The latest ranking of home insurance companies shows that just focusing on what you pay in premiums isn’t necessarily the smartest idea.
Homeowners insurance isn’t just about premium
Consumer Reports is out with a new update that names the best and worst home insurers in the business.
Before we get into this, keep in mind that the best does not necessarily mean the one with the most affordable premium!
Instead of focusing on price alone, the magazine asked more than 7,000 of its readers to rank their insurers on six metrics:
- Ease of reaching an agent to handle the claim.
- Agent courtesy.
- Promptness of response and attentiveness in handling the claim.
- Simplicity of the claims process (number of steps, amount of work etc.).
- Damage amount: Satisfaction with company's estimate of dollar amount of damages.
- Timely payment: Satisfaction with timely payment by insurer.
So without further ado…
Top 10 best home insurers
2. USAA Property & Casualty
3. Erie Insurance Group
5. Auto-Owners Insurance Group of Companies
6. Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company
7. The Hartford Financial Services Group
8. Liberty Mutual
10. Farmers Insurance
5 worst home insurers
Now that you’ve seen who the readers of Consumer Reports say are the best, here’s who they report the least satisfaction with:
(#1 is worst)
“Amica and USAA may not have the best premiums,” Clark says. “But remember my rule, homeowners insurance is only for use in a catastrophic situation — so it’s crucial to have the best coverage in case something does happen.”
Why you want a high deductible policy
To lower the cost of going with a top-rated insurer like Amica or USAA, try taking the highest deductible that you can handle and that your mortgage holder will allow you to have. Doing so will both lower your premium and discourage you from unnecessarily making small claims.
In fact, we can’t stress this strongly enough: You should think of homeowners insurance as ‘use it and lose it’ kind of proposition. It’s not for use except in the case of a catastrophe.
So you want to insure for a massive loss, not a little one. Having a high deductible on your policy will give you the double benefit of likely being claims-free and having lower premiums because you never make claims.
Do not go with the $500 deductible of yesteryear. It's not worth it!
Make sure your home is properly valued for rebuild
The biggest mistake is not having enough coverage in the event you do face a total loss. You want to be sure that if your home has to be rebuilt, you’ll have enough coverage for it.
Talk with your agent or insurance company to see if you’re adequately insured. Insurers used to rebuild even if you didn’t have enough stated coverage, but that’s no longer the case. It’s up to you to stay on top of this.
If your home isn’t properly valued for insurance purchases, the shortfall between what it costs to rebuild and what your insurer is willing to pay must come out of your pocket.
Consider an umbrella policy if you’re a high net-worth individual
Just as with Clark's advice on auto insurance, if you have a lot of assets to protect, you need to have a lot of liability coverage for your home.
That could include getting an umbrella policy that sits on top of your existing home and auto policies and covers you for a catastrophic claim.
Umbrella insurance policies are sold in multiples of a million dollars. These policies pose such a low risk to insurers that they only cost a couple hundred for the first million dollars of umbrella coverage. Then the more multiples of coverage you add on, the lower the price drops.
Clark says to think of an umbrella policy like a success tax, one that’s necessary to protect your assets.
Be careful of homeowners policy exclusions
Yahoo! Finance recently had a list of weird exclusions some insurers are now doing. Some make sense – like dog attacks. But other things are unexpected, like trampolines not being covered.
Other exclusions include expensive jewelry (you will need an additional rider if you have a large amount of jewelry).
On the question of mold, that's no longer covered by many homeowner insurance policies. Mold became a big issue, particularly in Florida, and it's been cut out of the picture step by step, insurer by insurer.
Sewer backup is often not included in homeowner insurance policies. Clark always recommends that you buy the inexpensive rider from your insurer and add it to your policy. If it does happen to you, you want to know you are in fact covered.
Fire is still covered. That seems to be a constant year over year, which is why people sometimes refer to homeowners policies as “fire policies.”
Flood insurance: Not covered under your home insurance policy!
Flood insurance is one of those things that people routinely think they’re covered for under their homeowners policy.
What will protect you in the event of flooding is an auto insurance policy with comprehensive coverage, according to the Insurance Information Institute. But because comprehensive coverage is not mandatory, not everyone has it.
So here’s a word to the wise: If you do have a comp policy, double-check with your auto insurer to make sure damage from flooding is covered.
Otherwise, you can buy flood insurance through FloodSmart.gov. The average federal flood insurance premium in 2018 is $1,062, according to the latest figures. The policy covers damage for up to $250,000.
Your policy will cover this — but you should never use it!
Home insurers are great about offering add-ons to your policy that seem like great conveniences at a great price. But should you take advantage of them? Probably not.
Your home insurance policy may have coverage for electronics, including your cell phone, in case they get fried by a sudden electrical surge or you somehow break them. Yet using this insurance can be too high voltage for your wallet.
Insurers are likely to report the use of cell phone insurance on your C.L.U.E. report as a claim, a little-known industry database that compiles all your interactions with insurers.
Having bad marks on your C.L.U.E. report will hamper you when you go to shop with other insurers. And, your own insurer may use that “claim” as a justification for hiking your premium or dropping your home insurance coverage altogether!
Maybe you’re tempted to get cell phone insurance through your wireless carrier instead. That option is preferable to getting it through your home insurer — though there is a more affordable way to get better coverage.
If you really want to save money, check out these cheaper alternatives to cell insurance through your carrier.