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About Mercury Insurance Group
Mercury General Corp. was founded in Los Angeles, CA, and wrote its first policy in 1962. Founder George Joseph intended to provide an alternative for California drivers to the high-cost car insurance being offered by the big names. Growth came fast; the company opened a second office in Orange County in 1964 and a third in the San Fernando Valley in 1966. A year later the company expanded into San Diego as well.
In 1968 Mercury established a holding company and also made the move into Northern California, opening an office in San Francisco. Mercury moved beyond auto insurance four years later, writing its first homeowner’s insurance policy. The holding company created Mercury Insurance Company in 1977 as a subsidiary, which would go on to be the largest and most profitable of the group of companies.
By the mid-80s Mercury was the largest independent agency writer of car insurance in the state, and the company went public. By the end of the decade expansion beyond California started; Mercury began selling insurance in Georgia and Illinois. Over the following decades, the company continued to expand into other states, some through acquisitions of other insurance companies.
Today Mercury Insurance Group is the fourth largest auto insurance company in California, and they ranked at number 15 in the country overall for 2018; the company has held both of these positions since our last review. They operate as a group of 19 companies.
Mercury sells its products through independent agents across the eleven states they serve: Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Texas, and Virginia.
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Mercury is mainly focused on personal lines, offering auto insurance with plenty of options and also a range of home products. On the commercial side, they write business insurance policies as well as commercial auto. The website does not offer a while lot on the details of the policies, which is often designed to push visitors into contacting agent for more information, allowing the agent to sell the policy.
Auto insurance is Mercury’s main product and the one for which they are best known. Their auto insurance program is straightforward and lacks the trendy and gimmicky add-ons and options that have been popular in recent years among large insurance companies. This is in keeping with Mercury’s goal of being a low-cost insurance company; solid, basic coverage with little nickel-and-diming due to add-ons.
Mercury’s auto policy offers the usual basics: liability, uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, comprehensive coverage, and collision coverage. Rental car coverage and roadside assistance are also offered as options.
Mercury does not have options like accident forgiveness or disappearing deductibles, two common trends in the auto insurance industry. They have, however, made one option available as a nod to the increasing popularity of ride-sharing services like Uber. An endorsement is available to provide coverage to those that drive for this sort of service.
Mercury Insurance RealDrive is the company’s usage-based program, but like just about everything else in the auto program, it is a simplified version compared to some other companies. RealDrive is simply a mileage reporting system that helps rate insurance policies based on actual miles driver rather than estimates. The system is so simple that it is self-reported; no need for an app or a plug-in device to monitor your driving.
Drivers will get a 5% discount just for signing up for RealDrive, which they keep for as long as they continue to report mileage in accordance with the program agreement.
Other discounts for the auto program include good student, multi-car, auto/home bundling, anti-theft device, e-pay discount, and alumni association discounts.
Mercury writes several home insurance policies, including standard homeowner’s, condo, and renter’s insurance.
Homeowner’s insurance from Mercury is much like the auto program in that it is straightforward and includes all of the usual coverages, some common endorsement options, and little in the way of gimmicks.
Mercury offers extended replacement cost of up to 150% on their homeowner’s policy. Other endorsements include identity theft, home systems protection, and service line protection.
There are fewer discounts available for home insurance, with auto/home being the biggest. The others are new home, protective devices, fire-resistant construction materials, and gated community. The site lists higher deductibles as a discount, but this is generally not truly considered to be a discount. Rather, it is a method of lowering your premium in return for taking on a higher out-of-pocket cost in the event of a claim.
Condo insurance is a similar policy to homeowner’s but does not include structure coverage. Similar discounts are available for this policy, including the auto/home discount.
Renter’s insurance is the third form of home insurance from Mercury. This policy is designed to cover personal property for renters as well as providing liability protection. Again, similar discounts are offered including auto/home.
Other Personal Products
Aside from the main two, Mercury offers a couple of other options for personal insurance.
The first is Mechanical Breakdown, which is essentially an extended warranty that can be purchased for a vehicle. It provides coverage for up to seven years or 100,000 miles for a variety of mechanical issues.
The second is Personal Umbrella. This policy offers extended liability protection that kicks in when the underlying policies run out; umbrella can cover home and auto as underlying policies in one. The website does not give any information on available policy limits.
Mercury writes Commercial Property and Liability as well as Business Owner’s Package policies.
They cover a range of business categories including retail, service, restaurants, offices, warehouses, and apartment owners. From a base package policy, there are a number of options that can be added to customize the policy in order to meet the needs of each industry,
Business auto is available as a stand-alone policy or as an add-on to a package policy. They cover a variety of different vehicle types from private passenger to box vans.
Mercury has built a reputation on low rates and has consistently come in about 25% below average in our sample rate quotes in the past.
Mercury’s online quoting system requires personal contact information, and our sample information did not work for the system to offer us a quote. We were, however, able to use the California Department of Insurance website, which has a rate comparison tool that allows us to see rates for a number of companies for the same sample driver.
We ran a sample for what the state considers standard coverage; what this includes can be seen on their website. We selected a male driver with a Honda Accord and no violations. The results showed rates for Mercury that again fall below average, and they beat out some of the biggest names in the industry by a good margin.
Mercury continues to rate among the most affordable auto insurance companies in California, a state known for high rates.
Mercury offers a 24/7 toll-free claims hotline that can be used to file a claim for any of the products they write. It is very surprising to see that a company as large as Mercury does not offer any way of filing claims online. The phone line appears to be the only option the company provides. It is possible that some claim filing options are found when a customer is logged into their account, but the website does not specify whether or not that is the case.
The website offers a basic overview of how each type of claim should be handled, but not much in the way of details. Instructions are given for what to do in the event of an accident or a loss, and basic explanation of the steps. In general, the claims section is lacking when it comes to details.
Mercury has a preferred vendor network called Customer Authorized Repair Service (CARS). Like most such programs, the in-network repair shops handle billing directly with the insurance company, and work on the car is guaranteed for as long as the customer owns the vehicle. Policyholders are also able to select any repair shop of their choosing, in or out of network.
Ratings and Consumer Reviews
Mercury has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau (BBB). They are not accredited and have 133 complaints on file in the past three years, 36 of which were filed in the past 12 months. There are also 27 reviews resulting in a star rating of just above one star. There are a few positive reviews among the negative ones, most of which refer to claims issues.
Consumer Affairs has a total of 336 reviews for Mercury Insurance. Of the 112 star ratings that were left in the past year, the reviews trend towards the positive, with an overall three-star rating. 36 reviews are five-star, 21 are four-star, and 14 are three-star. Four of the reviews are two-star, and a total of 38 are one-star.
Although the number of complaints is not particularly high for such a big company, we compared them to the two insurance companies that are closest to Mercury in terms of market share nationwide.
National General, which ranks just above Mercury for market share, does not have a page on Consumer Affairs for auto insurance. Auto-Owners, which falls just below Mercury on the list, does have a page, with a total of 80 reviews and two stars overall. They, therefore, have fewer reviews overall, but also fewer positive reviews.
We also looked at the BBB pages for each of these companies. National General has 433 complaints in the past three years. The Auto-Owners BBB page was down for updates at the time of this review, so we referred to our last review where Auto-Owners had only 82 complaints with the BBB. Here Auto-Owners again performs better than Mercury, but the National General complaint volume is higher.
Mercury does not perform well in the most recent J.D. Power survey of California auto insurance satisfaction. They landed second from the bottom with an overall two out of five, ranking them below average. The one area where Mercury was ranked higher than average was, not surprisingly, price.
Overall, Mercury does not have a high volume of complaints, and there are enough positive reviews to balance the negative. They do rank poorly with J.D. Power, which is of concern, but we did not find any major red flags. Comparison to the other two companies similar in size shows that one company performs much better than Mercury while the other less so, putting Mercury about in the middle. It is worth noting that Auto-Owners is one of the best rated car insurance companies in the nation – and also that they do not write insurance in California where Mercury has the majority of its business.
The Bottom Line
Mercury is a homegrown California company that has built its reputation on low rates, a promise on which they deliver. The company has some mixed ratings in terms of reputation, but the complaint volume is not high for such a big company and there are no red flags. Mercury is likely to appeal to budget shoppers for whom price is the major factor in selecting an insurance company.
For a list of companies that we recommend, visit our Best Insurance Companies page.