How to Choose the Right Insurance Professional

There are several key differences between insurance agents and insurance brokers. Here’s how to find the best insurance professional for your needs.

When shopping for insurance, you’ll want to compare pricing and policies to find the best coverage to suit you. However, it can be incredibly time consuming to sift through and compare multiple quotes. This is why some choose to work with an insurance agent or insurance broker.

The Benefits of Working With an Insurance Professional

Simply put, independent insurance professionals do the shopping for you. They collect your information and work directly with insurers, some of which may be their partner companies. After receiving quotes, they work with you to determine which company or companies best meet your insurance and budget needs. In some instances, they may also periodically review your policies to ensure that you are still getting the best coverage and that your rates remain competitive.

Before you partner with a professional, it’s important to understand the difference between an insurance agent and an insurance broker and take time to determine which option is right for your unique needs.

The difference between insurance agents and brokers
Traditional insurance agents usually represent a single insurance company. They can offer some level of guidance, but they are limited to the products their company sells. These are sometimes known as captive agents.

By contrast, independent insurance agencies do not represent a single insurance company — instead, they typically sell the products of multiple providers. Independent insurance agents act as a middlemen, helping you find the right policy by comparing the rates and policies provided by the companies they work with, and they are paid a commission for each policy sold.

Similarly, insurance brokers shop for you and solicit quotes and information on your behalf, but you are their client, so their advice is tailored to your best interests and their recommendations aren’t limited to a few insurers. Likewise, insurance brokers are licensed by their state’s insurance regulatory agency.

If you don’t have an existing relationship with an insurance company, independent agents and brokers can both offer you expert, unbiased advice that is responsive to what you need, rather than what products they have to offer. They can provide multiple quotes for you at once, so you don’t have to reach out to different companies.

Tips for Choosing an Insurance Agent or Broker

Finding the right insurance agent or broker to help you through the process of selecting an insurance policy is an important step toward ensuring your peace of mind. These tips can help you ask the right questions and find the best insurance professional for your needs.

Know your current insurance policies
When shopping for a new insurance plan, have information on your current policies ready so you can get an accurate comparison. Some items that might be helpful are:

  • Declarations pages for all of your existing insurance policies
  • Your claims history
  • Information on all household members

Ask plenty of questions
If all goes well, you're going to work with your insurance professional for years to come. As a result, it’s important to carefully assess candidates. Come prepared with a list of questions for each prospective insurance agent or broker. Some questions might include:

  • How long they’ve been in business
  • Their licensing or credentials
  • Which insurance companies they work with
  • How the enrollment and renewal processes will work
  • If you’ll have a dedicated account manager
  • What fees they charge and/or how they’re compensated

Check references
Financial experts will look at your record to make sure you'll be a good client, and you're allowed to do the same with your agent or broker. Word-of-mouth recommendations are helpful, but if you want a more in-depth track record, contact your state’s insurance commissioner to check for any past complaints against the agency or brokerage. You can also double-check a professional’s license and accreditation through sources like M. Best, Moody’s, and the Better Business Bureau.

Gauge their recommendations
A good insurance professional will listen to your needs and recommend insurance plans that fulfill your goals. Before signing on the dotted line, it’s important to ask questions about your policy. If it seems like they’re pushing you toward an insurance plan that doesn’t line up with your wishes or if they’re not explaining the different options thoroughly enough, you may want to consult another agent or broker.

Finding the right insurance broker to help you through the process of selecting an insurance policy is an important step toward ensuring your peace of mind. No matter who provides your insurance, you should understand what your policies do and don’t cover — as well as what your deductibles are. If you sense any red flags or feel you’re not getting the information you need to make an informed decision, remember: it’s OK to sever ties.

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