How to Choose an Insurance Agent:
Choosing an insurance agent is almost as important as choosing the right doctor or lawyer. You have to find someone knowledgeable about the industry that you’re comfortable working with. Your insurance agent is handling some of your most precious possessions including your home, car, health, and even your life!
Read on to learn more about what to look for in an insurance agent.
Type of Insurance You Need
One of the first things you should consider before going to an insurance agent is what type of insurance you need. Not all agents or agencies provide every type of insurance, so you need to know if the agent offers what you’re looking for before you approach them.
You’ll find that some agents only offer home and car coverage, while others offer comprehensive policies that include business, life, health, boat, motorcycle insurance, and many more.
Technical Knowledge, Credentials, Certifications
To discover immediately whether or not an agent is trustworthy, you can look for their technical experience and credentials. An indication that they have credentials or certifications include any designations that come after their name.
These signify a higher level of competence and experience than agents without any letters or abbreviations in their title. Some common letters to look for include:
- CIC – Certified Insurance Counselor
- CPCU – Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter
- ARM – Associate in Risk Management
- CRM – Certified Risk Managers
Each of these designations is earned through a different certification program and indicates the agent’s area of expertise.
You can also read their bio to learn more about their education and the number of years that they’ve been in the field.
Many agents get paid commission for every policy they sell. Often, this type of rewards based sales system results in agents who are only interested in sales — not the well-being of the customer. When you meet an insurance agent, there are many signs that they’re interested in you and not in adding another number to their paycheck.
Look for friendly agents who are thorough in their questioning of you, seem interested in your personal life, and are happy and passionate about providing good service. If they seem upset or bothered every time you call to ask for help, this may not be the insurance agent for you.
Direct Writers or Independent Agents
There are generally two different ways that you can get coverage from an insurance agent or company: independent agents or direct writers. An independent agent works for you — not the company, while direct writers are insurance companies that hire salespeople to write policies exclusively for them.
For example, a large company, like State Farm or Allstate, is a direct writer, while a smaller, hometown firm such as Peninsula General Insurance Agency in Torrance, CA is probably an independent agent that offers policies from a number of different providers. These smaller firms are generally more flexible and are more invested in your needs. They’re all about customer service and ensuring your happiness, so they could be the right choice for you.
Ask the Right Questions
When you’re shopping around, you should ask some basic questions to ensure you’re making the right choice:
- What type of insurance does the agent offer?
- What are the agent’s areas of expertise?
- Is the agent local, statewide, or nationwide?
- How experienced is the agency in the type of insurance you’re looking for?
- Where can you find reviews or references about the agent or agency?
- How long has the agent been in business?
- How many providers does the agent have plans for? Which providers?
Are there any other questions you can think of that would help you ensure you’re finding the right agent?
Get a Quote and a Proposal
Getting a quote from multiple agents is a good way to weed out those that are off the mark for your needs. However, once you get a quote, that isn’t a guarantee of what you’ll pay or what coverage you can expect. You can learn two things from requesting a quote: how quickly an agent will respond when you need help and how thorough they are when explaining the coverage. If you’re satisfied with their speed and explanation, ask for a written proposal.
Since there are so many types of coverage and a plethora of carriers, having a written proposal before you commit to anything will save you time and frustration if you actually need to use your insurance. Read through it carefully to know exactly what you can expect.
Doing Your Research
There are no shortcuts to getting good insurance from a quality agent or agency. Go through all of these steps every time you’re on the hunt for a policy to ensure you get the best service, great pricing, and appropriate coverage.
Once you decide on an insurance agent and a plan, you’ll want to keep up with any changes. Coverage could change over time, so check with your insurance agent periodically to stay up to date on important regulations, changes with your provider, new laws, or anything else.