What Is the Oldest Car Insurance Company in the U.S.?

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There are a lot of companies selling car insurance in the United States these days—recent numbers from the Insurance Industry Institute show that of the nearly 6,000 insurers in the nation, almost 2,500 of them sell some type of property or casualty insurance.
But one company has lasted longer than all its competitors. In fact, the same company was the first to ever sell accident and car insurance in America. While not as well known as many of its contemporaries, it continues to offer all types of policies to individuals and businesses while innovating its services. It’s called Travelers.
Learn more about Travelers, what makes it a stock insurance company, and how it’s different from its first mutual competitor, Amica, below.
A vintage cream-colored car with two seats drives down the city street.
Car insurance has been around for almost as long as the automobile itself | Twenty20

Who is Travelers?

Travelers is a stock insurance provider that was founded in 1864 in Hartford, Connecticut, by a businessman named James G. Batterson. The company began offering auto insurance policies in 1897, 11 years before Henry Ford made the first Model T.
From its humble beginnings, Travelers has grown into an international property insurance company, with approximately 30,000 employees and 13,500 independent agents and brokers in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Ireland.
Despite its age, Travelers continues to be well regarded for its innovation and company culture. Since 1995, the company has made the “Fortune 500” list, and Glassdoor has included it on its “Best Places to Work” list since 2018.

What is a stock insurance company?

Stock insurance companies like Travelers are structured the same way as a typical, publicly owned corporation. They sell shares through the stock exchange to shareholders and their goal is to make a profit for those shareholders.
Investopedia says that in order to publicly trade stocks, “insurers must have a minimum of capital and surplus on hand before receiving approval from state regulators,” and that “other requirements must also be met if the company’s shares are publicly traded.”
Although competitors like Allstate and Metlife are also publicly traded companies, Travelers is the only property-casualty insurer in the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

What is mutual insurance?

While stock insurance companies are owned by their shareholders, mutual insurance companies, like Amica, are owned by their policyholders. This means that their policyholders are their first priority.
Mutual insurance has a long history in America. Benjamin Franklin founded the nation’s first company, the Philadelphia Contributionship for the Insurance of Houses from Loss by Fire, in 1752, according to Investopedia.
But the first mutual insurance company to offer auto policies was the Automobile Mutual Insurance Company of America, or Amica. It began offering car insurance in 1907.

Choosing the right car insurance

While some argue that mutual insurance companies are better because they have to answer to their policyholders, the decision isn’t that simple.
Mutual insurance policyholders may receive dividends from their insurers, but stock companies have more flexibility and access to capital, making it easier for them to lower their prices and innovate their services.
Choosing between insurance providers has more to do with the type of insurance you’re buying, the details of each policy, and the discounts offered.
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