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Buy luxury apartment New York City. Real estate agent new york city.

Buy luxury apartment New York City. Real estate agent new york city.

Can foreign nationals purchase real estate in New York (and in the US in general)?
In the US there are no restrictions on real estate ownership for foreigners. Significant portion of New York real estate belongs to foreign nationals and foreign corporations. Some types of real estate like Co-ops or special types of housing require buyers to present US tax returns, which makes it difficult or impossible to buy for those who don’t file US taxes. However, there are other types of real estate, such as condominiums and townhouses that have no restrictions and are very popular among foreign buyers.
What is the difference between Co-op and Condo buildings?
Co-op buildings are Cooperative Housing Corporations that own an entire building. Buying a co-op, you buy shares in a corporation proportionally to the size of apartment and become a partner in the corporation with your neighbors. Rather than owing real estate outright, you own a ‘proprietary lease’. Condominium buildings are regular real estate where an owner owns a property with a proportional share of common area.
Can a foreign investor buy a property in a Co-op?
Co-ops comprise the largest portion of New York real estate of about 75-80% of all properties in the City. Co-op buildings (corporations that own them) are governed by Co-op boards, which make every important decision about the building and set building policies and guidelines. Among those decisions, Co-op boards approve every potential purchaser. It is not easy for a foreign buyer to buy an apartment in a Co-op building for several reasons. Co-op potential purchaser approval takes weeks if not months and is a rigorous and notoriously difficult process. The majority of co-ops only approve buyers with New York employment, US income tax and excellent credit history in the USA. The law doesn’t require a Co-op to even provide an explanation for a potential buyer’s rejection.
There are often restrictions on how much financing a buyer can use (for example, no more than a certain percentage of the unit price).
Almost all coops restrict the right to sublet your apartment, which makes it unattractive to investors. Usually, co-op apartments cannot be rented out at all or can be rented out for 1 or 2 years after a certain number of years of owner occupancy. Co-ops regulate your use of the apartment in many other ways including having guests or performing renovations. When selling (or renting it out when allowed) a Co-op, your buyer will be subject to Co-op approval as well, which reduces the number of qualified buyers and therefore reduces the price of your investment. There are often additional “flip taxes’ on the resale of a co-op to discourage speculators.
All these measures are intended to protect interests of other co-op members (shareholders of the company) and make sure that a new buyer is financially stable, and will always be able to pay for monthly maintenance, improvements and expenses of the building. Moreover, residents of co-op buildings often view their building as exclusive clubs and want to make sure that the building attracts only a certain type of people who use it in a certain way that makes all the residents comfortable. The purchase price of most co-ops is 10-20% lower than that of condos. Monthly expenses (maintenance), on the contrary, are usually slightly higher and include utilities, maintenance expenses, real estate taxes, and the corresponding share in the mortgage indebtedness of the building if the building has a mortgage loan. In addition to the mortgage interest on their own loan, co-op shareholders can deduct their portion of the corporation’s real estate tax from their taxable income. Still, co-ops can be attractive for those who would like to use the apartment as a primary residence or sometimes as a pied-a-terre (part-time stay). For the most part Co-ops are older (prewar) buildings with beautiful authentic features, fireplaces, high ceilings, moldings and sometimes even their own garden.
What is a Condo building?
Around 25% of the residential buildings in Manhattan are condos, and their number is rapidly growing. Condominium buildings (condos) are multiple family buildings where you own an apartment and a corresponding share of common areas – a regular form of real estate ownership. Unlike in Co-ops, there are minimal restrictions for who can own a condo as well as on usage of a condo property. Condos welcome foreign investors, allow pied-a-terres (part-time stay) and using it as an investment property, which means that you can rent it out for as many years as you’d like. To manage a building, condominiums usually also have a Board - an elective organ of owners that makes and approves important decisions on use, repair and internal rules that are mandatory for all owners and tenants in the building. There is also a formal approval process of each potential purchaser performed by the Board, however, such approval is a formality.
Condos are priced higher than co-ops, mainly because of the higher liquidity of this type of investment. Simply put, condos are easier to buy and easier to sell than coops. As a result, condos are a more attractive option for buyers from abroad. There has been a lot of condo construction in New York over the recent few years. Many older buildings are undergoing renovation and are being converted to condos as well. In addition, most newly constructed condos offer tax relief for the first 10 to 25 years, which results in significant tax savings. Moreover, many newly constructed buildings boast sleek modern amenities, floor to ceiling windows, mint renovation and superb services. We will be happy to show you both types of properties and help you make a choice that works for you!
What will be my expenses as an owner of real estate in New York?
As an owner of real estate property in the US you will have to pay real estate taxes and monthly common charges for a condo and monthly maintenance fee for a co-op. Depending on the type and the size of the property, taxes may run from a few hundred dollars a year to several thousand dollars per year. The same is true for common charges and maintenance fees – these range from a couple of hundreds a month to a few thousands a month and depend on the size and type of property as well as on location and amenities available. The more additional services the building offers, the higher are monthly payments.
Be prepared to spend over $1 dollar per square foot per month for your property in New York. As an owner of your home, you can use some of these expenses to lower your tax bill. Real estate taxes can be deducted from taxable income by the owner (the person who actually paid real estate tax) within the same year. Owners of a co-op can deduct part of their monthly maintenance because it consists of, among other things, the interest payment on the co-op building mortgage. If you are an investor, most of your expenses can be deductible in the year they were incurred. Both common charges and real estate tax are treated as a business expense in the year incurred and can be deductible. Please consult your tax advisor if this applies to you. You can also see our tax page for more details.
I found a building that has a Tax Abatement status. What does that mean?
New York City has adopted several incentive programs to motivate developers to build and develop neighborhoods throughout the city. Until recently most new condo developments participated in one of the forms of the Tax Exemption Program. The program covers not only new construction, but also certain types of conversions and alterations of existing buildings. Generally, if the building was rehabilitated or converted from another use, the abatement is known as a J-51 tax abatement. If it is newly constructed, the abatement is known as a 421-A or 421-G tax abatement. The most common 421-A Tax Abatement program offers phase-out tax exemptions spread over 10 years. Real Estate Tax increases in 20% increments every two years, until it reaches maturity.
Following completion of construction:
Year 1 – 100% exemption
Year 2 – 100 % exemption
Year 3 – 80 % exemption
Year 4 – 80 % exemption
Year 5 – 60 % exemption
Year 6 – 60 % exemption
Year 7 – 40 % exemption
Year 8 – 40 % exemption
Year 9 – 20 % exemption
Year 10 – 20 % exemption
From Year 11 and on – full tax amount.
Another variation of this program is known as 421-G, and it provides tax abatement for developments below Murray Street in Manhattan’s Financial District. Qualifying properties in this area enjoy tax relief for 14 years. Usually the lower tax payment is fixed for the first 8 or 10 years and phases out every year since than until reaches maturity by the year 14. Certain developments qualify for longer abatement periods – 15, 20 or up to 25 years in tax relief. Eligibility factors include geographic location, use of government loans and grants for the construction, and availability of affordable housing units in the building. Your Evans agent shall provide you with full details about the tax status of the properties of your choice.
What are Buyer’s expenses at closing (Closing Costs)?
Closing costs are an additional expense that both a buyer and a seller occur during a sale-purchase transaction. Closing costs in New York are may comprise 1-8% of a purchase amount.
* Buyer’s expenses include legal and registration fees as well as federal, state and city taxes. These costs have to be covered before or at the closing and will come on top of your down payment. Please include these costs in preparation for your purchase. These expenses are described in detail below.
* If you are buying a newly built condo (in NYC it is called “buying from a sponsor”), you will have to pay: New York City real property transfer tax, which equals 1% for properties below $499,999 and 1.425% for properties above $499,999. Another tax payable to the state is New York state transfer tax, which is 0.4% of the sale price. Additionally, you will have to cover the seller's attorney fee which is usually $1,500-$2,500.
* Title insurance is also requited to protect your ownership right from possible third party claims for the entire length of your ownership. It costs approximately $450 per $100,000 of the property price.
* If your property costs more than $1,000,000, you will also have to pay Mansion Tax of 1% of the property price.
* Many buildings collect additional fees such as an application fee of $200 and up; a managing agent fee of $250-$500, and a move-in deposit of $500-$1500.
* You will also have to hire an attorney to review all the documents. This amount can range from approximately $2,500-$5,000 depending on the complexity of the purchase structure plus recording expenses, starting at $500.
* If you are taking on a mortgage to buy your property, more cash is needed for closing. Mortgage loan origination fees or points range from 0.5% to 3% of value of the loan. Such mortgage-related expenses include a lien search of around $300 - $400, various bank fees (such as tax escrow, homeowners' insurance) of $400-$1200, mortgage title insurance, which costs $200 per $100,000 of property value, and a mortgage tax of 1.8% of the mortgage loan for loans under $499,999 and 1.925% of mortgage loans above $499,999. Additionally, you will have to pay $500 and up for an appraisal, $30-$100 per applicant’s credit report, another $500 and up for the loan application. Additionally, there is usually a bank attorney fee of approximately $1000-$1500.
Can I get a mortgage for the New York property if I don’t reside in the US?
Financing is available to non-residents in the US. Many banks have special programs for non-residents. Usually a non-resident will be able to finance up to 65-75% of an amount up to $1M in loan amount and 60% of the amount between $1M and $2M.
To qualify for the loan a non-resident usually needs to provide:
valid visa to enter the USA or a foreign passport copy
4 credit references from major financial institutions (your local banker, CPA or accountant, insurance company)
verification of mortgage or rent payments for the past 12 months
verification of sufficient funds to close (please use closing costs calculator to estimate closing costs)
verification of employment
Some banks ask for fewer documents but may offer a higher interest rate. We shall be happy to refer you to several mortgage specialists who will offer you the best possible financing options for your purchase.
Are there benefits to getting a mortgage?
Financing is a key tool for any successful investment. Not only does it allow you to acquire properties otherwise out of your budget, but it also greatly increases return on your own cash. Financing has tax benefits for investors - all mortgage interest is deductible on an investment/rental property. At the same time, it increases risk - being able to cover the mortgage payment is a key to protecting your investment.
Who pays the brokerage fee in New York?
There is no commission due from a Buyer if you use Evans as your agent. In residential real estate, the seller is paying the brokerage fee which is then split between the buyer’s and the seller’s brokers. This rule usually stands for residential as well as commercial real estate deals. Consequently, a buyer doesn’t pay a brokerage fee in New York.
How do I find a property to buy in New York?
The best way to navigate New York real estate market is to employ services of a professional real estate broker representing YOUR interests. Although some information is available in public sources, including printed media and online, brokers have a lot more information including latest updates at their fingertips not to mention a wealth of experience and knowledge to share. Evans Real Estate is a member of the Real Estate Board of New York as well as the National and New York Realtor Organizations which provides us access to the entire New York sales market - absolutely any property listed by any New York broker. As a result, unlike many European agents, Evans agents can show you ANY property available on the market. Finding your home or a good investment can be very challenging and time consuming. You will clearly benefit from professional advice and guidance.
Moreover, the professional database available to Evans agents provides you with actual historic sales and rental price information and current comparable data for each property or area of your choice. Scheduling viewings with multiple brokers, researching properties, finding out details about buildings and specific rules, qualifications and approval procedures is not as straightforward as it might seem. During this long process you will have to make many decisions such as choosing various service providers like lawyers and mortgage bankers and presenting personal and financial information.
Most sellers already have a broker. Do I need a real estate broker on my side?
Having a buyer’s broker will help you save time, get access to the entire market for sale in NYC and get assistance in presenting your offer or application in the best possible way. Real estate purchase is a complicated transaction, lasts weeks and sometimes months. It involves participation of many professionals: attorneys, mortgage brokers, title specialists, architects, surveyors, appraisers, each of whom is doing their specific bit of a job. Coordination of such a diverse team is a major effort and can turn life into a nightmare, especially if you are a busy professional. Even though most sellers’ are represented by an agent, not having one on your side leaves you unprotected. Having a broker representing you in the transaction can be invaluable. One wrong move can make or brake a deal or cost you much additional expense. Since the seller’s broker will not fight to lower the price or get concessions for the buyer, it is against his or her contractual obligations and fiduciary duty to the seller. The best part of it is that this service comes at no cost to the buyer. Both the seller’s and the buyer’s broker’s services are covered by the seller.
How do I check property title and make sure my purchase is legal and safe?
To structure the sale-purchase transaction, both the seller and the buyer employ attorneys, who negotiate the contract (preliminary agreement, under which a deposit is paid), arrange for the title search and insurance, check for liens and violations on the building, etc. Other professionals that might be needed include appraisers, who determine the fair market value for the property; surveyors, who check the condition of the property and its technical elements; architects, who determine the exact size of the property and make measurements; and mortgage brokers, who help secure a mortgage loan. Your Evans broker shall be happy to recommend real estate attorneys, appraisers, mortgage specialists and other real estate professionals who will be able to help you with your purchase.
How are property rights registered?
Recording of the title with the new owner’s information is part of the closing, and is usually carried out by the buyer’s attorney, who submits the documents at the New York City Register. At the moment of purchase, all title documents are photographed, photocopied and filed so that they can be found and examined by everyone who wants to see them.
What are the main steps of a sale-purchase transaction in New York?
Step 1: Preparation
Before you begin your journey into New York real estate, it will be helpful to get prepared so that when you find what you are looking for, you can move quickly and secure the property of your dreams. If you are getting financing, you should speak to a mortgage broker or a banker and get pre-approved for a loan before you start your search. This will not only help you learn how much you can spend but also make you a more attractive buyer and help you negotiate a better price. It is a requirement in New York to have a lawyer who can review your contract and protect your interests during the transaction. If you do not have one, we will be glad to recommend several to choose from including those whom speak your language. It is needless to say how important it is to select a lawyer who you trust and who you are comfortable with.
It is very useful to speak to a good tax advisor in order to help you decide on the optimal purchase structure for your deal. Tax liability varies for US residents and non-residents, as well as whether you buy a home or an investment property. As a result, it is smart to consult with a good tax specialist, fiscal attorney or an accountant. Finally, you need to prepare you finances and especially a 10% deposit for your purchase so that it is readily available when you need it. You may consider opening a US bank account if you don’t have one or otherwise transfer money to your attorney escrow account.
Step 2: Property search and an Offer
Every purchase starts with the selection process. After viewing the properties and selecting the one you really like, you should make an offer to buy it. Such an offer is not binding and you can more than one offer to find the best deal. New luxury property developers (sponsors) however are less likely to negotiate the price and usually expect to sell their properties at asking price. Your Evans agent will always be on your side and do his or her best to get you the lowest price and the best deal! Once the offer is accepted by the seller, the seller’s agent or lawyer sends the contract and bylaws of the building (or an offering plan for a new development) to a buyer’s lawyer for review.
Step 3: Contract negotiation and signing
The usual time for your lawyer to review the contract is 5 to 10 business days (the seller’s agent of the property you choose will advise you on such time limits). Please note until such contract is signed, the Seller may often choose to continue showing the property and accept a higher offer. Terms of the contract are very important and regulate all the details of the future purchase. You should carefully go over the contract with your lawyer to understand the risks and obligations you are taking upon yourself.
Upon signing the contract, 10% deposit of the property price is payable. Therefore you have to make sure that you have the funds readily available in the US. One way to do it is to wire the funds to your attorney in the US. You may also open a US bank account if you wish. This deposit is kept in the seller’s attorney designated escrow account. It is usually non-refundable if a buyer doesn’t go ahead with the deal. You can however negotiate certain conditions under which you can get the deposit back. One of such conditionals is a mortgage contingency – a clause in the contract that guarantees the refund of the deposit if a buyer cannot secure financing at certain terms. It is up to your lawyer to negotiate this clause with the seller, although few sellers agree to include it.
Step 4: Coop or Condo board approval
Board approval is probably the most unpleasant part of a property purchase in New York. It is something that cannot be avoided even if you are buying an apartment in the friendliest of all condo buildings. You will have to put together a very thorough package with a lot of personal and financial information including tax returns, bank statements, personal and business references, etc, etc. Coop board approval is a rigorous process that will usually include a personal interview. Condo board approvals follow the same procedure and require the same amount of documentation. However, it is usually a formality.
Step 5: Preparation and closing
After the contract is signed, you have additional time to secure financing and perform additional research on the property’s legal status and condition. This is the time to do the survey and appraisal, which is necessary for the mortgage. Your lawyer will be reviewing the documents, doing the title search, looking for liens and violations. If you apply for a mortgage, your bank will check all the required documents on your income and assets as well as the building financials. Once everything is in order, your bank will wire the entire amount of the loan usually to your attorney’s escrow account. At the same time your down payment and final closing costs will also be wired to the escrow account with your attorney acting as an escrow agent until the closing. The day before your closing you should do a final walk-through your new property to make sure it’s condition is as agreed and as expected.
Step 6: Closing
A closing is an actual sale-purchase transaction, which usually takes place several weeks after signing the contract. This is the time when all the parties in the transaction (seller(s) and buyer(s), seller’s and buyer’s attorney, bank attorney, title insurance representative, etc) gather together to sign a final set of documents and to make all the payments. At the moment of the closing, your attorney will distribute all the payments including the payment to the seller, taxes, fees and title insurance and other fees are paid. In exchange a buyer will receive the new title along with the title insurance and, of course, keys to the new apartment. Congratulations!
I would like to buy a property in New York and rent it out afterwards. Who can help me with that?
If you purchase your property in New York as an investment and would like to rent it out, we will be delighted to assist you in managing the entire process. We will find a reliable and qualified tenant, assist in signing the lease, make sure the tenant has moved in and is paying rent on time. For a small management fee, we will also take care of your bill payments and make sure maintenance and tax are paid on time. The rental market is usually good in New York so you should not have a problem finding a tenant. Vacancies are low, rents have been going up steadily in the last few years. Please note that majority of New York building allow only long-term leases starting from 12 months or longer. There are several buildings that allow month-to-month leases. Evans agents will be glad to recommend a building that would fit your needs best. You can use your rental income to cover tax, monthly charges and part of your mortgage payments. It is not easy to have all your mortgage payments and expenses to be covered by rental proceeds in New York.
What is happening in the market right now? Will prices go up or down?
Although predicting the future is not a rewarding endeavor, there are certain trends and factors that are contributing to the market moving one way or another. We can look at these trends and will consider the current market position. The prospect or reality of a downturn works to depress real estate prices and undermine consumer confidence. While this is generally negative for the market, different market segments are affected by this in different ways. Most of Manhattan’s real estate is affordable only for a relatively affluent group of buyers, for whom real estate is not the sole source of wealth and savings for most part. Although this segment is not isolated from the negative influence of the general economy, it is less price-sensitive. Manhattan buyers, who are able to pay (or qualify for a mortgage) around $1000-1500 per square foot, are not likely to be betting their last dollar on real estate and therefore, are less likely to change their lifestyle and sell.
Interest rates at historic lows make mortgage more affordable, so it contributes to price growth or support. For those who are looking to buy, this is a positive motivation to do so now. The following factors are mostly relevant for the condo market, and are therefore very important for investors in general and foreign investors in particular. In the New York residential market, only condo purchases are easily accessible to foreign investors and are easy to handle for local investors. These properties comprise only around 25% of all residential real estate that is available in New York. These limits contributed to the continued growth of the condo prices over the last decade, which considerably outperformed the market. We think that this trend will continue in the coming years. 

Buy luxury apartment New York City. Real estate agent new york city.

購買上海豪華公寓. 上海房地产经纪人.

購買上海豪華公寓. 上海房地产经纪人.

[摘要]我相信每座城市都有自己的特色,也会吸引形形色色的外地人来长期发展,甚至在此成家立业,上海这座美丽的城市,每年都会有很多外地的朋友购买房子,但是现在不但有国家的限购令,而且当地政府也有出台了一些政策,房源这么稀缺,外地人可以在上海买房吗?
我相信每座城市都有自己的特色,也会吸引形形色色的外地人来长期发展,甚至在此成家立业,上海这座美丽的城市,每年都会有很多外地的朋友购买房子,但是现在不但有国家的限购令,而且当地政府也有出台了一些政策,房源这么稀缺,外地人可以在上海买房吗?外地人怎么在上海买房?

外地人可以在上海买房吗
答案当然是可以的,只是需要满足一些条件才可以。
1、想申请首套的话,那买房时还需要提供你户籍所在地的首次购房证明;持有本市居住证但不满三年的购房人,先按规定征 收房 产税,待持有本市居住证满三年且在本市工作生活的,住房已征收的 房产 税,可予退还。
2、对持有本市居住证满三年并在本市工作生活的购房人,其在本市新购且属于家庭唯一的住房,暂免征收房产税。
3、外地人能够提供自购房之日起算的前2年内在本市累计缴纳1年以上个人所得税缴纳证明或社会保险缴纳证明的非本市。
4、外地人拥有1套及以上住房的非本市户籍居民家庭、无法提供2年内在本市累计缴纳1年以上个人所得税缴纳证明或社会保险缴纳证明的非本市户籍居民家庭,不能购买。所需材料:身份证明、结婚证、户口薄。
5、对符合国家和本市有关规定引进的高层次人才、重点产业紧缺急需人才,持有本市居住证并在本市工作生活的,其在本市新购且属于家庭唯一的住房,暂免征收房产税。
6、上海 房地产 交易中心的工作人员表示,目前上海外地人购房条件,即非本市户籍人士购房必须同时满足三个条件:一是以家庭名义购房,所谓家庭指的是购房者已婚,二是该家庭在沪无房,三是能提供至 买房合同 签署日前两年内在沪累计缴纳一年以上个税或社保的证明。

外地人怎么在上海
1、持有本市居住证但不满三年的购房人,先按规定征收房产税,待持有本市居住证满三年且在本市工作生活的,住房已征收的房产税,可予退还。想申请首套的话,那买房时还需要提供你户籍所在地的首次购房证明。
2、对符合国家和本市有关规定引进的高层次人才、重点产业紧缺急需人才,持有本市居住证并在本市工作生活的,其在本市新购且属于家庭唯1的住房,暂免征收房产税。
3、即非本市户籍人士购房必须同时满足三个条件:一是以家庭名义购房,所谓家庭指的是购房者已婚,二是该家庭在沪无房,三是能提供至买房合同签署日前两年内在沪累计缴纳一年以上个税或社保的证明。
以上就是外地人可以在上海买房吗?外地人怎么在上海买房的全部内容,买房子固然是很重要的事情,但是我们也得遵守相关政策,按照相关规定来操作,大家工作之余也可以多关注一下上海房产的新闻。现在聊天软件这么多,也可以加一两个房产专业的工作人员,经常和他们交流,时机成熟,下手就买。

購買上海豪華公寓. 上海房地产经纪人.

10 Best Car Insurance Companies of 2017

The best auto insurance companies have more than just competitive prices; they also offer versatile coverage options, superior customer service, a solid financial report, and an excellent shopping experience. I researched all of those factors and discovered that only four of the nation’s biggest insurers impressed me enough that I would recommend them to family and friends. Use our tool below to find the best coverage available in your area:

Price is the single most important factor for a lot of car insurance shoppers. Choosing a policy based on rates alone could cost far more out of pocket when filing a claim, however. Statistically speaking, that will happen to each driver at least once every 18 years. It pays to get the right amount of coverage, whether it’s the cheapest package or not.

The Simple Dollar’s Top Picks for Best Auto Insurance Companies

Best Overall: Amica

Best Customer Service: State Farm

Best Policy Options: The Hartford

Best for Military: USAA

 

How I Picked the Best Car Insurance Companies

First, I conducted an in-depth analysis of 15 auto insurance providers. I gathered data on 86 different features (like a 24/7 claims center or discounts for electric vehicles), organized them into 12 categories, and scored each company on a 100-point scale. Below are the categories I used, along with the weight each one was given in the test.

Next I incorporated learnings from auto experts, insured drivers, and third-party studies into my evaluation and calculated the final scores. I organized this research into three distinct categories, which are outlined below.

Claims and Price Satisfaction: I looked at J.D. Power’s 2014 Auto Claims Satisfaction Reports, Insure.com’s Best Car Insurance Companies for 2014, and Consumer Reports’ 2014 Car Insurance Ratings to get a bird’s-eye view of the industry across the nation. I also conducted a survey of 100 insured drivers who had filed a claim within the past 12 months.

Ease of Shopping: I applied for quotes from over 15 auto insurance companies to evaluate the shopping experience. I also considered J.D. Power’s 2014 Auto Insurance Purchase Experience Ratings, which asked customers about their personal take on local agents, call-center representatives, and websites.

Financial Strength Ratings: I used A.M. Best to gauge financial stability. Any company with a “B” grade or below is considered vulnerable, so I chose companies with an “A-” or above.

 

The Best Car Insurance Companies of 2017

Amica: Best Overall Car Insurance Company

Amica was the strongest company overall in my research, and ranked number two in J.D. Power’s 2015 customer satisfaction report — that means out of 11,469 surveyed drivers, it had the second highest satisfaction rating among more than 20 different companies. It also received the highest Consumer Reports rating among auto insurance providers. Consumer Reports even noted that an overwhelming number of customers reported “relatively few” problems during the claims process.

Pros

A high J.D. Power satisfaction rating: Amica received a perfect score in 4 out of 7 categories in J.D. Power’s 2015 auto insurance study.

High financial stability ratings: Amica boasts a “Superior” financial stability rating from A.M. Best, which is the highest rating available.

No repair facility restrictions: Unlike most every other insurer, Amica has zero restrictions on which body shop you use for repairs.

“Platinum Choice” coverage: Amica offers an additional tier of coverage called Platinum Choice, which costs more, but includes identity fraud monitoring, full glass coverage, prestige rental coverage, and rewards for good driving.

Best array of coverages: Amica offers the most driver and vehicle coverages of all my top recommendations. Its list includes GAP insurance and interior vehicle coverage, which aren’t offered by State Farm, The Hartford, or USAA.

 

Cons

Quote process is less than desirable: Whether you start online or over the phone, you will eventually wind up on the phone to get an official quote — that can tack an extra 20 to 30 minutes to the process.

Fewer driver discount opportunities: Amica is missing a few key driver discounts, including pre-pay, low mileage, and military discounts. Consequently, it scored only 46 out of 100 in my driver discount evaluation.

Few online resources: There are a few FAQs on the site, but Amica lacks in-depth online materials to help customers get a complete grasp on their purchases without having to talk to someone. Additionally, some policy changes require direct assistance from an Amica agent, which can be time-consuming.

 

State Farm: Best Car Insurance Company for Customer Service and Interaction

State Farm is the largest car insurance company in the nation, per Insurance Journal in 2016. Fortunately, it’s also one of the best — especially when it comes to the customer service experience. In 2015, State Farm received high praise from J.D. Power for its service interaction and claims handling. And of all the insured drivers I surveyed, it received the most positive remarks by far.

It is incredibly easy to get in touch with State Farm. You can call one of the company’s 18,000 agents, go online, or even send a picture of your damaged car with your smartphone using the Pocket Agent mobile app. Compare that to Amica, which doesn’t allow you to connect with an agent via an app, or file a claim through an agent. State Farm also gets high marks for a pain-free shopping experience that lets prospective customers call their local agent or chat with a representative online if they have any questions.

Pros

Superior claims handling: No other insurer makes it easier to file a claim — a fact corroborated by its high service rating, 18,000 agents nationwide, and excellent mobile app. Sure, most other auto insurers offer the basic trifecta of phone, app, and email contact to agents, but State Farm’s is the easiest to use by far.

Great financial standing: State Farm has an A.M. Best outlook of stable, and a “Superior” overall rating — the highest given.

Best online quote tool: Out of all the competition, State Farm has the simplest online quote tool. In less than five minutes, it’ll guide you completely through the process, replete with thorough examples of coverage options.

 

Cons

Missing a few common driver discounts: Like Amica, State Farm lacks two extremely common discounts: pay-in-full, and automatic pay. These two discounts don’t save a ton of money, but are definitely nice options to have — and are offered by my third pick, The Hartford.

Lacks a couple of important coverages: Unlike its competitors, State Farm doesn’t offer stacked uninsured motorist or new car replacement coverages. That could be a deal breaker for someone who lives in a state with an incredibly high rate of uninsured drivers.

 

The Hartford: Best Car Insurance Company for Policy Options

The Hartford is only the nation’s 11th largest insurer, but it still packs a punch. In fact, it had the highest score in my 12-category feature evaluation (92 out of 100). It also offers a wide range of policy options and benefits (including rates based on how much you actually drive your car and a new car replacement program for cars totaled shortly after purchase) and was the only insurer to score a perfect 100 in my vehicle-discount evaluation.

Pros

Mechanical breakdown coverage: Mechanical breakdown insurance helps cover the cost of repairs that aren’t covered by your car’s warranty. The Hartford is the only one of my top picks that includes this coverage.

Useful policy benefits: The company provides not only a solid set of coverages, but also a great selection of policy benefits. For instance, frequent travelers will appreciate The Hartford’s towing and roadside assistance programs.

Excellent purchase experience: The Hartford is one of two national providers to receive a perfect “Overall Purchase Experience” score from J.D. Power.

 

Cons

Less-than-average claims satisfaction: The Hartford received a perfect score in my claims management evaluation, but according to J.D. Power, customers are still less than satisfied — it received only a 2-star rating for service interaction.

Fewest online educational resources: The Hartford offers the fewest online learning materials among this field of competitors.

 

USAA: Best Car Insurance Company for Members of the Military

Throughout my research, I found that the company’s stellar reputation holds true. If you are a member of the US armed forces, or are related to one, there is no better option than USAA.

It is one of the three highest-rated automotive insurers in the country. The only downside is its limited availability: USAA only services the immediate families of active and former members of the military. Given those restrictions, the quote process is a bit more intense compared to its competitors, but that’s a small price to pay for its exemplary service.

Pros

Rated no. 1 nationally for purchase experience: USAA received the only perfect score in J.D. Power’s 2016 report.

Solid financial stability: A.M. Best gives USAA the highest possible stability rating: “Superior.”

 

Cons

Membership restrictions: USAA is only available to members of the military and their immediate family.

Missing three key vehicle coverages: USAA doesn’t offer GAP insurance, interior vehicle coverage, or new car replacement coverage.

 

Other Car Insurance Companies to Consider

Progressive

Progressive is worth noting due to its variety of discounts and special coverages that could shave a decent amount of green off your monthly bill. For example, the Snapshot tool allows Progressive to reward you based upon your driving habits. Have an anti-theft device? There’s a discount for that too. The company also offers pet injury coverage — which is included with collision, and comes standard in most states. However, Progressive’s scores across the board were only average, and I couldn’t justify recommending it over my top picks. And, despite what Flo, Progressive’s famous, peppy insurance cashier, would lead you to believe, its mobile apps ratings average out to just under 3 out of 5 stars.

Erie Insurance

If you live in the South, Midwest, or Mid-Atlantic regions, Erie Insurance is worth your consideration. Erie has consistently received high marks from J.D. Power and Consumer Reports, but didn’t make it into my top four recommendations due to limited availability — it only serves residents in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and certain parts of DC.

Outside of that, Erie is one of the best commercial auto insurers, offering policies that come standard with coverage for road service, lawyer fees, and loss of earnings. It also has particularly comprehensive coverage options that include extras such as money toward rental cars after a crash (this is usually an add-on policy with most insurers).

Auto-Owners

Auto-Owners Insurance is available in 26 states located primarily in the South and Midwest. It uses an agent-only model that promotes customer relationships, so if you prefer talking to a human being, Auto-Owners is a great choice. The company also scored a nearly perfect score in J.D. Power’s 2015 satisfaction report, falling short only in the realm of its rental car experience.

States Serviced by Auto-Owners:
Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin

Choosing the Right Amount of Coverage

Let’s say I live in Florida and cause an accident that injures another person to the tune of $40,000. If I only have the state’s minimum bodily injury protection ($10,000 per person, $20,000 per accident), I’d be responsible for the remaining $30,000. But, if I had purchased more than Florida’s minimum — say $50,000 per person and $100,000 per accident — I wouldn’t have to pay a single dime out of pocket.

Sure, upgraded coverage means a higher monthly premium. But which would you rather do: Pay an extra $80 a month or wind up owing a lump sum of $30,000 out of pocket? It would take an accident-free 30 years to spend the same amount on the extra coverage. And remember: statistically speaking, you are going to get in a wreck every 18 years. Hopefully, it’s nothing more than a fender bender, but if the worst should happen, you’ll appreciate being fully covered.

That’s why it’s incredibly important to understand what type of coverages you need, and how much coverage you need, before you start shopping for a policy. And in the same vein, it’s also crucial to compare rates that include more than your state’s minimum required coverages (which you can find online at your state’s DMV). You do not want to be the victim of a serious accident only to find out after the fact that you’re underinsured.

Below is a comparison of the coverages offered by my top four auto insurance companies, and a breakdown of each type of coverage.

Types of Auto Insurance Coverages

Bodily Injury Liability: Coverage against bodily injuries to others in an accident that is your fault.

Personal Injury Protection: Coverage for injuries sustained by the driver or any passengers, often including medical bills and lost wages.

Property Damage Liability: Coverage against property damage to another party in an accident that is your fault.

Rental Car Coverage: Coverage for your rental car if it is damaged or stolen.

Stacked Uninsured Motorist Coverage: Coverage that allows you to combine or “stack” the individual limits of coverage on multiple insured vehicles in the same household.

Uninsured Motorist Property Damage Coverage: Coverage that protects against property damage caused by an uninsured or underinsured motorist.

Pet Injury Coverage: Coverage for injuries to your pets sustained in an auto accident.

Collision: Coverage against any damage resulting from a collision.

Comprehensive: Coverage against any non-collision vehicle damage including fire, theft, or vandalism.

GAP Insurance: Coverage that pays the difference between the actual value of a totaled car and the balance remaining on an auto loan.

Interior Vehicle Coverage: Coverage of personal belongings inside of the car, like your clothes, sound system, or purse.

New Car Replacement: Coverage that will replace a totaled car with a brand-new version if it is less than one year old.

You should shop for a policy every two years

Contrary to popular belief, car insurance companies don’t just calculate rates on risk alone. It goes much deeper than that. Welcome to the world of “price optimization,” which is the practice of setting rates based upon how much insurers think customers are comfortable paying. Simply put, it’s a way to maximize profit.

In 2013, Earnix found that 45 percent of larger insurance companies analyze a ridiculous amount of customers’ personal data (like social media posts, credit scores, and web shopping habits). Then, they churn the data through a proprietary algorithm that estimates how likely you are to shop around. By doing so, they can charge you based upon a perception of your level of comfort, raise profit margins, and do it all without causing you to lift an eyebrow.

The best way to prevent falling victim to this practice is to shop for a new policy every one to two years. Companies are aware of your online activity, so the more quotes you get, the less likely you are to be tagged as someone who won’t jump ship for a better deal. Plus, it helps you find a policy rate that reflects you as a person and isn’t based on predictive analytics.

Should I use an agent or go online?

Depending on which companies you consider, you may have to decide whether to do business with an insurance agent or purchase a policy online. If you value face-to-face relationships and personal service, it’s hard to beat an agent. But all agents aren’t created equal. Some are “captive,” meaning they sell car insurance for only one company. Others are “independent,” meaning they can sell car insurance for multiple companies. Here are a few things you should consider for each scenario.

Using Captive Agents

The biggest benefit to captive agents is that many aren’t primarily motivated by commission. That means they have less of a reason to “sell you” and more of a reason to spend quality time educating you. Going with a captive agent also makes sense if you’re already committed to a particular company. Additionally, they will know their company’s policies and coverages from top to bottom.

Using Independent Agents

Independent agents have special access with several companies and help you to find the best rate available. However, some companies pay higher commission than others, and that means you may face pressure to choose a particular company or coverage plan.

During my research, I interacted with several independent agents who refused to give me a single detail about higher-priced plans. Despite my persistence, I was repeatedly asked, “Why would you want to consider something that costs more?” and did not get the information I wanted. On the flip side, if your rates go up after committing to a policy, independent agents are best-suited to help you negotiate a lower price.

Shopping online

Some companies allow customers to do business directly online. If you’re a self-starter, this could very well be the most convenient option. And in some cases, it may also be the cheapest option.

The biggest downside to buying a policy on your own is the risk of underinsuring yourself. Buying the wrong policy, or a policy that doesn’t have state-mandated coverage levels, could cost you a pretty penny if the worst should happen.

10 Best Car Insurance Companies of 2017

The best auto insurance companies have more than just competitive prices; they also offer versatile coverage options, superior customer service, a solid financial report, and an excellent shopping experience. I researched all of those factors and discovered that only four of the nation’s biggest insurers impressed me enough that I would recommend them to family and friends. Use our tool below to find the best coverage available in your area:

Price is the single most important factor for a lot of car insurance shoppers. Choosing a policy based on rates alone could cost far more out of pocket when filing a claim, however. Statistically speaking, that will happen to each driver at least once every 18 years. It pays to get the right amount of coverage, whether it’s the cheapest package or not.

The Simple Dollar’s Top Picks for Best Auto Insurance Companies

Best Overall: Amica

Best Customer Service: State Farm

Best Policy Options: The Hartford

Best for Military: USAA

 

How I Picked the Best Car Insurance Companies

First, I conducted an in-depth analysis of 15 auto insurance providers. I gathered data on 86 different features (like a 24/7 claims center or discounts for electric vehicles), organized them into 12 categories, and scored each company on a 100-point scale. Below are the categories I used, along with the weight each one was given in the test.

Next I incorporated learnings from auto experts, insured drivers, and third-party studies into my evaluation and calculated the final scores. I organized this research into three distinct categories, which are outlined below.

Claims and Price Satisfaction: I looked at J.D. Power’s 2014 Auto Claims Satisfaction Reports, Insure.com’s Best Car Insurance Companies for 2014, and Consumer Reports’ 2014 Car Insurance Ratings to get a bird’s-eye view of the industry across the nation. I also conducted a survey of 100 insured drivers who had filed a claim within the past 12 months.

Ease of Shopping: I applied for quotes from over 15 auto insurance companies to evaluate the shopping experience. I also considered J.D. Power’s 2014 Auto Insurance Purchase Experience Ratings, which asked customers about their personal take on local agents, call-center representatives, and websites.

Financial Strength Ratings: I used A.M. Best to gauge financial stability. Any company with a “B” grade or below is considered vulnerable, so I chose companies with an “A-” or above.

 

The Best Car Insurance Companies of 2017

Amica: Best Overall Car Insurance Company

Amica was the strongest company overall in my research, and ranked number two in J.D. Power’s 2015 customer satisfaction report — that means out of 11,469 surveyed drivers, it had the second highest satisfaction rating among more than 20 different companies. It also received the highest Consumer Reports rating among auto insurance providers. Consumer Reports even noted that an overwhelming number of customers reported “relatively few” problems during the claims process.

Pros

A high J.D. Power satisfaction rating: Amica received a perfect score in 4 out of 7 categories in J.D. Power’s 2015 auto insurance study.

High financial stability ratings: Amica boasts a “Superior” financial stability rating from A.M. Best, which is the highest rating available.

No repair facility restrictions: Unlike most every other insurer, Amica has zero restrictions on which body shop you use for repairs.

“Platinum Choice” coverage: Amica offers an additional tier of coverage called Platinum Choice, which costs more, but includes identity fraud monitoring, full glass coverage, prestige rental coverage, and rewards for good driving.

Best array of coverages: Amica offers the most driver and vehicle coverages of all my top recommendations. Its list includes GAP insurance and interior vehicle coverage, which aren’t offered by State Farm, The Hartford, or USAA.

 

Cons

Quote process is less than desirable: Whether you start online or over the phone, you will eventually wind up on the phone to get an official quote — that can tack an extra 20 to 30 minutes to the process.

Fewer driver discount opportunities: Amica is missing a few key driver discounts, including pre-pay, low mileage, and military discounts. Consequently, it scored only 46 out of 100 in my driver discount evaluation.

Few online resources: There are a few FAQs on the site, but Amica lacks in-depth online materials to help customers get a complete grasp on their purchases without having to talk to someone. Additionally, some policy changes require direct assistance from an Amica agent, which can be time-consuming.

 

State Farm: Best Car Insurance Company for Customer Service and Interaction

State Farm is the largest car insurance company in the nation, per Insurance Journal in 2016. Fortunately, it’s also one of the best — especially when it comes to the customer service experience. In 2015, State Farm received high praise from J.D. Power for its service interaction and claims handling. And of all the insured drivers I surveyed, it received the most positive remarks by far.

It is incredibly easy to get in touch with State Farm. You can call one of the company’s 18,000 agents, go online, or even send a picture of your damaged car with your smartphone using the Pocket Agent mobile app. Compare that to Amica, which doesn’t allow you to connect with an agent via an app, or file a claim through an agent. State Farm also gets high marks for a pain-free shopping experience that lets prospective customers call their local agent or chat with a representative online if they have any questions.

Pros

Superior claims handling: No other insurer makes it easier to file a claim — a fact corroborated by its high service rating, 18,000 agents nationwide, and excellent mobile app. Sure, most other auto insurers offer the basic trifecta of phone, app, and email contact to agents, but State Farm’s is the easiest to use by far.

Great financial standing: State Farm has an A.M. Best outlook of stable, and a “Superior” overall rating — the highest given.

Best online quote tool: Out of all the competition, State Farm has the simplest online quote tool. In less than five minutes, it’ll guide you completely through the process, replete with thorough examples of coverage options.

 

Cons

Missing a few common driver discounts: Like Amica, State Farm lacks two extremely common discounts: pay-in-full, and automatic pay. These two discounts don’t save a ton of money, but are definitely nice options to have — and are offered by my third pick, The Hartford.

Lacks a couple of important coverages: Unlike its competitors, State Farm doesn’t offer stacked uninsured motorist or new car replacement coverages. That could be a deal breaker for someone who lives in a state with an incredibly high rate of uninsured drivers.

 

The Hartford: Best Car Insurance Company for Policy Options

The Hartford is only the nation’s 11th largest insurer, but it still packs a punch. In fact, it had the highest score in my 12-category feature evaluation (92 out of 100). It also offers a wide range of policy options and benefits (including rates based on how much you actually drive your car and a new car replacement program for cars totaled shortly after purchase) and was the only insurer to score a perfect 100 in my vehicle-discount evaluation.

Pros

Mechanical breakdown coverage: Mechanical breakdown insurance helps cover the cost of repairs that aren’t covered by your car’s warranty. The Hartford is the only one of my top picks that includes this coverage.

Useful policy benefits: The company provides not only a solid set of coverages, but also a great selection of policy benefits. For instance, frequent travelers will appreciate The Hartford’s towing and roadside assistance programs.

Excellent purchase experience: The Hartford is one of two national providers to receive a perfect “Overall Purchase Experience” score from J.D. Power.

 

Cons

Less-than-average claims satisfaction: The Hartford received a perfect score in my claims management evaluation, but according to J.D. Power, customers are still less than satisfied — it received only a 2-star rating for service interaction.

Fewest online educational resources: The Hartford offers the fewest online learning materials among this field of competitors.

 

USAA: Best Car Insurance Company for Members of the Military

Throughout my research, I found that the company’s stellar reputation holds true. If you are a member of the US armed forces, or are related to one, there is no better option than USAA.

It is one of the three highest-rated automotive insurers in the country. The only downside is its limited availability: USAA only services the immediate families of active and former members of the military. Given those restrictions, the quote process is a bit more intense compared to its competitors, but that’s a small price to pay for its exemplary service.

Pros

Rated no. 1 nationally for purchase experience: USAA received the only perfect score in J.D. Power’s 2016 report.

Solid financial stability: A.M. Best gives USAA the highest possible stability rating: “Superior.”

 

Cons

Membership restrictions: USAA is only available to members of the military and their immediate family.

Missing three key vehicle coverages: USAA doesn’t offer GAP insurance, interior vehicle coverage, or new car replacement coverage.

 

Other Car Insurance Companies to Consider

Progressive

Progressive is worth noting due to its variety of discounts and special coverages that could shave a decent amount of green off your monthly bill. For example, the Snapshot tool allows Progressive to reward you based upon your driving habits. Have an anti-theft device? There’s a discount for that too. The company also offers pet injury coverage — which is included with collision, and comes standard in most states. However, Progressive’s scores across the board were only average, and I couldn’t justify recommending it over my top picks. And, despite what Flo, Progressive’s famous, peppy insurance cashier, would lead you to believe, its mobile apps ratings average out to just under 3 out of 5 stars.

Erie Insurance

If you live in the South, Midwest, or Mid-Atlantic regions, Erie Insurance is worth your consideration. Erie has consistently received high marks from J.D. Power and Consumer Reports, but didn’t make it into my top four recommendations due to limited availability — it only serves residents in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and certain parts of DC.

Outside of that, Erie is one of the best commercial auto insurers, offering policies that come standard with coverage for road service, lawyer fees, and loss of earnings. It also has particularly comprehensive coverage options that include extras such as money toward rental cars after a crash (this is usually an add-on policy with most insurers).

Auto-Owners

Auto-Owners Insurance is available in 26 states located primarily in the South and Midwest. It uses an agent-only model that promotes customer relationships, so if you prefer talking to a human being, Auto-Owners is a great choice. The company also scored a nearly perfect score in J.D. Power’s 2015 satisfaction report, falling short only in the realm of its rental car experience.

States Serviced by Auto-Owners:
Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin

Choosing the Right Amount of Coverage

Let’s say I live in Florida and cause an accident that injures another person to the tune of $40,000. If I only have the state’s minimum bodily injury protection ($10,000 per person, $20,000 per accident), I’d be responsible for the remaining $30,000. But, if I had purchased more than Florida’s minimum — say $50,000 per person and $100,000 per accident — I wouldn’t have to pay a single dime out of pocket.

Sure, upgraded coverage means a higher monthly premium. But which would you rather do: Pay an extra $80 a month or wind up owing a lump sum of $30,000 out of pocket? It would take an accident-free 30 years to spend the same amount on the extra coverage. And remember: statistically speaking, you are going to get in a wreck every 18 years. Hopefully, it’s nothing more than a fender bender, but if the worst should happen, you’ll appreciate being fully covered.

That’s why it’s incredibly important to understand what type of coverages you need, and how much coverage you need, before you start shopping for a policy. And in the same vein, it’s also crucial to compare rates that include more than your state’s minimum required coverages (which you can find online at your state’s DMV). You do not want to be the victim of a serious accident only to find out after the fact that you’re underinsured.

Below is a comparison of the coverages offered by my top four auto insurance companies, and a breakdown of each type of coverage.

Types of Auto Insurance Coverages

Bodily Injury Liability: Coverage against bodily injuries to others in an accident that is your fault.

Personal Injury Protection: Coverage for injuries sustained by the driver or any passengers, often including medical bills and lost wages.

Property Damage Liability: Coverage against property damage to another party in an accident that is your fault.

Rental Car Coverage: Coverage for your rental car if it is damaged or stolen.

Stacked Uninsured Motorist Coverage: Coverage that allows you to combine or “stack” the individual limits of coverage on multiple insured vehicles in the same household.

Uninsured Motorist Property Damage Coverage: Coverage that protects against property damage caused by an uninsured or underinsured motorist.

Pet Injury Coverage: Coverage for injuries to your pets sustained in an auto accident.

Collision: Coverage against any damage resulting from a collision.

Comprehensive: Coverage against any non-collision vehicle damage including fire, theft, or vandalism.

GAP Insurance: Coverage that pays the difference between the actual value of a totaled car and the balance remaining on an auto loan.

Interior Vehicle Coverage: Coverage of personal belongings inside of the car, like your clothes, sound system, or purse.

New Car Replacement: Coverage that will replace a totaled car with a brand-new version if it is less than one year old.

You should shop for a policy every two years

Contrary to popular belief, car insurance companies don’t just calculate rates on risk alone. It goes much deeper than that. Welcome to the world of “price optimization,” which is the practice of setting rates based upon how much insurers think customers are comfortable paying. Simply put, it’s a way to maximize profit.

In 2013, Earnix found that 45 percent of larger insurance companies analyze a ridiculous amount of customers’ personal data (like social media posts, credit scores, and web shopping habits). Then, they churn the data through a proprietary algorithm that estimates how likely you are to shop around. By doing so, they can charge you based upon a perception of your level of comfort, raise profit margins, and do it all without causing you to lift an eyebrow.

The best way to prevent falling victim to this practice is to shop for a new policy every one to two years. Companies are aware of your online activity, so the more quotes you get, the less likely you are to be tagged as someone who won’t jump ship for a better deal. Plus, it helps you find a policy rate that reflects you as a person and isn’t based on predictive analytics.

Should I use an agent or go online?

Depending on which companies you consider, you may have to decide whether to do business with an insurance agent or purchase a policy online. If you value face-to-face relationships and personal service, it’s hard to beat an agent. But all agents aren’t created equal. Some are “captive,” meaning they sell car insurance for only one company. Others are “independent,” meaning they can sell car insurance for multiple companies. Here are a few things you should consider for each scenario.

Using Captive Agents

The biggest benefit to captive agents is that many aren’t primarily motivated by commission. That means they have less of a reason to “sell you” and more of a reason to spend quality time educating you. Going with a captive agent also makes sense if you’re already committed to a particular company. Additionally, they will know their company’s policies and coverages from top to bottom.

Using Independent Agents

Independent agents have special access with several companies and help you to find the best rate available. However, some companies pay higher commission than others, and that means you may face pressure to choose a particular company or coverage plan.

During my research, I interacted with several independent agents who refused to give me a single detail about higher-priced plans. Despite my persistence, I was repeatedly asked, “Why would you want to consider something that costs more?” and did not get the information I wanted. On the flip side, if your rates go up after committing to a policy, independent agents are best-suited to help you negotiate a lower price.

Shopping online

Some companies allow customers to do business directly online. If you’re a self-starter, this could very well be the most convenient option. And in some cases, it may also be the cheapest option.

The biggest downside to buying a policy on your own is the risk of underinsuring yourself. Buying the wrong policy, or a policy that doesn’t have state-mandated coverage levels, could cost you a pretty penny if the worst should happen.

10 Best Car Insurance Companies of 2017

The best auto insurance companies have more than just competitive prices; they also offer versatile coverage options, superior customer service, a solid financial report, and an excellent shopping experience. I researched all of those factors and discovered that only four of the nation’s biggest insurers impressed me enough that I would recommend them to family and friends. Use our tool below to find the best coverage available in your area:

Price is the single most important factor for a lot of car insurance shoppers. Choosing a policy based on rates alone could cost far more out of pocket when filing a claim, however. Statistically speaking, that will happen to each driver at least once every 18 years. It pays to get the right amount of coverage, whether it’s the cheapest package or not.

The Simple Dollar’s Top Picks for Best Auto Insurance Companies

Best Overall: Amica

Best Customer Service: State Farm

Best Policy Options: The Hartford

Best for Military: USAA

 

How I Picked the Best Car Insurance Companies

First, I conducted an in-depth analysis of 15 auto insurance providers. I gathered data on 86 different features (like a 24/7 claims center or discounts for electric vehicles), organized them into 12 categories, and scored each company on a 100-point scale. Below are the categories I used, along with the weight each one was given in the test.

Next I incorporated learnings from auto experts, insured drivers, and third-party studies into my evaluation and calculated the final scores. I organized this research into three distinct categories, which are outlined below.

Claims and Price Satisfaction: I looked at J.D. Power’s 2014 Auto Claims Satisfaction Reports, Insure.com’s Best Car Insurance Companies for 2014, and Consumer Reports’ 2014 Car Insurance Ratings to get a bird’s-eye view of the industry across the nation. I also conducted a survey of 100 insured drivers who had filed a claim within the past 12 months.

Ease of Shopping: I applied for quotes from over 15 auto insurance companies to evaluate the shopping experience. I also considered J.D. Power’s 2014 Auto Insurance Purchase Experience Ratings, which asked customers about their personal take on local agents, call-center representatives, and websites.

Financial Strength Ratings: I used A.M. Best to gauge financial stability. Any company with a “B” grade or below is considered vulnerable, so I chose companies with an “A-” or above.

 

The Best Car Insurance Companies of 2017

Amica: Best Overall Car Insurance Company

Amica was the strongest company overall in my research, and ranked number two in J.D. Power’s 2015 customer satisfaction report — that means out of 11,469 surveyed drivers, it had the second highest satisfaction rating among more than 20 different companies. It also received the highest Consumer Reports rating among auto insurance providers. Consumer Reports even noted that an overwhelming number of customers reported “relatively few” problems during the claims process.

Pros

A high J.D. Power satisfaction rating: Amica received a perfect score in 4 out of 7 categories in J.D. Power’s 2015 auto insurance study.

High financial stability ratings: Amica boasts a “Superior” financial stability rating from A.M. Best, which is the highest rating available.

No repair facility restrictions: Unlike most every other insurer, Amica has zero restrictions on which body shop you use for repairs.

“Platinum Choice” coverage: Amica offers an additional tier of coverage called Platinum Choice, which costs more, but includes identity fraud monitoring, full glass coverage, prestige rental coverage, and rewards for good driving.

Best array of coverages: Amica offers the most driver and vehicle coverages of all my top recommendations. Its list includes GAP insurance and interior vehicle coverage, which aren’t offered by State Farm, The Hartford, or USAA.

 

Cons

Quote process is less than desirable: Whether you start online or over the phone, you will eventually wind up on the phone to get an official quote — that can tack an extra 20 to 30 minutes to the process.

Fewer driver discount opportunities: Amica is missing a few key driver discounts, including pre-pay, low mileage, and military discounts. Consequently, it scored only 46 out of 100 in my driver discount evaluation.

Few online resources: There are a few FAQs on the site, but Amica lacks in-depth online materials to help customers get a complete grasp on their purchases without having to talk to someone. Additionally, some policy changes require direct assistance from an Amica agent, which can be time-consuming.

 

State Farm: Best Car Insurance Company for Customer Service and Interaction

State Farm is the largest car insurance company in the nation, per Insurance Journal in 2016. Fortunately, it’s also one of the best — especially when it comes to the customer service experience. In 2015, State Farm received high praise from J.D. Power for its service interaction and claims handling. And of all the insured drivers I surveyed, it received the most positive remarks by far.

It is incredibly easy to get in touch with State Farm. You can call one of the company’s 18,000 agents, go online, or even send a picture of your damaged car with your smartphone using the Pocket Agent mobile app. Compare that to Amica, which doesn’t allow you to connect with an agent via an app, or file a claim through an agent. State Farm also gets high marks for a pain-free shopping experience that lets prospective customers call their local agent or chat with a representative online if they have any questions.

Pros

Superior claims handling: No other insurer makes it easier to file a claim — a fact corroborated by its high service rating, 18,000 agents nationwide, and excellent mobile app. Sure, most other auto insurers offer the basic trifecta of phone, app, and email contact to agents, but State Farm’s is the easiest to use by far.

Great financial standing: State Farm has an A.M. Best outlook of stable, and a “Superior” overall rating — the highest given.

Best online quote tool: Out of all the competition, State Farm has the simplest online quote tool. In less than five minutes, it’ll guide you completely through the process, replete with thorough examples of coverage options.

 

Cons

Missing a few common driver discounts: Like Amica, State Farm lacks two extremely common discounts: pay-in-full, and automatic pay. These two discounts don’t save a ton of money, but are definitely nice options to have — and are offered by my third pick, The Hartford.

Lacks a couple of important coverages: Unlike its competitors, State Farm doesn’t offer stacked uninsured motorist or new car replacement coverages. That could be a deal breaker for someone who lives in a state with an incredibly high rate of uninsured drivers.

 

The Hartford: Best Car Insurance Company for Policy Options

The Hartford is only the nation’s 11th largest insurer, but it still packs a punch. In fact, it had the highest score in my 12-category feature evaluation (92 out of 100). It also offers a wide range of policy options and benefits (including rates based on how much you actually drive your car and a new car replacement program for cars totaled shortly after purchase) and was the only insurer to score a perfect 100 in my vehicle-discount evaluation.

Pros

Mechanical breakdown coverage: Mechanical breakdown insurance helps cover the cost of repairs that aren’t covered by your car’s warranty. The Hartford is the only one of my top picks that includes this coverage.

Useful policy benefits: The company provides not only a solid set of coverages, but also a great selection of policy benefits. For instance, frequent travelers will appreciate The Hartford’s towing and roadside assistance programs.

Excellent purchase experience: The Hartford is one of two national providers to receive a perfect “Overall Purchase Experience” score from J.D. Power.

 

Cons

Less-than-average claims satisfaction: The Hartford received a perfect score in my claims management evaluation, but according to J.D. Power, customers are still less than satisfied — it received only a 2-star rating for service interaction.

Fewest online educational resources: The Hartford offers the fewest online learning materials among this field of competitors.

 

USAA: Best Car Insurance Company for Members of the Military

Throughout my research, I found that the company’s stellar reputation holds true. If you are a member of the US armed forces, or are related to one, there is no better option than USAA.

It is one of the three highest-rated automotive insurers in the country. The only downside is its limited availability: USAA only services the immediate families of active and former members of the military. Given those restrictions, the quote process is a bit more intense compared to its competitors, but that’s a small price to pay for its exemplary service.

Pros

Rated no. 1 nationally for purchase experience: USAA received the only perfect score in J.D. Power’s 2016 report.

Solid financial stability: A.M. Best gives USAA the highest possible stability rating: “Superior.”

 

Cons

Membership restrictions: USAA is only available to members of the military and their immediate family.

Missing three key vehicle coverages: USAA doesn’t offer GAP insurance, interior vehicle coverage, or new car replacement coverage.

 

Other Car Insurance Companies to Consider

Progressive

Progressive is worth noting due to its variety of discounts and special coverages that could shave a decent amount of green off your monthly bill. For example, the Snapshot tool allows Progressive to reward you based upon your driving habits. Have an anti-theft device? There’s a discount for that too. The company also offers pet injury coverage — which is included with collision, and comes standard in most states. However, Progressive’s scores across the board were only average, and I couldn’t justify recommending it over my top picks. And, despite what Flo, Progressive’s famous, peppy insurance cashier, would lead you to believe, its mobile apps ratings average out to just under 3 out of 5 stars.

Erie Insurance

If you live in the South, Midwest, or Mid-Atlantic regions, Erie Insurance is worth your consideration. Erie has consistently received high marks from J.D. Power and Consumer Reports, but didn’t make it into my top four recommendations due to limited availability — it only serves residents in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and certain parts of DC.

Outside of that, Erie is one of the best commercial auto insurers, offering policies that come standard with coverage for road service, lawyer fees, and loss of earnings. It also has particularly comprehensive coverage options that include extras such as money toward rental cars after a crash (this is usually an add-on policy with most insurers).

Auto-Owners

Auto-Owners Insurance is available in 26 states located primarily in the South and Midwest. It uses an agent-only model that promotes customer relationships, so if you prefer talking to a human being, Auto-Owners is a great choice. The company also scored a nearly perfect score in J.D. Power’s 2015 satisfaction report, falling short only in the realm of its rental car experience.

States Serviced by Auto-Owners:
Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin

Choosing the Right Amount of Coverage

Let’s say I live in Florida and cause an accident that injures another person to the tune of $40,000. If I only have the state’s minimum bodily injury protection ($10,000 per person, $20,000 per accident), I’d be responsible for the remaining $30,000. But, if I had purchased more than Florida’s minimum — say $50,000 per person and $100,000 per accident — I wouldn’t have to pay a single dime out of pocket.

Sure, upgraded coverage means a higher monthly premium. But which would you rather do: Pay an extra $80 a month or wind up owing a lump sum of $30,000 out of pocket? It would take an accident-free 30 years to spend the same amount on the extra coverage. And remember: statistically speaking, you are going to get in a wreck every 18 years. Hopefully, it’s nothing more than a fender bender, but if the worst should happen, you’ll appreciate being fully covered.

That’s why it’s incredibly important to understand what type of coverages you need, and how much coverage you need, before you start shopping for a policy. And in the same vein, it’s also crucial to compare rates that include more than your state’s minimum required coverages (which you can find online at your state’s DMV). You do not want to be the victim of a serious accident only to find out after the fact that you’re underinsured.

Below is a comparison of the coverages offered by my top four auto insurance companies, and a breakdown of each type of coverage.

Types of Auto Insurance Coverages

Bodily Injury Liability: Coverage against bodily injuries to others in an accident that is your fault.

Personal Injury Protection: Coverage for injuries sustained by the driver or any passengers, often including medical bills and lost wages.

Property Damage Liability: Coverage against property damage to another party in an accident that is your fault.

Rental Car Coverage: Coverage for your rental car if it is damaged or stolen.

Stacked Uninsured Motorist Coverage: Coverage that allows you to combine or “stack” the individual limits of coverage on multiple insured vehicles in the same household.

Uninsured Motorist Property Damage Coverage: Coverage that protects against property damage caused by an uninsured or underinsured motorist.

Pet Injury Coverage: Coverage for injuries to your pets sustained in an auto accident.

Collision: Coverage against any damage resulting from a collision.

Comprehensive: Coverage against any non-collision vehicle damage including fire, theft, or vandalism.

GAP Insurance: Coverage that pays the difference between the actual value of a totaled car and the balance remaining on an auto loan.

Interior Vehicle Coverage: Coverage of personal belongings inside of the car, like your clothes, sound system, or purse.

New Car Replacement: Coverage that will replace a totaled car with a brand-new version if it is less than one year old.

You should shop for a policy every two years

Contrary to popular belief, car insurance companies don’t just calculate rates on risk alone. It goes much deeper than that. Welcome to the world of “price optimization,” which is the practice of setting rates based upon how much insurers think customers are comfortable paying. Simply put, it’s a way to maximize profit.

In 2013, Earnix found that 45 percent of larger insurance companies analyze a ridiculous amount of customers’ personal data (like social media posts, credit scores, and web shopping habits). Then, they churn the data through a proprietary algorithm that estimates how likely you are to shop around. By doing so, they can charge you based upon a perception of your level of comfort, raise profit margins, and do it all without causing you to lift an eyebrow.

The best way to prevent falling victim to this practice is to shop for a new policy every one to two years. Companies are aware of your online activity, so the more quotes you get, the less likely you are to be tagged as someone who won’t jump ship for a better deal. Plus, it helps you find a policy rate that reflects you as a person and isn’t based on predictive analytics.

Should I use an agent or go online?

Depending on which companies you consider, you may have to decide whether to do business with an insurance agent or purchase a policy online. If you value face-to-face relationships and personal service, it’s hard to beat an agent. But all agents aren’t created equal. Some are “captive,” meaning they sell car insurance for only one company. Others are “independent,” meaning they can sell car insurance for multiple companies. Here are a few things you should consider for each scenario.

Using Captive Agents

The biggest benefit to captive agents is that many aren’t primarily motivated by commission. That means they have less of a reason to “sell you” and more of a reason to spend quality time educating you. Going with a captive agent also makes sense if you’re already committed to a particular company. Additionally, they will know their company’s policies and coverages from top to bottom.

Using Independent Agents

Independent agents have special access with several companies and help you to find the best rate available. However, some companies pay higher commission than others, and that means you may face pressure to choose a particular company or coverage plan.

During my research, I interacted with several independent agents who refused to give me a single detail about higher-priced plans. Despite my persistence, I was repeatedly asked, “Why would you want to consider something that costs more?” and did not get the information I wanted. On the flip side, if your rates go up after committing to a policy, independent agents are best-suited to help you negotiate a lower price.

Shopping online

Some companies allow customers to do business directly online. If you’re a self-starter, this could very well be the most convenient option. And in some cases, it may also be the cheapest option.

The biggest downside to buying a policy on your own is the risk of underinsuring yourself. Buying the wrong policy, or a policy that doesn’t have state-mandated coverage levels, could cost you a pretty penny if the worst should happen.


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