistake that I should actually get a less expensive product.

All told, switching to Amica is saving me about $800 a year compared to the combined homeowner's and auto premiums I paid at Allstate, and is providing me with better coverages. This is huge considering that my rates weren't stunningly high to start with because I am a low risk driver and have a reasonably modest home. And, no, I have no relationship with Amica to advertise with them, I'm simply a plain old customer writing of my own accord.

One area were Amica has not proved to be a good deal is life insurance. My wife's life insurance is through TIAA-CREF, from the days when she worked at the admission's office of Mesa State College. Mine is through Northwestern Mutual. Again, neither are traditional for profit companies. Both afford us far better rates than we could get from Amica, although this may have something to do with the fact that we got them when we were younger, rather than the company itself.


Knightn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Knightn said...

When you signed up with Amica did you go to their location at S. Parker Rd. or online? Just wondering as I am currently looking around for better coverage and reputation than state farm for my auto and renters.

Dave Barnes said...

I have had for auto insurance since 1970.I have their service to be excellent.
My only complaint is that they will NOT insure my house because it is covered with Dryvit (synthetic stucco) and they are paranoid about mold. I think it is an East Coast thing.

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

I called up on the phone and spoke with a representative in the S. Parker Road office. A contract investigator looked at it, but I never had to go into the office.