1) Visit your state's department of insurance Web site.
Although you may not be familiar with it, your state, and every state, has a department of insurance. Most departments have Web sites, and many publish "consumer complaint ratios" for all of the insurance companies that sell policies in their state. This ratio tells you how many complaints a car insurance company received per 1,000 claims filed.
Both experts recommended that consumers use complaint ratios to screen prospective insurers. "Just because they're a big name doesn't mean that they'll be a 'good neighbor' or that you'll be 'in their hands,'" Heller noted.
If you've done your homework, you should already have a list of car insurance companies with the lowest premium quotes. Now jot down the companies with the lowest (or best) complaint ratios. Then, compare your two lists the companies that rank best on both lists merit your strongest consideration.
If you can't find complaint ratios for your state, Heller recommends examining the complaint ratios published by other states. Keep in mind that a single insurance company's practices can vary significantly from state to state a subpar ratio in one state doesn't necessarily mean the situation is the same in your state. But watch for general trends. If an insurer is getting a lot of complaints in several other states, you probably don't want to get involved with this company. The I-CAN Web site provides links and contact information for every state's department of insurance.
Also note that insurance department Web sites often provide basic rate comparison surveys. These can give you a rough idea of which insurers might interest you on a financial basis without the hassle of typing in all your personal information (as you must when you use one of the online quote sites).