Reviewers are tough on insurance companies, especially when claims aren’t paid for flood damage. If you are rethinking flood coverage after Sandy, first check out reviews on Viewpoints. The east coast is still reeling from the damage of Hurricane Sandy, which we now know as the deadliest and most destructive Atlantic hurricane of 2012.
The estimates are huge: The storm likely caused upwards of $65 billion in damage. But insurers may only pick up about $20 billion of the price tag. Why? Because people in the Northeast were woefully unprepared and underinsured for the disaster. Only about 14 percent of the residents of New York and New Jersey, for example, carried flood insurance. Remember, homeowners’ insurance typically does not cover flood damage.
If you dodged the bullet, it may be time to think about updating your insurance coverage. Or getting flood coverage in place if you’ve been going without. We took a look at our reviewers’ experiences with a few prominent homeowners insurance companies that also help provide coverage through the National Flood Insurance Program.
Best Homeowners’ Insurance
USAA is the clear favorite among financial services companies, rated 88/100 based on 489 reviews. Its mostly military customer base is extremely loyal, and the company consistently gets high marks for its competitive products, pricing and outstanding customer service.
“Today I switched from Traveler’s insurance to USAA for both auto and home. They were able to cut my rates in half!” –uabzeta, Reviewer since 2009
“The USAA staff is always highly professional and very diligent about getting back to their members. We have used USAA for car insurance, banking and home insurance and USAA has been excellent in all cases. They also offer reasonable rates and hassle free services. Since USAA has limited brick and mortar outlets, they have very good online tools.” –Jolie, Reviewer since 2007
There were a couple of dissatisfied customers:
“I have used USAA for everything the past 15 years. Home, auto, life, credit cards, etc. Was very happy with their cost and service, but not any more. I just found out through our mortgage company that they’ve been paying more out of our escrow to homeowners insurance. Why? Because USAA raised their rates for the state of Indiana back in Dec of 2009. Our policy renewed in March of 2010 with a 25% increase in premiums. I have been shopping around for the past couple of days and I’m receiving quotes that are nearly 40% less than USAA!!!” –lfod, Reviewer since 2010
Since we just had a severe weather event, I was most interested in the claims experiences of customers where we could find them. Anyone can have good customer service. And if you don’t pay claims, you can even have low premiums! When the chips are down, it’s all about the claims.
State Farm is rated 80/100 on Viewpoints based on 901 reviews:
“From 2007 to April of 2011 my neighborhood had been hit with 3 strong storms. I had to have the roof on my home replaced in ’07 due to a storm. The adjuster said it was a total loss. Then in 2009 lightning struck my tv tower and burned up my outside A/C unit along with one desk top computer. In April of 2011 a tornado hit my town damaging many structures including my garage. State Farm has decided not to renew my home owner’s policy. I called and reminded them these were the only claims I have ever had and that my whole town was effected by the same storms. They said they no longer wished to do business with me. That is quote from an under writer. My house is in IL and my garage was damaged in 2011. In 2011 I was told there was no adjusters available to look at my damage because they were all sent to Joplin, MO. In 2011 we all know of the tragedy in Joplin, MO. At that time I understood. But now that I was dropped for 3 claims in 5 years totaling about $17,000 I had to ask the under writer I was talking to if the people who lost their homes and loved ones in Joplin, MO were also dropped. She said, ” maybe, if they had multiple claims.” Now that I have to switch I am forced to pay substantially more money because the other claims are on my record. This is how State Farm thanked me for 26 years of insurance with them.” –southeril, Reviewer since 2012
But not everyone has such a negative experience with State Farm:
“We have never had one complaint but have been fortunate enough to only have 2 auto claims and 1 homeowner claim in over 25 years. Our truck was stolen and State Farm paid us a very fair amount in a timely manner and recently we had over $20,000 damage to our property and again State Farm was more than fair with their estimate of our damage and payout was immediate. I can’t complain whatsoever… In fact no other insurance company around can compete with the rates we have but of course we have been with State Farm for a very long time.” –MustLuvDogs, Reviewer since 2008
Yes, dissatisfied customers may be more likely to write a review than satisfied customers. So you have to discount some possible selection bias. But others’ negative claims experiences can be representative of problems you may run into filing a claim. Here’s another unhappy customer, this time with Allstate, rated a low 67/100 based on 421 reviews:
“I have been through two claims with this disgusting money grubbing insurance company: personal injury (from an uninsured vehicle accident in which my insurer was to pay for my injuries) and a home burglary. Their method in both instances is to wear you down and wear you out, to the point that you’re happy to get ANY kind of reimbursement for your claims. I can not fully convey how deeply out of pocket I was — on the home burglary as well as the medical which I paid out of pocket after years and years of fighting with them. DO NOT BUY THIS MEGA-CORP INSURANCE unless you want to fight for years and see very little, if anything on your return. They are a despicable and dishonorable entity.” –serise, Reviewer since 2011
Property and casualty insurance is always challenging. No matter how fair the claim settlement, there’s always the risk that a customer will expect more – and even have very valid reasons for doing so. However, Allstate gets it right sometimes, too:
“I’ve been with Allstate insurance for over 5 years & have always been treated well. The 1 time I’ve had to file a claim, it was handled as quickly as possible. The claims adjuster kept us informed by phone as well as with a letter back-up. I’ve found them to always be fair. I have vehicle as well as rental insurance.” –angelk2000, Reviewer since 2008
The bottom line
The best homeowner’s insurance policy isn’t the one with the lowest premiums or the friendliest customer service agents. The best homeowner’s policy to own is the one most likely to come through when you need to file a claim. That’s the trickiest factor to identify in advance, though. When looking for homeowners insurance, or even flood insurance or any other kind of insurance coverage, consider checking for complaints with your local Better Business Bureau or Department of Insurance. Almost every company with a lot of customers is going to have a few complaints. Look for a consistent pattern in your area.
Editor’s note: If you have professional experience with insurance, Viewpoints is recruiting experts in priority product categories to write for our blog. Check out this overview of the Viewpoints Category Expert Program, including qualifications, compensation and how to apply.