Bristol West Auto Insurance Review

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

Bristol West Summary

Bristol West Insurance was founded in Florida in 1973, offering personal auto 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.

Bristol West has never expanded their product lineup, just their 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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Insurance Products

Bristol West 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 can differ from state to state in terms of coverage options and discounts. A variety of companies 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 pretty basic. Liability, comprehensive, and collision along with a few other common coverage options are universally available, while other options may vary.

Optional coverage’s include:

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

With a separate page dedicated to each state’s auto insurance program, the website makes it easy to check your state’s specific information. However, the differences across states makes it very difficult to create a comprehensive overview of Bristol West’s auto insurance program.

Bristol West Insurance Rates

Bristol West does not offer online quoting, and all policies are quoted and sold through agents. As a result, it’s difficult to do a quick price comparison.

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

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

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

Claims

Bristol West has two options for claims 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 Bristol West website that offers information in terms of how claims are handled or what kind of time frame customer 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.

Consumer Research and Complaints

Finding Bristol West on the BBB is a bit of a challenge, as several offices come up. The BBB points to an aggregate for the company based on the San Jose location. This page offers no BBB rating, but lists a total of 50 complaints against the company in the past three years, 22 of which were closed in the past 12 months.

While that’s generally not a lot 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 didn’t land in the correct place.

Bristol West 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 49 complaints on PissedConsumer, mainly focusing on poor customer service and clams handling. Similar complaints appear on Consumer Affairs, where there is a one-star rating out of the 42 total star ratings, and a total of 64 reviews that appear to be uniformly negative.

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.

Financial Strength

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

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, Bristol West is an alright choice for many drivers.

For a list of companies that we recommend, visit our Best Insurance Companies page.

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