UPDATED: Nov 30, 2018
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About Brethren Mutual
Brethren Mutual was founded in Hagerstown, Maryland in 1897 to provide insurance protection to local farmers. Although they were initially connected with the Church of the Brethren and provided coverage only to members, the company no longer has any association with the religious organization, having removed restrictions on membership in 1917.
Today the company serves four states and the District of Columbia, although only commercial lines are currently offered in D.C. The other states are Brethren’s home state of Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, and Pennsylvania.
Brethren Mutual is focused on property and casualty insurance. Their personal insurance options include both home and auto insurance, and they also insure businesses and farms – their original line of business.
Policies are sold through local independent agents across their service area, and the company still maintains its headquarters in Hagerstown.
Brethren Mutual Products
Brethren Mutual provides auto insurance as well as coverage for several types of home. They also write an array of commercial package policies and comprehensive coverage for farms of all sizes. The website offers limited information on each product.
The company website states that their auto insurance program is tiered, offering the best rates to those that qualify. Their website does not provide details on those tiers, however, nor do they explain what the qualifications are for each tier.
The personal auto program includes all of the basics – liability, medical payments, comprehensive coverage and collision coverage – and a short list of optional add-ons. These include towing and labor, electronics coverage, customized equipment, non-owned vehicle coverage, and transportation expenses.
Brethren Mutual writes home insurance for a variety of housing types. These include single-family homes, mobile homes, and rental dwellings. They also offer renter’s insurance. As with the auto policies, information on these programs is limited to a basic overview.
Homeowner’s insurance includes all of the standard coverage offered with most such policies. The structure itself, personal property, and liability are all included in the basic policy. They also offer common endorsements, such as home business, extended replacement cost, water backup, identity theft, and special contents coverage. Equipment breakdown coverage is also available as an option.
The information available for the other types of home insurance is even more limited than that for homeowner’s.
Brethren Mutual has a large selection of commercial policies for a wide variety of industries and specialty organizations. Available options include:
- Commercial package policies
- Special Religious organization policies
- Commercial Auto
- Special Garage policies for automotive services
- Worker’s Compensation
- Professional Liability
- Country Club Custom Endorsement
Among the types of company eligible for coverage are retail, restaurants, franchised motels and hotels, funerals, beauty parlors, and non-profits. They also have a business owners package policy for what is known as “main street businesses” – small shops, offices, bakeries, delis, and similar small businesses.
Farm insurance is Brethren’s oldest product, and they offer three levels of package policy to meet the needs of various types of farmers.
Their Farm Plus endorsement is available to add extra coverage to the package policy, providing 125% replacement cost coverage on the farm dwelling along with coverage for embryos, refrigerated goods, identity fraud, and credit card coverage among other extra protection.
Farm Equipment Breakdown coverage is included in every package policy. Add-ons include worker’s compensation and farm auto.
Being a local-agent driven company, Brethren Mutual offers quotes only through those agents. There is no method of obtaining a quote online.
Smaller companies are often more expensive than major national insurers but usually aim to make up for the higher rates with excellent customer service and other perks. With a mutual company, that sometimes includes kickbacks to policyholders when there is profit surplus. That may appear as rate reductions or as dividends; we were unable to find any information as to how Brethren Mutual approaches this, however.
Brethren Mutual has two separate claims phone numbers. One is available during business hours, which are listed as Monday through Friday 8:00 a.m.to 4:30 p.m. (presumably Eastern time based on the head office location). The other line is the after-hours claims line, which is serviced by a third party.
Online claim reporting is not an option for this company. This is not uncommon for smaller companies, but in this day and age, it is something we are starting to expect even from the smallest insurer, and in particular those that do not have a dedicated 24-hour claims line.
Brethren Mutual uses a third party direct repair network, CEI, to provide preferred repair shop services. Work through these companies comes with guarantees on work and direct connection to the claims department; customers are always free to choose the repair shop they prefer.
Auto glass claims are also serviced by a third-party provider, Gerber National Claim Service. This service is used only for auto claims that involve solely glass repairs.
Ratings and Consumer Reviews
Brethren Mutual has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau (BBB), and there is only one complaint on file in the past three years. That is excellent, even for a small company where complaint volume is generally lower.
The company’s Facebook page has only four reviews, with a 2.8-star rating overall that stems from a combination of two negative and two positive reviews. Unfortunately, the positive reviews do not include any commentary. One of the negative reviews cites claims handling problems, the other is more general.
There is not much more out there in terms of customer opinions of this company. The low complaint volume generally comes out as a positive thing for Brethren Mutual.
The Bottom Line
Brethren Mutual has a long history and a good reputation; we found nothing of concern in the reviews or ratings. Without much information on products and rates, it is difficult to make a recommendation for this company, but they may appeal to those that prefer a small, homegrown company and like to work with an agent versus a direct buy experience.
For a list of companies that we recommend, visit our Best Insurance Companies page.