Like GEICO, the United Services Automobile Association began as an insurance product for government employees, in this case, U.S. Army Officers that were unable to obtain auto insurance coverage due to their purported "high-risk" status. In the years that have followed, USAA has expanded from a group of self-insured U.S. Army officers and other U.S. military personnel to include additional insurance protection products and policies for other branches of the military, including reservists and non-officers, and other government agencies such as the FBI.
Drivers with USAA auto insurance policies have access to the USAA Roadside Assist program, which partners with the Cross Country Motor Club to provide initial automotive first aid, including tows, refuels and jump starts. Repairs are covered only if included in the policy.
USAA continually receives high marks for the timeliness of its claims process, which is open 24/7 with full telephone and online tracking available. Tows can be ordered with follow-up damage estimation and repairs scheduling taking place as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, there are very few USAA-approved repairs facilities (less than 3,000 to be exact). In USAA's defense, however, these facilities are carefully evaluated and all repairs are guaranteed for as long as you own the vehicle. For policyholders with glass replacement coverage, windshields can be replaced at the driver's convenience, whether that be at home, at work or anywhere else they should choose.
USAA offers a variety of policy options beginning on the low-end with Liability-Only and moving up the ladder to Comprehensive and Collision coverages. Between these two end points, eligible drivers can select various insurance protections, including towing and labor, rental reimbursement, glass replacement and even medical payments and extended benefits insurance.
Where USAA truly stands out is in its flexibility with insurance premium payments. Starting as a risk-pool by and for "high-risk" U.S. Army officers, USAA still keeps the lives and needs of its policyholders in mind, allowing payments to be made according to military pay schedule, toll-free lines for military personnel with deployment orders and up to 90% off storage expenses on vehicles of deployed U.S. Armed Forces personnel.
USAA goes toe-to-toe with non-reciprocal, open-enrollment car insurance companies like GEICO, Progressive and eSurance for its benefits and discounts. Drivers with clean records are eligible for a discount. So, too, are drivers that haven't been involved in an accident for at least 5 years. Taking out multiple-vehicle and multiple-line policies will result in a discount. Discounts are also available on new vehicles, vehicles with anti-theft systems, as well as other safety features such as daytime running lights.
When it comes to benefits, few auto insurance competitors top USAA, who manages to offer its policyholders car and travel-related benefits and discounts, as well as discount on flowers, jewelry, shipping and home security products. Also, USAA offers its policyholders a hassle-free car buying service that saves members an average of $2600 off the MSRP, manufacturer discounts of $750 on all GM brands and 20% savings on CARFAX vehicle history reports.
USAA has a well-deserved gilded reputation for its customer-driven customer service practices and streamlined claims and repairs processes. As USAA is not a publicly-traded company, no shareholder stands to gain from low-ball estimates, cut corners or poor customer service. As a result, USAA auto insurance policyholders can be assured of receiving courteous and helpful customer service, timely claims adjustment and approval and guaranteed repairs.
On and off paper, USAA is among the best auto insurance agencies in the nation. No other car insurance company offers its members so many discounts, benefits and services as USAA. Unfortunately, being a member requires being in the U.S. Armed Forces, select government agencies like the Foreign Service and FBI or Legacy status from an eligible parent. Though it is doubtful that policy eligibility will loosen up anytime in the near future, other auto insurance agencies (including top-rated GEICO, Progressive and eSurance) would do best to take a few notes from USAA.