UPDATED: Mar 18, 2020
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PEMCO is an acronym for Public Employees Mutual Insurance Company and was founded in Seattle in 1950. It was created as the liability insurer to be partnered with PEMIC, which was a casualty insurer founded the year before. The two companies were created to provide insurance products to members of the School Employees Credit Union of Washington. In 1977, the two merged into one company under the PEMCO name.
Products are no longer limited to credit union members, and the company sells to the general public. They have grown to be the largest regional insurance company in the Pacific Northwest and continue to operate as a mutual insurance company. PEMCO served only Washington until 2011 when they expanded into neighboring Oregon.
Today PEMCO sells auto insurance and home insurance as well as a handful of personal specialty policies. Their life insurance business started in 1963, was sold off in 2012 and the company no longer offers life coverage.
PEMCO focuses on the preferred-risk market, which means they are not a good pick for high-risk drivers or even those with a blemish or two on their record. The company states that they keep rates lower by insuring drivers whose records indicate responsibility.
The company’s headquarters remains in Seattle, with a branch office in Spokane. Policies are sold through agents across the service area.
PEMCO is mainly an auto insurance company, although they also write home, boat, and a few other policies. They do not currently offer any commercial insurance.
PEMCO offers a solid basic auto insurance program with some added benefits that add value without gimmicks. Their policies differ between the two states they cover, with most of the extras offered only in Washington.
In addition to the legally required liability coverage and standard options like comprehensive coverage, collision coverage, and towing and labor, they also have several other additional coverages, some of which are automatically included in the policy:
- Key replacement or re-coding coverage
- Camper, Canopy, or Tonneau cover
- Custom Parts and Equipment
- Pet injury
- Rental car damage coverage
- Loan gap insurance
- Rideshare (Uber or Lyft) coverage
There is a good list of discounts, and good driver/accident-free are automatically applied to every policy (since they insure preferred risks all of their customer should qualify). Discounts include one for educators, not surprising given the company’s history, and for University of Washington alumni. In addition to the option of bundling for an auto/home discount, they also have a homeownership discount as well. Additional discounts include good student, defensive driving for mature drivers, low mileage, and paid in full.
This company does not have much in the way of trendy or gimmicky discounts, but does offer minor ticket forgiveness to drivers who have not had a ticket in at least 5 years.
PEMCO also offers classic car insurance and covers motorcycles, scooters, and RVs.
PEMCO writes standard homeowner’s insurance as well as renter’s and condo insurance.
The homeowner’s package policy is fairly basic, including all of the coverage we expect and with a few added benefits. PEMCO includes water & sewer backup, which is often an add-on option, with their base policy. Replacement cost coverage is also included in their home insurance package.
The educator and U of W discounts are both available on home policies as well as auto, along with a list of common discounts. These include security and sprinkler system discounts and a newer home discount.
Both the renter and condo policies are also solid but basic, although again they include replacement cost coverage.
PEMCO writes boat insurance for a variety of boats and includes ocean-faring vessels with coverage along 75 miles of the coast of the U.S. and Canada.
Their boat policies include coverage for a mechanical breakdown as well as fishing equipment coverage at replacement cost. Also covered at replacement cost is personal property on the boat.
Boat policies are an agreed value rather than depreciated value, which offers better overall coverage.
PEMCO also writes earthquake insurance, which can be added on to a home insurance policy. With much of their coverage area being at risk of earthquakes, it is a good extra to have.
Personal umbrella insurance is available in amounts of $1, $2, and $3 million. This coverage provides additional liability above and beyond the limits of underlying policies. This coverage is only offered to those with both auto and home insurance through PEMCO.
We ran a rate quote for a 30-year-old single male driver in Seattle, using the company’s headquarters zip code. The system stopped us just short of completion and required a social security number to continue, probably since it could not locate any records for our nonexistent sample driver.
The quote, which was showing numbers in a sidebar in spite of our being unable to complete it, showed a 12-month premium of $1,088.21. We were not able to see what coverage this included since we could not complete the quote process. Since we do not normally quote in Washington state, we are unable to compare this to other options.
Since PEMCO is a preferred-risk driver, we would expect them to offer their best rates to drivers with the best record as well as those with many years of experience. They are not going to have competitive rates for new drivers or for drivers with tickets and accidents.
Claims can be filed 24/7 either via the toll-free claims line or using the online claim form. In order to report a claim online, a PEMCO web account is required, which means it cannot be used by other drivers to file a claim against a PEMCO insured.
Glass claims and towing or roadside assistance needs are handled through separate phone numbers, expediting the process and providing direct access to assistance. Unlike other insurance companies, PEMCO allows the insured to choose their own glass shop to handle repairs or replacement.
PEMCO’s preferred repair network is called Timesaver Repairs, and the shops on this list will work directly with the claims department to handle vehicle repairs. Customers can also select their own repair shop.
While there is not a lot of in-depth claims information, the site does offer an overview of what to do in the event of an auto or home claim, with step-by step instructions. Claims contact information is easy to find.
Ratings and Consumer Reviews
PEMCO has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau (BBB), with only 11 complaints on file in the past three years. There are eight negative reviews, with complaints regarding claims handling and unexpected rate increases.
J.D. Power has given PEMCO its top award for auto insurance satisfaction in the Northwest region for several years in a row, including the latest 2018 ratings. Claims are the only category in which the company did not receive top marks.
There are 109 Yelp reviews of PEMCO with an overall two-star rating. A lot of the complaints seem to be about rate increases, with some claims issues as well. A few positive reviews are scattered among the complaints.
Overall, PEMCO has a good reputation and a low complaint volume for its size.
The Bottom Line
PEMCO is probably a good choice if you live in Washington or Oregon and have a stellar driving record; if you don’t, you might be better off with a different company. They will appeal not only to those who qualify for their best rates, but also to those seeking a local company. In general, we would not expect this company to have the lowest rates around, but they do offer solid products and a good reputation.
For a list of companies that we recommend, visit our Best Insurance Companies page.