In Vermont we have Front Porch Forum which describes itself as a free community-building service in Vermont and parts of New York. Your neighborhood’s forum is only open to the people who live there. It’s all about helping neighbors connect. I posted the following in response to an inquiry about the Cooperative Insurance Company. Here was my post:

Jennifer Kramer raises an interesting question regarding insurance policies and in particular possibly switching to the Co-Operative Insurance Company, commonly known as the Co-Op. The Co-Op is a mutual insurance company, as opposed to a stock insurance company such as GEICO, Progressive, Nationwide, State Farm, Allstate, etc. There are several mutual insurance companies issuing policies in Vermont in addition to the Co-Op such as the Concord Group, Vermont Mutual, as well as others.

There are significant differences between mutual insurance companies and stock companies. A mutual insurance company is a corporation owned exclusively by the policyholders with a right to vote for the board of directors. Typically, mutual insurance companies are for the benefit and protection of the policyholders and their beneficiaries.

On the other hand, a stock insurance company is owned by its stockholders and its objective is to make a profit for them. Policyholders do not directly share in the profits or losses of the company. However, their premiums can be cheaper than mutual insurance companies. But perhaps this should not be the deciding factor, as mutual insurance companies typically have their corporate offices in Vermont, New Hampshire or Maine and have much more of a local presence. They adjust claims more quickly and their adjusters are in northern New England as opposed to distant and faraway lands such as Buffalo, Los Angeles or Alpharetta, Georgia. All things being equal, you can reach a better settlement more quickly with a northern New England mutual insurance company than you can with one of the national stock insurance companies.

I think we are better off doing business with mutual insurance companies based in northern New England, as well as community-based Vermont banks such as the Union Bank with its headquarters located right here in Morrisville. There are multiple valid reasons to bank with local Vermont institutions and buy insurance policies from northern New England mutual insurance companies, if only because somebody is likely to answer the phone and deal with you directly and in person once circumstances allow.

Please feel free to send me an e-mail at [email protected] if you have any insurance questions.