Finding Best Online Auto Insurance Deals

Shopping for car insurance is all about finding a financially sound company that offers a good price with good customer service. Thanks to more and more Web sites where comparative pricing is available, shopping for the best price is getting easier.

Combine your findings on those sites with new findings released yesterday by J.D. Power and Associates 2008 Insurance New Buyer Study plus TheStreet.com Financial Strength Ratings and you have all three pieces of the puzzle: price, customer satisfaction, and financial strength.

In its 2008 survey, J.D. Power and Associates determined overall customer satisfaction of auto insurance buyers by measuring insurers' distribution channel, price, and policy offerings. It received survey responses from 8,452 customers who had requested an auto insurance quote in the past 12 months.

It ranked insurers on a 1,000-point scale, and Erie Insurance scored the highest with a score of 896 points. The Hartford ( HIG) and State Farm both followed closely with 894 and 893 points, respectively. USAA, an insurer open only to the military and their families, scored 922 but was not included in the rankings because of its exclusivity. The study ranked 18 insurers with the industry average at 867.

Coupling the customer satisfaction score from the J.D. Power study with the insurance company's TheStreet.com Financial Strength Rating gives you a powerful head start in your shopping journey. You now have a short list of insurers in hand from which you can narrow down based on the pricing research you do.

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Ratings in the table are for the subsidiary with the largest auto premium.

If, in your pricing research, you come across a low-priced company not on this list, you can look up the Financial Strength Rating for free on the Insurers & HMOs Screener. The ratings are based on an in-depth analysis of each insurer's capital adequacy, profitability, and overall operational stability.

Every day there are more and more Web sites available to search for the best prices on auto insurance.

We went to the sites Esurance.com, Insweb.com and Progressive.com and searched for rates based on a 30-year-old male and female with a 2007 Toyota Camry and a 2005 Ford Explorer, with an average credit history. We used policy limits of $100,000 per person per accident and $300,000 per total accident with $500 deductibles.

Our findings, which showed a wide variation in prices nationwide, are published in TheStreet.com Ratings Consumer Guide to Auto Insurance and shown in the table below.

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Many companies also have direct buyer capability on their own sites so if you already do business with a company, say for homeowners insurance, you should check there also.

Melissa Gannon is director of insurance and bank ratings for TheStreet.com Ratings, formerly Weiss Ratings, where she directs the operations of the company's insurance and bank ratings division.

In keeping with TSC?s Investment Policy, employees of TheStreet.com Ratings with access to pre-publication ratings data must pre-clear any potential trade through the legal department, and are prohibited from trading any security that is the subject of an unpublished rating revision until the second business day after the rating is published.

While Gannon cannot provide investment advice or recommendations, she appreciates your feedback; click here to send her an email.

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