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About Berkshire Hathaway
Berkshire Hathaway started as the Valley Falls Company, a textiles manufacturer in its namesake city in Rhode Island. A 1929 merger with the Berkshire Cotton Manufacturing Company brought in the first of the current company’s names; the second came from a 1955 merger with Hathaway Manufacturing.
Berkshire Hathaway is owned by famed billionaire Warren Buffett, who started buying stock in the company in 1962. The company first bought a stake in a company then known as Government Employees Insurance Company in the 1970s – they completed the purchase of that company, now known as GEICO, in 1996. GEICO is the second largest auto insurance company in the country.
Other insurance interests include Berkshire Hathaway Homestate Companies (BHHC), which writes commercial insurance policies. Other companies under the umbrella include WestGUARD (operating as Berkshire Hathaway GUARD), Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance, and United States Liability Insurance Group.
For the purpose of this review, we will provide an overview of the two Berkshire Hathaway branded companies; you can see our review of GEICO here.
Berkshire Hathaway Insurance Products
The two Berkshire Hathaway companies focus on a specific type of insurance, although there is some overlap.
Berkshire Hathaway Homestate Companies
Commercial auto is offered in 30 states. Having recently expanded into South Dakota and Mississippi. They write policies for local and long-range trucking, public auto transportation, non-emergency medical transportation, charter buses, and more.
Commercial Property policies are available in 47 states and cover more than 150 classes of business. The site states that they specialize in hard to place non-standard risks. They also cover vacant buildings and dwellings, rental dwellings, and real estate owned and force placed properties.
Public Entity insurance coverage is offered in a select area of mainly Midwestern states. Products are designed for small to medium communities.
Worker’s Compensation is also available for a wide variety of companies in 47 states.
Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance
In the U.S., Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance writes a variety of commercial and personal insurance policies.
Their Executive and Professional Lines products are designed for financial institutions, public companies, private companies, and non-profits. Executive liability, professional liability, and transactional liability products are all available.
Healthcare Professional Liability is available for healthcare professionals, practices, managed care, and senior care among others. Medical Stop Loss is also offered.
The company also has targeted commercial insurance programs that include a variety of coverages to suit the particular needs of each industry. Target areas include affinity associations, allied healthcare, builder’s risk, event liability, miscellaneous professional, CAT liability, and admitted multi-line commercial.
Casualty products include general liability and liability coverage for energy, transpiration, and life sciences sectors.
Finally, property insurance policies are available for many different industries, including marine. A wide variety of surety bonds are also available.
On the personal lines end of things, Berkshire Hathaway Specialty writes homeowners insurance aimed at high-value homes and seasonal and vacation homes, specifically on the east coast.
The company also writes a variety of travel insurance policies such as travel convenience, travel accident, and coverage directed at travel agents, tour guides, and others in the travel industry.
Rates are not available for any of the programs and products listed above from either company. Given that these are specialty programs for the most part, it is expected that a rate quote would be provided based on detailed information and with the assistance of an agent or broker; online quotes are unlikely to be accurate or useful when seeking this type of coverage.
Berkshire Hathaway Homestate only has online claims reporting as an option for Worker’s Compensation claims. All others can be filed over the phone or by fax, email, or regular mail.
Berkshire Hathaway Specialty has online claims reporting for only one product as well – Ocean Marine. All others can be filed by phone, email, fax or regular mail. Contact information varies based on the type of policy. Travel policies are handled by Travelex, and claims can be handled via that company’s website or to Berkshire Hathaway directly.
There is not much information on the claims process, but that is what we expect from these companies given the type of policy they write.
Ratings and Consumer Reviews
We had difficulty locating Better Business Bureau (BBB) ratings for the first of the two companies. The BBB page for the Homestate Companies headquarters shows an NR (not rated) and states that complaints are handled by another BBB, but not where to look. The company has been accredited since 1981.
Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance has an A rating with the BBB. Three complaints were filed in the past three years, and one was closed in the past 12 months.
The Berkshire Hathaway name can make it hard to find a solid source of reviews since they own so many companies. The fact that nothing major appears for either of these companies is, however, in their favor.
The Bottom Line
Berkshire Hathaway’s branded insurance companies write specialized products that keep them off the radar of the general public. They have a complex and varied array of products and are backed by a very solid financial base, which makes them a reliable choice for insurance. If you are in the market for these specialty products, Berkshire Hathaway is well worth a closer look.
For a list of companies that we recommend, visit our Best Insurance Companies page.