When it comes to selecting the right insurance policy, consumers need as much clear, concise information as possible. A study released by the Consumer Federation of America suggests they aren't getting it from their states.

The study also found that state insurance department websites in six states were "excellent" while those in 18 states were deemed to be "inadequate."

CFA is sending the report to all state insurance departments with a personal letter urging the 45 states whose websites are not yet excellent to make improvements.

"At a time when consumers are under increasing financial pressure, state insurance departments can do their part by making available current information about the rates, solvency, and complaints of individual insurers as well as tips for consumers to use to secure fairer and faster claims settlements," said J. Robert Hunter, CFA's Director of Insurance and a former Texas Insurance Commissioner. "And it's essential that insurance departments widely publicize the availability of their websites and related information."

By using information on the best state websites, consumers purchasing home and auto insurance can potentially save hundreds of dollars a year in lower premiums and avoid serious problems settling claims.

"The best state websites contain far and away the most objective and useful information available to consumers," said Stephen Brobeck, CFA's Executive Director. "Only state insurance departments have the expertise and resources to provide up-to-date information about individual insurers," he added.

Best sites

The report found that California, Georgia, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and Utah have "excellent" websites with complete, up-to-date information that is easy for consumers to use.

Consumers accessing these websites could easily find current price, complaint and solvency information to make well informed purchase decisions and could find key information on how to get the best claim settlements as well.

But the report also concluded that 18 states -- listed below -- have websites that are inadequate. These websites lacked important aspects of information about purchase and claims settlement decisions in auto and home insurance.

"States with inadequate websites do not have to reinvent the wheel," said Hunter. "They need only use the excellent sites already in use by other states as a guide for improving their own sites," he added.

Report Card

Excellent (6 states): California, Georgia, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Utah.

Good (12 states): Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Maine Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, and Wisconsin.

Fair (15 states): District of Columbia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia, and Washington.

Inadequate (18 states): Alabama, Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming.