Insurance is a complicated topic and with so many resources online, it’s often difficult for consumers to find key information such as insurer rate comparisons and complaint data.
Making matters even more challenging is the fact that insurance in the United States is regulated at the state level — in contrast to many other financial service providers such as banks, which operate under significant federal oversight.
The trillion-dollar insurance industry has 51 different regulating bodies resulting in a widely varied approach to insurance regulation and consumer services.
State agencies graded and ranked
A new NerdWallet analysis looked at insurance departments across the country, evaluating their online offerings and how helpful their websites are to consumers in their state.
The study examined the websites for all 50 states and the District of Columbia, looking for information that would benefit consumers the most. Researchers also called consumer helplines and emailed each insurance department. NerdWallet then graded each agency on more than 20 factors that added up to a 100-point scale. (Visit the research methodology section for a more comprehensive explanation of metrics and weightings.)
Need for useful, timely online information
What did they find? The majority of departments had plenty of work to do to improve the consumer information they offer and how easy it is to locate. One state, however, had a website that ranked well above the rest and stands as a model for other states to emulate. Can you guess which state’s insurance website ranked No. 1?
Here are the 20 most helpful state insurance websites for consumers:
Missouri Department of Insurance website.
20. Missouri, Louisiana (2-way tie)
Final score: 67%
At the time of the NerdWallet analysis, the Missouri Department of Insurance website lacked auto and homeowners’ insurance rate estimates. The state’s score, however, was boosted by the presence of complaint information. Missouri’s complaint index tool is reportedly easy to use and lets you view a company’s last three years of complaint information on one screen.
The state has a consumer helpline, but the department lost points because researchers had to leave a message and wait approximately 90 minutes for a return call to get their question answered. The department received full points for its educational resources, and its Missouri-specific auto insurance guide was found to be “particularly robust and user-friendly.”
Louisiana Department of Insurance website.
The Louisiana Department of Insurance scored above average, partly due to the presence of premium comparison tools for auto and homeowners’ insurance — both using 2015 data. It also scored maximum points for having an easy-to-locate consumer helpline that answered a basic insurance question in less than one minute when called.
The department has numerous consumer education resources across auto, home, health and life insurance, and NerdWallet determined its guides are “well-written and contain helpful information.”
Louisiana’s score was negatively affected by the lack of complaint information.
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Ohio Department of Insurance website.
Final score: 68%
Consumers are able to easily find and use complaint comparisons for auto, health, homeowners’ and life insurance on the Ohio Department of Insurance website. However, at the time of scoring, complaint information was only available through 2014, which reduced the state’s score.
Researchers were able to locate numerous state-published insurance guides on the website, and when we called the department to ask about auto insurance requirements, their question was answered in three minutes.
The absence of auto and homeowners’ insurance rate data on the website was largely responsible for holding back the state’s score.
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18. New Jersey
Final score: 69%
The New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance website provided auto premium comparisons and complaint information using 2015 data. However, at the time of the review, the state did not extend these tools to any other insurance types.
When the department’s consumer helpline was called, an answer to an auto insurance question was received in just one minute. New Jersey scored well for consumer education resources, too, though many of those resources were not state-specific.
New Hampshire Insurance Department website.
15. New Hampshire, Arizona, Georgia (3-way tie)
Final score: 70%
The New Hampshire Insurance Department tied with Georgia and Arizona for the 15th-highest score.
The department provides 2016 data in both its auto and homeowners’ insurance rate comparison reports. The state scored full points for these premium tools because they are “up-to-date, useful and easy to locate.”
New Hampshire also received full points for its consumer guides and resources, the majority of which are produced by the department. The agency’s “easy-to-find consumer helpline” was able to answer a basic insurance question in less than two minutes when called.
The only thing hurting New Hampshire’s score was the lack of complaint data at the time of this analysis.
Arizona Department of Insurance website.
At the time of the NerdWallet analysis, the Arizona Department of Insurance offered consumers the ability to compare insurance rates for both auto and homeowners’ policies. The auto rate comparisons used 2015 data, but the homeowners’ comparisons used 2014 data.
The state makes limited complaint information available — 2014 data for auto insurance and 2013 data for homeowners’ insurance. The state lost points because these data were slightly out of date and consumers can’t compare complaint information for health and life insurance.
Arizona does have a dedicated consumer helpline, but when called to ask for the minimum requirements for auto insurance in the state, researchers were refused an answer and directed to other state agencies. However, the insurance department does list these requirements on its website. Arizona has several useful consumer educational resources, and its website is reportedly easy to navigate.
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Georgia Department of Insurance website.
The website of the Georgia Department of Insurance scored above average thanks to its auto and homeowners’ premium comparisons, which are based on the most recently approved rate filings from 2016. However, the absence of complaint data had a significant negative effect on the state’s total score.
Georgia received full points for the presence of consumer education resources, including information on auto, health, homeowners’ and life insurance. However, some of these resources, which were “narrowly focused, could be improved.” For example, there is no basic buying guide or general information source for health insurance, and NerdWallet determined the basic brochures for auto, homeowners’ and life insurance could be more robust.
When called, the state’s consumer helpline provided an answer to a basic auto insurance question in less than two minutes.
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13. Washington, Florida (2-way tie)
Final score: 71%
The website of the Washington Office of the Insurance Commissioner offered a “robust” complaint comparison tool, according to NerdWallet. With it, consumers can easily compare complaint information against all licensed insurance companies in the state. Based on 2015 data, the information can then be sorted by company size, number of complaints or complaint index.
When researchers called the department’s consumer assistance line and asked about auto insurance requirements, they received a response within three minutes. Locating state-specific educational resources on the site was easy; however, Washington failed to provide rate comparisons at the time of the scoring.
Florida’s website provided up-to-date premium data, but the information would have been more useful if it shared estimates for more than three driver profiles, according to NerdWalle. The auto and homeowners’ insurance complaints were also up-to-date, earning the state good scores in that category.
Florida’s overall score was held down by its lack of data on complaints against health and life insurance companies, as well as by how difficult it was to find some features on the website.
Department spokesperson Karen Kees explained in an email to researchers that while the Office of Insurance Regulation is in charge of regulating the insurance industry, the Florida Department of Financial Services handles complaint information and consumer assistance. In the NerdWallet analysis, the state was given credit when the insurance department linked to these resources on the Florida DFS website.
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12. West Virginia
Final score: 73%
The website of the West Virginia Offices of the Insurance Commissioner offers consumers a way to compare auto rates, but there wasn’t a similar tool or report for homeowners’ insurance. The website also provides complaint data for auto, home, health and life insurance, although consumers may have a difficult time finding the information since it’s buried in an annual report.
NerdWallet determined that the complaint information could be made more useful by providing context to the complaint totals — adding the size of each insurance company or a complaint ratio.
There are educational resources, but little was available on health insurance. West Virginia has a dedicated consumer helpline, and when called with a basic insurance question, an answer was reported received in a reasonable amount of time.
Connecticut Insurance Department website.
Final score: 74%
The website of the Connecticut Insurance Department had the most comprehensive complaint database of all departments in NerdWallet’s analysis. However, researchers concluded that the tool is “so complex, it would be difficult for the average consumer to compare complaints across insurance companies.” The website’s lack of premium comparisons also kept it from scoring higher.
The agency scored well when it came to consumer assistance, with the presence of an “easy-to-find consumer helpline” and answers to their auto insurance question in less than two minutes. The website features consumer education resources, including a separate list of common terms and definitions, for each major line of insurance.