Bristol West Auto Insurance Review

Bristol West Auto Insurance Review

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

  • Good drivers looking for the cheapest rates
  • People who 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

  • Good drivers looking for the cheapest rates
  • People who 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 while offering some of the benefits of a mainstream insurance company to its clients. Bristol West, which is a subsidiary of Farmers Insurance, specializes in coverage for drivers who may not be able to get quotes elsewhere, such as people who have multiple recent traffic violations or at-fault accidents.

Discounts and benefits are more generous at Bristol West than at a typical high-risk insurance provider, so drivers may find perks they are not eligible for elsewhere. However, its rates tend to be on the higher side, so drivers with a good driving history will likely pay less at another auto insurance company.

Bristol West insurance: Our thoughts

Overall, we found Bristol West to provide a 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. However, the company does not offer some of the newest features available at companies like Farmers 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 and may be better able to pay out claims promptly.

At the same time, Bristol West operates in a similar way to a small agent-based company: Its customers may purchase their policies through an insurance agent in addition to online. 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.

Bristol West allows you to buy coverage online in some states. However, we found the process to be inconsistent, as the interface is sometimes buggy and doesn't always allow you to choose coverage options. Furthermore, customers in some states will need to contact the insurer via phone to actually purchase a policy.

Claims can be made over the phone, online or via the company's mobile app. Bristol West's mobile app allows you to view and pay your bill and contact your agent. It can also save a digital copy of your insurance card to your mobile wallet — an unexpected modern feature for a niche insurer.

Furthermore, the company has inconsistent customer service reviews, with different underwriters getting substantially different ratings from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC). Customers cite inconsistent billing and prices, as well as 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 can't otherwise 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 for up to 30 days)
  • Rideshare coverage, including Uber Eats
  • Coverage for rental cars

Bristol West insurance discounts

Bristol West has an about-average list of discounts available to potential customers. Bristol West doesn't provide savings amounts for each discount, but skipping paper statements, paying for your policy in full, and having no recent accidents are three options that are particularly likely to lower your rate.

Full list of Bristol West discounts:

  • Pay premiums electronically/automatically
  • Advance purchase
  • Bundle multiple policies (two or more cars, mobile home, motorcycle)
  • On-time bill payment
  • Owning a home
  • Mature driver
  • Having a young driver away at college
  • Good student
  • Switching to Bristol West from another provider
  • Good driving record for three years, plus another at five years
  • Accident forgiveness

Bristol West auto insurance quotes

We found that car insurance prices at Bristol West were consistently higher than top competitors for customers with clean driving histories as well as people with a recent speeding ticket or at-fault crash.

Bristol West gave our sample driver with a clean record a quote of $1,770 per year for minimum coverage and $4,453 per year for full coverage — each was substantially more than the average price we found among top insurance companies.

Graph comparing the cost of auto insurance between Bristol West and major competitors for minimum and full coverage auto insurance.

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Insurer
Minimum coverage
Full coverage
State Farm$578$1,343
Geico$484$1,210
Allstate$860$2,050
Progressive$1,127$2,339
Bristol West$1,770$4,453

Bristol West vs. competitors: Cost after driving incidents

Bristol West's prices for drivers with recent incidents were also higher than average. For example, its typical price for a driver with one recent at-fault crash on their record was $6,133 per year. That's 84% more than the typical price we found overall.

Insurer
At-fault crash
Speeding ticket
State Farm$1,609$1,449
Geico$1,769$1,210
Allstate$3,499$2,687
Progressive$3,680$2,901
Bristol West$6,133$5,775

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 has subpar customer service reviews. The insurance company received a 1.83 complaint score from the NAIC, which means it received 83% more complaints than can be expected for a company of its size — the average score nationally is 1.00. Customers noted claim delays and overall claims dissatisfaction as the most common complaints.

However, Bristol West does have a high degree of financial stability. It has an A rating from AM 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.

Methodology

ValuePenguin's analysis used insurance rate data from Quadrant Information Services. These rates were publicly sourced from insurer filings and should be used for comparative purposes only — your own quotes may be different.

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.

Frequently asked questions

Is Bristol West expensive car insurance?

Bristol West car insurance tends to be on the expensive side. We found that it's considerably more costly than other top insurers, including Geico and State Farm.

What is Bristol West good for?

Bristol West is a nonstandard insurer, meaning they specialize in providing coverage to drivers with imperfect histories such as multiple tickets or a DUI. They're owned by Farmers, a major insurer, so it has more features and better financial stability than other nonstandard insurance companies.

Who owns Bristol West insurance?

Bristol West is owned by Farmers, and was purchased in 2007.

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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