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Release Date: 08/03/2009

Top Consumer Reports Homeowners Insurance Group Ratings

Survey finds 53 percent of consumers who switched companies got better rates

Sept 09 Cover YONKERS, NY — Excellent homeowners insurance coverage can be costly and hard to get according to a Consumer Reports’ survey that asked 10,700 readers about their satisfaction with their homeowners insurance claims service in the last few years.

Respondents rated Amica Mutual Group, USAA Group, and the Chubb Group of Insurance Cos. higher for claims satisfaction than most other insurers. But USAA homeowners insurance is available only to those with a connection to the U.S. military, and Chubb markets itself as a high-end insurer, with premiums to match. (Amica says it has moved away from its tradition of selling only to those referred by policyholders.)

Consumer Reports’ survey also found claims problems with some large insurers. Thirty-five percent of Allstate Insurance Group clients reported having problems with that carrier, the nation’s second-largest. That contrasts with 14 percent who reported problems with highly-rated Amica. Allstate and Travelers Insurance Cos., another large insurance group, were also among the lower-rated groups overall.

Delayed payments are common. Twenty-one percent of respondents said they faced delays having claims paid. Amica and USAA got better marks than most.

The Consumer Reports National Research Center surveyed readers about their experience with homeowners insurance claims in the last few years.  Insurance companies were rated on respondents reports of overall satisfaction and claims of reported problems, including dissatisfaction with claim pay out amounts, and payment delays. 

Consumer Reports’ survey did find some good news, especially for people with decent credit and claims history. Lots of consumers are finding lower prices.  More than half (53%) of the respondents who switched companies in the past few years, said they had found a better premium with their new carrier.

And respondents were reasonably content. Overall, 73 percent were highly satisfied with their current carrier. That compares with a satisfaction rate of 77 percent in 2003, the last time Consumer Reports published ratings of homeowners insurance. Only 5 percent indicated their claims were rejected, and 11 percent said they received too little payment for their claims. The remaining 84 percent got what they expected with the settlement of their claims.

Consumer Reports’ home insurance group survey is part of a larger investigative report that found that insurers are scaling back coverage, imposing high deductibles on claims for damage from windstorms in many places, and cutting coverage for mold and dog bites. Some companies are using credit-based insurance scores to reject prospective clients and to raise premiums of current ones. In some areas, insurers have abandoned homeowners coverage entirely.

Disasters and dire situations are when consumers truly need coverage that lives up to its promises. Yet CR’s evaluation of home insurers found that doesn’t always happen. Consumers can find excellent insurers, but they can also face a whirlwind of complexity, cost, and difficulty getting their due. Consumer Reports offers some quick tips to get started:

  • Thoroughly read your policy and any other correspondence. Ask your agent to
    explain anything you don’t understand.
  • Learn how to deal with the adjuster, who might be your chief connection with the insurer after you make a claim.
  • Compare prices at least every five years, even if you’re not being elbowed out. Consumer Reports Ratings for claims service are a good place to start shopping. Make sure you compare costs of identical policies. Check with an independent agent or insurance-shopping Web site for a wide selection of quotes.

For more comprehensive advice on how to buy adequate homeowners insurance, advice for making a successful claim, or more survey data and insurance group ratings check out the special feature in the September issue, available August 4th. The complete report is also available at www.ConsumerReports.org.

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