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Finding the right car insurance can seem overwhelming. One way people navigate this complexity is by talking with an independent insurance agent. These agents are licensed to sell insurance products from multiple companies instead of being direct employees of just one company. An independent insurance agent could lighten the load for people who don’t want to do the legwork of collecting quotes and information from different companies. Bankrate’s insurance experts have put together some helpful information about the potential advantages and disadvantages of using an independent agent.
What is an independent insurance agent?
An independent agent works with multiple insurance companies to offer a broader range of insurance products to meet consumer needs. They are also able to offer similar insurance products across a broad range of companies. Captive agents work with just one insurance company, offering only the products offered by that specific company.
What are the advantages of independent insurance agents?
There are several potential advantages to working with independent insurance agents vs. captive agents. Working with an independent agent usually does not cost anything and can save the customer time by allowing the agency to shop for quotes from multiple insurance companies. An independent agent may be able to find a better deal for your insurance needs than you can. Ultimately, you will need to decide if these and other possible advantages are beneficial to you.
Multiple quotes from different companies
One of the best benefits to working with an independent insurance agency is having them shop for insurance quotes for you. With access to multiple companies, the independent insurance agent can check rates and coverage types with multiple companies at once.
You only have to provide your household information once, which saves you time. Independent insurance agents may also know which companies have the qualities you’re looking for, which will also save you time and could potentially save you money.
Agent can stay with you if you switch providers
When your policy comes up for renewal, you can let an independent agent know about an insurance increase so they can shop for better rates to help you determine if you should stay with the same company or switch.
Even if you switch insurance carriers, you can stay with the same insurance agent. This can allow you to build a relationship with your independent insurance agent no matter what company you choose for your insurance policies.
Personalized customer service
While captive agents can also provide personalized customer service, independent insurance agents may be more motivated to work hard to keep your business so you do not go to another agency. This means answering questions about rates, coverages and claims or filing claims on your behalf. If there is an issue with your coverage, you can call on your independent insurance agent to help resolve your problem.
Your best interests
On top of personalized customer service, an independent agent can use their knowledge of companies and policies to steer you in the right direction. Most independent insurance agents work strictly on commission, which means they get paid a percentage of the premium amount for your insurance. In those cases, it is in the agent’s best interest to keep their clients happy.
Smaller insurance companies
Independent insurance agencies can work with all types of companies, ranging from smaller insurance companies to major ones, like Progressive and Nationwide. An independent agent may present you with an insurance quote from an unfamiliar company but one that still meets your needs and offers the right insurance coverage for your family.
What are the disadvantages of independent insurance agents?
While there are several potential advantages to working with an independent insurance agent, there are also some possible drawbacks.
Knowledge of policies
One benefit of working with a captive agent is they are usually experts on the company they represent. This means they know the policy types, coverages, available discounts and how to get you the best deal with the insurance company.
Independent agents work with multiple insurance companies, so they may not be as knowledgeable about each one and their policy offerings. You may miss out on unique coverage or discounts because the independent agent wasn’t aware of it.
Less support for the agent
Independent agents usually receive less support than captive agents because they are not partnered with just one company. The parent company will usually provide resources, training and support to captive agents, whereas independent agencies will have to use their own interpretation of companies’ materials to run their business, which could affect the quality of their work.
Fewer large insurance companies
While some large insurance companies will work with independent agents, some do not. So, while you will likely see a greater breadth of quotes from an independent agent, it’s possible that you might miss out on better coverage options or rates from a company that does not work with independent agents.
How can you purchase insurance other than through an independent agent?
If you don’t want to work with an independent agent or agency, there are other ways to purchase insurance:
- Use a captive agent: If you like a particular insurance company with captive agents, consider using an agent from that provider instead of an independent agent. Captive agents are well-versed in the company they represent and should be able to get you the best rate for insurance from that company.
- Purchase directly: Whether you go online or over the phone, you can also get quotes and purchase insurance directly through the insurance company.
Frequently asked questions
Finding the best car insurance company for you will depend on your needs and situation. Rates are personalized, and coverage needs often are as well. One good tip for choosing the best car insurance company is to compare quotes from several and select the one that offers the coverage type (and amounts) you need for the lowest rate. You may also want to consider how financially strong the company is and what reputation they have for providing quality customer experiences.
Because auto rates depend on so many personal variables, the best cheap car insurance for one person may not be the cheapest for another. That is true between drivers but also between locations. Some regions and cities have higher average costs for auto insurance. One tip for finding the cheapest car insurance is to pull quotes from several insurers (on similar policies) and compare the rates. If you’re working with an independent agent, they can do this for you.
Switching car insurers is relatively simple, unless you have filed a claim with your current insurer, in which case you may need to wait until your claim is resolved. When the time for renewal comes up, tell your current insurer that you are not renewing. However, only do this if you have another company and policy lined up to begin when your current one ends.