Insurance is a product you buy in the hope you’ll never need it. But if you do, you want to know your insurer will give you a fair shake. To get a better grasp of customer satisfaction, we asked our members to rate their insurers. More than 8000 obliged.

Overall, members were more likely to be satisfied with their general insurer (think house, contents, car). Car insurers were the pick of the bunch – more than 60 percent of respondents were chuffed with their cover.

Health and life insurers didn’t fare so well. Only 48 percent of respondents with health insurance and 36 percent of respondents with life insurance were very satisfied with their insurer.

House, contents and car

MAS (Medical Assurance Society) and FMG (Farmers’ Mutual Group) had the most satisfied customers for house, contents and car insurance. These two were top of the pops in both overall satisfaction and claims satisfaction.

The customer support provided by these insurers was a major plus. One MAS customer commented: “the speed with which my claims have been handled is fantastic!”

Drawbacks? Policies from MAS and FMG aren’t available to everyone (see “High Society”).

AA Insurance also had more very satisfied customers across house, contents and car insurance compared with most other providers. In contrast, AMI Insurance, State Insurance and Tower Insurance customers were less likely than the average to be very satisfied with their insurer.

Overall, respondents who bought house, contents or car insurance policies from the big four banks (ANZ, ASB, BNZ and Westpac) were also less likely to be very satisfied. That’s an underwhelming result for IAG, which underwrites AMI Insurance, State Insurance, ASB, BNZ and Westpac.

Health insurance

Of our respondents, 68 percent (2822 of 4178) belonged to Southern Cross. Half of those were very satisfied with their insurer, slightly better than the average of 48 percent. However, the cost of cover was a sore point. One member said “Southern Cross provides a good service. But as we get older, it is hard to afford the premiums”.

In our survey, Nib was the next biggest health insurer. But only 34 percent of respondents with a Nib policy were very satisfied with the company. That rating improved to 42 percent among those who’d made a claim.

None of the big insurers could keep pace with the Police Health Plan, which received an overall satisfaction rating of 82 percent. One respondent remarked “if every company operated like the Police Health Plan, the insurance industry wouldn’t get such a bad rap …” Unfortunately, the plan is only available to past and present employees of New Zealand Police as well as their close relatives.

Life insurance

MAS had the happiest life insurance customers: 70 percent were very satisfied with the company, with only 1 percent dissatisfied. But, again, the insurer’s policies aren’t available to all consumers.

AA Life (underwritten by Asteron Life) was next cab off the rank: 54 percent of its customers were very satisfied compared with the average of 36 percent.

Fidelity Life did poorly by comparison. Only 25 percent of its customers were very satisfied, with the cost of cover proving a major issue. One customer said “premiums are prohibitively expensive. I have considered not continuing with this policy to save money”.

Most respondents bought life insurance either through a financial adviser (44 percent) or directly from an insurer (36 percent). Respondents who used a financial adviser were less likely to be very satisfied with their cover compared with those who bought their policy from the insurer (30 percent vs 42 percent).

Provider ratings