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.
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.
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.
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.
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.