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Once a Massachusetts-only insurer, the last few decades have seen Commerce grow by leaps and bounds. Commerce itself writes insurance only in two states, but acquisitions and subsidiary companies have extended their reach into several additional markets . They promise the personal service of a smaller insurance company with the financial strength of the major one that backs them as parent company, and write all of the basics of personal and business insurance.
Commerce Insurance Overview
Commerce Insurance was founded in 1972 in Webster, Massachusetts, and still has its headquarters there today. The company became the largest provider of auto insurance in the state, and began to expand in the 90s starting with the purchase of Western Pioneer Insurance Company, which was renamed Commerce West, in California in 1995.
In 1999 the company made a big move, acquiring the Automobile Club Insurance Company out of Columbus, Ohio in a joint venture with AAA, expanding it’s coverage to 11 more states. The company was re-branded into the Commerce family as American Commerce Insurance Company.
Commerce expanded into New Hampshire in 2001 and then into New York in 2007 with the purchase of SWICO Enterprises, which is the holding company for State-Wide Insurance Company. This acquisition put Commerce in the New York auto insurance market.
In 2008, Commerce Insurance Group became part of Spain-based international insurance company MAPFRE. The acquisition made Commerce part of one of the biggest insurance giants on the planet, and brought all of their companies under the name of MAPFRE U.S.A Corp.
Commerce still uses their old name throughout their website, although all branding on the website is now the MAPFRE name and logo, and that is the official name of the company today.
MAPFRE is the largest insurance company in Latin America, ranks among the top ten in Europe, and offers coverage in 43 countries. As part of MAPFRE, Commerce is backed by a very strong financial base, placing it up there with the other huge insurance companies in the U.S., although it’s still a small company when taken separate from its recent parent.
Since its founding, Commerce has been committed to selling insurance products through independent agents, and that continues to be true today. Part of their history shows that the company was founded with the purpose of offering agents competitive products through an insurer offering solid service to back them. As a MAPFRE company, Commerce is now part of a chain of more than 50,000 agents around the world, although their products are still sold in Massachusetts and New Hampshire only (with the exception of those sold through subsidiaries in other states).
Although policies are sold through agents only, the website does offer online quoting for auto insurance. Homeowners, umbrella, and flood/earthquake coverage are also available, with life and business insurance available only in Massachusetts.
Commerce Insurance Products
Commerce writes the three basics of personal insurance (auto, home, and life) in Massachusetts and both auto and home in New Hampshire, along with personal umbrella. They also write insurance policies for businesses in Massachusetts.
Commerce’s premier product is their auto insurance program, which is offered in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, and in other states through subsidiaries and other MAPFRE companies.
Commerce’s auto program is fairly straightforward. They offer all of the required coverage in each state along with the most common options such as collision, comprehensive, towing and labor, and alternate transportation coverage.
They also offer a few of the more common add-ons in the insurance industry, such as disappearing deductible and accident forgiveness. Commerce advertises their accident forgiveness program as being different from the usual because more drivers qualify for it than with other insurance companies. New drivers as well as those who don’t meet a specific requirement for number of years accident-free, making it more accessible than with other companies, can purchase accident forgiveness.
Thanks to Commerce’s association with AAA, special discounts are available to auto club members. The Loyalty Plus discount gives AAA members an extra 10% off on their premiums. The AAA discount doesn’t appear to be offered in New Hampshire. Other discounts include auto/home, an educator discount, good student, green vehicle, and many other common auto discounts.
The New Hampshire auto program is considerably less comprehensive than what is available in Massachusetts. Fewer discounts are available and the disappearing deductible and accident forgiveness programs don’t exist. There is much less information available in regards to New Hampshire insurance, and Commerce remains a bigger force in Massachusetts in terms of auto coverage.
Commerce doesn’t appear to have a true usage-based insurance program, but does offer its DriveAdvisor program, which uses the same telemetrics used by other companies to provide parents of new drivers with feedback and information on driving habits. Unlike most such programs, there’s no premium adjustment for the feedback, instead it’s simply used to help parents keep an eye on and improve teen driving habits.
DriveAdvisor feedback can be viewed online, making it easy for parents to keep tabs on what their young driver is up to.
Commerce offers home insurance in both Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Both states have two levels of coverage, the standard Commerce policy and the premier Citation policy, which offers more coverage and higher limits. This allows the company to insure a variety of homes, including those that might not qualify for a premier level policy.
In addition to the two levels of coverage, homeowner’s can also choose to purchase add-on endorsements. Available in both states, the Advantage Endorsement adds coverage such as:
- Identity theft
- Water back-up and sewage overflow coverage
- Incidental business activities of minors protection
- Increased limits on specific personal property such as money, jewelry, watercraft, firearms, and more
Commerce homeowner’s insurance policies offer replacement cost coverage on personal property, rather than actual cash value, which is not so with all homeowner’s policies. That means items will be covered at the cost to replace them rather than at the depreciated value.
In-Home Business coverage is also available on New Hampshire homeowner’s policies. This coverage provides for home-based businesses and home offices.
Also available from Commerce are condominium owner’s policies and renter’s insurance to meet the specific needs of condo owners and tenants. These policies focus more on personal property and liability, and each has specifics for the type of risks specific to owning a condo or renting a home.
Flood and earthquake coverage can also be added to provide extended protection against these risks that are generally not covered by homeowner’s insurance.
Commerce writes personal umbrella policies in both states to provide additional liability coverage above and beyond the limits of underlying auto and home policies. These policies protect against lawsuits and major negligence claims that could exceed the limits of auto or home insurance liability.
Life insurance is available in Massachusetts. MAPFRE writes simple term life insurance that is available in lengths from 10 to 30 years. There are flexible premiums payment options: monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, and annually.
Commerce offers “no medical exam” coverage to get life insurance easily and quickly. The application process is paperless and customers can obtain a decision on their application within a few minutes, making it a good choice for anyone who has basic life insurance needs and wants a policy quickly.
The downside to policies like this is they often come with low limits and high rates. A healthy individual will get a better policy at a cheaper rate if they go through the health screening process.
Commerce offers a few basic types of business insurance policies, from packages to commercial auto. Business insurance is only available in Massachusetts.
The Commercial Multi-Peril Policy is available for businesses that meet the specific requirements. This type of policy is a package that includes coverage for liability and property in one. Written as either a Businessowner’s or Commercial Package policy, coverage includes things like loss of income and equipment breakdown. Coverage is available for a number of perils including fire and water damage.
Commercial Auto insurance is available from Commerce to cover a variety of different types of business vehicles. Coverage includes all of the basics of auto coverage as well as options suited specifically to the type of business, allowing the policy to be personalized for each company.
Commerce writes insurance policies specifically for automobile dealers that combine garage auto and commercial property coverage. These auto dealers’ policies are a package that covers the specific risks of this type of business.
Commercial Umbrella insurance policies are also available to provide additional liability coverage on top of policies for a variety of different types of business.
Prices and Premiums
Since Commerce writes insurance only in two states, it’s difficult to compare rates through our usual test sample. Another company does write insurance in other states, and quotes can be obtained through the MAPFRE website. Rates are on the higher end of the spectrum through MAPFRE, but that doesn’t really reflect how competitive Commerce is in its areas of direct operation, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
As an agent-drive insurance company, Commerce is likely to be higher in price due to commissions. Quotes can be obtained online for auto insurance, but you’ll then be directed to an agent to complete the process. Online quoting is only an option for Massachusetts drivers, and requires that you enter a great deal of personal information in order to get a quote, something that might put off people who simply want a ballpark number without winding up on anyone’s marketing list.
Commerce is most certainly not advertised as a discount insurer, instead pushing service and personal attention as perks that make rates worth paying. They must be doing something right in terms of pricing, however, since they have a large market share in Massachusetts.
Prices are likely to be better for AAA members thanks to special discounts, and for those who bundle auto and home together to obtain additional discounts. Judging by MAPFRE’s rates, however, it’s not highly likely that Commerce is going to offer most people the lowest rate on their insurance even with discounts, so we’ll take a closer look at their service and reputation to help determine whether paying a little more is worth it.
There are a number of ways to report a claim to Commerce Insurance. Policyholders can report the claim to their own insurance agent, or can also report directly to Commerce.
The 24-hour claims phone numbers are:
- 800-221-1605 in Massachusetts
- 800-513-4813 in New Hampshire
Commerce also offers the option to report a claim online, through a system shared by a number of MAPFRE companies. These are all of the options we expect to see from a large insurance company, and becoming pretty standard even among smaller companies as more customers prefer to handle issues online rather than over the phone.
Commerce offers a detailed look at the claims process on their website. The process starts with reporting of the claim, after which the damage will be appraised by Commerce.
Commerce has 80 Drive-In Appraisal locations where drivable cars can be quickly assessed. Commerce states that the use of these drive-in appraisal centers speeds up the claims process by 48 hours. If the vehicle isn’t drivable or the policyholder doesn’t want to come to a drive-in location, Commerce appraisers will come out to make an inspection of the damage. After this, an estimate is formulated for repairs.
Commerce has a network of approved shops through which they offer a repair guarantee. Policyholders can also choose their own repair shop, but they won’t receive the guarantee on repairs if that shop is not on the approved list.
The adjuster will then review coverage and make a payment minus applicable deductibles.
Commerce also has a quick-repair option for glass only claims to get glass repaired or replaced quickly.
For a company like Commerce that relies on the personal service of agents and promises of good customer care to make up for higher overall cost of insurance, claims service is the main area where the promises need to be made good.
Unfortunately, Commerce insurance doesn’t appear to be making the grade, at least based on the J.D. Power auto claims satisfaction survey, which ranks companies based on a points system in several areas of satisfaction.
In 2014, MAPFRE-Commerce ranked at the very bottom of the list for claims satisfaction. The company received 804 points out of a possible 1000, ranking more than 50 points below the industry average and earning a two out of five below average rating. That’s bad news for a company that’s generally charging higher rates than their competitors.
Indeed, most of the complaints about Commerce tend to center on claims issues, although many of them seem to be in regards to surcharges that the insured felt were unfair after an at-fault accident. There are also several complaints from non-Commerce customers regarding their experience after an accident with a Commerce insured. However, it should be noted that there are also a few positive reviews of Commerce for claims service throughout various consumer review sites.
Overall, it seems Commerce/MAPFRE has some work to do in the claims service department. It’s encouraging to see that there are actually some positive reviews, but falling at the very bottom of the J.D. Power list is a pretty powerful statement, raising a few red flags.
We’ve already determined that Commerce Insurance hasn’t fared well in terms of claims satisfaction. The news from J.D. Power’s studies continues to be bad for Commerce.
The 2015 Overall Customer Satisfaction rankings break down the ratings by area, which means Commerce is up against other insurers in the New England region. On the smaller playing field, Commerce-MAPFRE again falls to the very bottom. They received a two out of five rating and a total of 774 points out of 1000, which places them as the lowest ranked in overall satisfaction.
The New England regional average for 2015 was 801 points. Top-ranked insurer AMICA came in at 866 points, almost 100 more than Commerce.
It’s interesting to note that the New England insurers had the lowest average rating of all of the regions in the study, indicating that drivers in this area are in general less satisfied than their counterparts elsewhere.
The number of complaints against the company listed by the BBB isn’t as high as you’d expect given the poor showing in both J.D. Power surveys. Commerce, listed under MAPFRE, an A+ rating and has a total of 61 complaints in the past three years, 20 of which were closed in the previous 12 months. Those numbers aren’t high for such a big company, nor are they as high as I would expect considering how the company ranks in satisfaction surveys. This may be due to the different between the willingness of people to make a complaint on their own versus responding to a survey.
As noted above, the majority of complaints online are in regards to claims service and surcharges against customers following a claim. It appears that Commerce policyholders tend to feel the company is too harsh in their surcharges for what are generally described as minor accidents.
Some of these complaints can be explained by a lack of consumer understanding of the terms of their policies; there is actually not a lot in terms of truly bad customer service in most of the reviews, mainly people who weren’t happy with the outcome. There are some complaints about slow or rude service, but overall the content of the complaints doesn’t seem to match with the very low ratings handed down in the J.D. Power survey.
In the end, a review of all of the various complaints and studies leaves us with the feeling that Commerce customers appear to be more harsh in their judgment when asked about the company in a survey – certainly there is nothing either in the number of complaints or in the content of those complaints that would raise red flags otherwise. The number of positive reviews is a pretty strong balance to the complaints, since fewer customers tend to write reviews when they are happy.
Now operating as MAPFRE, Commerce Insurance is a relative newcomer to the industry but has the financial backing of in international insurer to offer stability. They have a limited number of products, and serve mainly two states, although other affiliated companies provide coverage elsewhere.
Commerce is popular enough to have a large market share in spite of low ratings for customer satisfaction; the reviews themselves don’t create any major feelings of concern in their content in spite of the low ratings in surveys. This leaves some mixed feelings about the company’s reputation.
With rates that generally aren’t going to compete well with other major insurance companies, and some strikes against their reputation, Commerce is not at the top of our list for New England drivers. While some people, such as AAA members, may find the rates to be reasonable, most people are likely to find a better deal elsewhere, and with a company ranked higher in satisfaction.
For a list of companies that we recommend, visit our Best Insurance Companies page.