You have a lot of different kinds of insurance, and you probably have coverage from multiple companies. Working with an insurance agent makes it far easier to manage your coverage.
Your agent helps you select the best coverage for your situation, finds policies with the best value, and good agents keep working for you throughout the year to make sure you don’t miss out on money saving opportunities. Find a great agent, and you’ll always have the best possible coverage at the best possible price.
But how do you find a great agent?
Understandably, most people don’t want to spend much time thinking about insurance. We don’t even know what questions to ask to feel confident in our policy decisions.
If you’re shopping around for insurance, here’s what you should know about insurance agents.
Tips For Finding a Great Insurance Agent
First of all, you should understand that there are different kinds of insurance agents out there.
Independent agents represent multiple insurance companies and can sell you a policy from any company they represent. Some may only have contracts with a few companies, while others may be able to offer policies from many different providers.
Captive agents only represent a single insurance company, so they can only write policies with that one company.
In both cases, these agents work for the insurer. Companies pay them a commission to sell their policies.
Insurance brokers work for the individual or business owner who wants to purchase insurance – instead of being a salesperson for the insurance companies, they represent their client and provide the service of searching local insurance companies for the best rates. Instead of earning a commission from the insurance company, brokers generally charge a fee for their services.
For both agents and brokers, their job is to find you the best possible deal and keep you happy. Some people prefer independent agents or brokers over captive agents because they think having more company options means getting a better price, but that’s not always the case.
While you should know what kind of agent is helping you, one isn’t necessarily better than the other. There are other priorities to consider first when choosing an insurance agent.
1: Can Your Agent Provide The Right Kinds of Insurance?
Your situation is unique.
Considerations such as whether you rent or own, the environmental risks in your neighborhood, whether you own a business or are employed, and even things like your boating hobby all change your insurance needs.
When evaluating insurance agents, be sure that your agent of choice can provide all the types of insurance you need to be properly covered, especially if you own a business.
2: How Does He or She Handle Tough Questions?
Even if you don’t know a lot about insurance, there are a few basic questions you should ask as you’re evaluating a potential agent.
Start by asking for references.
In many cases, agents won’t give you contact information for their other clients because of privacy concerns. A few agents will let you talk to a current client, or they have testimonials to show. Reputable agents will try to find some way to answer your request – if an agent balks or glosses over the question, it’s a red flag.
Ask about coverage-related concerns, too. A good type of question when considering any kind of insurance policy is “what if?”
For example, if you’re looking for home insurance, ask what happens if a roof leak causes damage to your personal property. When considering car insurance, you might ask what happens if a friend is driving your car and you’re in an accident.
These kinds of questions tell you two things about your potential agent: you’ll determine how well they know the policy they’re recommending, and you’ll get a feel for whether they’re more concerned about your welfare or the insurance company’s profits.
Finally, ask them to recommend a deductible amount for your policy.
You already know that choosing a higher deductible means paying a lower monthly premium amount. However, if your deductible is too high, you run the risk of being unable to afford it, which rather defeats the purpose of getting insurance in the first place. The right deductible for you is manageable in case of emergency, but also high enough that your premiums are reasonable.
Asking your agent to recommend a deductible amount for your policy will show you whether they’re out for your best interests, or the insurer’s.
Insurance company-focused agents will tend to recommend low deductibles immediately. They don’t ask many questions about your situation, and they try to make the case that a low deductible is best in an emergency.
Consumer-focused agents ask more questions and tend to recommend as high of a deductible as you can afford without putting you at too much risk. They’re more inclined to try to find the balance between an affordable deductible and a comfortable monthly payment.
3: Do You Like Them?
Personality is always important in any business relationship, so choose an agent you like as a person.
Working with someone you enjoy talking to is far more pleasant than merely tolerating your interactions with your agent or broker. The easier you get along together, the more likely you are to receive satisfactory service.
Assuming your agent is doing their job well, they’re going to check in with you several times each year to ensure your needs haven’t changed and that your coverage is still the best deal for you.
We can’t really give you advice about deciding whether or not you like someone’s personality, but we’re sure you can handle it.
Above all else, go with your gut instinct. All the referrals and references and professional accolades in the world aren’t enough to override your intuition. There are plenty of insurance agents in the world – choose one that feels right to you.