When you hear, “15 minutes could save you 15% or more…,” what comes to mind?
Most people know that’s the ad tagline of a famous GEICO insurance campaign. But when you call GEICO or click its website to get a quote, the actual coverage could be underwritten by an entirely different insurer that you may or may not have ever heard of.
An insurance policy by any other name…
Recently, I contacted GEICO while shopping for home insurance quotes. GEICO was just one of several companies I was gathering quotes from and I approached the shopping in two ways: Getting a quote online at GEICO.com and calling the 800 number listed on the website to speak with a representative.
That yielded two differently priced quotes and — surprise, surprise — neither one was actually from GEICO, even though they were going to sell me the policy.
Don’t believe me? Check out the first quote I obtained by going online. There’s a disclaimer at the bottom of the page that clearly explains who is underwriting this policy…and it’s Liberty Mutual, not GEICO.
So what’s up with that? It turns out GEICO doesn’t underwrite its own homeowners policies, but rather offers home insurance through a variety of affiliated and non-affiliated insurance companies.
When you call or click, you get matched with one insurer out of their giant pool. Some of the companies they work with are big-time insurers like AIG, Chubb, Liberty Mutual and Travelers, among many others. Others are small insurers you’ve probably never heard of. More on that latter category in a bit…
What you’ve got to know with GEICO is they’re acting as a reseller of other insurers’ policies when you get a quote for home insurance.
By contrast, when you get an auto insurance quote from GEICO, it’s legitimately through GEICO. I made that discovery while recently shopping car insurance with four big insurers plus my credit union.
So, that was my first home insurance quote with GEICO, which turned out to actually be through Liberty Mutual.
For my second quote from GEICO, I choose to get it over the phone to see how the shopping experience differed from online. This time, the GEICO phone rep offered me coverage through a company I’d never heard of called National General.
How to understand a potential insurer’s financial strength
I was assured by the GEICO customer service rep that National General (and its NatGen Premier line) is a veteran insurance company with an A- rating from A.M. Best for financial strength and stability.
I know for a fact National General isn’t reviewed on the list of best auto insurers or best home insurers right here on Clark.com, so they were a big question mark to me when their name was thrown out there.
A.M. Best is the authority on credit ratings for insurers. That A- rating the rep said National General has may sound great, but in the world of A.M. Best, the highest marks are A+ and A++. In fact, the strongest insurers in the world have an A++ rating. So when you look at it in those terms, National General’s A- rating isn’t really all that.
Of course, that’s before we even get to National General’s reputation for customer service, which is something I have no knowledge of, having never heard of them before!
To get a sense of what kind of customer service they offer when you have to make a claim, you’d either have to do a web search for “National General reviews” or “NatGen Premier reviews,” or, even better, get in touch with the office of your state insurance commissioner.
Insurance is regulated at the state level, not the federal level, which means your insurance commissioner should have a database of consumer complaints online. You can search for any insurer and see what kinds of experience customers in your state are having.
I was surprised to learn about GEICO acting as a reseller when it comes to home insurance policies. My next policy renewal with my current insurer doesn’t come up until October, so I’m in no rush to lock in with an insurer I’ve never heard of. I’m going to take my time and continue to shop over the coming months.
And of course, I’ll keep you updated on my shopping right here on Clark.com!