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One of the nation’s biggest auto insurers, Progressive lives up to its name by innovating often and jumping on new trends quickly.
Progressive Insurance Overview
Although Progressive has made its biggest splash in the past couple of decades, the company has been around since 1937. Progressive is an Ohio-based company that now has its headquarters in Mayfield Village, a suburb of Cleveland. In 1971 the company went public.
Throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s, Progressive introduced a number of innovations that made them a household name. They were one of the first insurance companies to offer quotes both over the phone and online, and differentiated themselves by offering quotes from competitors alongside their own.
One of the first major insurance companies to have a real online presence, Progressive continues to offer an incredible variety of services on their website.
As of 2014, Progressive was the fourth largest auto insurance company in the U.S., with a market share of 8.45%. That ranks them beneath only Allstate, GEICO, and number one powerhouse State Farm. They’re only about 1% behind Allstate, which was recently overtaken by GEICO.
One of the things that makes Progressive unusual among the biggest auto insurers is that they sell policies both directly and through independent agents. That means Progressive has the potential to reach a lot of people – both those who want to shop online and compare prices from an easy chair at home, and those who prefer to have an agent provide them with rates for comparison. And rate comparison is not something Progressive has ever shied away from.
Products and Services
When most people hear Progressive, they think car insurance. That’s the market to which the majority of the company’s advertising is aimed, and it’s the largest portion of their business. Progressive offers a lot more than just auto, however, with a product range that covers homeowners, motorcycles, RVs, boats, commercial products, life, and even health insurance.
Auto Insurance – Like many of its competitors, Progressive’s auto insurance policies are their most important product. They offer all of the basic coverage options, and include some perks as standard with all of their policies. This includes their Concierge Service, a claims program in which you simply drop your car off and Progressive takes care of everything, a rewards program, and Perkshare, a program that gives you discounts on other products and services.
Home Insurance – Progressive writes a range of home insurance policies, including standard homeowners covering structures, liability and personal property. Other available policies are condo insurance, renter’s policies, and mobile home insurance. Like many major insurers, Progressive bundles their auto and home policies to get you a better rate on both.
Motorcycle Insurance – Although it’s GEICO you usually see pushing its motorcycle insurance products, Progressive bills itself as the Number 1 motorcycle insurer in the U.S. Policies includes all of the basics and also promise OEM repairs, Total Loss Replacement, and coverage for riding gear, too.
Boats, Off-Road, and RVs – Progressive writes insurance policies for the unique needs of a variety of different boats, as well as for recreational vehicles ranging from motorhomes to travel trailers. They also write policies to cover a range of different off-road vehicles, including snowmobiles, golf carts, ATVs and more.
Commercial Auto – Progressive covers business auto, trucks, vans, and even specialty policies like tow trucks and dump trucks. They are one of the biggest truck insurance companies in the nation, with policies suited for all kinds of business.
Business Insurance – Small business coverage from Progressive is available to cover a range of different types of company, from restaurant to retail. They write general liability, professional liability, worker’s comp, and Business Owner’s policies as well.
Life Insurance – Offerings from Progressive in the life insurance market are basic. They write term, permanent, and universal – the big three – and also offer basic end-of-life policies to cover final expenses.
Health Insurance – Progressive Advantage Health Insurance products are offered through eHealth, with a wide variety of options to choose from.
Additional Products – The large range of choices from Progressive also includes umbrella insurance, classic car insurance, flood, travel insurance, mechanical repair (equipment breakdown) plans, and identity theft – even pet insurance.
Bottom line – Progressive is really big company, with fingers in just about every pie, although some of those pies are baked elsewhere, as Progressive doesn’t underwrite all of their products.
We’ll look at which ones are underwritten elsewhere below.
Still, this makes it a true one-stop shop for insurance, although it isn’t all that well-known thanks to the company’s major focus on auto insurance. Speaking of which, Progressive’s auto products are worth a closer look.
Progressive Auto Insurance
Progressive takes an approach to auto insurance that seeks to be as cutting-edge as possible. They’ve been offering online quoting since the infancy of the Internet explosion, and have some quoting options that make them really stand out from the competition. The first of these is the option to see quotes from other insurance companies right alongside the Progressive quote. The second is the Name Your Price option, which we’ll take a closer look at.
Name Your Price
It sounds like a great idea – you tell Progressive how much you want to pay, and they will find a policy to match your budget. The name, however, is a bit misleading.
First of all, it gives the impression that Progressive will let you give them any number and they’ll make it work. Much like Priceline’s similar option for finding hotels and flights, the price you name has to be realistic, and there’s no guarantee there will be a rate that does fit your budget.
One of the most important things to be aware of when it comes to putting an insurance package together based on the cost rather than the coverage is the fact that less coverage can cost you more in the long run.
One of the easiest ways for an insurance company to offer you a lower rate is to cut the coverage – remove options and lower limits. Higher deductibles are another popular method of getting a lower rate. To be fair to Progressive, they don’t try to hide the fact that they might need to reduce coverage to get you the rate you want; the system will highlight differences in coverage so you’ll be aware of what you’re giving up.
Still, Name Your Price is a gimmicky way of doing what just about any insurance company can and will do: offer premium choices based on varying levels of coverage. The wording just makes it seem like they are giving you more power over what you pay for insurance than you really have.
And the bottom line is that lower coverage may save you on premiums, but it can come back to haunt you if you have an accident. Price is important, but making it the number one factor over the actual coverage can be a mistake.
Progressive is one of the first insurance companies to have recently introduced a usage-based system aimed at lowering your rates. Their version is called Snapshot, and like all such programs it involves plugging a small device into your car to monitor your driving habits.
The device will record when you drive, your speed and braking habits, and how long you drive. This data is then used in calculating your rates for your next renewal. Progressive specifically uses number of hard brakes, number of miles driven, and amount of time spent driving between midnight and 4 a.m. in renewal rate calculations.
While usage-based insurance is still a new technology in the insurance market and needs to be tested further over time to see how well it works, it’s a very promising advance. It allows drivers a concrete method of demonstrating safe driving and earning better premiums in return.
Just recently, a news story broke the word that Progressive had made some changes to the Snapshot program that will result in rate increases for drivers whose recording devices catch them driving badly.
This is pretty big news, since usage-based systems have generally been touted as not having a negative impact on rates. Most systems either earn you a discount or don’t make a difference at all – but it now seems Progressive will penalize reckless drivers – they claim only the worst of the worst, but that is yet to be seen.
What does that mean? If you’re not such a good driver, maybe the Snapshot option isn’t for you.
Progressive offers their policyholders a 30-day trial of the Snapshot system with no obligation (and no effect on rates), which makes it well worth trying, if only to see what it records for you.
You can read my full review of Snapshot here.
Perks With Progressive Policies
Progressive promises a lot of built-in perks that won’t cost you anything extra with your insurance policy, like a rewards program and savings on other services.
Progressive Loyalty Rewards offers levels of rewards from Silver up to Diamond, and the top levels, Emerald and Crown. Crown-level members are those who have been with the company for at least 20 years, earning the highest level of rewards including guaranteed renewal no matter what your driving record.
Other perks include priority customer service, accident forgiveness, and extra available discounts.
It’s worth noting that accident forgiveness is generally a policy add-on that comes with an extra premium at most insurance companies, but Progressive does allow you to earn it without paying extra.
The Perkshare program is something like an AAA card – it gets you discounts for various services such as car washes and at car rental companies. It’s a nice touch, although not particularly high on my list of priorities when selecting an insurance company.
Coverage Checker is another somewhat gimmicky option that will point out to you any areas where you might be underinsured – or overinsured. Truthfully, that something any good insurance representative should be doing for you when you purchase a policy – as well as on renewal. It does allow those people who like to stay on top of things themselves to keep an eye on their coverage without much effort.
Policies Underwritten Elsewhere
While Progressive lists a vast number of different policy types on their website, they don’t actually underwrite everything they sell. This means that it’s actually a different company writing the policy under the Progressive name.
This is a common practice, but it’s important to know that you’re actually taking out a policy with a different company and not directly from Progressive, something that is kept in the small print on Progressive’s website.
Progressive does not underwrite the offered policies for:
- Homeowners, renters, condo and other property insurance
- Life insurance
- Health insurance
- Travel insurance
- Identity theft
- Classic car coverage
- Mechanical Repair/Equipment Breakdown coverage
The homeowner’s, life, and health insurance plans are all sold under the Progressive Advantage banner, but are in fact underwritten by one of a list of companies affiliated with Progressive.
Progressive Premiums and Discounts
Progressive doesn’t particularly present itself as a discount auto insurance company, and they tend to put out the impression that they’re not always the lowest price – and they’re ok with that. However, as a direct insurer, the lack of overhead from paying commissions to agents should bring Progressive rates down below the average and in fact into the more affordable range.
Before we go on, it’s important to note that Progressive does in fact sell policies through independent agents as well as directly, and states that premiums may vary when you choose to buy through an agent.
Translation: you might pay more since they have to pay the agent.
When it comes to premiums, Progressive doesn’t fall as low on the spectrum as you might expect, coming in just a little below average according to our rate comparisons based on the same coverage and driver information.
Progressive offers a list of policy discounts, including all of the usual suspects, For example:
- Safe driver
- Good student discount
Progressive tends to stick to the basic discounts and avoid some of the more trendy options appearing at other companies, such as green car discounts for hybrids.
They also don’t offer discounts for things like anti-lock brakes and passive restraints, which makes some sense as these things are standard on today’s cars and don’t really make a dent in premiums. Overall, Progressive’s list of discounts lean towards the meatier ones that make a bigger difference.
Advertising and Media
Cheery, friendly, and a little too eager to help, Flo has been the face of Progressive since 2008. The character, reminiscent of a waitress in a mid-century diner with her hair, makeup, and white apron, has become one of those icons of advertising that most people would recognize anywhere.
Most recently, Progressive paired her with talk show host Maury Povich for this spot, a play on Maury’s famous paternity test shows. And while some viewers might be getting tired of Flo, Progressive has found new ways to present her, such as this Thanksgiving commercial showcasing her eccentric family.
While Flo might be reaching the point where her welcome is a bit worn, she is still a catchier choice than Progressive’s new talking box advertisements, which for me pushes the limits of patience with cartoonish animated objects.
Progressive gets its name out there in similar ways to other major insurers – through sponsorships. In 2008 they put their name on the home of the Cleveland Indians, changing Jacob’s Field to Progressive Field. They also sponsor the college football Gator Bowl.
Clams are the most important part of the relationship between an insurance company and its customers. They’re the chance for an insurance company to make good on the promises of protection from financial disaster and being there for you in a difficult time.
How does Progressive stack up?
Progressive offers several ways to report a claim:
- By phone at 1-800-274-4499
- Online through their website, which requires a login user name and password
- Through the Progressive App for mobile devices
The Progressive app for mobile claims reporting has the added feature of allowing you to take and upload photographs of the scene and the damage directly from your phone. This is a convenient feature that allows immediate recording of accident information.
Progressive will contact you after the claim has been reported, promising to do so the same business day when possible. Their claims process is similar to that of most major insurance companies, and is neatly outlined on their website in easy to follow steps.
One of the differences Progressive offers is their Concierge Service, which sounds fancy, but mainly means that you drop your car off at one of the Progressive Service Centers and pick it up when it’s ready. Progressive handles everything in between including estimates and repairs.
Not all Progressive customers will have access to Concierge Service simply by lack of proximity to a Service Center. For those customers Progressive still offers a certain level of the service via preferred network repair shops, but you also have the choice of using the repair shop of your choice.
So, Progressive promises a smooth claims process with as little difficulty for the driver as possible, but do they live up to it?
According to a 2014 J.D. Power & Associates study of claims satisfaction, the answer is: not really. The study gave Progressive a 3 out of 5, ranking them as “average” for claims satisfaction.
The study gave Progressive a 2 out of 5 stars rating in a couple of particularly important areas of claims satisfaction: service interaction and repair process. Considering what the concept of Concierge Service promises, those are not good areas in which to be below average.
A look at reviews finds an overwhelming number of drivers who were insured by other companies and involved in accidents with Progressive-insured drivers complaining of refusal to pay claims. The common refrain seems to be that even when the Progressive driver is at fault in what should be a cut-and-dried situation, Progressive tries to get out of paying liability claims.
While it’s an insurance company’s job to have the interests of their insured at heart, financial responsibility is at the heart of the insurance industry and state laws. Refusal to pay a fair claim to another driver shows a certain level of disrespect for the concept of financial responsibility.
Like all major insurance companies, there are plenty of negative reviews of Progressive that are not difficult to find.
ConsumerAffairs.com records an overall one-star rating for Progressive out of a total of 731 customer ratings. 646 of the total number of ratings were one-star. That’s 88% of the total reviews.
Major competitor GEICO doesn’t fare much better on the site, with 87% of its reviews being negative, one-star reviews. Some of this can be attributed to the fact that angry people who have something to complain about are much more likely to write a review than happy people who don’t have much to say.
The Better Business Bureau shows a total of 1281 complaints in the last 3 years. For comparison, GEICO had 1980 complains in the same time period, and Allstate had 1380. These are the two closest competitors by policy count in the auto insurance industry, and although Progressive has fewer policies than both companies, overall these numbers fall in Progressive’s favor.
Common complaints about Progressive seem to feature customers feeling they have been lied to or presented false information regarding coverage or rates. To be fair to Progressive, a number of these complaints seem to stem from a lack of understanding of how auto insurance policies work, but there are too many of them to be discounted easily.
A few years back, Progressive made headlines in the case of Katie Fisher, who died in an accident in 2010. Fisher was insured by Progressive and was not at fault in the accident, but her brother attacked the company online through a Tumblr post as well as angry tweets, claiming they refused to pay her benefits and even paid to defend the driver of the other vehicle in court.
Progressive responded with a simple and somewhat stoic statement after the lawsuit was concluded, denying that they were involved in the other driver’s defense and causing more anger at a seeming lack of care for the victim. The case was settled not long after, but may well have left a bad taste for some consumers.
This case is a good example of how social media has impacted the way opinions and feelings towards companies in recent years – a viral story that caused strangers to rally behind a victim. Unfortunately, that kind of bandwagon jumping can (not necessarily in this case, but frequently) have a tendency to obscure the facts of the case, reducing major investigations to short tweets. In the end, it may serve as a warning to Progressive to watch its online reputation more closely when it comes to handling sensitive claims.
Overall, Progressive has the kind of negative reviews I would expect in any company of its size, but the company’s continued growth seems to indicate that there are many satisfied, if less vocal, customers as well.
Progressive isn’t the cheapest insurer on the market, nor do they have the best ratings in terms of claims service. Where the company really shines is in the willingness to try new technology and continually look to the future, offering some of the best online services around and a number of perks to policyholders.
People on a tight budget will likely find a better rate elsewhere, and although they offer a large range of products allowing multi-policy discounts, most of those policies are underwritten elsewhere – which may be a deterrent for some people.
Progressive is likely to be a good choice for those who like a lot of online access to quoting and policy information, who have a good driving record, and who are looking for opportunities such as usage-based insurance to reduce rates. Certainly they are well worth a look and they do make comparison-shopping easy.
Although Progressive has faced some harsh criticism, the overall numbers in terms of complains are not out of line for a large insurer.
For a list of companies that we recommend, visit our Best Insurance Companies page.