In spite of what the name implies, Auto-Owners Insurance covers more than just cars. Founded as a group of companies almost 100 years ago, Auto-Owners actually offers a full range of personal lines insurance policies as well as business insurance. As a regional insurer, they’re the biggest insurance company in their home state of Michigan, but their service area extends far beyond the state borders.
Auto-Owners Insurance Group was founded in 1916 in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. Within a year in business, founder V.V. Moulton moved the fledgling company to Lansing, MI, and again in 1975 to Delta Township. The company expanded from Michigan to Indiana and Ohio in 1935, continually adding new states over the next number of decades. The most recent expansion was in 2009, when Pennsylvania became the 16th state on the roster.
In the 1940s the company expanded its lines of business as well, going beyond auto insurance and into the general casualty market. Below is the full list of companies that comprise Auto-Owners Insurance Group:
- Auto-Owners Insurance Company
- Auto-Owners Life Insurance Company
- Owners Insurance Company
- Home-Owners Insurance Company
- Property-Owners Insurance Company
- Southern-Owners Insurance Company
Auto-Owners is a mutual insurance company where all products are sold by independent agents, across the states in which the company does business. As of November 2014, Auto-Owners was the 17th largest auto insurer in the country, according to Insure.com, with just under 1% of the market share.
The product lineup currently includes the original – auto insurance – as well as home insurance, life insurance, umbrella, business, some disability, and long-term care products. The auto insurance line includes a subsection of vehicles that qualify for coverage, including RVS and off-road vehicles. The company covers most of the bases with personal lines for a fairly convenient one-stop shopping option.
The company website is fairly basic, but does include a customer portal where current customers can log in to view policy information. However, little detail is given to specifically outline what information is accessed through the portal. The site provides insurance information by state for all of the states in which products are sold.
Auto-Owners Insurance Products
Auto insurance remains one of the company’s biggest products, keeping them in the top 20 car insurance providers in the nation. Through all of the group of companies that comprise Auto-Owners Insurance Group, they also write a good selection of products to meet the needs of most people for individual insurance, and policies for small to large businesses as well.
Auto insurance is available across all 26 states in which Auto-Owners does business. Their policies are comprehensive, providing all of the basic coverage as well as a long list of options and add-ons.
One particular package add-on that is fairly feature-packed is the Personal Auto Plus Package. This package takes the standard policy to the next level, adding a long list of coverage that isn’t available on the average car insurance policy.
The Personal Auto Plus Package includes:
- Trip Interruption coverage
- Cell phone and other mobile device coverage – to pay for lost phones, GPS devices, and other similar devices
- Increased Transportation Cost coverage – to help get you to your destination if your car breaks down
- Non-Owned Trailer coverage for physical damage
- Supplementary Payments coverage – provides $500 per occurrence for bail bonds as the result of a traffic violation and $250 per day for other expenses
- Identity Theft Coverage
- Personal Property Coverage
- Automobile Audio, Video, and Stereo coverage
- Rental Automobile Gap Coverage
- Loss of Use by Theft coverage
- Re-Key coverage
- Deductible Amendatory – benefit waives the deductible if you are involved in a collision with another Auto-Owners customer, and charges only the highest deductible of the two if both your vehicle and trailer are involved in a collision
This package comes with an extra premium, but adds a great deal of coverage over similar add-on packages from other insurance companies.
Additional coverage with Auto-Owners’ policies include:
- Loan/Lease Gap coverage
- Full Glass
- Pet Medical
- Rental Car Coverage
- Road Trouble Service
Many of these are part of a full coverage policy at no extra charge, making the policy a pretty good value compared to some stripped-down basic policies.
Additionally, Auto-Owners also goes above and beyond when it comes to the offered discounts.
Available discounts include:
- Safe Driver
- Mature Driver
- Multi-policy discounts including auto/home, auto/life and even
- Safety features
- Green vehicle
- Student discounts
- Paid in Full
Discounts available vary by state.
Insurance for Other Vehicles
In addition to car insurance, Auto-Owners writes a variety of policies for other types of vehicles and towables, making Auto-Owners a pretty good one-stop shop for most consumers. Coverage is available for the following types of vehicles and trailers:
- Antique & Classic Vehicles
- Converted/Modified Vehicles
- RVs and Travel Trailers
- Motorcycles and Mopeds
- Low-Speed Vehicles
- Utility Trailers
Unlike many other large insurance companies, Auto-Owners appears to underwrite all of these policies directly. It’s very common for some of the bigger insurance companies to sell products underwritten by smaller, lesser known companies, but there is no indication that this is the case here, which is a plus for those who want to stick with a name they trust.
Notably absent from the product line-up is any sort of boat or watercraft coverage, although boat coverage for some types of damage is an option on their home insurance policies, which we’ll look at next.
Coverage is available for a variety of home types, including standard single-family homes and the following variations:
- Rental Units
- Mobile Homes
Additionally, Renters insurance is available to cover personal property for those living in a rental unit where structure coverage is not required.
Coverage on home insurance policies includes 100% replacement cost for the home, personal property, personal liability, as well as additional options.
Additional options for home insurance policies include:
- Sewer/sump pump backup coverage
- Boat coverage
- Food spoilage as a result of a power outage
- High-value items such as furs, jewelry, art, instruments, and computers
- Sports equipment coverage
- Identity Theft
The company offers a variety of discounts on their home insurance policies, including the many options for multi-policy discount, mature homeowners discounts, new home, and more.
A variety of life insurance options are available, covering the three major types: universal, whole, and term. This policy lineup can meet just about any life insurance need.
There are four different permanent life insurance plans to choose from:
- Universal Life – the flexible option with a guaranteed death benefit and tax-deferred savings
- Whole Life – the stable, guaranteed death benefit policy with level premiums
- Simplified Issue Whole Life – includes minimal underwriting requirements and is intended for people aged 50-80
- Simplified Issue Children’s Advantage Plan Plus – specifically for children through age 17 with increasing death benefits over time and the option to add an annuity rider in most states
Term life insurance policies are available in 10, 20, and 30-year Level Term plans as well as a Simplified Issue 5-year Level Term that is easy to obtain with few underwriting requirements.
Auto-Owners offers a number of different riders that can be added to their life insurance products, including:
- Disability Waiver of Premium
- Accidental Death
- Family Plan
- Mortgage Payment Disability Benefit
- Payor Death and Disability
- Guaranteed Purchase Option
Retirement & Additional Products
Auto-Owners provides a few basic products to help people prepare for the future, both in terms of retirement savings and in the event of health issues that can be a financial burden.
These products include:
- Long-Term Care Insurance
- Disability Insurance
Auto-Owners writes business insurance policies for companies of various sizes. They offer package policies as well as a variety of flexible coverage options to meet the needs of different types of business.
The following business coverage policies are available:
- Commercial building coverage
- Business liability
- Commercial auto
- Garage and dealership coverage
- Excess liability
- Employee liability
- Professional liability, including errors & omissions
- Contractor’s equipment coverage
- Inland Marine
- Business Life Insurance
- Optional Earthquake and Flood insurance
Auto-Owners offers a relatively uncommon multi-policy discount for those who have both personal lines and business insurance with the company. This is another example of the many combinations for which the company offers a discount.
Premiums & Discounts
Auto-Owners policies are sold exclusively through independent agents, and there is no online quoting system available. A quick search on the website can help you to find an agent, but you will have to contact the agent directly in order to obtain a quote.
Without an online quoting system, it is difficult to compare their premiums with those from other companies. As a general rule, insurance policies sold through agents tend to be a bit more expensive due to agent commissions. These added costs are eliminated with a direct-buy insurance company, such as GEICO.
One of the ways companies like Auto-Owners can combat this, and remain competitive, is by offering a good range of discounts. Where this company really shines is the incredible list of multi-policy discounts. Most insurance companies offer auto/home discounts, and many offer auto/life, but it’s pretty unusual to see the range of bundling options that Auto-Owners provides.
For just about any two Auto-Owners policies you can have, there is some sort of multi-policy discount. This means that rates are likely to become more reasonable the more business you have with the company. This is a great option for those who prefer to keep all of their insurance in one place, but won’t do much for those who need only auto insurance or have very minimal needs.
When it comes to an insurance company’s reputation, one of the most important characteristics is how claims are handled. After all, this is why we pay for insurance, to be protected in the event that we have a claim.
Auto-Owners, in keeping with its tagline, promises “No Problem” claims service. The website offers information on what to do in the event of a claim. There are several processes, which differ from state to state, so it can be a bit tricky to navigate the information.
The company has more than 90 claims centers across the 26 states where they do business. The Auto-Owner’s promise includes personalized claims service rather than a central claims office far away from where the accident occurred.
Auto-Owners does not have a full-time toll-free claims line, which is very unusual. Instead, during business hours claims are to be reported directly to the agent who sold and services the policy.
There is an After-Hours claims line 1-888-Claim-AO. This line is open from 4:30 p.m. to 8:00 a.m. Eastern time on weekdays and 24/7 on Saturdays and Sundays.
The website also lists a local phone number, 517-323-1200, as a contact line during business hours, 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., but doesn’t make it clear when this line would be used since the site recommends contacting your agent to report a claim during business hours.
While this might be a cost-saving measure to prevent the need for a fully staffed call center, it may lead to customers reaching agency voicemails and having to wait for a call back.
There is a 24/7 roadside assistance line at 1-888-TOW AOIC for any non-collision needs.
The good news is that this system seems to work fairly well. In a 2014 Claims Satisfaction Survey from J.D. Power, Auto-Owners earned a 4 out of 5, or above average, rating for overall customer satisfaction. That gives them a better rating than huge insurers such as GEICO and Farmers, and on par with the number one auto insurer, State Farm. The only area where satisfaction was rated at less than 4 out of 5 is in the repair process, and service interaction received a full 5 out of 5.
Overall, this is a very strong showing for the Auto-Owners claims process and seems to back up the “No Problem” promise.
There is not a lot of information available on how Auto-Owners handles the claims process, although it is likely similar to most other insurance companies. Agents report claims, a local claims center takes over, adjusters inspect the damage and examine the facts of the incident, and then they make a determination in terms of coverage and benefits.
Same-day glass-only claims service is available through association with major glass repair providers such as Safelite, although the provider varies from state to state.
There is a customer portal that allows customers to log in, but little information is available as to what services are provided – the website is not clear as to whether claims status is viewable through this portal.
Consumer Feedback & Reviews
When it comes to the front-end service – the policy purchasing experience, Auto-Owners doesn’t fare quite as well as it does in the claims department. The 2015 J.D. Power survey of the auto insurance purchase experience rates the company at 3 out of 5 – or about average according to the survey. The only specific area of the survey where the company saw a better rating is in the local agent category, which is important for any company depending entirely on agents to sell and service policies.
The BBB gives Auto-Owners a top A+ rating. There are a total of 70 complaints in the past three years, with only 17 closed in the past 12 months. Those numbers are low for a company of this size and seem to back up the satisfaction survey results, especially in the area of claims. There are no government actions reported against this insurance company through the BBB – overall this record is very good.
As far as customer complaints go, there are not a lot of them out there. That’s a really good sign, as people tend to take to the Internet to complain whenever they are unhappy with a company, particularly an insurance company. The difficulty in finding reviews about Auto-Owners points to a generally good customer experience, since few people bother to review a company when they’re satisfied.
Of the reviews that are available, complaints tend to be of the common variety with insurance companies – billing issues, some claims issues that appear to be a result of customer confusion with coverage, and complaints about agents. When it comes to a company that sells policies through agents, it can be difficult to differentiate between an issue with the agent in particular and an issue that is directly related to the company’s handling of policies and claims.
Some reviews are available for individual Auto-Owners locations throughout the country, but these reviews again present the difficulty of differentiating between a localized issue and a problem with the company as a whole.
Generally, there is little concern with the reviews and complaints available about Auto-Owners, which is very encouraging.
Auto-Owners is a strong insurance company with a fairly comprehensive list of policy offerings. They have a great discount program, which is likely to help offset the higher cost of agent-driven insurance. Their claims department, while a bit unusual in its design, holds up well to customer surveys, and overall the company has a good reputation.
Since Auto-Owners policies are not available in all states, they aren’t quite competitive with national insurers, but for the state in which they do provide coverage, the company is well worth a closer look. They are a good choice for anyone who needs several types of insurance and is looking to bundle, as well as for those who really want the personal attention of an agent in all aspects of the insurance buying – and servicing – process.
It would be nice to see a little more use of what the Internet today can provide, particularly in the area of online quoting and claims reporting. These things are becoming standard expectations of insurance companies and are areas where growing companies like Auto-Owners could really bring themselves into the modern insurance era, even while keeping the agency approach. A few changes like this could really put this insurance company over the top.
For a list of companies that we recommend, visit our Best Insurance Companies page.