Experts at Which? examined hundreds of insurance policies line-by-line that are offered by dozens of leading brands.
They spurned key brands with bottomless advertising budgets in place of some surprising niche firms.
The survey looked at firms with policies giving the best cover rather than cheap car insurance.
The quality of cover was then matched with customer service comments from drivers who had made claims or customer service queries to each firm.
The firms that scored highest won the accolade of becoming Which? recommended providers.
Unfashionable NFU Mutual clinched top place by scoring a 85% rating.
Other top rated recommended providers who lagged well behind NFU Mutual are: 50 Plus Insurance Services (73%), LV (72%) and Nationwide (71%).
Niche firms beat big brands in Which? survey
Age UK, John Lewis Insurance and Saga all tied on 70%, while The Co-operative Insurance (69%) and RIAS (67%) made the rest of the bunch.
Churchill, Direct Line, Aviva, eSure, More Than, Admiral, Endsleigh, Axa, Hastings Direct and Budget Insurance all failed to make the cut as recommended providers.
“To be a Which? recommended provider, brands must marry a high standard of product with good customer service, as claiming on insurance is a stressful experience and one that the insurer should be able to keep to a minimum,” said a Which? spokesman.
The Which? panel considered all firms but the recommended providers failed to perform adequately.
“That is, they may have a sub-standard policy and/or a poor customer service record based on Which? member experiences,” said the spokesman.
The survey was based on policy terms and customer satisfaction rather than matching car insurance costs to a driver aged 50 owning a specific vehicle and other criteria.
The Which? criteria for testing over 50’s car insurance providers was for them to have a good rating by members, helpful staff, high standards and easy to access quotes.