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Shopping for the best home insurance policy on your own isn’t a simple or fun process. It is, however, something that everyone needs to safeguard their home. For that reason, we wanted to show you how to pick the best home insurance and the most important things to consider when searching for a provider and policy.
After compiling research from dozens of reviews and independent-rating agencies, as well as interviewing an agent with more than 15 years of experience, we found that there’s no one-size-fits-all option. The one national company that separates itself from the other big dogs in the pack is State Farm, which has well-trained agents, an excellent financial standing and a top-tier customer experience. However, even with a company as strong as State Farm, many people felt that the personal connection was lackluster compared with more regional outfits.
With something as individualized and geographical as home insurance, selecting a sole winner seemed impractical, so we decided to mention some of our favorite regional picks. We found that Amica Mutual, Erie Insurance and individual Farm Bureaus were often preferable to a large company such as State Farm because of their region-specific knowledge.
Find the Best Home Insurance Rates
Home insurance rates can vary greatly depending on where you live, so it is important to compare all of your options. To quickly find the best rates in your area, simply enter your ZIP code below. Be sure to compare rates from at least two or three companies in order to find the very best rate for you.
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Important Home Insurance Facts
Before we get into our top picks for best homeowners insurance companies, we thought we’d lay some foundation about the function and importance of insuring your house, condo or apartment from outside risks, such as fires or natural disasters.
What is Home Insurance?
Homeowners insurance is a form of property insurance that financially protects owners of private homes, buildings, and contents, against damage from unforeseen circumstances.
Property insurance can protect owners from two classifications of risks: open perils and named perils. Open perils protect owners from any harm that is not specifically mentioned as an exclusion in the property insurance policy. Common exclusions include floods, earthquakes or acts of war. On the other hand, named perils specifically name the cause of loss they are protecting against in the policy. Fire insurance or flood insurance are both examples of property insurance with named perils.
Is Home Insurance Required?
Legally, home owners do not need to obtain a home insurance policy for their property or building. With that said, lenders tend to require borrowers to obtain a home insurance policy throughout their mortgage. If the home is located in an area vulnerable to floods or earthquakes, lenders may also require borrowers to purchase additional insurance as well.
How We Chose the Best Homeowners Insurance
We chewed on dozens of home insurance reviews and ratings from around the web for more than 45 hours to determine where customers were consistently satisfied. We compared quotes and reviews from 10 of the top-rated national companies, as well as 15 of the highest-ranked regional companies, and referred to J.D. Power to single out the ones that are the best to deal with. We also chatted with an insurance agent of over 15 years to get a firsthand look into the expectations of consumers.
Deciding who will pay the bills in the event of a catastrophe is no small task. Everyone wants to work with a company that they can trust to have their back when they call. We decided to put most of the weight on customer-service ratings. Any company can trumpet cheap prices and discounts, but whether or not they’ll be willing to uphold their end of the deal when push comes to shove is what really counts.
Other Home Insurance Companies to Consider
While we felt it was unfair to call any major company the best overall in this field, we did find that certain ones stood out in a number of subcategories. Here are a few of our suggestions.
Best Inexpensive Home Insurance
There’s no such thing as cheap home insurance, but everyone loves a discount, and even a ballooning premium can be offset with smart discount shopping. Travelers homeowners insurance is a great hub for diversified discount options, including multipolicy, new homebuyer and LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) discounts. With some education on available discounts, Travelers can be a great option to save some big bucks.
Best Renters Insurance
While the protection of your dwelling will fall on your landlord, renters insurance will protect your personal property within the building that you rent. Otherwise known as an HO-4 renter’s insurance policy, Allstate’s renters insurance boasts coverage of reimbursed living expenses, liability protection and guest medical protection. Also, you might be eligible for a discount if you bundle your auto insurance with Allstate.
Best Military Home Insurance
The undisputed champ of customer service, this powerhouse has been serving military members for more than 90 years. Although USAA is available only to past and present service members, it is often considered to be the paramount insurance company for both home and auto. Offering an unprecedented level of personal-property coverage paired with unmatched customer loyalty, USAA is the clear choice for all who are eligible.
Best Flood Insurance
Flood insurance is almost always sold separately from the main policy. If you live in a high-risk area, this is one of the most important purchases you can make. Like most insurers, State Farm writes its flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The company is lauded for its customer service, speedy payouts and top-rated agents. It’s smart to consult a local, preferably independent, agent who can help determine the level of flood protection you need where you live.
Best Old-Home Insurance
Insuring an old home is trickier than any other home. Many companies won’t even take them on because of the potential liability. State Farm, however, shines with affordable rates, thousands of helpful agents and a great HO-8 policy, which is designed for situations when the replacement cost of a home may be substantially higher than the current market value. There is no better place to insure your rustic abode than State Farm.
A Full Review of the Best National Home Insurance Company: State Farm
Everyone needs his or her own “fortress of solitude” after a stressful day, and your domicile is truly the last great refuge. A good home insurance company should provide the same safety, security, shelter and peace of mind that your home does.
While no national home insurance company had a clear leg up on regional competition, State Farm is unsurpassed when it comes to agent availability and customer satisfaction. It has the largest market share and one of the strongest financial rankings in the nation, so any fear that it won’t have the cash to back you up is unwarranted. One big financial advantage it holds is being a mutual company, meaning its policyholders own it outright. By not trading publicly on a stock market, the pressure to adjust prices according to the whims of Wall Street isn’t an issue.
A pivotal factor that makes State Farm the most attractive large-scale insurer is the sheer breadth of personal agents it has at the ready. When shopping for your policy, an open dialogue with a real human being in your region can save you from pointless money-sinks and point out some critical policy add-ons that you may overlook to save a quick buck. State Farm has agents in just about every region of the United States, making it much easier to connect and meet with the one for you.
State Farm also offers flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Getting your home and flood insurance from the same company could lead to meaningful savings. First, it’s smart to assess whether or not you even need to buy flood insurance. Depending on your flood zone, you may be required to get full flood coverage on a mortgaged home.
The company also raises the bar with its online features, including an excellent quote tool, unmatched informational resources and the Pocket Agent mobile app. Its online capabilities paired with its legions of dedicated agents make State Farm an excellent option for those in the company’s coverage areas.
Who It’s Best For, and Who Should Skip It
Considering that so many factors — such as geography, your house’s age, whether you’re in a flood zone — play a role in determining your policy, it’s best to look local for counsel. Although no company can appeal to the people of every region, State Farm is as strong as any major home insurer can be. Above all, we encourage you to find a local agent to help guide you toward the right coverage for your home.
You may be asking, “Why not just crown State Farm?” To put it simply, State Farm fell short in some of the areas where only small companies could excel. For example, having such a large area of coverage prevents it from delivering some geo-specific discounts and coverage that customers may expect. Notably, it does not offer landslide insurance, which covers damages caused by landslides and land movements caused by flooding, snowmelt or tectonic activity. This is of no concern to those who live in a flat area, but those who live in hilly or mountainous areas should consider finding a local company to pick up this coverage.
A Full Review of the Best Regional Home Insurance Companies
What if you live in an area where State Farm’s coverage is insufficient or simply doesn’t offer the precise coverages you need? If you own oceanfront property, reside in Tornado Alley or have a home that’s on a known fault line, it’s possible that State Farm won’t offer the level of coverage you need to protect your home. In cases like these, regional insurers may offer a more complete portfolio of add-ons to address region-specific concerns. Our top picks are outlined below, but we encourage you do a bit of research in your local market with an agent to determine which company is best suited for you.
Amica Mutual is considered to be one of the pre-eminent insurers in the United States. Holding an impressively high customer service and financial rating, as well as being J.D. Power’s overall top pick for 2014, Amica is one of the finest insurance companies in the nation.
Boasting a claims service that pays out within 24 hours of an accident and a home-repair assistance program that connects you to more than 2,000 contractors to ensure a speedy cleanup, Amica is well equipped to come to your aid. The only reservation we had about putting it in the winner’s circle is that it serves less than 1 percent of the market and is not available in every state.
Amica is lacking in a few key coverage areas that would limit its overall reach. You won’t find mobile home, farm or ranch coverage at Amica, and those who reside in older homes are sure to walk away empty-handed as well. There is also a dearth of payment-plan flexibility, as you are required to make either one full payment or 10 monthly payments.
Despite a few downsides, Amica is considered to be one of the pinnacles of regional home insurance. If Amica is available in your area and you fit into its coverage options, it is definitely worth reaching out and getting a quote.
Erie Insurance is cut from the same cloth as Amica Mutual. This company is held in high esteem and prides itself in bringing more personalized policies to its clients by staying focused on the 12 states it serves from the Midwest to the Atlantic Ocean (including the District of Columbia). Boasting a four-star J.D. Power ranking and consistently impressive customer-experience ratings, Erie offers some of the most all-encompassing coverage in the field for the greatest value.
Comprehensive discounts are what give Erie the financial edge over larger companies. It offers a wide variety of discounts from new-home and multiple policies to a price break for policyholders 45 or older. Through discounts, Erie can save you as much money as anyone.
Although Erie is available only to a small portion of Americans and doesn’t offer much in the way of learning material or mobile accessibility, it is an excellent option to check into if you live in their coverage area.
Another great option is your state’s Farm Bureau insurance. Some states offer this independently and some offer it through an existent agency. We found its service and loyalty to customers to be exemplary. Not only are state bureaus more focused on their clients, but also they hold unparalleled knowledge of area-specific pitfalls and advice. We highly recommend checking with your state’s Farm Bureau to see if you are eligible for insurance.
To sum it up, there is no way to define a single “best” home insurance provider. The beauty of owning your home is that it’s an extension of yourself, making it just as individual as you are. One company that works perfectly for one house might not be a good fit for yours. This is why finding a trusted local agent is worth more than any research you can do on your own.
Choosing the Right Type of Home Insurance for You
For the most part, we found that local and regional agencies are the best option for most homeowners. We recommend finding a local agent and letting him or her help guide you through the twists and turns of your individual policy. G.K. Pippin, a longtime agent of a regional insurance company, agreed that local is better:
“I would recommend that any new customer connect with a local agent before buying. Local agents are better equipped to handle your policy with their insightful knowledge of the potential risks in the area.”
— G.K. Pippin
Being mostly geographically determinate, regional companies tend to be preferable when it comes to home insurance. While the major national companies archetypally deliver excellent coverage, the significance of a personal connection to your area can’t be overstated.
Regional companies are best equipped to understand the nuances of weather, crime rates, reconstruction costs, fire and police protection, etc. All of these factors play a major role in determining one’s premium and coverage level. For example, in coastal North Carolina, local insurers offer far more wind and hail coverage options than a national carrier, which could come in handy if a hurricane rolls through. We asked Pippin to walk us through some of the policy tips he has given his clients.
“I always recommend water- and sewage-damage coverage. Most policies don’t include [these], and [they are] usually skipped over. It’s an inexpensive add-on and the damage, especially on a wooden floor, can be financially [disastrous].”
— G.K. Pippin
Understanding Home Insurance Coverage
Feeling overwhelmed by all of the insurance jargon? We get it. Understanding the types of coverage that exist is the first step in choosing your policy. While there are dozens of optional coverage add-ons, let’s go over the basics to help simplify things.
Dwelling coverage: This safeguards you from financial harm if your home or attached buildings are damaged by disasters such as a windstorm, lightning or vehicles. You can purchase as much as you want, but it is recommended that you buy enough to rebuild your home in the event of an accident.
Other structures protection: This protects structures that are disconnected from your house, such as a barn or a carport. It typically starts at around 10 percent of your dwelling coverage, but you can adjust it as you see fit.
Additional living expense coverage: Finding a place to live while your home is being repaired can be a headache. This coverage helps you pay for the cost of relocating during this period. Most states allow coverage up to 12 months, but some allow it for 24 months.
Water-backup coverage: Different than flood insurance, this covers damages from water that flows from the ground up . This is a coverage that some skip on, but could be a huge money saver.
Personal-property insurance: Most base-level insurance policies only cover damages done to the structure of your dwelling. Personal-property insurance protects your belongings in your home. It is imperative that you get the right amount of coverage for this, and specify how much coverage you want to go toward certain items. Take the time to detail everything you would want replaced and adjust your policy to match that figure.
Family liability protection: Helps to cover the liability if disregard and negligence lead to the damage of others’ property. This also can assist in paying for any required legal defense.
Guest medical protection: This helps pay for the medical expenses of anyone injured on your property. It typically covers up to $5,000.
Fire department charges coverage: Covers the costs that a fire department would charge to put out a fire at your home.
Picking an Insurance Policy
Picking the right policy to protect your home is no menial chore. Home insurance is arguably the most complex to shop for. While we all have the DIY spirit deep inside of us, it’s recommended that you seek the counsel of an agent to help guide you through the pool of policy and coverage options. An agent will not only help you find the best policy for you, but also will ensure that you don’t pay extra for unneeded coverage.
A continued dialogue with your agent can help eradicate any misunderstandings when it comes time to choose a policy. Even after you pick your policy, it’s imperative that you continue to communicate with your insurer to verify that no changes have been made to your policy, unbeknownst to you. Pippin agreed that most of the customer complaints he has heard stem from a lack of communication between parties.
“The biggest issue I see is clients not staying in contact with their agent. You should check with your company annually to verify that no changes have been made to your policy.”
— G.K. Pippin
If you are an exceptionally cautious person or have a lot of personal items you would like to protect, be prepared to pay a heftier premium every month. With all insurance, you get the level of protection that you pay for. The significance of thoroughly going through your policy options with your agent can’t be overstated.
Another nugget to keep in your mind is that several factors can affect the cost of your policy. Here are some to consider:
- Owning certain items that have higher potential for risk, such as a swimming pool or trampoline, can drive your premiums up quickly.
- Owning an aggressive breed of dog can escalate pricing.
- Your home’s distance from a fire station or hospital plays greatly into how much you’ll pay. If you live too far away from either, some insurers won’t even write a policy for you.
- Anything than can be perceived as a danger by your insurance company will be. Thankfully, there are discounts you can acquire to counteract this, such as installing a security system.
- The more risk you can eliminate, the more likely you are to save money on your policy.
Common Policy Options
As complicated and overwhelming as the nuts and bolts of home insurance can be, there is a silver lining: Due to regulations from the Insurance Services Office, all insurers must provide the same types of coverage and call them by the same name. This will wholly expedite comparing policies amongst multiple competitors. To make it even simpler for you, I have put together a list of common home insurance policy options that most companies will carry.
HO-0: Dwelling & Fire
The base level of insurance policies, HO-0 is limited protection that covers damage caused by fire, smoke, explosions, lightning, windstorms, hail, civil unrest and vehicles. It should be noted that there is nothing but dwelling coverage in this policy; personal property and liability are unprotected.
HO-1: Basic Form
Not available in every state, the HO-1 home insurance policy protects your abode against 11 perils: Theft, vandalism, hail, lightning, windstorm, fire, aircraft damage, vehicle damage, volcanic eruption, civil commotion and glass breakage. This covers your dwelling, and you can add coverage of your personal items as well.
HO-2: Broad Form
This is a comprehensive form of “named perils” coverage. Any peril that is unnamed will not be covered. All in all, this policy covers your home from the 11 perils in an HO-1 policy, plus falling objects, weight of snow and rain, and malfunctioning electrical or household equipment.
HO-3: Special Form
This extensive policy is best for single-family homes and uses a different formula than the previous policies to determine the perils it covers. HO-3 home insurance covers all perils except for those that are specifically excluded.
HO-4: Tenant’s Form
Colloquially known as renters insurance, this form protects people who are renting their residence. While the responsibility of dwelling coverage will fall on your landlord, an HO-4 will provide personal property and liability coverage.
The most extensive policy available, this is essentially an extended HO-3 policy. It takes the open-peril basis of an HO-3 and applies it to your personal property as well as your dwelling. Barring its exclusion, any damage caused by a peril to your structure or personal contents will be covered.
HO-6: Condominium Insurance
Much like an HO-4, this protects the personal property and personal liability of someone living in a condo. The perils covered are the same as an HO-2.
HO-7: Mobile-Home Insurance
This policy is the same as an HO-3 but with protection for mobile and manufactured homes.
HO-8: Older-home insurance
Insuring an older home is a greater risk because the cost of repair would be more than the market value of the home. Therefore, not every company provides this type of policy. An HO8 is similar to an HO3, with additional provisions relevant to older homes.
What Makes a Good Homeowners Insurance Company
These are the features we devoted our attention to when determining recommendations for the best home insurance companies.
- Financial standing: The ability to pay back claims, in full, in a prompt manner.
- Customer satisfaction: Treating customers like real people, not numbers.
- Available local agents: Having someone to call goes a long way when your home is damaged.
- User and market-research reviews: We compiled and distilled reviews from users and professionals.
- Available discounts: Much like auto insurance, discounts are plentiful if you know where to look.
- History of claims handling: You want a company that has been around for generations.
- Online capabilities: Efficiency is key when it comes to handling claims, and a company’s digital prowess is important in today’s smartphone-driven culture.
Choosing the right home insurance is similar to choosing a home. In both instances, you are aiming to invest in stability. The right home insurance company should be as trustworthy and unshakeable as the very foundation your home rests on. Even though you hope to never use your policy, it’s worth choosing an insurer based on how they’d react if you needed to.
Home insurance is among the most complicated and individualized forms of insurance you’ll have to buy. Realizing that there will never be a one-size-fits-all solution to home insurance, it’s impossible to make a uniform recommendation. In our research, we found State Farm, Amica Mutual, Erie Insurance and Farm Bureau to be the best bets, but your location may yield an entirely different result. With the help of a personal agent to help sift through the jargon, you can find a company that you feel comfortable entrusting your safe haven to.
Have any thoughts, personal stories or questions you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you; please comment below!
Interview, G.K. Pippin, insurance agent
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