21st Century Insurance is a direct-to-customer car insurance provider originally established in 1958 by Lewis W. Foster. The company’s original name was 20th Century insurance. Originally, Foster was selling insurance primarily in California, yet today the company has expanded to include 48 states and Washington DC.

21st Century was acquired by AIG in 2005 at a time when their new owner was one of the most dominant insurance companies in the world. But as most of us know, AIG ran into severe financial trouble a couple of years later and was forced to begin selling off assets.

In 2009, 21st Century was sold to Farmers Insurance Group. Since that time, the company has enjoyed a mixed reputation for both quality of products and customer service.

Products Sold by 21st Century

The biggest thing customers will notice about 21st Century is the fact that they are a direct-to-customer business. Being direct-to-customer means that the company doesn’t contract with any independent agents or other middlemen. Consumers who purchase insurance from them deal directly with company agents who work from a corporate office. However, it should be noted that they do use underwriting companies throughout the nation whom they have acquired and given their name too.

21st Century provides the typical auto insurance products including minimum state liability, collision and comprehensive, glass coverage, and so on. All customers receive complimentary roadside assistance regardless of the policy they choose.

In addition, 21st Century lists other types of insurance including homeowners, flood, and renters insurance on their product list. Keep in mind that they don’t provide these products directly, rather, they contract with other underwriters in a partnership of sorts. If you were to purchase one of these other policies through 21st Century, you would be redirected to a different underwriter.

National Market Share

When considering the total market share of a national insurance company like 21st Century, we must remember that the numbers are typically calculated based on parent companies rather than subsidiaries. In this case, 21st Century is owned by the Farmers Insurance Group, which, in turn, is a subsidiary of Zürich international.

Zürich controls 6% of the total market share for auto insurance in the United States. Exactly how much of that belongs to 21st Century is not known.  In case you’re wondering, market share is determined by taking the amount of annual sales of a given insurance company and dividing it by the total amount of sales among all car insurance companies throughout the country. Total assets never determine market share.

What Makes 21st Century Different

It goes without saying that most car insurance companies in the United States offer similar products and similar types of discounts. What sets one apart from the competition in the eyes of the American consumer is their marketing tactics. Therefore, what you might remember most about 21st-century is their latest ad campaign in which they show various types of destruction of popular vehicles and then show the cost difference between themselves and their competitors for appropriate coverage.

The commercials feature a very stately middle-aged man dressed in a white jumpsuit and a red hard hat. Behind him, we usually see two cars that are identical in every way except the color; one is blue and the other red. We then see some sort of damage being applied to both cars while the man in the white jumpsuit looks on. As the commercial concludes both cars are fully repaired, yet the consumer with the red car (covered by 21st Century) is said to pay less for his or her coverage.

This current ad campaign is probably the most notable associated with 21st Century name. Prior to this most of the company’s advertisements were very basic and consisted mainly of a single graphic image with an announcer speaking in the background. These new advertisements are an attempt to compete with companies like GEICO and Allstate.

Ratings and Awards

21st Century claims on their website that they are one of only four car insurance companies consistently recognized by J.D. Power & Associates as providing outstanding customer service. Yet, the results of a 2011 survey ranked the company 33rd with a rating of two out of three stars. The survey took into account products offered, pricing, billing and payment, and customer experience when contacting the company.

In 2011, MarketTools awarded their Achievement in Customer Excellence (ACE) Award to 21st Century for the fifth consecutive year. They are one of only five companies to win the award that many consecutive years. The award considers satisfaction as ranked by customers, employees, and industry partners.

In terms of specific customer reviews, 21st Century grades itself with a rating of 4.3 out of five stars. According to the information on their website, they have more than 3,800 reviews written by customers all over the country.

Reviews are posted in a dedicated section and include username, city of residence, brief comments, and star ratings in the categories of customer service, claims the service, overall value, and purchase experience. Each review concludes with a statement about whether or not customers would recommend 21st Century to their friends and family.

If the company’s statistics are to be believed, 93% of their customers say they are more than happy to recommend 21st Century. That’s quite a significant number, a number that doesn’t necessarily match up with the findings from J.D. Power & Associates. Nonetheless, a number as high as 93% is not something to be taken lightly.