Erie Insurance: A Closer Look

Erie Insurance

Erie Insurance gets middle of the road reviews from Viewpoints Reviewers, with a few customer service complaints.

Erie Insurance is a multi-line insurance company currently writing auto, life, home and business insurance in 11 states and the District of Columbia. It started in Pennsylvania back in 1925. So while it’s not the oldest insurance company out there, it has been around several generations, and its underwriting and financial management approach has stood the test of time.

I like insurance companies that have survived multiple economic cycles, including the Great Depression, the Recession of 1981, and multiple “megacat” disasters, like Hurricane Sandy earlier this year, which caused a lot of damage in the Northeast.

Erie has an A+ rating from A.M. Best, which is quite good. This rating measures its overall financial stability and ability to pay expected claims.

Although it’s a regional player, not a national one, Erie has done very respectably in the annual JD Powers Insurance Shopping Study, which ranks insurance companies on buyers’ experiences actually taking out an insurance policy. In the 2013 study, Erie actually received the very top marks of all insurers—a feat it achieved in four out of the last seven years. In doing so, Erie managed to edge out much bigger and more established names like Ameriprise, Amica, Liberty Mutual and State Farm.

Erie got its best scores in the categories “overall purchase experience,” “price,” “policy offerings,” and “local agent.”

What do Viewpoints Reviewers think about Erie Insurance?

Erie scores 65 out of 100 points, overall, putting it in the middle of the pack with other insurers. While people are happy with their agents and with the policies and pricing themselves, a look at actual experiences Viewpoints readers have had reveal problems at claim time, which is what counts with insurance companies.

Here’s one happy customer:

“I wouldn’t change to any other auto insurance,” writes Christyjac2, describing the aftermath of a car accident. “The medical bills totaled over $5,000.00. I submitted the bills to Erie and they were almost immediately paid. I had a rental car the same day as my accident. Every Erie representative that I dealt with during that difficult time was nothing short of wonderful. That’s where the difference is. I will be an Erie customer for life.”

Not everyone was so thrilled with their own experience, though:

“I agree Erie Insurance has competitive rate and decent service. However, they will do anything possible to dodge their responsibility to fulfill their liability to pay claims,” wrote Anonymous99. “This is absolutely the WORST insurance company I ever has to deal with. They are an unethical insurance carrier. I was shocked by their dealing with my claim until I consulted attorneys in my region. The lawyers unanimously told me this has been the way Erie practices over the years.”

Erie also has some unhappy homeowners insurance customers as well. Case in point, TNVol, who advises: “Erie is fine until you need them. They may pay the claim you make, but they’ll drop you afterwards. I will never do business with them again and I will tell anyone with insurance needs to stay away from Erie!”

Do they do better with commercial policies? Not necessarily. One Viewpoints reader, HateErieInsurance, writes, “Don’t do it!!!! They may be cheaper than other insurance but it will haunt you when you need to file a claim!”

While I do take negative reviews of insurers with a grain of salt—we’re only seeing one side of the story, unhappy customers are a lot more likely to write reviews than happy ones—reading them is a useful look at the kinds of issues that come up when dealing with insurers.

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.

Jason Van Steenwyk (31 Posts)

Jason Van Steenwyk has been writing about personal finance and investments since 1999. He first learned the trade as a staff reporter with Mutual Funds Magazine, part of the FORTUNE Group of magazines at Time, Inc. Since then, Jason has been published in many financial consumer and trade publications, including Wealth and Retirement Planner, Registered Representative, Annuity Selling Guide, Bankrate.com, Senior Market Advisor and many more.