Here's the Five Best Car Insurance Companies

Trying to find the car insurance companies with your best interest in mind can seem like an obstacle course. But when you find the right firm, it can mean big yearly savings for you and your family members.

If you select the wrong insurer, you'll wind up paying a whole lot more than you have to. And there's no guarantee you'll have all the coverage you need ... when you really need it.

So how do you find the top companies?

That's what we're going to cover here today. Not only do we show you who the top firms are, we'll show you how to evaluate a company before and after you sign up with them.

First, here's our list of the 5 best auto insurance companies available to you...

#1 - Liberty Mutual has been in the auto insurance business since 1914 and they operate nationwide. They have an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau and have been accredited with the BBB for over 84 years. They also have an A rating with AM Best Financial. In our aggregated review data from review sites around the web, they consistently rated highly among users. That's why we ranked them so high. Their site is easy to use and according to the majority of user reviews, their customer service is very responsive and easy to work with. They also offer plenty of features and discounts.

#2 - State Farm has a BBB rating one notch below Liberty Mutual at A- (minus) at the time of this writing. They are located in Bloomington, IL but operate nationally. In fact, getting a quote from them just requires your zip code and some basic insurance info. They also rated highly among users of review sites around the net. Their company website is also simple and straight forward. Their prices and customer service is rated high by customers and online reviewers. Of all the car insurance companies out there, they are the largest and have been around over ninety years.

#3 - Geico is known to have great prices and equally good customer service as well. They are BBB A plus rated. They have a great website and also offer one of the best apps in the insurance category. You can use their website to pay your bill as well as track any claim you have with them. A great service that they offer is twenty four hour customer support... 365 days a year. They too have great reviews from customers throughout the web. Those are just a few of the reasons they have made it onto our list of top rated companies.

#4 - Progressive is well known for its commercials featuring Flo. They offer plenty of discounts for drivers. In fact, they will offer you a discount just for shopping on their site. And you'll get even more discounts if you sign documents online. Not a bad way to start saving. However, from our research, and from reading countless reviews online, their customer service isn't as good as some of the other companies, especially when it comes time for drivers to make a claim. Still, if you're a good driver, they are a respectable firm worth checking out.

#5 - USAA is a great company and gets high marks from its customers. The reason is that they are really easy to deal with and provide superior service. The one problem with this firm is that you or an immediate family member must be a current or former member of the military to qualify for their program. If you do qualify, you will be greeted with great rates and top notch service.

Keep in mind that different factors will play a role in the rates that a company will offer you. The rate one insurer offers might not be in the same range that another firm will offer you.

That's why it's important to shop around.

Evaluating the Best Car Insurance Companies Beforehand

There are certain things you can check before you start searching for the top auto insurance company to see whether an insurer is worthy of your time and business.

And there are things you can check after signing up with an insurer to make sure they aren't taking you for granted as a customer.

Below, we'll talk about both.

First, let's examine what you can do before signing on the dotted line.

#1 - Be wary of companies that only offer state-mandated minimums.

Your state probably requires you to carry a minimum amount of car insurance, but that may not be enough to protect you and your assets. Watch out for auto insurance companies that specialize in state-mandated minimum coverage. The agents at those firms may not have the training they need to help you find the right level of coverage.

Be even more cautious if the company you are considering only offers minimum coverage.

If your circumstances change and you need to add more coverage, you will need to change companies to do it. That can be a real hassle, so it is better to look for an insurer with more flexible options right from the start so you don't encounter this problem at all.

#2 - If the internet is littered with complaints against the company...

You can tell a lot about a provider with a simple Google search. If that search reveals page after page of complaints, you could be dealing with a less than reputable insurer.

Be sure to read those complaints carefully.

If you see a pattern emerging, that should be an even bigger red flag. If hundreds of customers say that the company low-balls its claims or refuses to pay, that is a good indication that you are not dealing with one of the best car insurance companies out there. Not even close.

#3 - If the insurer has a poor reputation...

This one is closely connected to number two above. You can get a good fee about an insurer by asking others about them. While a few complaints and bad experiences are to be expected, you should be wary if no one you ask has anything good to say about the company that you are considering.

Quality insurers get a lot of their business through word of mouth when happy customers recommend them to friends and family. If the insurer you use relies on costly ad campaigns instead, their poor reputation could be to blame.

#4 - The insurer is not registered with your state.

This might seem like an obvious one but worth checking out. State regulators keep track of complaints against insurers and confirm whether a company is licensed to do business in a given state.

You should always check with the insurance commissioner in your state to make sure that the company is licensed to sell car insurance. If the firm lacks that license, you are probably dealing with a rip-off. Your state insurance commission should maintain a list of companies registered to do business in your area. It pays to bookmark that site in your browser and check it periodically.

If you find that your car insurer has dropped off the list or accumulated a lot of consumer complaints, it might be wise to keep shopping around.

#5 - The firm exists only in cyberspace.

While there are some good online-only firms, there are some shady operators as well. It pays to be wary if an insurer has no offline presence at all, especially if you have never heard of the firm.

The car insurance companies that give you the best service have an offline presence as well as an online presence. If you are dealing with a car insurer that exists only in cyberspace, it is even more important to make sure they are licensed in your state and that they do not have a record of unanswered consumer complaints. You can get a good deal from an online-only company, but it may take a bit more research.

#6 - You receive a lowball premium estimate.

Companies that are less than reputable often provide lowball estimates, only to raise those rates substantially when customers actually apply for coverage. Watch out for premium estimates that seem unrealistically low. If the other estimates you received are all in the $800-$1,000 range, it is very unlikely that another insurer will be able to provide coverage for $400 a year.

If you do receive a lowball estimate, it could mean the insurer is trying to suck you in, or worse, attempting to gather personal information they can sell elsewhere. While insurance rates do vary from company to company, watch out for rates that seem too good to be true.

What to Look for After You Sign Up with a Company

Now we will take a look at some things you can do to protect yourself after you sign up with a vehicle insurer. This is important because some companies take advantage of drivers once they are signed up.

If your premiums go up with every renewal...

It is normal for your premiums to go up if you get a speeding ticket or make a claim, but your costs should not rise just because your policy is up for renewal. If your premiums go up like clockwork every time you get a renewal notice, you could be getting ripped off.

If you have a clean driving record, you should be able to keep the same premium from year to year. If your company keeps raising your rates without good reason, it may be time to shop around.

You can't get an agent on the phone.

The top car insurance companies always provide great customer service. If you have trouble getting a customer service representative to answer basic questions about your policy, what do you think will happen if you need to report an accident or file a claim?

Poor customer service should be a big red flag. If the company is unwilling to talk to you or answer your questions, you may want to look for a provider that puts their customers first.

You have trouble getting a fair settlement.

The true nature of car insurance coverage may not truly become apparent until you file a claim. If you have to fight for every dollar following an accident, you could be dealing with a rip-off artist in disguise.

When you have an accident or need to get your car repaired, you should get two or three estimates and present them to the insurance company. If the amount the insurer offers you is substantially lower than the estimates, you may have a problem. A good car insurance company should want to work with you to get your car fixed promptly, even if that means spending more money.

Your insurance documents are consistently late.

If your car insurer has trouble getting your identification cards to you on time, what do you think will happen when you file a claim? Getting your insurance documents to you is a basic function of insurance companies, and one that they should be able to accomplish without fail. Watch out for insurers with poor customer service practices. They may not be able to live up to their promises.

The terms of your policy are constantly changing.

Changing the terms of your policy may occasionally be necessary, but it should not be a regular occurrence. If you keep receiving policy change notifications in the mail, it is time to start asking some questions. Chances are the policy changes are not in your favor, and that could leave you paying more and getting less. If you do receive notification of a change in your policy, be sure to compare the language to that in your original policy documents.

Contact the company at once if there is anything you do not understand or if any of the changes are unclear. The best auto insurance companies don't constantly change the policy just for their own financial gain. They look out for their customers interests.

Ask Family and Friends...

Above are just a few of the ways you can use to evaluate an insurer. You can also ask the opinion of family and friends. They can tell you about the experiences they've had with the provider they use.

If you know of someone who has been in an accident, ask them how their insurer handled it. Did the company follow through on their promises?

Were they easy to deal with?

There's no better way of investigating a firm than to ask someone who has needed the company when they were in an accident.

Many insurers promise people big things but don't deliver when the customer really needs them. You can guard against that by doing some of the things listed above.

That wraps up our guide to vehicle insurers. I hope it helps you get the best deal with an insurer you can count on when required.