Opening your own business is exciting but it doesn’t come without risk. That makes business insurance a smart, if not essential, buy. Without it, your enterprise and its assets will be vulnerable should the worst happen.
We’ve reviewed the offerings in this market and narrowed down the best options to financially protect your enterprise. Our selections were determined mostly by four major factors: range of coverage options, business types and sizes covered, and the ease of applying for a policy and submitting a claim. (Here’s more on our methodology.)
Hartford stands out by combining general liability, business property insurance, and business income insurance through their Business Owner’s Policy (BOP.) This package includes coverage for which other insurers charge extra, including protection from loss of income caused by fires, destructive winds or burglaries, bodily injury or property, and personal and advertising injury. Besides the Business Owner’s Policy, business owners can purchase add-ons to cover such perils as data breach, debris removal, and loss of valuable paper records.
Other coverage offered:
Like most major commercial insurers, Nationwide offers a wide array of products, including business owners’, business liability, commercial property, and commercial automotive policies. Where this insurer stands out, however, is in its flexibility in adding general liability coverage to other policies. While this coverage can be purchased in stand-alone policies, Nationwide also offers coverage add-ons for commercial crime, business income, inland marine, and builder’s risk, among others.
Other coverages offered:
Apart from being the #1 commercial auto insurer by direct premiums written in America, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, Progressive shines in its commercial auto policy offerings. The company’s customization options for commercial auto are the most thorough on the market, with many commercial auto endorsements to choose as additions to your policy. Common types of business vehicles you can insure with Progressive are business cars, sport utility vehicles, motorhome/ RVs, buses, and limousines, along with auto haul-, dry freight-, flatbed-, and utility trailers.
The company also offers discounts to customers who maintain a clean driving record, have continuous auto-insurance coverage for 12 months, own an in-force general liability or business owners policy, have a commercial driver’s license, have experience as a business owner, and pay their policy in full.
Other coverages offered:
CyberPolicy is a business insurance marketplace that partners with the biggest players in the industry: Chubb, Hiscox, AmTrust, Liberty Mutual, Nationwide, and BiBERK. If you’re looking to buy a policy quickly while comparing a variety of options, CyberPolicy provides convenient one-stop shopping. And its offerings can be inexpensive; general liability coverage starts at just $20 a month.
It’s also a helpful site if you’re unsure of what kind of coverage you need. There’s a questionnaire that helps you figure out the most important insurance needs for your business. Once you purchase a policy, you can be covered within as little as 24 hours.
Other coverages offered:
Thimble is limited; it only offers general liability insurance, professional liability coverage, and errors and omissions policies. But it sets itself apart with its speed and breadth of coverage. It offers instant coverage online for as long as you need it — hourly, daily, or monthly — and serves more than 100 types of small business professionals, ranging from personal trainers, pet sitters, and event organizers to photographers and landscapers.
Other coverages offered:
Hiscox is another great option for those who are self-employed or run a company of five employees or less. This insurer offers discounts of up to 5% on policies that cover only the business owner or that provide general liability coverage for home-based businesses with five or fewer employees. Additionally, there’s a 5% discount for bundling policies.
Other coverages offered:
To select the best business insurance providers for 2020, we spent dozens of hours researching the most popular companies and analyzing their offerings. We emphasized four major factors in making our selections: range of coverage options, business types and sizes covered, and the ease of applying for a policy and submitting a claim.
We favored companies that went beyond the norm in regard to coverage by, as examples, offering comprehensive commercial auto or coverage that kicked in instantly. With the exception of Thimble, the companies on our list offer all of the following coverage: general liability, business owners, cybersecurity, business auto, errors and omissions, workers compensation, and umbrella insurance.
Types and Sizes of Businesses Covered
The carriers on this list cater to small to medium-sized companies and to over 100 professions across multiple industries. Some specialize in small businesses, while others specialize in self-employed people who do contract and freelance work. We only considered companies that cover the broadest range of workers and small businesses.
We favored companies that facilitated hassle-free online quotes, purchasing, and claims processing. We also gave credit to companies that, upon purchase, provide online certificates of insurance liability, whether you’re a freelancer or the owner of a growing enterprise.
Business insurance functions much like car, life, or health insurance. It’s a policy that protects against unexpected events that can have financial consequences, like natural disasters, fire, accidents, lawsuits, death, and more.
As with car or life insurance, too, you pay for a business insurance policy yet hope you’ll never suffer any of the misfortunes it covers. Should you be subject to a setback, though, you’ll want coverage that adequately protects you while also being affordable.
Unfortunately, too many American businesses have no such protection. Of the more than 28 million small businesses the Small Business Administration (SBA) estimates are operating today in the U.S., about 44% of that total have never been insured, according to Next Insurance. Going without business insurance comes with high risks. A claim lodged against your uninsured business could eventually lead to legal seizure of assets, including personal ones you might be using to help secure loans for the business. If those assets fall short of the amounts for which you’re found liable, you may, among other setbacks, find yourself unable to make financially whole your employees or others the business may owe money. Even a solo entrepreneur who has no employees might need to consider buying business insurance. The equipment they use, like a vehicle used for deliveries, might be damaged. The work of a computer consultant, for example, might cause financial damage to clients, such as writing a faulty software program that wound up leading to costly consequences in downtime or lost data. A freelance writer might craftwork that’s so close to existing content owned by others as to face a plagiarism suit.
Confidence in your own ability isn’t a reason not to insure your new business, even if funds to pay premiums may be scarce. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Business Employment Dynamics, about 20% of businesses fail in their first year, and a further 10% will fail in their second year. Having business insurance won’t safeguard your business from market dynamics or management mistakes, but it can help protect it from property and legal claims that could arise from its failure. The right business insurance for you will vary depending on the size of your company, the industry it operates in; your business assets, revenue and number of employees; how much protection you need; and your level of comfort with risk.
The breadth of choice in business insurance can easily be overwhelming, especially if you’re a first-time shopper. But it may help to know that most or all of the commercial coverage you buy from an insurance company is likely to fit into two main categories: property and casualty. Together, these two types are known within the industry by the acronym “P&C.” Then another handful of types fit into other categories and are mostly purchased from (and often required by) governments.
As its name signals, commercial property insurance covers loss of (or damage to) your business’s possessions, including its real estate and vehicles. Add-ons can also protect you against losses or extra expenses you incur from having to operate the business without these possessions. Commercial auto coverage Coverage for company-owned vehicles, or any personal car that is used for business purposes.
Commercial real-estate insurance Protects the company’s real estate and other physical assets from loss and damage from fire, inclement weather, vandalism, or civil disobedience. The claims payments go directly to the policy owner.
Business income and extra expense insurance
A frequent add-on to commercial property insurance, business income coverage protects against revenue loss due to physical damage from a fire or other calamity. Extra-expense coverage takes care of any costs above normal operational expenses as the result of property damage and some other setbacks.
Here’s an example of how these coverages might cover you after, say, your offices burned down in a fire. The business-income coverage would cover income lost when, say, employees had to help clean up after the blaze rather than doing their regular work. Extra-expense coverage would cover the costs to rent an alternate space and move your equipment to it until the property you own is repaired and usable.
A key area of casualty insurance is commercial liability. Commonly called third-party coverage, because it covers claims filed by other people other than the insured party, this insurance protects businesses from lawsuits or other actions filed by employees, customers, clients, and visitors.
General liability coverage
This covers claims or lawsuits against your business due to injury, death, medical expenses, slander, libel, and damages your business is said to have caused to third parties or their property. The covered perils include but aren’t limited to, slip-and-fall accidents on your property, physical or property damage due to an accident, and damages or injuries caused by your product or finished work.
This is supplemental coverage that activates in the event of a catastrophic claim that exceeds the coverage provided by your primary liability policy.
Errors and omissions liability
Should your business give advice, or create a product, that causes harm to an individual company, this policy covers you. It protects you from the costs of litigation and pays out any claim if you’re successfully sued. E&O coverage is especially common for professionals such as medical doctors, architects, lawyers, engineers, and accountants.
This coverage is also known, in more sexist terminology, as “key man” insurance. Regardless of its name, it covers any losses attributable to the business losing its owner or another key person to death or disability.
A business’s casualty insurance also encompasses coverage, sometimes mandatory, that protects employees in the event they lose their job or are injured or disabled while performing it.
As a rule, this is legally required by your state if you have employees working for you. It’s meant to cover injuries on the job, medical expenses, rehabilitation, and lost wages. It can be purchased to cover business owners as well as employees.
Disability Should an employee be unable to work due to injury or illness, this policy covers a percentage of their wages. In California, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island, employers are required to carry disability insurance for their employees.
Much like disability, this provides employees with a percentage of income when they are not working, in this case, because they lost their job. Unemployment coverage is not purchased through an insurance carrier but is funded through mandatory federal taxes that are forwarded to state governments, who administer the program.
As with buying personal insurance, devoting a little time to the process of deciding what and how much to buy, and from which insurer, can pay off handsomely. These steps can save you time and money when comparing business insurance online.
Take stock of business assets
Begin by assessing what you have to insure, advises Jeff Root, insurance specialist and owner of insurance agency Rootfin. Make a thorough list of what the business owns, including property, equipment, and inventory. Then determine the value of those assets, to ensure you will buy sufficient coverage to repair or replace them in the event that the worst happens.
Figure out how much coverage you need
The value of company assets then needs to be supplemented by other insurance coverage, depending on the company’s purpose and size. List all the functions and activities of your business, then assess the coverage you think is needed for each, based on its respective risk.
For example, if you own a property that clients visit, you’ll need liability coverage in the event they are injured on the premises. Do you offer professional advice or products that, if found to be wanting, could cause damage to clients? Errors and omissions insurance should be part of your policy.
Seek professional help, in part to research insurance companies
Even if you start the process yourself, the coverage assessment we describe above is best completed with assistance from an insurance professional. One option is to seek out an independent agent or marketplace that specializes in business insurance and represents multiple insurers. The options here include the Coverwallet site and independent insurance agents near where you live.
An agent or marketplace site you’re working with will be able to provide quotes from the companies they represent. Consider supplementing those with quotes from companies you reach out to yourself — including some of those on our list, especially if your needs match the specialties for which we recommend each. With the advent of online quotes from many companies, the process can be relatively easy. Don’t consider price alone, however. Once you’ve gathered your quotes, research the companies that issued them. Check reviews of them from other sources, including checking for the insurers’ A.M. Best financial ratings. These independent ratings, available online, rate insurance companies on their financial strength, which is a good indicator of their likelihood of remaining in business long enough to cover a claim for you. A rating of A or better provides strong reassurance of financial stability.
Look for policy bundling discounts
If the company you now use for other insurance, such as on your home or apartment contents, also writes commercial policies, include them in your research. Many insurance companies offer discounted prices when you purchase multiple policies from them. In addition to the financial advantages of ganging up policies in this way, bundling coverage can reduce the time and hassle required to pay premiums, contact customer service, or make claims.
Review your business insurance regularly
With any insurance policy, it’s tempting to simply renew with the same carrier and at the same levels, year after year. But regular reviews– preferably when renewing the policy every year–may help you save money, by dropping coverage you may not need or by shopping around to other insurers, again perhaps with help from an independent agent or online marketplace. The review may also offer the opportunity to increase coverage, say because your business has grown or its threats from certain perils changed. Always re-evaluate the amount of your coverage whenever business needs or circumstances change.