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Approaching their 100th year in business, Erie has created a strong reputation, and as they advertise, they take insurance seriously.
Erie Insurance Summary
Erie Insurance was founded in Erie, Pennsylvania in 1925, originally selling auto insurance. A few years later they expanded to Pittsburgh, and in 1953 out of Pennsylvania and into Maryland. They expanded into fire and inland marine, adding homeowner’s insurance in 1961, and then life insurance in 1967. They have since added more products including commercial lines.
Erie Insurance is currently available in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia. Although they do not insure in every state, Erie has managed to secure a position just out of the top ten auto insurance companies in the nation, sitting at number 13 according to a 2014 Insure.com study. Erie has also secured a position in the Fortune 500, sitting currently at number 416.
Erie Insurance policies are sold through a network of independent agents across the states they currently serve. Quoting for auto insurance is available online, but it will require you to choose an agent as part of the process and to complete the purchase. Other lines of business can only be quoted through an agent. While they have a strong internet presence, Erie’s approach to selling policies remains very agent-driven.
Erie Insurance Products
Erie has a fairly basic lineup of insurance products, including the big three in the personal lines market – auto, home, and life – and a few other personal lines products as well as commercial products for small businesses. Their product lineup is not as varied as some other national insurers, but the products they offer are solid and have some interesting features and perks.
Erie started as an auto insurer in 1925, so it’s not surprising that they have a comprehensive auto insurance program. They offer all of the basics – liability, comprehensive, and collision – as well as some added benefits that come standard on all of their auto policies. Some of the more unusual added benefits are:
- Pet injury protection
- Post-collision transportation costs including rental car or bus fare
- Travel expenses if you are unable to reach your destination due to a covered loss
- Personal property coverage for items in your vehicle
- Waiver of deductible when both drivers in a collision are insured with Erie
It’s important to note that some of these added benefits require that you have purchased certain underlying coverage – generally collision coverage – in order to be applied to the policy. Still, this is an impressive list of added coverage for a full coverage policy. In addition to these benefits, there are other coverage options that can be added for an extra premium.
Auto Plus is an optional package that increases your coverage limits in several areas, including transportation expenses, personal property, and sound equipment. It also adds an increased death benefit. Auto Plus also comes with a diminishing deductible plan for claim-free years and a deductible waiver if a collision involves your home and it is insured by Erie. It’s nice to see an optional package that adds real value and not just gimmicks.
Erie Insurance offers a decent list of discounts, including some more unusual ones. There are a series of discounts for young drivers, including a College Student Discount and a Youthful Longevity Discount. There are also 55+ discounts for older drivers, and of course the basics such as safety features and multi-vehicle.
First Accident Forgiveness – Erie’s version on a pretty common and somewhat gimmicky offering from many major insurance companies. The difference here is that Erie generally offers it without the need to purchase an upgraded insurance package or pay a fee for the privilege. In most states, it kicks in after 3 years claim-free. At that point, your first at-fault accident won’t be charged against your policy.
Feature 15 – This one takes it a step further and really makes Erie stand out. This benefit is automatic as well – after an auto policy is in force continuously for 15 years, Erie will not surcharge you for any accident – ever. While this benefit varies by state, it’s a pretty impressive loyalty reward.
And there’s more – in addition to a good list of discounts, Erie offers another unique method of keeping auto insurance rates affordable:
Erie Rate Lock – A feature that actually locks in your premium whether or not you have an accident, as long as you don’t make certain changes to the policy. The rate stays locked in until you make a change of vehicle, add or remove a driver, or change your primary residence. Other than that, the plan promises you won’t see a rate increase, even if you have a claim.
Of course, there is fine print attached to the Rate Lock plan – it differs by state and you’ll have to meet certain underwriting guidelines, so it’s best to consult with an Erie agent to get the details as it applies to you.
Erie offers three different types of homeowner’s insurance policies, each with their own particular coverage options. That makes them stand out in this market, where there are often few options available to homeowners who may have budgetary or other specific needs in mind.
ErieProtect Home – This policy offers guaranteed replacement cost coverage for the home as well as a comprehensive package of coverage options for personal property and liability. The ErieProtect policy can be upgraded with one of three endorsement bundles:
- Advantage adds Identity Recovery as well as extra coverage for things like jewelry, silver, and other high value items
- Plus builds on the Advantage bundle and adds more coverage for things like business property and computers as well as watercraft and trailers. It also includes waiver of deductible for claims over $50,000
- Select provides everything included in the other two bundles as well as higher policy limits
ErieProtect – Available for single-family homes, condos, manufactured homes, apartments, and rental homes. Each of these provides varying options to meet the needs of the specific type of home being covered, while still providing the same basic homeowner’s benefits.
HomeProtector – Allow homeowner’s to choose the type of coverage they need, with three different options available.
- Broadcover is the most basic version, which covers named perils on both the structure and the personal property included in the policy
- Extracover adds more comprehensive coverage to the structure while keeping the named perils coverage on personal property.
- Ultracover is the most comprehensive level, with comprehensive coverage on both structures and personal property.
NC Homeowners – Policies designed specifically for North Carolina homeowners and are also available in three levels of coverage, much like the HomeProtector plans.
Erie also provides Renter’s Insurance policies to protect the personal property of those who are living in a rental property without the need for structure coverage.
Erie has been writing life insurance policies for more than 50 years and has a good range of products available. They write all of the basic types of life insurance, including a variety of term options, whole, and universal life. Additionally, Erie writes group life policies to business owners to provide as employee benefits.
Term life plans are available in multiple lengths and in two forms, the Erie LifeSense plan, which is available with a minimal medical history, and the regular Term Life in lengths from 10 to 30 years.
Whole life is also available with the LifeSense option, allowing a smaller benefit amount with an easier application process. The Juvenile 20-Pay Whole life is a plan designed specifically for children.
There are also several Universal life insurance products available – ErieSecure and ErieSecure Plus, with extra options to add flexibility to the policy. This allows you to choose the right benefit level as well as accessibility to benefits to suit your needs.
One of Erie’s oldest products is their inland marine line, and they also offer boat protector policies for a variety of different types of watercraft.
Inland marine policies can help to cover a much larger range of personal property than would otherwise be covered under a homeowner’s policy, while boat policies are designed for damage and liability as well as to cover other aspects of boat ownership. This includes trailer and transportation coverage.
Erie writes insurance package policies as well as individual policies for a variety of different types of businesses. Coverage is available for retail, medical, restaurant, wholesale, auto repair and dealers, and may other types of companies. Available coverage includes:
- UltraPack Plus Business Owner’s Policy – a package policy including business property protection as well as general liability
- Worker’s Compensation
- Business Auto
- Business Practices Liability
- Business Catastrophe Liability
- FiveStar Package – property and liability package for contractors with less than 10 employees
- UltraFlex – property and liability package for contractors
- UltraSure for Property Owners – a package policy for owners of condo and apartment buildings
- Garage Auto
Erie also writes a variety of other products, including retirement products such as annuities and IRAs, flood insurance, identity theft protection policies, and more. They even have a personal catastrophe and liability policy available.
Products Not Offered
Erie’s product lineup has some interesting options, but there are some holes in the list that prevent it from being a real contender in the one-stop insurance shopping market.
First of all, Erie doesn’t offer motorcycle insurance. Although there are plenty of people for whom this is not a problem, it’s something that will make motorcycle owners strongly consider taking all of their business elsewhere.
Also not offered – any kind of specialty vehicle coverage. Aside from boats, Erie doesn’t have any coverage for toys like ATVS, snowmobiles, recreational vehicles, or classic cars. That entire section of insurance is missing, which means customers will have to seek that coverage elsewhere.
Prices and Premiums
Erie Insurance doesn’t position itself as the most affordable insurance option, and in rate comparisons the company comes out above the average for premium pricing. Erie’s auto insurance rates are likely to be the most affordable for good drivers who are claims-free, and have more than one vehicle or other policies to bundle for discounts.
Erie offers online quoting for auto, but it requires a great deal of information to obtain a quote compared to other more user-friendly quoting systems. .
The good news is that while Erie may not have the best rates right off the bat, they do offer a number of ways to keep rates low over time and prevent them from rising such as the Rate Lock program and the various options for preventing surcharges.
It’s also important to note that Erie is the type of insurance company that caters to drivers who are low-risk, and they are not likely to offer the best rates for anyone with a higher risk status.
Advertising and Media
Erie Insurance has a pretty strong stance when it comes to the way they present themselves in the media and through their advertising. While many insurance companies use a lot of humor in their ads – big ones such as GEICO and Progressive, Erie not only takes a different approach but positions itself as firmly against the use of humor to sell insurance.
Erie has only recently used major marketing campaigns, but in the past few years has increased brand awareness with their “Seriously Good” slogan. The company specifically states that they aren’t gong to use laughs to get customers, and has posted billboards reminding customers that “funny ads are great, until you have a claim.”
Previous to this campaign, Erie relied mostly on word of mouth and on agent sales efforts to build its business, but the move into a larger media campaign speaks to the company’s hopes for more expansion in the future.
Erie recently joined some of the bigger insurance companies out there in the sports arena naming game, purchasing the naming rights to the Tulilo Arena in Erie, PA, which is now known as the Erie Insurance Arena. They are also active in a variety of charitable organizations.
Erie offers multiple methods of filing a claim, on par with most major insurance companies. Claims can be filed in the following ways:
- By phone 24 hours a day at 800-367-3743
- By contacting a local claims office as listed here
- Contacting your Erie agent
- Filing your claim online
Online filing can be used for most types of policies; the website directs the insured to enter the policy number and follow the instructions. However, some types of policies will require that the claim be filed via a different method.
The claims process can vary based on the type. Simple claims can be handled quickly, while more complex claims may take longer and require more investigation. The claims process for each type of claim is outlined in basic terms on the Erie website, but follows much the same path as most insurance companies. A claims adjuster will contact you after the claim is filed, gather information and investigate the incident, and then come to a settlement determination based on your coverage.
In a 2014 J.D. Power study, Erie insurance earned a 3 out of 5 rating for overall claims satisfaction. They had 4 out of 5 across the board in every category, placing them right at average among the other insurance companies studied. That means that while their claims department isn’t particularly failing to impress customers, it’s not really going above and beyond either.
For a regional company building a reputation based on taking insurance and claims more seriously than their competitors, a 3 out of 5 rating doesn’t quite live up to the promise. This is especially true for a company with rates that are higher on average than competitors. While the cost of a policy isn’t the only reason to choose an insurance company, the service level expected from a company that is charging more is much higher than from a bargain company. On that front, Erie isn’t quite reaching the standards I would expect.
Comments from customers regarding the claims experience include complaints about rude representatives, refusal to pay valid claims, and an unexpectedly difficult claims process overall.
Consumer Feedback and Reviews
Although the J.D. Power rating for claims satisfaction wasn’t impressive, Erie came out on top in the company’s survey for purchase experience, earning the highest rating and J.D. Power’s 2015 award for customer satisfaction. The only area where the company lost any points was in policy offerings, which may be due to their smaller size and lack of extended policy choices such as motorcycle and other vehicle types.
Erie Insurance Group is not Better Business Bureau accredited, but has an A+ rating, and only 85 complaints filed there within the past three years. 25 of those complaints were resolved and closed in the past 12 months, total numbers that are really low for an insurance company of this size. There are no government actions to report.
A quick review of the various complaints about Erie across the internet shows several complaints about how claims have been handled, which is in line with the company’s lower rating in claims satisfaction from JD Power. Overall, however, there are still a pretty low number of complaints out there, only a total of 30 can be found on Pissed Consumer, which is one of the more popular locations for insurance company complaints.
As a comparison point, MetLife Personal Insurance, which holds a similarly sized share of the auto insurance market to Erie, has 152 complaints on the same website. That tells us that while the word may be negative, there are not as many customers complaining as for other comparable companies.
A search of ConsumerAffairs.com, another common site for insurance company complaints, returned no file for Erie Insurance, which is really unusual considering the company’s size.
Overall, the ratings and reviews that are available paint a picture of an insurance company that is doing a spectacular job on the front end of the business – selling and serving policies, but not quite living up to their promise when it comes to customer satisfaction of their claims process.
Erie Insurance is a growing regional insurer with a long history and a great reputation for service on the sales end of things. They write all of the basics of personal lines, but don’t offer some of the specialty policies that make an insurance company a one-stop shop for consumers who may have things like motorcycles, RVs, and other specialty vehicles.
Erie’s rates are on the high side, but they do offer some good programs to help lower rates and keep them down. They are likely to be most competitive for low-risk customers who are also insuring a house.
Unfortunately, Erie has some improving to do when it comes to handling claims. Any insurance company that is charging higher rates needs to have great service across the board in order to justify those rates.
For a list of companies that we recommend, visit our Best Insurance Companies page.