First thing to know is there are two types of insurance agents you could work with: independent agents and captive agens. Independent agents can sell different types of coverage (i.e. auto, home, life, etc.) from different companies. That means they can help you shop and find the best quote. Captive agents sell insurance for only one company, so while they’re the real experts for the insurer, they can only offer you one quote.
If you need specific coverage, are purchasing coverage for the first time, want personalized advice, or have complex needs, you may want to work with either an independent or captive agent.
Word of mouth can be a great way to find an insurance agent. Ask friends, family, or others in your neighborhood who they use, and ask them for referrals. Don’t be afraid to “interview” or talk with different agents to find one you feel comfortable with.
ONLINE INSURANCE AGENTS
Online insurance agents or brokers may be the way to go if you generally understand your coverage needs, only want basic coverage, or want to buy coverage on your own with minimal help.
Online agents allow you to get quotes, apply for coverage, and purchase it online. Some even partner with other companies to offer comparison tools so you can compare quotes and shop around. Others sell insurance from a single company.
If you’re considering an online agent, review the website to learn the information and tools offered to help you buy. Ask questions like what kind of customer support is offered? Can you compare quotes from different companies? Are the tools easy to use?
TIPS FOR DECIDING ON AN AGENT
Look for true insurance experts who’ll be able to find you the best policy, coverage, and price available to you, and who’ll also help you navigate any claims process or questions you may encounter.
Here are some tips to keep in mind when evaluating your options:
- Licensing: Make sure both the agent and the company are licensed in your state. Not all insurance is offered in every state, and some agents can’t sell across state lines. Make sure their licensing is up to date and meets all state requirements.
- Credentials: Some agents will have letters behind their names that represent designations or credentials they’ve earned from different insurance groups or associations. Ask what their credentials mean and how they earned them.
- Customer service: Do an internet search on the agent to read reviews and ratings about their customer service. Are they highly recommended? Or do they have a number of complaints or unsatisfied customers?
- Financial strength of the company: If you’re working with a captive agent, read about the company they work for. Pay particular attention to the financial ratings of the company, such as A.M. Best, to understand the financial stability and claims payout process.
If you ever feel pressured by an agent or company, they probably aren’t for you. Don’t feel like you have to purchase a policy from someone just because they offered you a quote. Also don’t hesitate to ask questions. Insurance can be complicated and confusing, and your agent should be able to help you navigate through any questions or concerns you may have.