Your Government Helps You Find Lower Auto & Home Insurance Rate

Open Government Data Venn Diagram

[It's time to re-shop my auto and home insurance again. I updated all the links in this article I first wrote in 2009. It helped me save a lot of money then. I'm going to follow the same process this time. The edited post follows.]

I spent more than 15 minutes and I saved more than 15% on my auto and homeowner’s insurance. For the same coverage, I saved 25% on my auto insurance and I saved 38% on my homeowner’s insurance.

A typical “how to save money on insurance” article will tell you to drop collision and comprehensive coverage on older cars, ask about all discounts, increase your deductible, insure your car and home with the same company, etc. etc.

I’m not going to repeat those. I assume you already know what coverage you want and what deductibles you are comfortable with, and you already pursued all the discounts. If not, you can search for those articles on the Internet. There are a ton of them.

This article focuses on shopping for a lower rate for the same coverage. Those other articles usually leave you with “shop around” or “get at least 3 quotes.” But whom do you get quotes from?

There are probably more than 20 insurance companies in each market. If you get quotes from 3 expensive companies, that won’t help you because you don’t even know lower rates exist. On the other hand, unless you don’t have better things to do, it’s impractical to get quotes from all companies. You have to narrow down your target list to the companies that can potentially save you money.

When you shop for term life insurance, you can go to a single web site and get the premiums from practically all the companies (see How to Buy Life Insurance). When you shop for auto and homeowner’s insurance, there isn’t a central place to go. Although there are a few websites that let you obtain quotes from multiple companies, they only include companies that pay them for the lead.

I tested several of those sites with fictitious personal info. After I filled out lengthy forms, instead of giving me quotes, some of them just say the companies will contact me. Well, if they can’t beat what I already have, I don’t want a bunch of sales calls!

There are also independent insurance agents. These agents also only work with insurance companies that pay them. They are not able to give you quotes from companies who sell only through their own (“captive”) agents, such as State Farm, Allstate, or Farmers, or those who only sell directly to consumers, for instance GEICO or Amica.

Fortunately there is a great resource from a place you least expect: your state government. Insurance is regulated by the states. All insurance companies selling in a state must file their rates with a state agency. Using those rate filings, some state agencies publish a premium comparison survey or guide that shows the rates by company and by city or county.

Because people drive different cars and have different driving records, or have different homes, these surveys typically use a few driver/homeowner profiles and show the insurance premium from each company for these profiles. You have to pick a profile that’s most similar to yours.

It’s far from perfect. The rates used can be a year old. It’s still very useful for weeding out the expensive companies and narrowing down the list of companies that can potentially offer a premium lower than what you have now. For example I noticed a company offering good rates called Wawanesa. I bet not many people have ever heard of Wawanesa and most would never think of getting a quote from them.

It’s a shame that these premium comparison surveys or guides are not advertised well. You never hear about them on TV, on radio or online. On some state Department of Insurance web sites, these surveys are buried deeply in the end of a “Consumer’s Guide to Auto Insurance” publication with otherwise generic information on coverage and insurance terms.

The cynics will say it’s intentional. The insurance companies don’t want you to compare rates so easily. They learned the lessons from airlines. When people can go to one web site and see all the fares, the airlines are forced to compete on price. Imagine how much people will pay if they have to call each and every airline for fares. That’s the world we are in for insurance quotes.

Using the premium comparison survey for my state, I called a company that I would otherwise never call for my homeowners insurance. Although this company is well known nationally, it doesn’t give homeowners insurance quotes online. The savings are huge. I saved a whopping 38% on my homeowners insurance.

For my auto insurance, I contacted three companies that had lower rates on the premium comparison survey than the company I had before. They all gave me a lower rate. I saved 25% on my auto insurance for the same coverage. The premium comparison survey was spot on, not in the premium amount, but on how the companies rank relatively.

I went through the trouble of visiting the Department of Insurance web site for each and every state plus Washington DC. I gathered all the links to auto and homeowners insurance premium comparison surveys in the table below.

I couldn’t find the surveys for some states. Maybe they don’t publish one. Maybe I missed them because they buried them so deeply. If you find the missing links, let me know so I can add to the table. If some links become broken because they moved things around, you will have to find the surveys on your own. This map of State Department of Insurance web sites will help.

Let me know how much you are able to save on your auto and homeowners insurance with these premium comparison surveys.

State Department of Insurance Premium Comparison Surveys

State Premium Comparison Survey
Alabama (AL) Auto | Home
Alaska (AK)
Arizona (AZ) Auto | Home
Arkansas (AR) Auto | Home
California (CA) Auto | Home
Colorado (CO) Auto | Home
Connecticut (CT)
Delaware (DE) Auto | Home
District of Columbia (DC)
Florida (FL) AutoHome
Georgia (GA)
Hawaii (HI) Auto | Home
Idaho (ID)
Illinois (IL)
Indiana (IN)
Iowa (IA)
Kansas (KS) Auto | Home
Kentucky (KY) Auto | Home
Louisiana (LA) Auto | Home
Maine (ME) Auto | Home
Maryland (MD) Auto | Home
Massachusetts (MA) Auto
Michigan (MI)
Minnesota (MN)
Mississippi (MS)
Missouri (MO)
Montana (MT) Auto | Home
Nebraska (NE) Auto
Nevada (NV) Auto
New Hampshire (NH) Auto | Home
New Jersey (NJ) Auto | Home
New Mexico (NM) Auto | Home
New York (NY)
North Carolina (NC)
North Dakota (ND) Auto
Ohio (OH) Auto
Oklahoma (OK) Auto | Home
Oregon (OR)
Pennsylvania (PA)
Rhode Island (RI)
South Carolina (SC)
South Dakota (SD)
Tennessee (TN)
Texas (TX) Auto | Home
Utah (UT) Auto | Home
Vermont (VT)
Virginia (VA) Auto | Home
Washington (WA)
West Virginia (WV) Auto
Wisconsin (WI) Home
Wyoming (WY)

[Photo credit: Flickr user Justin Grimes]

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Comments

  1. Geoff says

    Thanks TFB!

    I need renew my auto insurance at the end of the month, so this will be a perfect time to shop around. I’ll report back on my discount percentage.

  2. dawn says

    Thanks for this reminder. I never think to shop around until i get the insurance renewal form in the mail, and by that time, i don’t feel i have enough time to shop around, so i usually end up renewing for another year.

    My homeowners insurance is way too high, in my opinion, so that’s what i hope to tackle this weekend.

    thanks again.

  3. Bill L says

    I was inspired by your post to hunt down the rate guides for my home state of Maryland. Thanks for the great suggestion…

  4. Massey says

    Incredible research. This is value added material that can help people save money without sacrificing service. Well done.

  5. serbeer says

    Great idea TBF, but as you discovered, there is no such thing for IL.

    When I was about to go through my bi-annual insurance re-pricing process last year, I built a nearly complete list of 70 insurance companies that offer home AND auto policies in IL in Excel, and used additional sites for research to narrow it down to ~30 that I could consider getting quotes from and then further to 7 that were my first pick based on ratings and reviews. I got quotes from all 7 and picked the cheapest one (which also happened to be rated #1 of all I considered, luckily).

    Only companies with AMBest rating of A and higher were considered. And no companies with predominantly bad customer reviews (I did keep a version of survivorship bias in mind though while judging it).

    One thing to understand, you don’t want want to have to go to court to enforce the contract if there is serious claim. So one should not simply find the cheapest company–both financial strength AND history of paying claims should be considered before making decision. This is even more important if one shops for umbrella insurance in addition to the two you’ve been discussing.

  6. Samples says

    Great post and thanks for doing the leg work. I emailed my Florida Commissioner about some improvements they can make to the site to make it more informative. Hopefully they listen.

  7. Nish Balaji says

    Thanks for the Insurance premium comparison link. I don’t have home insurance for my condo, since the structure is covered by HOA fees, but I have been thinking about getting an additional plan. I will definitely use this comparison for my condo insurance. I am happy that the Insurance Industry is tightly regulated by the state and the companies have to publish their premiums to the regulator.

    BTW, I already use Wawanesa for Auto Insurance in California and they have been great and incredibly cheap. My understanding is that they keep their premiums low by being very selective about the drivers they cover. So if you are a good driver, Wawanesa will definitely save you a lot of money.

  8. Shaun says

    @serbeer

    Excellent list! I have collected a bunch myself. I actually have compiled a list of a bunch of insurance agencies across the country. I believe I have nearly 2000 agencies right now.

    Have a great day,
    Shaun

  9. Anna Heaslet says

    Wawanesa is able to offer discounted rates because they avoid paying claims by any means possible. I have been given partial denial for repairs on my vehicle that are the result of indirect damage from a car accident on 3/29/11. The damaged part on my car is the engine control module, which in Mitsubishis, is not a part that usually ever has to be replaced. I have spoken to all 12 Southern california Mitsubishi dealerships from San Diego all the way up to Long Beach, and not one had sold one of these parts in more than two years, if ever. They also all say that this is a very reliable part in an eclipse, but that the violent jolt of the impact can cause serious damage in computer parts like these, and that there is no way that the damage was a coincidence. The adjuster is saying that it is a coincidence that the control module was damaged at the time of the accident, and that it was just mechanical failure. He actually told me on the phone that, “we shouldn’t have to pay for that, its expensive!” It took me 25 days from the first and last time that I spoke to my first adjuster John Hearst to get ahold of anyone at Wawanesa regarding my claim, no one would even return my messages. My car has been sitting in the shop in pieces for 20 days.. in pieces just sitting there. It took 13 days of the car sitting in pieces to even get the first partial denial. The manager of the collision center that my car is at has taken over handling my claim on their end, and completely backs me up. The adjuster says that he is denying this repair “based on my opinion, and my opinion is final unless you decide to take it to the next level.” Well, I am a licensed insurance agent working for Farmers Insurance, and I know my rights, and have proceeded to take this matter to the next level because this has definitely reached bad faith claim status. All that I asked was to be treated fairly and have my car restored to the same condition it was before the accident, which is my right as stated in my Wawanesa Policy. Neither has happened with this company, and I am very sorry I hadn’t switched to Farmers before this accident, because none of this would be happening right now.

  10. Harry @ PF Pro says

    Haha I actually use Wawanesa, they are always the cheapest whenever I periodically get other quotes. Since I’m not paying much, I won’t expect much if I get into an at fault accident.

  11. Debbie M says

    I also like to use my state’s site, but first I look at their ratings. Then I compare rates for the highest-rated companies only. Then, out of those, I call the three with the lowest rates. Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten a better rate using this method in years.

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