JD Power 2012 California Region Auto Insurance Study: Companies Rated Below Average

This blog post finishes my review of the car insurance companies rated by the JD Power 2012 California region auto insurance study. Was your auto insurance company rated less than “about average” for customer satisfaction? Was it classified with the lowest rating of 2 power circles? JD Power diplomatically refers to companies with the 2 power circle rating as “the rest.” The good news is some of the companies scoring below the California regional average score are not far below the average. I will review the company scores, and the factors leading to the scores, such as Billing & Payment or Pricing, and let you know if you should be looking for a better company. Some of these companies you may want to avoid, but some of them may meet your insurance needs at a great price. I’ll give you the information behind the power circle rating for each of the companies below the California average, to help you make better decisions when choosing an auto insurance company.

You can also read my previous blog posts about the companies rated among the best, better than most, and about average in the JD Power 2012 California region car insurance study.

The companies reviewed in this blog post scored in the bottom half of the survey, both scoring below the regional average score, and receiving a 2 power circle rating (the rest) in at least one of the four factors leading to the Overall Customer Satisfaction score, such as Contacting the Insurance Company.

Companies Rated & Ranked Below the Regional Average for Customer Satisfaction by the JD Power 2012 California Region Auto Insurance Study

California Regional Average = 785 out of 1,000 points

12. Liberty Mutual Auto Insurance

Liberty Mutual scored 770 out of 1,000 points in the survey, and was rated at 3 power circles, or “about average.” This score is only 15 points (on a 1,000 point scale) below the California region average.

Liberty Mutual rated 3 power circles (about average) in the categories of Pricing, Contacting the Insurer, and Policy Offerings.

In the category of Billing & Payment, Liberty Mutual rated 2 power circles (the rest), which is less than average.

Like with most car insurance companies, Liberty Mutual can have very good rates for some customers based on certain characteristics, but not others. A company rated “about average” for customer satisfaction may be a good company for you if they have a great price for you. However, you want to take a close look at how Liberty Mutual’s billing plan will work for you, since the customers surveyed rated it below average.

13. Allstate Auto Insurance

The good hands people at Allstate scored 764 out of 1,000 points in the study. Allstate is the lowest scoring company still receiving the “about average,” or 3 power circle rating, and is 21 points below this survey’s average. So, Allstate is the worst “about average” company. Does this mean you should switch to another insurance company, if your car is insured with Allstate, or avoid the company if you are shopping for car insurance? I don’t think people should jump to this conclusion about Allstate.

If one company receives a score of 78.5% (The regional average), and another company scored 76.4% (Allstate’s score), is the company with the lower score performing much worse? Is it really that bad when a score of 79.8%, only 3.4% more, would earn it a 4 power circle rating (better than most)?

Allstate may not be wowing its customers with great service, according to this survey, but I don’t think it should be stigmatized as a poor performer based on this survey.

After I complete my reviews of the seven JD Power regional auto insurance studies, I am going to write more in-depth company reviews, looking at multiple JD Power surveys over the last few years, and the most recent several years of complaint statistics, for each company. These reviews will give you a better, more balanced view of the best & worst auto insurance companies in the USA.

Allstate was rated “about average” (3 power circles) in the categories of Pricing, Billing & Payment, and Contacting the Insurance Company.

Allstate rated 2 power circles (the rest) for Policy Offerings. The category of Policy Offerings applies to the coverage options available to Allstate customers. I think the lower than average rating for this category is attributable to the fact Allstate no longer sells homeowners insurance in California. I worked at an Allstate agency shortly after it stopped offering earthquake coverage, so I know first hand the customer dissatisfaction created when a company stops offering a type of insurance in popular demand.

14. Nationwide Auto Insurance

Nationwide scored 761 out of 1,000 points, only 3 points less than Allstate, and is the highest scoring company in the study with a 2 power circle rating (the rest).

Nationwide rated “about average” (3 power circles) in the Pricing category, but rated below average in the rest of the categories of Policy Offerings, Billing & Payment, and Contacting the Insurance Company, earning 2 power circles (the rest) for each of these factors.

However, you may be able to say Nationwide ranks firmly below average for customer satisfaction. But, with a score of 764 — 21 points on a 1,000 point scale below the study average of 785 — it is not much below average.

15. 21st Century Auto Insurance

21st Century scored 757 points out of 1,000 points, 28 points below the study average.

Like Nationwide, it rated about average for Pricing, earning a 3 power circle rating in this category, but rated below average in the remaining categories of Contacting the Insurance Company, Billing & Payment, and Policy Offerings.

The best thing about Nationwide & 21st Century car insurance seems to be price. Both companies sell direct to the public in California, so customers not having local agents to help them, may be more dissatisfied when they have difficulties reaching the company, getting the coverage they want, or if they have an issue or question about their bill.

Nationwide does sell through it own agents and independent agents in California, too, but it does not have many agents representing them in the state, so you may not be able to find one close to you. But if you get a good price on auto insurance from Nationwide, it’s best to buy it from an agent, even if their office is far away from you, so you have someone accountable if you have a problem with your service.

Unfortunately, if 21st Century has a good price for you, there does not seem to be any option to buy 21st Century auto insurance from an agent. Although 21st Century is owned by Farmers insurance, you cannot buy 21st Century auto insurance from a Farmers agent.

16. Farmers Auto Insurance

You may not be able to buy 21st Century car insurance from a Farmers agent, but you can buy Farmers auto insurance from a Farmers agent. However, based on their California region study results, it may not be your first choice of insurance companies.

Farmers scored 754 points out of 1,000 points, only 4 points below 21st Century, but 31 points below the regional average. 31 points may not be a big difference on a 1,000 point scale, but Farmers really needs to give you a compelling reason to choose them over the other insurance companies rated & ranked in the survey.

Farmers was below average, rated 2 power circles, for not only Overall Customer Satisfaction, but in all four categories of Pricing, Contacting the Insurance Company, Policy Offerings, and Billing & Payment.

17. Infinity Auto Insurance

Infinity is new to the JD Power study this year. It is the lowest scoring company in the survey, rating at 2 power circles. But Infinity’s score is much lower than the second lowest scoring company, Farmers insurance. Infinity scored 705 out of 1,000 points, which is 49 points less than Farmers score.

To give you an idea of the importance of this point spread, the second highest scoring company in the California survey, earning 5 power circles, and the study award winner (since USAA is open only to the military and honorably discharged veterans), Wawanesa auto insurance, scored 823 points — which is only 37 points more than the study average. Infinity is 80 points (!) below the study average.

Infinity car insurance rated 2 power circles in all categories, as well as Overall Satisfaction.

However, Infinity provides nonstandard auto insurance, insuring drivers not qualifying for standard auto insurance, due to license suspensions, alcohol or drug related driving offenses, too many tickets or accidents, or other reasons. Nonstandard auto insurance companies usually have more dissatisfied customers.

If you are eligible for standard auto insurance, or meet California’s definition of a “good” driver, you can skip Infinity insurance.

But if you can’t qualify for standard auto insurance, or can’t get a lower rate with any of the other companies in the JD Power California region study, see what Infinity can do for you.

Tomorrow, I’ll post a summary of the results & my opinion on the 2012 California region JD Power auto insurance survey, and give you some shopping tips.

Many people pay too much for their insurance because they never shop for better rates, or if they do shop, they don’t check the rates of enough companies. For a lot of people, the best auto & home insurance companies are the ones with the coverage they need at a lower price. With auto & home insurance, you don’t get better service or coverage because you pay more. Some of the best companies have competitive rates. Some companies charge twice as much as others for the same coverage. But no single company has low rates for everyone. You have to shop with all the leading companies, to find the company with the best coverage and best price for you. The ad below will take you to links to get online quotes from leading Home, Auto, Health, & Life insurance companies in your area. Choose the type of insurance, put in your zip, and start shopping now!

Are you insured by Liberty Mutual, Allstate, Nationwide, 21st Century, Farmers, or Infinity? Are you happy with them? Leave a comment on my facebook page. Follow me on Twitter for important insurance consumer news and new blog entries at CarInsWatch.