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Taking on GEICO’s big promises of lower rates in 15 minutes, 21st Century Insurance steps up to the plate promising to take only 7 minutes of your time to save you even more than GEICO.
Backed by one of the biggest groups in the country, Farmers Insurance, 21st Century approaches the budget insurance market with big promises of savings and an advertising campaign that walks the line between funny and just plain laughable. At the end of the day, however, it’s the products and service that have to speak for themselves – and big promises mean a lot for an insurance company to live up to.
21st Century Overview
21st was founded in 1958 as 20th Century Insurance, offering mainly auto insurance to California drivers. The name changed with the new century, and the company was acquired twice – first by AIG in 2005, and then by Farmers Insurance Group in 2009 on the heels of AIG’s financial struggles and government bailout.
As part of the Farmers Insurance Group, 21st Century offers a wide range of products that are underwritten by the various companies, including homeowner’s and life, and is able to offer bundling discounts as a result. 21st Century only underwrites their auto insurance, and even within the company there are several other subsidiary companies running in various states.
Farmers Insurance Group is the 5th largest auto insurer in the nation, which places 21st Century in a very popular and stable family of companies.
21st Century operates in nearly every state and the District of Columbia. All of their claims service is run through the Farmers HelpPoint claims system, although they do provide their own customer service. The company’s headquarters is in Wilmington, Delaware, but they have offices in various locations to serve their customers.
Although Farmers products are sold through agents, 21st Century is a direct-buy insurance company, which allows them to keep rates low. They offer people who might find Farmers policies too expensive a more budget-minded option, and they promise to offer rates even lower than direct-buy giant GEICO. Some of the other policy offerings might require the help of an agent, particularly Farmers policies.
21st Century quotes are available online, by phone, and even through the company’s mobile app, which makes them one of the more accessible in terms of getting quick quotes.
21st Century is primarily an auto insurance company, and all of the other products listed on their site are actually offered through other companies in the Farmers Group. As a result, we’ll take a close look at their auto products, and then do a quick overview of what’s available through Farmers and other group companies, particularly which products offer bundling discounts.
Budget auto insurance is what 21st Century is all about. They advertise that their auto policies provide “the same great coverage for less”, and although the website doesn’t state what “great coverage” they’re referring to, advertising places them in direct competition with GEICO and Progressive. This makes sense given that they are all aiming for the same target market and all considered to be among the more affordable insurance companies.
Based on advertisements, we can expect to see the same type of coverage available from competitors, and it seems customers will have to go to the GEICO or Progressive websites to find out what that coverage is, as 21st Century offers no information on their own website.
Unlike most car insurance companies, there is no list of the available coverage, no options, or list of add-ons and packages. While there are pages in the auto Insurance Information section of the website that outline the types of coverage, it only shows general information. There is nothing specific describing what coverage 21st Century actually offers.
Again, when it comes to discounts, there is a general list of common auto insurance discounts, and no specific list of what discounts 21st Century offers. The common ones listed include good student and safe driver discounts, as well as multi-vehicle.
Clicking on the link that appears to be the informational page on 21st Century’s auto insurance takes the visitor directly to the quoting page. This might be great if you have already decided to get a quote from 21st Century, but if you’re just looking to research the company and find out what sort of auto insurance program they provide, it is likely to prove frustrating.
Since 21st Century doesn’t offer any specifics on their auto program, we can only assume that they offer basic coverage options without any of the trendy new programs such as usage-based insurance or accident forgiveness. That seems likely given the fact that they are a budget insurance company, but it’s difficult to say for sure.
Online quoting for auto is likely to give more details on the coverage, but the system requires a great deal of personal information in order to obtain a quote, which will have the effect of putting off those who want to simply research insurance companies without providing the kind of information that results in junk mail and spam.
One area of coverage that is specifically outlined is the included 24-hour roadside assistance program, which comes free with all auto policies. It includes coverage up to $75 per incident (higher in some states) for towing and other roadside emergency needs. That’s a nice perk that is generally an added cost with most insurance companies.
As a result of the general lack of information, it’s difficult to develop a clear picture of what 21st Century offers in terms of their flagship product. That’s an enormous oversight on the company’s website that really needs to be addressed in order for the company to remain competitive in the online market.
Other Products – Farmers and Foremost
The majority of additional products available on the 21st Century website are written by other companies in the group, particularly parent company Farmers and their specialty insurance company, Foremost.
Homeowner’s Insurance policies are written by both Farmers and Foremost, with Foremost handling those homes that do no qualify for the Farmers program. Farmers writes mainly standard homeowner’s insurance and landlord policies. Foremost writes non-standard homeowner’s and dwelling fire policies, and also writes mobile and manufactured home insurance.
Farmers and Foremost offer a 10% discount on homeowner’s insurance policies for drivers who are insured with 21st Century, a perk of staying within the Farmers Group for both policies. As far as I can tell, that’s the only bundling discount available.
Foremost writes a variety of specialty auto and other vehicle policies, such as:
- Antique Auto
- Personal Watercraft
These are all written through Foremost’s Power Sports program.
Life Insurance policies are available through Farmers New World Life, which offers term and permanent coverage at a variety of levels.
Other Products – Outside Farmers
21st Century does help customers with obtaining a few other types of insurance outside of the Farmers Group. Personal Umbrella is offered through a non-affiliated company, surprising since Farmers writes this type of insurance. Flood insurance is also offered through the National Flood Insurance Program.
Prices and Premiums
21st Century Insurance advertises itself in a very specific way – as the company that offers the same coverage and even better rates than low-priced favorite GEICO. That means we should expect to see rates even better than GEICO, a company that always performs very well on sample rate comparisons.
In response to GEICO’s 15 minutes could save you 15%, 21st Century Insurance tells us they’ll save you up to $522 in only 7 minutes. While the minutes don’t matter to most people – when it comes to shopping for insurance, most people don’t care about a few minutes in the quoting process – the savings really do. So the big question is, how does 21st Century perform?
In rate tests, 21st Century comes in about 32% below the average, ranking as even cheaper than GEICO, which comes in at around -27%.
On top of that, 21st Century is able to offer savings on homeowner’s insurance for those who bundle with a Farmers or Foremost policy, so the savings could be even more.
It’s important to bear in mind when reading promises like “average savings of $522” that these numbers are not based on every quote 21st Century hands out, but on those who actually did switch. Since 21st is targeting the market of budget-conscience shoppers, its a good bet that most who do switch actually did save money.
That said, both sample rate comparisons and commentary from customers across various review sites live up to the company’s promises. Their insurance is cheap.
As for whether their coverage is just as good as any other insurance company, the lack of information makes it difficult to say. “You get what you pay for” is often the case with car insurance, with customer service being sacrificed for a lower bottom line. We’ll take a look at how consumers have reviewed the company shortly.
Advertising and Media
Like most insurance companies aiming at the budget-minded insurance customer, 21st Century takes the funny approach to advertising. They take aim at competitors like GEICO and Progressive directly in their advertising, using various examples to show that they offer the same coverage and service while saving you money.
The approach is pretty much the same in the advertising as it has been for many years. Two cars, two insurance companies, two equal policies – but one insurance customer paid a lot less. The more recent advertising, such as this one aimed at GEICO or this one naming Progressive are an improvement over some past ad campaigns, such as the head-scratching “taste test” commercial that turned auto insurance into a pink liquid.
21st Century doesn’t have a well-known logo or mascot, and their smaller presence in the media in general is likely a part of why they are able to keep rates so low.
21st Century has two major sponsorships, both of which are intended to reflect community involvement. These are the Special Olympics and the March of Dimes March for Babies, both of which they have sponsored repeatedly over the years. They’ve also sponsored a number of contests, including offering scholarships.
Claims service is the most important aspect of any auto insurer’s reputation. Cheap car insurance is no longer worth the savings if the company doesn’t provide the service you need when you have a claim.
As a budget insurer, claims is the area where 21st Century is really put to the test.
21st Century customers can file a claim one of two ways:
21st Century offers a lot more information about their claims process than about their actual product. The process is broken down into their 5 Milestone checklist, representing the 5 steps along the way to a completed claim, each of which is carefully explained. These steps are:
- Claim Assignment – The reported claim is assigned to an adjuster.
- Initial Contact – The adjuster contacts you and records the details of the claim.
- Evaluation – The adjuster inspects the damage and any evidence relating to the incident.
- Resolution – The repairs are done and payments are made in accordance with the policy limits.
- Claim Closed – The settlement is complete and the claim is finalized.
21st Century uses Farmers “Circle of Dependability” Lifetime Guarantee Repair Shop Network, which is an option for customers to choose. Policyholders can also select the repair shop of their choice to complete the repairs. Work done through network shops carries a lifetime guarantee, as noted by the name, and is done in shops that work directly with the claims adjuster to complete repairs.
The 21st Century website offers a customer portal where claims status can be viewed. They also have an online service for scanning and sending in claims documents to an adjuster. Overall, the claims process comes off as modern and streamlined, as well as easily accessible to the customer.
Farmers HelpPoint, the same system that handles all Farmers insurance claims, handles all 21st Century claims. Interestingly, 21st Century ranks lower than Farmers on J.D. Power’s claims satisfaction survey for 2014, although neither company comes out looking particularly stellar. Farmers ranks as average with a three out of five rating, while 21st Century earns only a two out of five and a below average rating. When it comes to the points ranking, however, there’s only a 10-point gap between the two.
Overall, neither company performed well in these ratings, and 21st ranks below GEICO, the company with which they compete most directly. GEICO came out with a three out of 5 record, but with a higher ranking on the points scale, 854 to 832. Both companies came in below the industry average.
Interestingly, the reviews of the company are heavily weighted towards problems with billing and service, and not so much claims procedures or denials. We’ll take a look at the reviews in the next section, but it’s well worth noting that while claims are usually the vast majority of customer complaints, that doesn’t appear to be the case with 21st Century.
Consumer Feedback and Ratings
21st Century Insurance is not BBB accredited, but has an A+ rating. The company has 254 complaints registered in the past three years, with 52 closed in the past 12 months. The BBB doesn’t consider that a large number of complaints for a company as big as 21st Century, and has rated them highly as a result.
21st Century doesn’t have any complaints to which they did not respond, and the BBB indicates positive outcomes of the resolution process.
There are 134 reviews of 21st Century on Consumer Affairs, but only 32 reviewers left star ratings. Of those, one is a 5-star rating and the rest one and two stars. That’s pretty standard for this site, where there are rarely any positive reviews at all. The overall number isn’t terribly high for a company as big as 21st Century, and definitely not for this particular review site.
Again, we see a lot of complaints about billing, raised rates, premiums that changed after being quoted, and being billed after cancellation. There are also some claims complaints as well as several complaints about poor customer service.
Overall, the reviews paint a picture of a company that offers very low rates to begin with, but is quick to raise them whenever there is a ticket, an accident, or a change to the policy. Multiple complaints state that the company did not explain the rate increases effectively and also that it was difficult to cancel the policy, as the company would continue billing. This could be due to poor communication on the part of the company, or lack of understanding on the part of the customer of 21st Century’s rating system.
Interesting in the reviews is the general lack of comments about poor claims service, which could mean claims satisfaction is higher than J.D. Power would indicate – or that people are leaving the company for other reasons before they can experience the claims service.
As a general rule, there are more claims complaints than anything else about an insurance company, because that is when the customer has the most contact with the company. 21st Century doesn’t fit that mold. It seems they have some work to do in the customer service department, but in spite of the low claims satisfaction rating, customers aren’t writing poor reviews in any large volume in that area.
21st Century Insurance is certainly one of the cheapest insurance companies around. Their rates fall well below industry averages, and that is likely to appeal to anyone living on a budget. They’re backed by one of the biggest insurance groups in the country, making them a stable choice, and they generally have a pretty good reputation.
Thanks to a lack of information on the website, it’s difficult to draw any conclusions about their auto products, but the policies are likely to work well for anyone who doesn’t have complex insurance needs. Their claims system, through Farmers HelpPoint, is solid and easily accessible, and doesn’t draw a lot of negative reviews.
Thanks to the Farmer’s connection, auto/home discounts are available, and it makes 21st pretty much a one-stop shop for any personal insurance needs you might have.
For anyone shopping on a budget, 21st Century is well worth obtaining a quote, with the caveat that you’ll want to read over any fine print carefully to avoid confusion on how billing is handled and what your rates will be. If low rates are top o your list of must-haves for an insurance company, 21st Century should be a company you consider.
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