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Dryden Mutual Insurance: The Horan Review

February 27th, 2023 | 9 min. read

By Daniel J. Middleton

[Full disclosure: Dryden Mutual Insurance Company is one of our insurance partners. As such, the Horan agency receives commissions for policies Dryden Mutual underwrites for our clients. That relationship does not influence our opinions or evaluations of the carrier. What follows is an objective review of a company we chose to partner with for many of the reasons you’ll read below.]

Dryden Mutual Insurance is a regional carrier in Upstate New York. Since they serve a single state, their marketing dollars are concentrated in New York, but the company doesn’t have the huge ad budget larger national rivals wield, so you’ve likely heard little about them.

But Dryden Mutual has been around longer than many other carriers, and the company has established itself with property and general liability lines of insurance that can be tailored to suit an array of circumstances faced by its policyholders.

In this Horan Review, we’ll explore Dryden’s unique insurance products and coverages and help you determine whether or not they’re a good fit for your home or business. To get a thorough overview of the insurer, we’ll start by looking into its past.

How Dryden Mutual Insurance Started

In the mid-nineteenth century, insurance was hard to come by if you lived in rural New York. Open flames were standard since people used fire for lighting interiors, cooking meals, and heating homes and businesses. Those open flames routinely led to devastating fires that raged out of control.

Large insurers were concentrated in cities on the East Coast, with no shortage of full-time firefighters who raced along paved streets to douse flames wherever they blazed. Far north in Tompkins County, New York, citizens from Dryden and Groton—two small towns on the eastern edge of the Finger Lakes region—took action.

The year was 1860, and the Tompkins County residents formed the Dryden and Groton Mutual Fire Insurance Company on May 7. Freeman Stebbins served as the company’s first President. Since insurance options were limited and unaffordable in rural communities, prevailing nineteenth-century laws allowed the Dryden and Groton citizens to create fire insurance independently.

The new rural carrier, Dryden and Groton Mutual, provided fire insurance coverage to local farmers in the surrounding communities. Being a mutual company, policyholders were also owners and had a say in the company’s operations.

Unlike publicly traded companies, the mutual model allowed Dryden and Groton Mutual to remain accountable to its policyholders and prioritize their needs. The company was incorporated in 1910 and assumed the name Dryden and Groton Fire Insurance Co-Operative Insurance Company.

Another reorganization occurred in 1984 when the name we know today came into being: Dryden Mutual Insurance Company. Dryden has served New York citizens for over 160 years, displaying staying power and dependability that is virtually unmatched in the world of insurance.

Dryden continues to operate on the mutual model while providing property and liability insurance to urban and suburban residents and business owners throughout New York State. The headquarters remain in the company’s namesake town, Dryden, New York, the hub for more than 70 full-time employees throughout the state.

Since its founding, Dryden has continued to grow and diversify its policy offerings. The company announced that in 2021, it surpassed $80 million in direct written annual premiums and retains assets valued at more than $300 million.

Insurance Policies Offered by Dryden Mutual

Since Dryden doesn’t offer policies for autos, motorcycles, or anything registered for road use, the carrier has a focused intent and specializes in writing policies for New York properties and commercial operations. Dryden’s personal property and commercial lines coverages are broader than those of most New York insurance companies.

They offer standard insurance for primary homes, seasonal homes and camps, renters, owner-occupied condos, and landlords. But the company also writes policies for manufactured homes, tiny homes, and even owner-occupied Bed & Breakfast Homes for people affiliated with Airbnb. We’ll take a closer look at some of their tailored coverages below.

Homeowners Insurance
As with all the carriers we’ve reviewed in this series, Dryden Mutual’s homeowners policies have the usual coverage, including dwelling, other structures, personal property, and more. You can read about the full lineup in our homeowners insurance overview.

What makes Dryden different, in our view, is the company’s flexibility. Dryden Mutual isn’t a rigid carrier with a one-size-fits-all system. In the words of our senior commercial agent, Steven Ladd, “Dryden is like a new ball of clay because of how moldable they are.”

To put that into perspective, when you have a policy with Dryden, the company pays keen attention to your unique situation and tailors coverage to those circumstances, whether we’re referring to your home or business. If your current situation changes, Dryden can adapt its coverage to suit your current needs.

If Dryden has to become a square block to fit those needs, it does that. “It’s not just round peg, round hole only,” says Steven Ladd, who has worked closely with the carrier for over six years.

To demonstrate the type of flexible à la carte coverage we’re referring to, say you have a roof that’s not in great shape. It faced years of abuse due to our relentless CNY winters and could stand a restoration. Where most carriers will slam the door on writing you a home policy, Dryden simply eliminates certain roof-related coverage.

While they’ll issue homeowners insurance, don’t expect coverage for water damage caused by ice damming or other leaks since you have an aging roof. But you won’t be concerned about that because you now have a policy that covers other issues, and you’ll eventually update the roof to extend coverage to it as well.

Dryden also understands the need for home-based businesses. If you want to run a licensed daycare from home, Dryden writes policies for in-home family child daycare for up to eight children.

If you have a small studio where you teach online fitness classes to your YouTube audience or a home office that powers your Etsy shop, Dryden has a policy for you.

A small contractor insured with Dryden Mutual works on a customer’s home.Commercial Coverage
For those who need more than the coverage Dryden offers for home-based businesses, you’ll be pleased to know that the carrier doesn’t stop there. Where Dryden Mutual truly shines is with its commercial insurance policies.

Dryden offers a wide range of coverages for businesses run by small contractors. For something as straightforward as climbing a ladder, most carriers will turn away potential policyholders shopping for commercial insurance. Not Dryden Mutual.

Dryden is an ideal carrier for your commercial insurance needs if you run a small contracting business. But we’re talking really small. Maybe you’re a one-man operation, and you have a flooring business with a commercial van sporting that fine decal along the sides.

Or it might be you and a business partner designing, building, and installing cabinets within a five-county radius. Say you’re a subcontractor who installs, maintains, and repairs fiber optic cables for Spectrum, and you have one or two W-2 employees: this scenario is also a good match.

Besides companies with one or two owners, Dryden is happy to work with small contractors with zero to three employees (the primary owner doesn’t count as an employee). But for all these businesses, if the annual revenue is more than $150,000, premiums start to increase significantly.

Beyond contractors, Dryden insures small businesses that include tanning shops, barber shops, and hair salons, and they toss in professional liability. You might need it if you accidentally dye a bride’s hair black instead of blonde before the big day!

Dryden also insures snow removal businesses and hunting camps in our region. For those in agriculture, Dryden writes policies for farm operations. And they stretch commercial coverage from farm to table since establishments like restaurants, diners, and pizza shops are within their sphere.

Dryden will also extend coverage to lumber yards and sawmills, and entire commercial office buildings, whether they’re occupied or vacant. Laundromats are also on the table, as are off-campus student housing rentals like those nestled around SUNY colleges and universities in the cities of Syracuse and Oswego.

Do you own a tavern or bar, a pet-sitting company, a musical instrument repair shop, a bakery, or rental storage facility? We are not exaggerating when we say that Dryden Mutual provides insurance for those businesses and hundreds more.

What is the Claims Process Like for Dryden Mutual Insurance?

Dryden Mutual’s claims process is handled in-house by a staff with over 100 years of combined experience, which means the team assigned to claims provides more professional and personal service than most. We at Horan can affirm that.

Dryden lists a set of instructions for the claims process on its website. Policyholders who need to report a claim should contact their agent, who is already familiar with the steps. For emergency claims that require a direct call to Dryden when your agent is not available, the company provides three telephone numbers policyholders can call.

Dryden Mutual’s Awards and Other Highlights

Dryden Mutual doesn’t go out of its way to seek awards or special recognition, so there are none to report. But the company received high industry ratings, such as an A (Excellent) for financial strength from the world’s largest credit rating agency AM Best.

As a long-term credit issuer, AM Best also rated Dryden a+ (Excellent) and deemed the company’s outlook stable. Their A and a+ ratings have been consistent since they were upgraded in 2011, which bodes well for the company.

Charitable Efforts
In 1970, insurance agents in Los Angeles, California, started a national education program that teaches high school and community college students about topics related to insurance, risk management, and financial services.

They named it InVEST and intended to use the program to encourage students to enter the insurance industry during their career pursuit. By the early 1990s, the InVEST program thrived in the Syracuse School District.

Dryden Mutual CEO Robert B. Baxter, who became aware of the program in 1989, later realized its benefits and started a modified InVEST class in Dryden High School in the spring of 1994.

According to the Summer 2016 issue of Impact Magazine, released by the Insurance Information Institute,

“The potential to train a pool of possible future employees fascinated him because his new company was based in a small community far from the larger labor pools in major cities. Over the past 22 years, the Dryden Mutual InVEST program has spread into three local high schools and has touched the lives of over 750 local students.”

The article, titled “InVESTing in Young Lives,” added that about 32% of all Dryden Mutual full-time employees at that time were introduced to insurance through a local InVEST program in their school.

What a way to give back to the community.

Considering Dryden Mutual’s high industry ratings and charitable giving, one still has to weigh their policy offerings and ask:

Is Dryden Mutual Insurance Right for Me?

Good Fits
Dryden Mutual is a flexible insurer that can tailor coverage to your current situation, which makes them a great fit if you want a carrier that can adapt coverage as your needs change.

For Central New York homeowners whose properties include buildings not in great repair, like old barns and outbuildings, Dryden can omit coverage to those buildings and write policies for sound structures.

If you want to insure watercraft, like boats and other floating vessels, Dryden covers hull and liability, which makes them a good fit.

If you have personal articles such as jewelry, fine arts, mobile equipment, musical instruments, antiques, or tools that need special coverage, Dryden writes policies for scheduled personal property as well.

It does so through what is called Personal Inland Marine Floaters, which simply refers to coverage that “floats” or moves with the valuable personal property it covers as those items change location. This kind of coverage is broader than personal property insurance on homeowners policies.

Do you have a cozy cabin on a choice piece of land in Central New York that you can only make use of once a year or less? Dryden offers coverage for secondary/seasonal homes and cottages.

If you’re a small contractor—even a small contractor who climbs ladders in your line of work—as a painter, carpenter, handyman, electrician, or other professional—Dryden is a good fit for your business.

But let’s face it: hardly anyone becomes a contractor overnight. You might start off with odd jobs for a few friends and a family member or two. Then word spreads on the strength of your professional work.

Suddenly more referrals are contacting you, and before you know it, you’re running to job sites more than you expected, and two years fly by. It dawns on you that you should get insurance for this budding business.

The good news is Dryden Mutual is there to take you on and won’t hold it against you for not buying commercial coverage from day one. They even offer competitive pricing, which further increases your profitability.

And just as the company extends coverage to seasonal homes, Dryden is a good fit if you run a seasonal business in Central New York that remains closed during the winter months.

For homes or camps without central heat, Dryden is a good fit.

For those with properties that have older roofs and furnaces, consider Dryden Mutual for your insurance needs.

Dryden is also a go-to insurer for unusual properties, like traditional yurts, which will baffle most New York carriers.

Not-so-Good FitsAmong Dryden Mutual’s unique policy offerings is coverage for yurts.
If you’re looking to insure a car, truck, motorcycle, or any vehicle that needs to be registered for road use, Dryden Mutual is not the company for you.

And since they don’t offer auto policies, that means those who are used to bundling home and auto insurance won’t have that opportunity with Dryden.

You cannot buy direct from Dryden Mutual since they sell insurance through a network of independent agencies like Horan.

If your home has a pool with a slide or diving board, Dryden won’t be a good fit.

If your business has more than three employees or annual revenue of more than $150,000, Dryden is probably not a good fit for your commercial insurance needs.

If you desire to purchase a personal or commercial umbrella policy, Dryden offers neither.

Are you a general contractor who subcontracts work to others? Dryden Mutual won’t be a good fit. The story is different for subcontracts who do the work.

The company offers competitive personal property and commercial coverages to meet most needs, and its unique offerings have little to no competition whatsoever. Try finding a carrier that will write a policy for your yurt or won’t cringe when they see the rotting wood barely holding up your ancient barn!

Dryden Mutual is a longstanding insurance company with deep roots in New York State. Though Dryden has been around for over a century and a half, the company has adapted to the times. It continues to serve its policyholders with personal and commercial coverage that fits. After weighing the pros and cons, you decide if they’re right for your home or business.

If you’d like to read more Horan Reviews on carriers that serve the Central New York region, click the links below. We’ll add more review links as they become available.

If you’re ready to see a quote from Dryden Mutual Insurance or other insurers in our network, click the Get a Quote button below, and one of our insurance specialists will reach out to you.

Daniel J. Middleton

Daniel is an accomplished content creator. He has been working in publishing for almost two decades. Horan Companies hired Daniel as its content manager in November 2022. The agency entrusted its messaging to him. Since then, Daniel has written insurance articles, service and pillar pages, and more. All in an effort to educate CNY readers. He's helping them understand the world of insurance so they can make informed decisions.