UPDATED: Nov 30, 2018
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Lemonade, Inc. was founded in New York City in April of 2015; the following year they opened Lemonade Insurance Company and began offering home and renters insurance. The company’s founders both have a background in the tech industry rather than in insurance, which led to Lemonade’s modern approach to selling insurance and also to paying claims.
The company expanded quickly and offers home and renters insurance in California, Illinois, Texas, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Nevada, Ohio, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Iowa, Wisconsin, Arizona, New Mexico, Michigan, Oregon, Arkansas, Connecticut, and the District of Columbia in addition to New York. Further expansion into other states is planned in the near future.
Lemonade operates as a public benefit corporation, using a similar model to a mutual insurer where all premiums paid go into a communal fund out of which claims are paid. The company gives back all funds not used for operations and claims to a charity that is selected by the policyholder at the beginning of the policy term. This is called the Lemonade “Giveback”, and it totaled $162,135 in 2018 according to the company website. Lemonade states clearly that the Giveback donation is not guaranteed, and in some years, claims may eat up what would otherwise be donated.
What this means is that unlike traditional insurance companies when not paying out claims means more money stays in the company coffers, the money that does not get paid in claims goes to charity. Lemonade, therefore, states the company has no financial incentive to deny claims, unlike other insurers. It is worth remembering that a big part of why insurance companies like to keep money in the coffers is to be prepared for the times when they have to pay out large amounts in claims – such as after a natural disaster.
The company is backed by major reinsurers such as Lloyd’s of London, which gives them more financial stability.
The company operates as direct-buy insurer without agents or brokers, or sales representatives of any kind. Policies can be purchased either on the website or through the Lemonade app.
Lemonade writes renters, homeowners, condo, and co-op insurance.
Policies are similar to standard home insurance, covering structures, personal property, and liability.
The base policy is a named perils policy, which means that you are covered only for those perils listed; these include fire, theft, explosion, vandalism, and more. The Lemonade website does not give a full list of covered perils but does offer a list of exclusions. Even with the base policy, personal property is covered on a replacement cost basis, which is not standard everywhere.
The Extra Coverage option is available to increase protection for specific items over the base policy, something like a high-value item rider on a traditional policy. This includes the addition of accidental loss and damage to the covered perils, and it eliminates the deductible from the policy. Items like jewelry, fine art, cameras, musical instruments, and bicycles can be added to the Extra Coverage list, but all items must be approved before coverage kicks in.
Lemonade also offers the “Zero Everything” option, something of a claims forgiveness program that can be “activated” by the policyholder. Using the Zero Everything feature, the policyholder can make two claims per year with no deductible and no risk of a rate increase. At the end of the policy term, those two claims are “zeroed out” – removed from the record as though no claims had been filed. A third claim in the same year will be subject to the deductible and may result in a rate increase.
The Zero Everything feature allows policyholders to make smaller claims and get reimbursed without the deductible making the claim not worth filing, or the risk of seeing a rate increase that again makes it not worth filing the claim. It is currently only available in select markets.
In general, Lemonade’s policies are pretty basic – not a lot of bells and whistles. They offer a standard list of discounts, but since they have no other product lines, there is no bundling option.
Lemonade promises that their approach to insurance means lower rates. The website states that renter’s insurance is available for as little as $5 per month and homeowner’s insurance for as little as $25 a month.
While homeowner’s insurance is very difficult to compare rates on due to the many factors that can affect the rate, we did test out Lemonade’s quoting system. We used a sample single-family home in Los Angeles, California at 1,500 square feet, with no claims in the past three years. Lemonade returned us a rate of $35 a month. That is $420 a year.
This rate was for structure coverage calculated at $250,000, $125,00 in personal property coverage, and $100,000 in liability coverage, with a $1,000 deductible. Again, it bears repeating that this was a sample house with very little actual detail to the quote, which affects accuracy.
It is hard to compare homeowner’s quotes unless they are apples to apples on every detail, and as a result, we do not often run them. However, there is no question based on the quotes we have seen in the past that this is cheap. We took a look at rate comparisons for this area on the California Department of Insurance website (we weren’t able to enter details, so the rates quotes are not a direct comparison) and found an average rate at about $1200 for this area of the city. Rates ranged from $490 up to more than $4,000, which still puts Lemonade’s quote as the lowest.
We then ran a quote for the same location but changed it to renter’s insurance. Despite the promise of renter’s coverage from $5 a month, our rate came back at $22.92 a month, and that is with no extra coverage. The policy includes $50,000 of personal property coverage with a $250 deductible. Even when we changed the deductible to $1,000, the rate only dropped to $19.09 a month.
We do not generally run comparison quotes for renter’s insurance, so we are unable to offer a comparison on this particular quote. That said, we did find it odd that it was not that much lower than the full homeowners policy cost.
Lemonade makes big promises in the claims department, not the least of which is that many claims are paid instantly.
Claims are filed entirely through the Lemonade app. Only in an emergency is there a toll-free number available, although the site still says emergency claims can be filed through the app, and an emergency response team will call right away. An emergency is defined as a situation where you require immediate assistance or temporary housing.
According to the Lemonade website, 25% of claims are paid within three seconds. That’s right one-quarterer of claims are paid instantly. The site states that the claim will quickly be run through their anti-fraud algorithm to determine whether or not it can be paid instantly. In the 75% of cases where it cannot be paid right away, it is handed off to the company’s claims team which may be the first time an actual person becomes involved in the policy.
Most of the claims that are settled instantly are simple property claims. For obvious reasons, major damage such as from a fire or liability claims will take a little longer. That’s in large part due to the fact that the total extent of the claim cost will not be immediately obvious in these cases.
The filing of a claim requires that you shoot a video, which involves telling them what happened on camera. This is unusual, but really no more so than speaking with a claims representative on the phone.
Claims payments are wired directly into the customer’s bank account.
Ratings and Consumer Reviews
Lemonade’s current rating with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) is an F, which is the lowest possible rating and not something we see very often. The first reason given by the BBB for the low rating is the length of time the business has been in operation – a factor the business cannot help. They are also dinged for having eight total complaints and for failure to respond to three complaints. Eight complaints is not a high volume for a company that is growing so quickly. The failure to respond to some of those complaints is the only factor here that is of concern.
Lemonade has a 4.75-star overall rating on Clearsurance. There is a total of 62 reviews going into that rating, which is very positive. Worth noting is that the majority of the reviewers are praising the ease of getting a policy and the price – there are only a few that state they did have a claim. Those that did mention a claim, however, again cited a smooth and easy experience.
There are not many reviews of this company elsewhere, which would normally not be surprising for a new company, but for a company that has made something of a splash in the insurance world and is growing fast, it is a little unexpected. It is likely that time will really tell in terms of how customers rate Lemonade’s service – particularly after the company handles its first major catastrophe situation such as a hurricane.
The Bottom Line
Lemonade touts a new approach to insurance that is simple, transparent, and affordable, but a lot of what they offer comes off as slightly gimmicky. Certainly, the price is right here, and Lemonade is backed by strong reinsurers for financial stability, but they are a young insurance company whose model has yet to be proven, particularly against the high cost of a catastrophe. Lemonade is likely to appeal to those who are seeking a modern approach to insurance that fits the busy mobile lifestyle – and we do not see any major red flags that would lead us to recommend avoiding them – but those who are more cautious may want to wait until they have a few more years under their belt to give Lemonade a try.
For a list of companies that we recommend, visit our Best Insurance Companies page.