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- User Reviews – Yelp-style sites where customers can leave feedback.
- Data Dumps – Lists a bunch of facts, but provides no stance or editorial viewpoint.
- Generic Marketing Content – Not reviews, but rather rewritten marketing material.
This review is none of the above.
I have written about Safeco Insurance three times over the last two and a half years, and this is an accumulation of everything I have learned along the way. I truly hope it will help you in your research.
Safeco Insurance Overview
This overview of Safeco is admittedly the boring part. It has good information, but I won’t be upset if you want to skip ahead.
The company’s primary sales force is a network of independent agents and agencies licensed to sell their products. This is significant because it differs from popular companies like GEICO, Esurance and Progressive, which are direct-to-consumer companies.
What that means for you: In order to get a Safeco policy you must work through a licensed agent. There is no bypassing the human element by simply getting coverage over the phone or online. This can be important for someone who has a complicated insurance portfolio, but unnecessary for those who know what they are doing or want simple coverage.
It should be noted, however, that Safeco’s website does allow for you to start an online quote, and in many cases actually see a price. But the policy will ultimately be forwarded on to an agent before it can be finalized.
The other major difference is related to price, and why agent-driven insurance companies often cost more. I will go into more depth about this in the Rates and Premiums section below.
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Products and Services
Safeco is a full service insurance company, and they sell a lot of stuff. Their bread and butter are auto insurance and home insurance products, but it does not stop there. Here is a breakdown of their primary product offerings, with my comments below the list:
- Auto Insurance – The coverage options for their car insurance are standard. Comprehensive, collision, roadside assistance… you name it, they got it. This is usually the case for auto insurers unless you are talking about high-risk or non-standard insurance companies, which Safeco is not.
- Home Insurance – Just like their car insurance coverage, their home insurance portfolio is pretty standard across the board. Homeowners insurance is not just limited to houses either, condo insurance falls under this category.
- Renters Insurance – Think of this like a watered down home insurance policy that covers your stuff and potential liability that arises on the property you are renting, like a dog bite or kitchen fire. Safeco’s coverage here is normal, nothing out of the ordinary to report.
- Boat & Watercraft Insurance – The standard coverage package will come with agreed value (boat value is determined ahead of time), personal effects coverage (fishing poles, water skis, etc), and fuel spill/wreckage removal (they will clean it up if the boat sinks).
- Classic Car Insurance – Like boat insurance, classic car coverage comes with agreed value, so you still get the predetermined amount of coverage, even if the car goes down in value. There are ways to customize your policy and include extras like pet coverage (huh?), you know, in case Fido gets injured while hanging out the passenger window. Other add-ons include Emergency Assistance, or Personal Property Coverage.
- Motorcycle Insurance – Since many riding enthusiasts like to customize their bikes, coverage can be personalized to fit an individual’s motorcycle. Safeco designs all of their motorcycle policies to satisfy all mandatory requirements across every state. Additionally, each policy comes standard with $1,000 of gear replacement (Helmet, boots, etc) and a two-year coverage replacement cost for a Harley-Davidson®.
- RV Insurance – Recreational Vehicle coverage comes standard with 150 days of use and offers the same basic coverage options as regular Auto Insurance. So unless you live in your RV full time or travel across the country during the entire MLB season, their standard policy should cover enough days on the road. Once you’ve decided to put the RV back in storage, you can reduce your coverage thus saving you money.
- Umbrella Insurance – Umbrella policies act as backups to primary coverage like auto and home insurance, adding an extra level of liability protection once those are exhausted. They also fill in the gap by covering things such as libel and slander lawsuits. Safeco’s website reports umbrella policies are sold in $1 million increments up to $5 million and you qualify for a discount on Homeowners Insurance when you have the Umbrella Insurance, in most states.
- Safeco RightTrack – For my full analysis, visit the review of Safeco RightTrack program.
Ok, I may have been wrong when I said the overview was the boring part. If you managed to get through that entire list above, hat’s off to you.
Now for my opinion.
Somewhere along the line, insurance went from being a safety net to prevent financial disaster after some sort of accident or loss, to a bloated, oversold, worthless feature-packed product that is marketed as coverage.
Let me go on a slight tangent to explain what I mean – Insurance, at its core, is designed to make you financially whole after some major incident.
Lets say you cause $50,000 worth of damage in a car accident. That is what insurance is for. It is NOT for fixing a $200 dent in your bumper after backing into a light pole.
At some point insurance companies figured out they could sell (or include) all these ridiculous add-on features to insurance policies, and ultimately charge more money for the service.
Safeco is a prime example of this.
Take their Diminishing Deductible that is included in their auto insurance policies. Every year you go without an accident, your deductible goes down by $100 (up to a maximum of $500).
While it may be included in a car insurance policy, it certainly is not free. Insurance companies do not simply add-on features and additional coverage out of the goodness of their hearts. Its baked into the cost of the policy.
Not to mention the human psychology that goes into this. If you did happen to get into a small fender bender, you may think twice about filing a claim because you’re afraid of losing your vanishing deductible. They know this.
Accident Forgiveness is the same thing. If it is included in the policy automatically, you are paying for it.
In my opinion, these are marketing gimmicks that make for good commercials and sales pitches when sitting in an agent’s office.
Ready for a break? Watch my video review of Safeco.
Safeco Rates and Premiums
As mentioned above in the Overview, Safeco operates with an agent-driven sales model, which means customers must work directly with a licensed agent in order to get a policy.
While not always the case, insurance companies that use the agent-only model often cost more than their direct-to-consumer counterparts since they have to pay pretty hefty commissions for each new policy and renewal (anywhere from 5-20% of the total premium amount). On the flip side, direct-to-consumer insurance companies spend a lot on marketing, but make up the difference from bypassing the agent and their commissions. (Some direct insurance companies still sell through agents, though it’s not their primary sales tool)
Another thing that can drive up premium costs are the “add-ons” bundled into the policy, as discussed in the section above. Accident Forgiveness and Diminishing Deductibles simply add to the overall price the customer has to pay.
Whenever I get a quote from Safeco, the results seem to back up everything already mentioned in this section.
Safeco is expensive.
I ran a new quote test while writing this review, and Safeco came in almost 20% above the average for auto insurance (19.45% to be exact). This is nearly identical to the results from the previous two tests.
In Safeco’s defense, they are set up as a mutual insurance company, which means the policyholders are more like shareholders. Safeco can share the company profits by reducing premiums or issuing dividends, but that is not guaranteed. On the other side of the coin, they can increase premiums to cover shortfalls during bad years.
Advertising and Media
For those who reside in and around Seattle, Washington (like me), Safeco is a pretty big name when it comes to sports. The city skyline is flanked to the south by both the baseball field occupied by the Seattle Mariners, and the football field where the Seattle Seahawks play. The baseball stadium is called Safeco Field, and first opened in 1999.
Safeco bought the naming rights to the stadium prior to opening, and owns it until 2019.
During my research about their advertising practices, I did not uncover anything that seemed alarming. For the most part, they try and compete with the humor-based TV ads frequently run by Allstate, State Farm and Farmers.
On a positive note, they do not heavily push the industry standard “Drivers Save $XXX by Switching To Us” mantra. Insurance companies that do this are taking advantage of the fact that most people switch because they save money. That’s why they can pretty much all make that claim. Not because they are generally cheaper.
The actual process of filing a claim with Safeco is fairly straightforward but limited in options. While many other insurance companies allow you file online or even through a mobile app, Safeco claims must be filed over the phone. The good news is the claims center is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- 800-332-3226 – File a Claim
- 877-762-3101 – Roadside Assistance
Unfortunately, the good news stops at the claims center being open 24/7.
When researching for this Safeco review, one of the most frequent complaints I came across was their claims process and claims handling. If you take a peek at the dozens of comments left by other people at the bottom of this review, you will see what I mean.
But I don’t want to jump the gun. In the next section we will dive into actual customer feedback left on this website and others.
Claims, and rates, and service! Oh my!
When looking at customer complaints and testimonials, I frequently came across the same general issues – Claims, rates and customer service.
But don’t take my word for it. Here are comments left by others at the bottom of this review:
My parent’s have been with Safeco Home Insurance for 35 years and recently made a claim due to a slow leak that damaged their wood floors and created mold in the walls. The claims adjuster was really rude and they’ve been getting nothing but poor customer service. In the end they just received a call stating they are denying the claim…
We recently were told our company was being switched to Safeco. After receiving letters twice from Safeco stating our rates will not change, we get our policy within 2 weeks and sure enough they have raised them. No reasons given. And the increase was more than 40 dollars although the policy coverage has not changed what so ever. Thankfully we only have about a month and half before renewal. Insurance shopping we will be doing.
This has been the worst experience ever. I would not recommend this company to my worst enemy. Customer service is horrible. It took 5 months and 3 calls to 2 different supervisors just to get a call back from my adjuster. His manager did a terrible job of enforcing him to do his job. It is now basically June and my minor accident with clear liability happened in Aug of 2013 and it has still not been settled…
I too was involved in an accident with a Safeco insured driver. Her fault….but what a nightmare dealing safeco. Adjuster works “part-time”, will not return a phone call, does not reply to email. Standard delay tactics….I have never seen such horrible customer service…
The testimonials left on other consumer reporting websites are not any better.
On Pissed Consumer’s website, an individual said they were hit by a Safeco insured driver and the police determined the other party was at fault. But the claims department took a long time to make a determination and ultimately denied the claim.
A person from California wrote about their experience on Ripoff Report’s website after they were hit by a Safeco insured driver as well. According to them, Safeco shorted the initial damage payout by $500, and then when the person refused the payment, Safeco “reassessed” the claim and lowered the entire reimbursement by $1400.
Safeco is NOT my favorite insurance company. Plain and simple.
I have personally helped many people navigate the murky waters of their claims process, find contact information when it is sparse, and provide an ear when someone simply needs to vent.
I believe they are overpriced in many instances (at least whenever I have received a quote from them) and their “mandatory” policy add-ons help to drive up those prices. I also think there are so many complaints about their claims department that they cannot justify those high costs.
In my opinion, there are too many other good insurance companies out there who provide better service and more competitive pricing.
For a list of companies that we recommend, visit our Best Insurance Companies page.