How To Choose A New Insurance Agent

Choosing a new insurance agent can be a daunting task. For most of your life, your won't have a lot of contact with your agent. Yet, during those times of need, they can become your best friend.

Whether it is your first insurance purchase or your a seasoned pro, it can be a difficult choice. How do you find an agent that is going to care for your home or car as much as you do? What separates one agent or agency from another?

Two Keys to Picking A New Agent

Moving to a new location can make finding a new agent difficult, but not impossible. Following these simple steps takes some of the mystery out of the insurance industry. It will also help you pick a agent that works for you.

Option 1: Get a referral from a friend or family member.

Referrals from family and friends is always a great place to start. Often, then have great insight into things you may not have thought of. If you’re like the average individual, you don’t know what you don’t know. This lack of knowledge creates a feeling of uncertainty and vulnerability. This is especially true when it comes spending money. Everyone wants to make sure we are getting a good value for our hard-earned dollars.

In a recent NAIC survey, 79% of consumers indicated they asked family and friends for insurance advice. 65% also said they also asked colleagues and social acquaintances. Finding a good agent is not only vital but invaluable to you. If you can find someone you trust and is pleasant to work,  you will learn the things that you didn’t know before. Your insurance agent should become you can build a friendly relationship with.

Option 2: Use the internet.

Do your homework. Before selecting an agent, do your homework on the agent as well as their agency. Are there any news articles about them? Have they faced any lawsuits? Take a look at their website. Is it professional? Are there any testimonials? You may also want to look at their social media pages (Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter, Instagram) for reviews and educational content.

Sources like Yelp or Angie’s list offer reviews that can help in the deciding process. One thing to remember is to not let one bad review influence your decision. When reading the reviews, look for common themes like did they return calls or the friendliness of the office staff. For negative reviews, look for common themes to get a realistic picture of how the agent works.

Option 3: Trade Associations or Other Business Owners

Small business owners can talk with local trade associations or other similar business owners. Look for those which might have related insurance needs.

Gather the right information

Since referrals are a good way to find out where to look for an agent the following is a list of recommended questions you should ask your family, friend or associates:

1. What did your friend like about the agent?

2. How well did the agent perform customer service?

3. Does the agent know what he’s talking about? Is he friendly and easy to work with?

4. How did the agent handle filing a claim?

5. Was the company that they represent efficient at handling the claim?

6. How about coverage? Has it increased or decreased over the past three years?

It’s especially important to have your insurance reviewed each year. This ensures you’re still getting the best coverage at the best price. Does their agent review their policy each year?

*Your agent should also be keeping you up to date on important regulations, new laws, changes with your carrier and anything else that might affect you as the end customer.

Check the financial strength of your insurance company

When evaluating a company, you also want to check its financial rating. Much of the assessment comes from qualitative and quantitative numbers that most of us could care less about. But, the companies receive a letter grade for their ratings raging from A to F which we should care about. It’s important to understand the rating system.

Companies like A.M. Best provide ratings for insurance companies. Often they split their ratings into different categories like Life Insurance or Auto Insurance. Because of this you may need to check a couple of different listings. Additionally, they provide great detail on their evaluation methods, which can be interesting.

Understanding The Different Types of Agents

One of the things many people don’t understand is the different types of insurance agents. Some agents sell for only one company, while other agents can write for many companies.

There are two different ways to get coverage from an insurance company. Knowing what kind of an insurance agent you want is important. The two primary types of agents are Direct Writers and Independent Agents.

Direct Writers. These are the agents the insurance companies hire to write only for that company. 

Independent Agents.  These agents work for the insured (you) and not the company. The independent agents usually have contracts with many insurance companies. This allows them to offer you more options. If you have a billing or claim concern, or need to change your coverage, your agent can be your advocate. Thec can do much of the leg work with the insurance company on your behalf.

Five questions to ask a potential insurance agent

If you don’t know of anyone who can recommend a good agent, the following is a list of questions to ask when interviewing a potential agent:

1. What are their areas of expertise?

2. Are they a local agent, or does they have nationwide reach?

3. How many years have they been writing? (The type of policy you are looking for.)

4. Are they a direct writer or an independent agent? If they are an independent agent, ask them what companies they represents.

5. Does they have any references?

The best way to find an agent is through a family or friend referral. There’s nothing like having someone pave the way for you. Be your own advocate. Use the internet and research agents in your area to get to know about them. 

It’s always a good to check out their website and their social media outlets. It’s also important to ask the right questions so you can get the right answers - know what questions to ask. Knowing the difference between a direct writer and an independent agent could benefit your particular situation

Finally, when it’s time to interview your potential agent ask questions that will help you make your decision easier. Most importantly - pick someone who is going to care about you, your car and your home.

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