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Not all auto insurance companies in the state of Florida are created equal. When you are buying auto insurance coverage, it is a mistake to put all of the weight of your decision on price alone.

While price is extremely important, as a consumer it is in your best interest to choose a company that is dedicated to offering both a great financial product and excellent service.

Price shopping is the most effective way that drivers in the state of Florida can find competitive rates, but before you begin comparison shopping you should rate the companies and cross sub-par providers off of your list. Read on, and learn why it is important to qualify insurers, how to choose the best company, and what tools are available to help you do your research.

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How does one Florida insurer differ from another?

In a market that is so closely regulated by the Office of Insurance Regulation, it is hard to believe that insurance companies in the state of Florida differ so very much.

The Financial Services Commission that safeguards the public by regulating the industry and watching the operations of insurers does ensure that companies do not discriminate and that they pay covered claims in a timely manner, but they are not in control of customer service and many parts of the claims filing process.

One company may be dedicated to speedy claims payments while the other is dedicated to customer service options that are convenient for the modern day policyholder. Generally, Florida auto insurance companies will develop their brand and then stress the value in their brand to attract a specific market.

For example, a company that wants to target young consumers may focus on developing an advanced online system that will allow customers to change their policies or make inquiries online without picking up the phone. By identifying the market that a company is targeting, you can not only find the best rates, you can also find the best company for your needs.

Checking a Company's Financial Status Before Rating the Company

Financial solidity is extremely important when you are buying a financial product. Because insurance is not the same as a bank account, it is easy to overlook how important it is to buy auto insurance from Florida auto insurance companies that are financially stable an creditworthy.

The financial status of an auto insurer in every state is public record, and you must use the consumer-friendly ratings that are given by independent rating agencies like A.M. Best to help assess the standing of a company. This unbiased agency uses financial records and statements to assign letter grades that make financial security much easier to comprehend.

Check a Company's Licensing Status in Florida

You need to buy insurance from a company that is licensed to do business in your state for your own interests. Some online companies may not be licensed in Florida but still offer insurance products to Florida drivers.

As a general rule, you should buy insurance from a company licensed by the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation so that you are protected and so that you can turn to the office if you ever have a problem. If the company is not licensed to do business by the office, they are not forced to follow the rules. To find companies with an active license status, use the Active Company Search tool.

Rating Florida Car Insurance Companies to Make the Best Choice

Once you have gone down the list and you have verified that each company is financially stable and that they are licensed to do business in Florida, the next step is to find the best company that will offer you what matters to you.

If you are not familiar with what you should look for in a company offering such an important financial product like auto insurance, here are some important questions to get the answers to:

What auto coverage options are offered by the company?

You buy auto insurance for protection and peace of mind, even though you really do not want to use your coverage in the future. In the state of Florida, all companies are required to offer the coverage options that all drivers are required to carry.

State law mandates that all drivers in this no-fault state must have Liability and Personal Injury Protection and that insurers must also offer comprehensive and collision as an option.

If extra coverage is important to you, it is important to look for insurer that offers options that you are not required to purchase. Many people love the idea of buying rental car reimbursement, towing and gap insurance which is important for newer vehicles. If you want more than just basic coverage, verify the company offers just that before you begin shopping.

What contact methods are available?

How do you prefer to contact your insurer when you have a question or when you need to make a policy change?

Some may like to work one-on-one with the same agent every time they need to contact the company. Others may like to visit a local district office, where they will be serviced face-to-face to take care of all of their insurance needs.

More modern consumers may prefer to call a 1-800 number to take care of business or make payments. Computer savvy policyholders may prefer to use an online system to do everything that needs to be done. Be sure you consider which contact methods are available, and cross companies that do not match your preferences off of the list.

Does the company offer any other lines of insurance?

Is buying all of your insurance coverage from the same insurer important to you. There are Florida insurance companies who offer strictly auto insurance, and then there are those companies that will offer more than one product line.

Servicing your policies may be much easier when you buy home, auto, life and health coverage from the same company, but most people make this decision to save money. When you buy two lines of coverage from the same insurer or a partner company, you will qualify for multi-line discounts that can save you a pretty penny. If all you need is auto insurance, this detail may not be important to you.

How quickly are claims processed?

You buy auto insurance so that the company will issue claims payments when you need repairs done. If you never need to file a claim with your insurer, you are technically only paying for service. Most consumers want to know that their insurer will not delay their claims payments or make filing a claim a hassle.

If you want to find out about a company's reputation in the claims processing arena, you can access official complaint records. By using the Complaint Comparison tool through the Division of Consumer Services, you can find out how many complaints have been filed against an insurer.

You can also use third-party resources online to access valid and unbiased company reviews on the timeliness of claims processing. By doing this, you will have a good view of what to expect if you ever do need to file a claim.

Can you choose your own repair facility?

Did you know that some insurers will require you to take your vehicle to an approved facility to have your repairs done when you file a claim. Other companies will base their rates on using only certain types of replacement parts. It is important to choose a company that allows you to take your vehicle to a repair shop that you frequent.

You should also select a company that does not exclude the use of quality original equipment manufacture parts. By doing this, you know that you will get quality repairs and that your car will run like new after the repairs are completed.

The Cost of Premiums

Now that you have done your research on the other factors, you should consider price. It is always important to consider price last when you are trying to find a quality insurance policy from a reputable insurance provider in Florida.

Florida is ranked the fifth most expensive state for insurance, with the average premiums coming in at $1090.65 per year. Because coverage in the state is higher than the national average, it is important to price shop. By price shopping, you can locate the company that wants to do business with you by charging competitive rates without sacrificing quality.

You can rate shop and comparison shop in the state of Florida by using advanced online quoting tools.

By entering your information in a comparison shopping tool just once, you can access the rates of several respected Florida car insurance companies. Use these tools, input your information accurately, and then make a decision. Be sure to review your policy every year so that you know you are still getting the best rates.

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