Choosing An Insurance Agent: How To Find Your Best Option


Choosing an insurance agent can be a daunting task. Know what to ask, who to trust, and generally how to do it here.

Peace Of Mind Comes With Choosing The Right Agent

Choosing the right agent should be taken very seriously. You'll be finding someone whose job will be to protect you from financial ruin, help you feel safe from a disaster or accident, and give you peace of mind. This will most likely be a long-term relationship with someone you count on to fight for your rights. Unfortunately a lot of insurance companies pay agents the same commission regardless of their qualifications and skill. This makes choosing an agent a little tricky so you must do your homework.

There are different kinds of agents and various ways to get insurance. Sometimes insurance is sold by direct writing, in which a company's employee will sell insurance directly to customers through phone and mail solicitations. Another way is through an insurance broker that searches on behalf of a client and can place coverage with any insurance company.

The majority or people, however, will get insurance by finding an independent or captive insurance agent. Independent agents represent different insurance companies and will search for the best coverage according to a customer's needs. Captive agents only represent a single insurer.

Before searching for an agent, the first step is to get a basic idea of what kind of coverage you will need. Obviously once you get an agent he/she will be able to help you, but knowing what you want will help generate questions to ask an agent to see how they can help you. Do you need life insurance? Disability? Home? Health? Auto?

Word of Mouth/Referrals

A lot of people are primarily concerned with price, thinking that a cheaper policy will be a better option, but this is not the smartest way to find an agent. It doesn't do much good if your agent saves $500 on your home insurance but fails to cover your boat. The easiest way to find an agent is by referrals and word of mouth. Ask for references from friends or get contact info for customers from an agent to call and ask what they think.

Personality And Professionalism

What kind of personality should your agent have? You don't want to deal with someone that would be fun to have drinks with but tries to sell you a policy that you're not comfortable with, or fails to respond in a timely matter to inquiries during a claim. The right agent will give solid advice on how to cover any gaps in your policy or correct any imbalances.

Are you being sold the right material? How does the agent respond to questions? Do they listen to your needs and make adjustments? Does he/she try and sell you something you aren't interested in or don't need? Are you being offered annual reviews? How available is he/she during a claim? Will they fight for you? Do they make you feel comfortable? These are all important questions to ask when trying to find an agent.

Check Qualifications

One way to find a candidate is to call an insurance company you're interested in and have them give you a list of all the agents in the area who are either a Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter (CPCU) or Certified Insurance Counselor (CIC). Always check any agent's status. They can usually be verified through a license status inquiry website. Your state insurance department should have a link to an agent check on their website. Here's an example of California's verification site.

Always look at the A.M Best rating of any companies that you are considering. Companies are assigned a letter grade for financial strength rating, credit rating, and debt rating.

Finally, once you have narrowed down your choices, have the agent do an insurance review for your policy as a trial run so you can see how they work. If you are between more than one agent, go with the one who has taken the greatest care and listened to your needs.

Date of original publication:
Updated on: October 03, 2016

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