Bristol West Insurance Review & Complaints: Auto Insurance

This Bristol West auto insurance review finds that Bristol West insurance rates are often better priced for certain classes of drivers, but the company's website is lacking when it comes to making your Bristol West Auto Insurance payments.

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Eric Stauffer is a former insurance agent and banker turned consumer advocate. His priority is to help educate individuals and families about the different types of insurance they need, and assist them in finding the best place to get it.

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Written by Eric Stauffer
Founder & Former Insurance Agent Eric Stauffer

Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products including home, life, auto, and commercial and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs. She has since used that knowledge in her more than ten years as a writer, largely in the insuranc...

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Reviewed by Leslie Kasperowicz
Farmers CSR for 4 Years Leslie Kasperowicz

UPDATED: Jun 1, 2022

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Bristol West Insurance

Financial Strength

With a history of several decades long, Florida-born Bristol West Insurance has come to focus exclusively on personal auto coverage.

What is Bristol West Insurance?

Bristol West Insurance was founded in Florida in 1973, offering personal car insurance. The company grew, expanding across the United States, and was acquired by the Farmers Insurance Group in 2007, joining one of the biggest groups in the nation.

The company has never expanded its product lineup, just its operating territory. Products are sold only through agents and brokers, and the company offers low down payment options as well as a selection of policy options from liability only through full coverage.

The company has offices in various locations, with main offices in their home state of Florida, and in Ohio.

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What insurance products does Bristol West offer?

Policies are marketed and sold by Farmers Agents including, in some states, those appointed under the Foremost Insurance Group, a subsidiary of the Farmers Exchange. Offerings for drivers can differ from state to state in terms of insurance coverage options and driver discounts. A variety of insurance providers under the Bristol West banner underwrite the policies but, again, this differs from state to state.

An overview of the policies across covered states shows that the company’s auto policies are quite basic. Liability coverage, comprehensive, and collision insurance along with a few other common coverage options are universally available, while other options may vary.

Optional coverage’s include:

  • Medical payments
  • Uninsured/underinsured motorist
  • Towing and labor
  • Rental reimbursement

Some states also have loan/lease (gap) coverage levels and additional equipment coverage available. Limited Mexico coverage is available for California.

Some states also have loan/lease (gap) coverage and additional equipment coverage available. Limited Mexico coverage is available for California.

Does Bristol West offer competitive rates?

The insurer does not offer online quoting, and all policies and features are quoted and sold through insurance agents. As a result, it is difficult to do a quick price comparison.

Farmers Insurance’s agents will often run rate quotes through all their subsidiary underwriting departments in order to get customers a lower rate. What this means is sometimes you may walk into a Farmers Insurance office, but walk out with a Bristol West policy because it was a lower price.

The company does not directly advertise as a low-cost company but does state that they offer low down payment options as well as several different payment options to make insurance more affordable for drivers. There is little evidence, however, to suggest that it is going to offer rates competitive with major low-cost insurers like Geico auto insurance company. They are agent-driven for sales, which is usually a sign of higher rates thanks to agent commissions.

Auto insurance discounts vary across the states, so it’s difficult to say how much impact there is on insurance policy rates. Without the benefit of major bundling discounts, it is unlikely to be seriously competitive in terms of cost for drivers. Farmers does offer multi-policy discounts with Foremost policies, but there is no information on whether this is available with the company.

Is the Bristol West claims process hassle-free?

Bristol West has two options for insurance claim filing. Customers can call a 24-hour toll-free line: 1-800-274-7865 to report a claim, or they can file the claim online. Customers can also log in online in order to check on the status of a claim.

Aside from claims filing information, there is very little on the website that offers information in terms of how claims are handled or what kind of time frame customers should expect in terms of when a claim will be settled. The site states that they aim to settle claims quickly, but there is no further detail.

Overall, the claims information on the website is somewhat lacking, which is a major oversight in a time when most insurance shoppers want to be able to thoroughly investigate an insurance company online.

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Are there consumer complaints against the insurance company?

Finding Bristol West on the BBB is a bit of a challenge, as several offices come up. The only office with a rating was the Indianapolis location, giving the company an A+ rating. There is only one complaint in the last three years listed, and it has been closed within the last 12 months.

While one complaint is very low in terms of a national company, the confusion involved in finding the correct place to lodge a complaint against the company leaves questions as to how many complaints did not land in the correct place.

The company has a good number of complaints on several consumer websites, enough to raise a little concern, even in an industry where complaints are relatively common. There are 68 complaints on PissedConsumer, mainly focusing on the company’s website and billing practices. Similar complaints appear on Consumer Affairs, where there are 71 one-star ratings out of 77 total ratings.

Considering that larger companies have had fewer complaints listed on both of these sites, the numbers are of concern, as well as the content of the complaints, which address similar issues repeatedly.

Overall, there is little in the reviews of the company to put it in a positive light, and enough negative to raise red flags.

What is the company’s financial strength rating?

Rating Company Grade Financial Outlook
AM Best A Stable
Fitch N/A N/A

What’s the bottom line?

Bristol West flies under the Farmers Insurance banner and is often quoted for customers by Farmer’s agents. They use a different underwriting process than their parent company, so they are often better priced for certain classes of drivers. They are serviced by the same claims department as Farmers, but the number of complaints raises a few flags. However, if the price is right, the company is an alright choice for many drivers.

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