Bristol West Auto Insurance Review (Formerly Foremost)

Bristol West Auto Insurance Review (Formerly Foremost)

Editor's Rating

Discounts and forgiving coverage make this auto insurer appealing to drivers with mixed histories, but good drivers are likely to find better rates elsewhere.

Good for

  • High-risk drivers
  • Shoppers who want to work directly with an insurance agent

Bad for

  • People who prefer to shop for insurance online
  • Good drivers that don't qualify for the company's discounts
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Editor's Rating

Discounts and forgiving coverage make this auto insurer appealing to drivers with mixed histories, but good drivers are likely to find better rates elsewhere.

Good for

  • High-risk drivers
  • Shoppers who want to work directly with an insurance agent

Bad for

  • People who prefer to shop for insurance online
  • Good drivers that don't qualify for the company's discounts
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Bristol West is a car insurance provider that provides coverage to high-risk drivers but also offers some of the benefits of a mainstream insurance company. Bristol West, which is a subsidiary of Farmers Insurance, offers coverage to drivers who may not be able to get quotes elsewhere. This includes people who have multiple recent traffic violations or at-fault accidents. In addition, its insurance discounts and benefits are more generous than at a typical high-risk insurance provider, so drivers may find perks at Bristol West that they may not be eligible for elsewhere. However, its rates tend to be on the higher side, so drivers with a good driving history are likely to pay less at another auto insurance company.

Editor's note: Before August 2018, car insurance sold by Bristol West was available through Foremost Insurance, another subsidiary of Farmers Insurance that specializes in RV, mobile home and other specialty insurance products.

Contents

Bristol West insurance: our thoughts

Overall, we found Bristol West to provide an interesting mix of the perks and benefits typically available at a mainstream insurance company, and the willingness to accept higher-risk drivers that specialty insurers provide. The discounts Bristol West offers include those for loyalty, scheduled premium payment and bundling multiple policies. However, the company does not offer some of the newest features available at companies like Farmers Insurance or Progressive, such as a discount for using a telematic driving monitor.

Bristol West is a smaller subsidiary of Farmers Insurance, a larger insurance company. This means Bristol West has a stronger financial backing than you might expect for a company of its size. At the same time, it operates in a similar way to a small agent-based company, meaning that all Bristol West customers purchase their policies through an insurance agent, rather than directly from the company. This means you'll have a single point of contact when you're shopping for insurance, as well as updating, renewing or canceling your policy. At least, in theory, you can count on your insurance agent to get to know you and your insurance needs in order to provide the best service.

However, its agent-only approach may make it difficult to shop for insurance, especially if you prefer to buy online. You must contact an agent and work with them to receive a quote, as there's no way to generate one on the web. Bristol West's claims department does have an online form, so you can submit an insurance claim online.

Furthermore, the company has inconsistent customer service reviews, with different underwriters getting substantially different ratings from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. Customers cite inconsistent billing and prices and a difficult-to-use website as major concerns.

Bottom line: Bristol West occupies an unusual middle ground between the perks and savings of standard, full-featured insurance companies and the lenient coverage options of those that specialize in high-risk drivers. However, their rates were on the high side for typical drivers, so if you have a clean driving record, you'll likely want to look elsewhere.

Bristol West car insurance coverage and discounts

Bristol West's coverages and benefits are not enough to differentiate it from a mainstream company, but they do make Bristol West an enticing option for those who have poor credit or otherwise can't get a competitive rate from a mainstream insurer. The company offers all the standard auto insurance options you would expect, including liability coverage, collision, comprehensive and medical payments. Plus, it provides a few options not always available from specialty insurance carriers, such as gap coverage and rental reimbursement.

Bristol West auto insurance coverages include:

  • Liability: Bodily injury, property damage
  • Uninsured/underinsured motorists
  • Medical payments
  • Gap coverage (for both loans and leases)
  • Towing and roadside assistance
  • Rental car reimbursement ($50 per day up to 30 days)

However, the company offers a surprising array of discounts comparable to those you'd find at a big-name insurance company and far more options than another specialty insurer. Highlights include three-year and five-year good-driving discounts, multi plan bundling discounts, and a reduced premium for each year you renew your coverage with Bristol West. If you're eligible for multiple discounts on your Bristol West insurance bill, it may make the company's rates competitive with a mainstream insurer.

Bristol West auto insurance discounts:

  • Deductible reduced by $100 for each year you renew your insurance policy
  • Pay premiums electronically
  • Bundle multiple policies (two or more cars, mobile home, motorcycle)
  • On-time bill payment
  • Having a young driver at college
  • Providing your email address
  • Switching to Bristol West from another provider
  • Good driving record for three years, plus another at five years

Bristol West auto insurance quotes

To get a detailed understanding of what drivers can expect to pay at Bristol West, we compared insurance quotes from Bristol West and three competitors. As a specialty insurer that focuses on the nontraditional insurance market, Bristol West typically offered rates that were more expensive than average. Based on our research, the company's prices were 11% greater than average when compared to three of the largest auto insurance companies.

Bristol West also typically provides higher quotes than its parent company, Farmers. This suggests that a typical driver who contacts an agent associated with Farmers and Bristol West is likely to find a more competitive rate at the larger company.

However, Bristol West had a substantial amount of price variability for our sample drivers, suggesting that some drivers will find a better price than others. For example, Bristol West offered lower-than-average rates to a 22-year-old woman with a clean driving history, at $2,523 annually, but the most expensive quote overall to the same woman if she got in one at-fault accident, at $3,716.

Given Bristol West's opportunities to qualify for discounts, it may offer an affordable rate to some drivers; but the only way to be sure you're getting the best price for car insurance is to check with multiple insurers.

Graph of Bristol West Insurance Prices Compared to Other Companies

Customer service reviews and ratings

Bristol West Insurance has subpar customer service reviews. Bristol West Insurance Company received a 3.72 complaint score from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, which means it received far more complaints than can be expected for a company of its size (the median score is 1.00). In reviews, customers noted the company's inconsistent billing practices and a website that felt out-of-date.

However, Bristol West does have a high degree of financial stability. It has an A rating from A.M. Best, indicating that Bristol West has "excellent" financial strength and is very likely to have enough funds to pay out its claims. This strong rating is due in part to the fact that Bristol West is operated by Farmers Insurance and Zurich Insurance Group, a large insurance conglomerate that lends its financial expertise to the smaller subsidiary.

Matt is a Technical Writer at ValuePenguin who works on distilling the complex details of insurance into accessible advice. He previously created educational content at Grovo Learning and MarketSmiths Content Strategists. Matt's consumer-focused analysis of insurance has appeared in publications like CNBC, Yahoo Finance and the Miami Herald.

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

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