How We Found the Best Homeowners Insurance in Minnesota
We started our search by looking for the companies that do the most business in Minnesota. After all, you don’t get to be number one unless you’ve got something good to offer. But we didn’t stop there. Using the methodology that we set out in our national homeowner insurance review, we checked out the rankings of our top five with leading consumer and financial agencies like J.D. Power and Consumer Reports, took a deep dive into each company’s website, and then got sample quotes from each company, based on a cute $180,000 bungalow we found in St. Paul on zillow.com. Here’s what we discovered:
Minnesota Homeowners Insurance Company Reviews
State Farm owns the largest market share in Minnesota, and there’s a reason for that. Its scores from Consumer Reports, which surveyed nearly 8,000 people, were in the “very good” range. It earns a CR reader’s score of 82, which puts it in a tie for second place with Farmers Insurance, behind Auto-Owners, our number three pick.
J.D. Power, meanwhile, gives State Farm a four out of five overall ranking, and a three out of five for its claims experience — the same grade that three of the other four companies also got (again, Auto-Owners was the winner here, with four out of five).
Moody’s, A.M. Best, and S&P Global, which rank financial stability, all give the company a mark of “A” — which means is is financially stable enough that after a catastrophe, it won’t get caught short when paying multiple claims.
State Farm’s online quote tool is simple and efficient, and it has one feature that we really like. Embedded in the tool is a short video that explains replacement value — the amount it would cost to replace your home with a new one of similar size and scope.
This is different from the amount you paid for the house (most likely it’s more), and it is probably the amount you want to insure it for. Usually you need to get this number from an estimator or skilled carpenter, but State Farm has something called 360Value that allows you to determine that cost as you do your quote.
Answer a few additional questions, and it’ll give you an estimated replacement value. Our $180,000 house, for example, had a replacement value of $193,000, which was the number we based our dwelling coverage on. Our final quote was $1,722, which was rather high, but there are several discounts you may be able to use to get yours down lower.
State Farm’s website was comprehensive and easy to use. It includes the Simple Insights blog, which has tons of articles on buying and selling a home, buying insurance, home maintenance, and protecting yourself from weather extremes and other disasters. It’s well done, and worth taking an evening to work through.
Allstate deserves praise based on its website alone, which was our favorite among the five top companies. In fact, if you are just starting out and are boggled by the complexity of your insurance choices, we recommend that you spend some learning time on Allstate’s site even if you don’t end up using the company. Like State Farm, it has an informative blog. But it also has additional resources, like a rent vs. own calculator. And the digital home locker makes it easy to store an inventory of your furniture, electronics, and other belongings in the cloud. Both you and your agent have access if you ever need to submit a claim.
Allstate scores reasonably well with J.D. Power and Consumer Reports, although its CR reader’s score of 80 (“very good”) was the lowest of our five. Financial stability rankings are also in the “A” category, so you know it’s a stable company that’s not going to disappear when you need it.
Allstate isn’t perfect. You can’t do a “stealth quote” with it — they want your phone number and email right away, which is bothersome if you’re just trying to collect some numbers for comparison’s sake. And after we input all the info on our circa-1900 bungalow into the quote tool, we were told we couldn’t get an online quote because of the age of our house. Huh? None of the other companies had a problem with it. We did reach out to an agent to get a quote after that, but the whole experience left us less than satisfied. Our final quote, for $1,343, was the second highest we received.
If we based our ratings on Consumer Reports alone, Auto-Owners would come out on top, with an overall readers score of 89. While our other companies earned “very good” ratings for their claim experience, Auto-Owners’ scores reached “excellent.” J.D. Power, meanwhile, gave it a coveted four out of five in both overall and claims experience — while our other companies were bogged down in three out of five territory.
Clearly, the company has its fans, and there are good reasons why it’s one of the top five companies in Minnesota. Its website came up short, however, in its ability to educate us — there’s no blog, no financial tools or apps. You can’t even get a quote online, although we had a quick response, within a couple of hours, from the agent we contacted, who easily answered all our questions and quickly gave us a quote.
One thing we did like was the extensive number of discounts, including some unusual ones, like a discount if you have a whole-house water shut off system, or if you have a backup generator. You also get a discount if you’ve paid your mortgage off. That, along with a reasonable yearly premium of $1,202, made it a good choice to check out if you don’t need a lot of website extras and you’re pinching pennies — and who isn’t after purchasing a home?
Like Auto-Owners, Farmers Insurance excels in the area of discounts. Along with standard ones like multi-policy, claims-free, and smoke-free, it was the only company that offered a discount if your house is LEED-certified or has other “green” home improvements. It also had discounts for educators, police and law enforcement personnel, and other professional groups.
Farmers’ website is good, though not on par with Allstate or State Farm. The quote tool was fairly standard, but with a nice bonus at the end: it gives you three options for coverage. Our premium range from lowest to highest was $715 to $1,378. The higher levels feature increased coverage levels and lower deductibles, with guaranteed replacement cost coverage at the highest level.
Farmers’ rankings are in the middle of the pack at both Consumer Reports, where it had a readers score of 82 and a “very good” rating for its claim experience, and J.D. Power, who gave it a three out of five for both overall performance and the claims experience. All in all, not bad, but not enough to move them to the front of the class.
American Family’s scores with watchdog organizations J.D. Power and Consumer Reports put them at the bottom of this list. It didn’t bomb out completely (none of our companies did), but it could have done better. The company’s CR reader score was 80, which ranks as a “very good;” but in two of the categories that it was graded on — simplicity of claims process and damage amount awarded, it earned only a “good,” the lowest grade given to any of the agencies included in the CR review.
Its website, although better than Auto-Owners, wasn’t in the same category as Allstate or State Farm’s sites. It was, though, clearly laid out, with an easy-to-find section on discounts and a blog with tips and pointers on everything a homeowner might want, from how to work a garage sale to fixing your sump pump. It has a couple of programs that are appealing: a certified home repair program for water removal emergencies, and the opportunity to earn discounts by working with smart home device preferred vendors like Frontpoint.
There was no online quote tool on the website, and we were still waiting for our quote four days after contacting a local St. Paul agent. That kind of customer service didn’t help them in our rating.
Tips for Minnesota Homeowners Insurance Policyholders
Damage from hail can be costly.
Hail doesn’t get the kind of press coverage that, say, earthquakes or tornadoes do. But, as Minnesotans know, it can be just as dangerous. In St. Paul in 2017, to give one example, there were nine reports of hail storms, with the one including hailstones that clocked in at 1.75 inches in diameter.
That’s big enough to break windows in houses and cars, damage trees, and displace roof shingles. The latter is important to know, especially if your roof is flat or not clearly visible from the ground. It’s a good idea to take a close look at your roof after a significant hail storm to see if you’ll need to make a claim on your insurance.
Fortunately, the average Minnesota homeowner policy covers hail damage, but be sure to talk to your agent so you’re clear on exactly what that coverage entails. In some cases, it may make sense to add an endorsement to your policy that provides additional financial security. State Farm, for example, offers an endorsement that provides more expansive coverage in the case of significant roof damage. In a region where hail is common, it might be worth considering.
Make sure your coverage is complete.
Minnesota’s Commerce Department, which oversees the Department of Insurance, features a wealth of information on their website, from programs to save money and energy to how to file a complaint if you’re unhappy with your homeowners insurance company.
Its home insurance basics page lists some common gaps in homeowner insurance that many people don’t realize, including:
- Sump pumps: always ask if sump pump backup or failure is covered in your policy. Generally, it isn’t, but can be added as an endorsement. Sump pump coverage is usually $10–25K, because it takes very little water to do a great deal of damage to your basement.
- Sheds and unattached enclosures: that pretty little gazebo in your backyard is probably not covered by your standard policy. A dwelling extension clause may cover your garage, but read the fine print to find out if garden sheds or other separate buildings on your property are covered.
- Jewelry artwork, antiques: policies generally offer limited coverage for things like jewelry, furs, and fine furniture. But that original Picasso print hanging in the front hall? You’ll want additional coverage. Also ask your agent for suggestions if you have a room full of electronics, or a cabinet full of high-priced firearms.
- Home office or business: if you’re doing tax returns for clients out of your basement or funding your retirement with Avon products, don’t assume that you’ll be covered if a client trips on the rug and breaks a leg or a leaky roof damages a pallet of Skin-So-Soft lotion. You will need an additional policy to protect your assets if a client is injured on your property or if merchandise is damaged or stolen.
Urban homes are (usually) cheaper to insure.
You’ve heard the old adage that there are three things that matter in real estate: location, location, and location. We’re here to tell you that this is true of insurance as well. We got sample, standard policy quotes from our two biggest contenders, State Farm and Allstate, for comparable properties on the market for $200,000 in locations across the state. The differences were impressive.
Although there could be many reasons for variation in policy pricing, whether a home was in a large urban area or a more rural or suburban location clearly played a role. Rochester and Minneapolis premium prices for both companies were closer to the $1,000 range. The more rural, smaller towns of International Falls, Moorhead, and especially Pipestone, near the South Dakota border, triggered higher premiums. One reason for this? You’re more likely to be near a fire station — or even a fire hydrant — in the city than in the country.