Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Laura Walker graduated college with a BS in Criminal Justice with a minor in Political Science. She married her husband and began working in the family insurance business in 2005. She became a licensed agent and wrote P&C business focusing on personal lines insurance. Laura serviced existing business and wrote new business. She now uses her insurance background to help educate drivers about...

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Reviewed by Laura Walker
Licensed Agent for 10 Years

UPDATED: Aug 14, 2019

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Comparing auto insurance companies is a lot of work, but it has some great rewards. When you know some details about each of the companies from which you are considering purchasing your insurance, you are better equipped to make an informed decision and find the company which will best suit your needs.

Looking at two large auto insurance companies, such as Nationwide and USAA, will help you determine how these companies compare in customer satisfaction and policy offerings to meet your individual needs.

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Nationwide History

Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company is one of the largest auto insurance companies in the United States, doing over $21 billion worth of business each year. The company is based in Columbus, Ohio, and employs over 36,000 people in several regional offices.

Although Nationwide is a mutual company, meaning it is owned by the shareholders, the company also offers financial services through Nationwide Financial Services, which was a publicly traded corporation prior to 2009.

Nationwide began in 1925 as the Ohio Farm Mutual Insurance Company. The Farm Mutual companies were a growing entity in the rural South and Midwest, and Nationwide continued to grow and acquire smaller companies.

By the 1970s, the company had built One Nationwide Plaza in downtown Columbus, the largest building in the city and a famous landmark.

Read a full Nationwide Auto Insurance Review

USAA History

USAA, the United States Automobile Association, was formed in 1922 to serve America’s military personnel by providing affordable car insurance.

USAA has always relied on a direct marketing form of advertising, including mailings, phone calls, and television commercials to make people aware of its products.

The company is now a national insurer and writes over $9 billion of coverage each year.

USAA’s products are only sold to members of the armed services, veterans, and their families. Because of this, the market for USAA’s products is, by definition, limited.

The company has very good coverage among armed service members and veterans, however.

Read a full USAA Auto Insurance Review

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Nationwide Customer Service Ratings

Nationwide fared rather poorly in the J. D. Power and Associate’s 2011 annual customer satisfaction survey. Nationwide scored only two out of five stars, or “below average,” in overall customer satisfaction.

The company scored three out of five stars, or “average,” in policy offerings, pricing, and billing and payment, and only two out of five stars in contacting the insurer.

Nationwide scored only 767 points out of a possible 1,000 in the Customer Satisfaction Index, as well, placing it in 22nd place of the 33 companies surveyed.

Nationwide’s low customer satisfaction seems to spring primarily from customer dealings with the company’s representatives. As Nationwide is marketed through independent agents in most cities, this may be reflective of these agents rather than the company as a whole.

However, the company’s low customer satisfaction ratings may still be cause for concern with a potential customer, even if the customer has a good local agent.

USAA Customer Satisfaction Ratings

When it comes to customer satisfaction, USAA has no close competition. Even though the company does not make its products available to a large market, it has managed to gain the very highest scores on J. D. Power and Associates customer satisfaction ratings for 2011.

USAA not only scored a solid five out of five stars in every category of the Power’s survey but had an overall Customer Satisfaction Index score of 898, over 50 points higher than the number-one company in the survey.

The only reason USAA was not named the number-one insurer was that the company is so limited in its customer base it cannot be considered as having the same presence as other insurers.

USAA’s customer satisfaction rating is obviously the highest in the industry, and its customers are uniformly impressed with the customer service, prices, and overall tenor of the company.

What auto insurance company should you choose – Nationwide or USAA?

If you are a member of the armed forces, a veteran, or a family member of one of these people, then USAA is obviously a great choice for your car insurance. Unfortunately, if there are no service members or veterans in your family, you cannot purchase this insurance and must look elsewhere.

Nationwide has a large national presence and a sound financial base. If your local agent is a good fit for you, Nationwide may be a company you want to consider for your automobile insurance.

However, if you are concerned about customer satisfaction, you might want to consider other companies, as well.

You can talk to your local independent agents for quotes from several companies, or you can do an internet search and get a quote from one of the online quote comparison websites.

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