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Bristol West auto insurance review for 2021

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    Article Highlights

    Bristol West is part of the Farmer’s Insurance Company and was previously called Foremost Insurance. Founded in 1973, Bristol West used to be a private automobile insurer in Florida, but now offers policies in 42 states across the country. A wide range of insurance products are available to every motorist but are most suitable for high-risk drivers.

    In most states, motorists need to carry the minimum car insurance to be able to drive legally. However, a leading factor that decides your insurance premiums is your driving record. The cleaner your driving history, the better your rates and discounts. For good drivers, this is an advantage, but can often make it hard for drivers with a poor history to get affordable car insurance. Bristol West is an insurance company specializing in coverage for high-risk drivers. 

    Bristol West quick points

    • Region offered: 42 states and Washington D.C.
    • Market share: 2.92% (Farmers)
    • AM Best rating/financial strength profile: A- (excellent)
    • Specialty coverages: SR-22 forms, GAP insurance

    Bristol West currently does not underwrite policies in Massachusetts, Vermont, Delaware, Rhode Island, North Carolina, Alaska or Hawaii.

    Bristol West customer satisfaction and complaints

    Unlike more widely available insurance providers, Bristol West has not been rated by J.D. Power, the nationally-recognized consumer analytics company. However, Farmers Insurance has been well-rated by J.D. Power in all instances, including the 2020 Auto Insurance Satisfaction Study, where the company’s score was 872 out of 1000. Bristol West has a higher than average score of 1.74 on NAIC’s consumer complaint index, but low customer satisfaction is typical for a high-risk insurer.

    When it comes to financial strength as a reflection of ability to pay claims, Bristol West proves solid, receiving an A- (Excellent) score from AM Best.

    Bristol West auto insurance discounts

    Car insurance can be more expensive than average for high-risk drivers but Bristol West offers a number of discounts to help lower the annual premium. The discounts may be fairly standard, but are typically offered by the best car companies, and can contribute to greater savings for policyholders. 

    Discounts offered by Bristol West include a homeowner discount for those who own their house, accident forgiveness to prevent your premiums from rising after an at-fault accident, bundling discount for combining your auto and home insurance policies, multi-car discount for insuring more than one vehicle, paperless discount for paying your bills online, safe vehicle discount for having safety and anti-theft features in your car, and good student discount for those eligible. 

    Bristol West auto insurance premium length

    The only policy length available at Bristol West is six months. Customers can make changes to their policy or cancel before the end of the term but fees for early cancellation may apply. The policy will renew every six months, so depending on your driving record and other circumstances that change, your rate may fluctuate at the time of renewal. For making changes to their policy any time during the term, customers need to get in touch with the local agent they purchased the insurance from.

    Bristol West vs. other insurance companies

    High-risk insurance may be relatively expensive, but Bristol is not the only provider available that insures drivers with a less-than-ideal record. Comparing quotes from multiple companies is always the best way to find the right insurer and the best rate. Based on availability, discounts, customer satisfaction and financial strength, Bristol West can be compared to the following national carriers.

    Bristol West vs Progressive

    The major difference between Bristol West and Progressive is the size of the company. Progressive is one of the five largest car insurers in the country, with nationwide availability and a huge range of coverage options and discounts. In comparison, Bristol West has a much smaller pool of customers and may not be such a familiar name, given that it caters more to high-risk drivers. However, Progressive has a unique safe driver discount program called Snapshot, where your driving is monitored with a device installed in your vehicle. This is a good way for high-risk drivers to save money and improve their driving record.

    While it now offers policies to a much broader driver base, Progressive was the first company to offer high-risk insurance to motorists and it still has many coverage options for drivers with poor credit, accidents and violations, and policy lapses. If you’re looking for high-risk car insurance from a nationally recognized company, Progressive should be on your list for consideration.

    Bristol West vs The General

    Both Bristol West and the General specialize in high-risk car insurance. Like Bristol West, the General also has a parent company, American Family Insurance, and it is available everywhere in the U.S., with the exception of Hawaii, Massachusetts, Michigan and New Jersey.

    Another key similarity between Bristol West and the General; in terms of coverage, discounts and pricing, both companies are equally friendly towards drivers with a problematic record or policy lapses. If you’re a high-risk driver needing affordable coverage, The General is another good provider to include in your comparison.

    Bristol West mobile app and digital experience

    For digital policy management features, Bristol West offers a website and a mobile app. On the website, customers can obtain a quote, report and track claims, make payments, view policy ID and find an agent. The mobile app has the same features, but additionally, customers can submit pictures of their damaged vehicle when reporting a claim. The app is rated 4.3 out of 5 on the Android Playstore and 3.2 on the Apple app store.

    In the spotlight

    • Bristol West offers competitive rates for high-risk drivers or those with poor credit or policy lapses, although they will typically be higher than the national average.
    • With an A- (excellent) from AM Best, Bristol West has a strong financial position and timely claim payments.
    • Bristol West will file an SR-22 for you when you need it after a DUI or DWI violation.
    • In 2020, Bristol West donated $500,000 to the Covid-19 relief fund of the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America to help independent agencies affected by the pandemic

    If your driving record is imperfect and you need comprehensive coverage without breaking the bank, Bristol West should be one of the options you consider, as the company specializes in covering high-risk drivers. However, if you have a clean record and want more reasonable premiums, there are many other providers that may offer you a better deal.

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