Who are the top-rated car insurers for 2012?

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Leading financial research company Canstar has named car insurers AAMI, Budget Direct and Coles Insurance among the top insurers in Australia for 2012, as part of its annual car insurance star ratings. QBE came out on top in a separate consumer study conducted by Canstar about claims service.

Canstar compared 40 car insurers offering 61 policies by shadow shopping over 18,000 online and phone quotes throughout capital cities and regional Australia. For the third consecutive year, AAMI and Budget Direct were honoured because they offer "outstanding value to motorists".

The overall national winners were judged based on the combination of consumer reach and the sum of points scored by individual products of the company across all profiles and states.

Budget Direct took out four of the six state awards for car insurance; named top insurer in New South Wales, South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria. AAMI was named best provider for Queensland drivers but product consistency in all other states gave it the points needed to share the overall national award with Budget Direct. For its car insurance offering, Coles Insurance took out the state award for top insurer in Western Australia.

Steve Mickenbecker, head of research at Canstar, said: "AAMI and Budget Direct are two insurance giants that have proven they are at the top of their game when it comes to car insurance".

In a separate study, Canstar asked customers about their experience with providers' claims service. QBE came out on top for claims with a high satisfaction score and a very good product score, due largely to the higher claim limits it offers for things like baby capsules, trailers and public liability, said Mickenbecker.

"Emergency repairs, emergency accommodation, accident clean up and towing charges are also areas QBE excels in because it offers more generous dollar amounts to its customers and often it's the little things that make a big difference," he said.

"It's only when you have a prang that you discover your insurance company is either true to its word or falls short in the area of claims."

While customer service and product were key considerations in Canstar's surveys, for many customers price may be equally important in the decision to take out a policy.

Damian Smith, chief executive of RateCity, said: "We think that many people are paying $300 or more than they need to for car insurance".

"By the same token, we also think it would take less than an hour to do a solid comparison of your current car insurance with others, including the all-important review of conditions and features (not just price)."

Mickenbecker agrees, adding that automatically renewing with an existing provider doesn't always work in the customer's favour.

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