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The Hartford has never been a playful, approachable insurance company like many modern competitors, but instead stands stoic and powerful without quirky mascots. However, they have recently made a foray into the world of humorous advertising. Let’s take a look at what this history of strength means in terms of their products, service, and value for your insurance dollar.
The Hartford Overview
The Hartford was founded in Hartford, Connecticut in 1810 as The Hartford Fire Insurance Company by a group of local businessmen. The company survived multiple major catastrophic events, including the 1835 New York fire, after which the company’s President paid claims out of his own pocket.
In 1913 the company expanded its product lineup to include auto insurance, accident, business interruption and many more lines of business with the new branch, The Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company. The 1959 acquisition of The Columbian National Life Insurance Company added life insurance products to the list.
In 1970 the Hartford was purchased by ITT Corporation and operated as ITT-Hartford until 1995, when it once again became an independent entity and changed the name to The Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc. In 2004, they expanded into Group Benefits with the purchase of a division of CNA Financial, and in 2013 sold the life insurance business to Prudential.
In 1984, the Hartford became the provider of auto and home insurance for members of AARP, and they continue to hold this contract to this day.
Currently, The Hartford offers home insurance, auto, and other vehicle coverage for individuals as well as annuities and mutual funds. They also write a large range of business insurance policies, including Business Owner’s policies, commercial auto, and more for small to large companies. In fact, they ranked at number 7 in the top ten commercial property & casualty insurers in the nation in 2013. Additional products include their Employee Benefits packages, which encompass things like life, short-term disability, and accident coverage.
Today The Hartford is a Fortune 500 company selling products across the nation from their headquarters, which remains in Hartford, Connecticut. Policies and financial products are sold through agents and brokers to both individuals and businesses.
The Hartford’s Products
The Hartford offers products for both individuals and for businesses of all sizes. They also offer financial products and group benefits.
The Hartford writes a selection of individual insurance products, focusing mainly on auto and home, but with specialty policies available as well.
The Hartford writes two levels of package auto insurance policies, each with a long list of features and benefits. The company is the 11th largest auto insurer in the nation, as of 2014 numbers.
The Advantage Package includes all of the coverage you would expect from a comprehensive policy, with a number of extras that aren’t always included in the average policy.
These features include:
- The Hartford’s “No Drop Promise” which states that the company will not non-renew a driver’s existing policy for tickets or accidents as long as they meet a few basic requirements
- 6-month rate protection ensuring rates will not change in a 6-month term
- RecoverCare, an extra $2500 to pay for living expenses after a car accident including things like transportation, cooking, and cleaning
- Lifetime Guarantee on repairs done at approved shops
The Advantage Plus package is slightly more costly, and adds the following features to the included benefits of the Advantage package:
- Rate protection increases from 6 months to 12 months
- First Accident Forgiveness
- Disappearing Deductible, which reduces your deductible every year that you maintain a clean driving record
- One Deductible, which allows you to pay a single deductible when more than one vehicle or a vehicle and a home insurance policy are included in the same claim
- Waiver of Deductible and reduced deductible for not-at-fault accidents, included a $100 reduction in deductible when you use an approved repair shop
Discounts available from The Hartford for auto insurance include auto/home, multi-vehicle, good student, anti-theft, and hybrid vehicle.
TruLane is The Hartford’s version of usage-based insurance, one of the biggest trends in car insurance in recent years. The program records information from your vehicle using a small device that plugs into the car, and the company provides drivers with a discount in return for safe driving habits. You can read more about the TruLane program here.
Insurance for Other Vehicles
In addition to auto insurance, The Hartford also writes insurance policies for a variety of specialty vehicles, although they do not underwrite all of these policies directly. Coverage is available for:
- Collectible cars – underwritten by American Modern Insurance
- Recreational vehicles – both motor homes and travel trailers
- Motorcycles – underwritten by Foremost Insurance
- Boat Insurance – underwritten by American Modern Insurance
- Golf Cart Insurance – underwritten by Foremost Insurance
- ATV and Snowmobile Insurance – also underwritten by Foremost Insurance
The Hartford writes several variations of home insurance to cover a variety of different homes. Their standard homeowner’s insurance policy comes with two add-on package options:
- Home Advantage Package – includes “New for Old” replacement cost coverage for personal property, personal injury protection, identity theft coverage, and lock replacement reimbursement.
- Home Advantage Plus Package – adds equipment breakdown coverage and a Disappearing Deductible program as well as increased identity theft coverage.
The Hartford also offers a discounted or no-deductible option on homeowner’s claims in excess of $25,000 and a variety of discounts and credits to reduce rates.
Policies are also available for condominiums with similar coverage to the homeowner’s package policies, but designed for the specific needs of condos. Additionally, they offer renter’s insurance policies to cover personal property only for those who live in rental properties.
Other Personal Lines Products
The Hartford also writes a selection of other personal lines products to protect from special risks.
- Flood Insurance
- Identity Theft Insurance
- Umbrella Insurance
Business Insurance Products
The Hartford is one of the biggest companies in the commercial insurance market, writing policies for businesses of all sizes.
- Business Owner’s Policies that combine basic business coverage with commercial liability
- Commercial Auto and Fleet Coverage
- Commercial Flood Insurance
- Data Breach Insurance
- General Liability Insurance
- Global Insurance
- Professional Liability Insurance, including Errors & Omissions
- Marine Insurance
- Worker’s Compensation
- Surety & Fidelity Bonds
They also offer Fleet Management and Risk Management assistance for companies of all sizes.
Business types covered range from Accounting to Manufacturing, covering nearly every industry including specialty markets such as contracting companies. This wide coverage range is part of what makes this company so well known as an insurer in the business market; many insurance companies only write small business policies.
The Hartford writes Employee Benefits packages that offer a range of coverage for employees, such as:
- Group Disability
- Group Life & Accident
- Group Retiree Health
Employee Benefits coverage is also available for individuals, including short-term disability, life insurance, and accidental death and dismemberment coverage. For many people, their main knowledge of/or contact with The Hartford has been through benefits provided through an employer.
The Hartford is also a major supplier of retirement planning products. Their products include annuities and mutual funds. These products are sold through insurance agents as well as other financial advisors, and the company offers account access online for both advisors and for clients.
AARP Affinity Products
For more than 25 years The Hartford has been contracted with AARP to provide specialized policy offerings and package discounts for members. They are the only national insurance company endorsed by AARP to provide these products.
The program includes home and auto insurance as well as RV coverage that can be bundled together with special discounts and services. Special programs for drivers 50+ provide discounted rates and benefits for older drivers, and policies include all of the same features and benefits of The Hartford’s auto and home programs along with these added perks. Small business insurance package policies are also available for AARP members.
As a Result of this connection, it is not uncommon to hear Hartford policies referred to as AARP policies. Although they are affiliated, AARP does not underwrite any insurance policies and none of the policies bear the AARP name directly.
The Hartford Premiums
The Hartford does not position itself as a discount insurance company, but rather presents itself as a stable and secure company that will be there when you need to take advantage of your benefits. As a result, I wouldn’t expect to see their premiums fall among the lowest.
Surprisingly though, The Hartford doesn’t fall much above the average for car insurance rates with just 4% above, based on our rate test sample. While they are not the most affordable option, they sell their products on the promise of great service, which is what makes paying a higher premium worth the extra expenditure. We’ll take a look at whether they live up to the promise a little further into this review.
Since The Hartford policies are sold through agents and brokers, you can expect to see higher rates as a result of the need to pay commissions. That said, they don’t seem to fall quite as high as other agent-driven insurance companies.
The Hartford is one of those companies that is likely to be the most competitive for people with low-risk driving records and those who will be insuring more than one vehicle, along with a home, in the same place. Their discounts for auto/home are not the highest I’ve seen – up to 20% on the home policy but only 5% on the auto policy.
The Hartford does provide online quotes, in spite of being an agent-driven insurer, which allows customers to quickly compare their rates with those of other companies. The quoting system appears simple and straightforward, although it does involve multiple steps.
The Hartford promises fast, smooth claims handling and allows customers to report their claims in a variety of ways.
Claims can be made the following ways:
- Auto – auto claims reporting form
- Home – home claims reporting form
- 1-800-243-5860 – Auto and Home 24-hour claim hotline
- 1-877-805-9918 – AARP member Auto and Home 24-hour claim hotline
Claims service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The claims process is given an overview on the website, but there is no detailed information. As with most insurance companies, processing time varies based on the nature of the claim, but The Hartford promises quick response. Claims can be tracked by logging in through the customer portal to view the progress.
The Hartford has a commitment to claims handling, which they call their 6-Point Claims Guarantee.
This Guarantee states that:
- When you call our 24-Hour Claim Hotline, you’ll always speak with a trained professional.
- He / she will explain the claim process on your first call.
- We will guarantee the workmanship on claim repairs performed by certified Hartford repair shops.
- We will pay the replacement cost of a new car – same make, model and equipment – should you have a covered total loss within 15 months or 15,000 miles of purchase, whichever comes first. Specific features vary by state.
- We will send your claim payment within 2 business days after settlement.
- If you experience a problem during your claim, we will bring your concern to an expert to mediate.
The question is, then, whether or not they live up to this promise.
The Hartford rated 3 out of 5 on the J.D. Power Auto Claims Satisfaction survey for 2014. The overall rating was calculated from several categories. The Hartford performed particularly well in the area of appraisals and the repair process, but poorly in the rental car experience. Everywhere else, the company came in at about average, resulting in the overall rating that qualifies them as about average for satisfaction.
For a company with the kind of history, strength, and image that The Hartford offers, I would expect to see an above average rating in claims satisfaction, especially considering the fact that they are not known for particularly low premiums.
While these ratings don’t tell us for sure whether the company is living up to the Claims Guarantee they promise, it certainly does bring those promises into question.
Of the complaints written about the company on various sites, surprisingly few focus on claims. This is unusual, since for most insurance companies claims are a major area of complaint.
Consumer Feedback and Reviews
The Hartford is not BBB accredited, but they do have an A- rating. The BBB site states that failure to respond to one complaint is the factor that resulted in a lower rating. The BBB list 265 complaints against the company in the past three years, 71 of which were closed in the past 12 months. That’s considerably fewer than Traveler’s, which has a market share similar to that of The Hartford and has 385 complaints in the same time period.
Overall, the complaints number with the BBB is very low for a company as big as The Hartford. There are no government actions against the company on record.
The Hartford performed incredibly well in the J.D. Power Purchase Experience survey for 2015, earning a 5 out of 5 rating overall. This top rating was shared by only two other companies, Erie Insurance, and USAA, making it all the more impressive. The Hartford only lost a single point for the Local Agent and Call Center Representative categories.
These ratings are definitely some good news, however, claims are the area where a great insurance company really needs to shine, and The Hartford seems to be falling somewhat short in that area.
Overall, the customer experience seems to be stellar throughout most contact with the insurance company, but opinions fall somewhat when a claim is experienced. It’s worth noting however that many complaints about claims are born from a lack of understanding of the coverage available on the policy and how it works rather than a major fault of the insurance company. Still, extra strides need to be made in the claims area to make up for this common problem.
Reviews found on ConsumerAffairs.com seem to be of the usual insurance company complaints, rates that have been raised unexpectedly, claims that were denied or handled slowly, and complaints about customer service. Of the 245 reviews posted, only 58 left a rating, all of which were low, one or two-star.
This is fairly common for insurance companies particularly on this site, which is often used as a place to vent for people unhappy with an insurance company. The reviews are of the same type found for other companies, with little that is particularly alarming. It is surprising to see that there is not even on positive review left for the company, although few people bother to write a review when they are generally happy with a company.
The Hartford is a strong company with a very long history, and they are likely to appeal to their target audience: low-risk drivers, homeowners, and business owners who want the backing of a big name that understands their needs. The Hartford will definitely be on the list for members of AARP, since they will receive specialized benefits and discounts from this insurance company.
Their rates are reasonable considering the company’s position and the fact that they are an agent-driven sales insurer. They offer enough of a product lineup to satisfy the needs of most people for a one-stop shop, and offer enough discounts and added benefits to make the policies appear a relatively good value. Missing from the product lineup, and one of the big three in terms of personal lines insurance, is life insurance, but this is not often a deal-breaker for most people.
The main concern with this company is the average claims satisfaction levels, which should be higher for a company with this sort of reputation. Overall, however, customer satisfaction is relatively high and there is little of major concern in terms of reputation.
The Hartford is well worth considering for home, auto, and business needs as well as for retirement planning services.
For a list of companies that we recommend, visit our Best Insurance Companies page.