Where are vehicle insurers rated?

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The internet is both a blessing and a curse. At the click of a mouse (or a twitch of your finger), you can now summon up a small mountain of information about just about everything. So, if we google Chinese restaurants San Francisco to plan our meal out, we get 35,400,000 hits. That's just too much information. No-one could ever work through the first one-hundred thousand let alone millions. That's why the second and third hits are potentially useful. They are “Top 10” sites. Except, after years of experience, we all know many of the Top 10 sites are rigged.

Either they are straight advertising sites with fake reviews posted, or the site owners balance out all the real bad with fake good reviews to make it look like the jury is still out. The idea of a rating or ranking agency only works when it is independent and fearless, i.e. prepared to post honest information despite all the threats of defamation actions that can be triggered.

Unfortunately, we have also just watched the financial rating agencies give top grades to a passel of derivatives and bonds now only fit for feeding to the dogs. The curse is easily stated. Appearances can be deceiving on both sides of the fence. A top insurance company can look successful and have high ratings, but turn out to be a dog when you make a claim.

The first piece of advice is to ignore most of the reviewing sites. The majority claim to host genuine reviews but, in reality, a small band of dedicated people make a living out of writing reviews and posting them to every possible kind of site from social networking through blogs and their comments to dedicated reviewing sites. No matter what they claim, very few sites are reliable guides to an insurance company's performance. What do you need to know? First, that the company is financially sound. You do not want to start paying your premium instalments only to have the company enter bankruptcy protection six months down the line. The reputation of all the top rating agencies has taken a beating. You will find useful information on Standard & Poor's, Fitch and Moody's, but the most reliable is A.M. Best which specialises in the insurance industry.

The second thing you need to know is how well it handles claims. There's a Department of Insurance in every US state to regulate the local insurance companies. Without exception, they all operate a complaints service. In theory, this represents an excellent window into the secretive world of business, but the quality of what you see is affected by politics. In the best states where the policy is to protect consumers, the Departments name and shame the worst performing companies.

Check out your state's website. You may find objective information, listing the companies by name and giving a count of the number of valid complaints made. If you are unlucky enough to live in a Republican state, there will be no useful information. Now, when you search for the cheapest car insurance you can check the companies for financial stability and the number of complaints upheld by state regulators. This should guide your choice of policy to buy. Many times, the cheapest car insurance is not the best

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