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A good insurance policy can save you and your family from financial troubles. If you're planning to buy coverage through an insurance agent, make sure that you take the time to vet potential options.
Regardless of the type of insurance you're buying, it's important to know that the agent you're working with is trustworthy and has your best interests at heart. Here are some steps you can take to find the right agent for you.
How Do I Find a Trustworthy Insurance Agent?
Insurance agents are tasked with matching customers with the right insurance policies. But how do you find one who's trustworthy? Insurance agents typically don't charge their customers for their services—instead, they make a commission based on the products they sell.
There are two types of insurance agents: captive and independent.
- A captive agent only works with one insurance company. That means they only sell that carrier's products, whether or not they're the cheapest or provide the best value.
- Independent agents may work with several insurers and can provide you with quotes from multiple carriers.
Captive agents aren't necessarily untrustworthy. In fact, some can provide you with quotes from other companies if their carrier can't insure you. But if they provide you with a quote from just one company and don't encourage you to shop around, it might be worth talking to other agents.
As you search for a good agent, here are some steps you can take:
- Ask for referrals. Ask people in your circle if they've worked with an agent and have had a good experience. It's in the agent's best interest to treat you well because if they don't, they run the risk of losing two customers instead of one.
- Check online sources for reviews and recommendations. When searching insurance agents in your area, you'll likely come across customer reviews. Read through each of them to get a sense of what your experience will be. Skip to the next one if an agent has poor reviews, or if there's a particular issue that's a deal-breaker for you.
- Check the agent's references, background, expertise, licensing and qualifications. Once you meet an agent, ask for references. Being able to talk to some of their other clients can help put you at ease. You may also be able to find important information on their website or LinkedIn, such as specific expertise and whether they've been around for a while. Knowing an agent's background is particularly important if you have special insurance needs or circumstances.
- Ask yourself if you'd be comfortable working with them. If something feels off in your initial meeting with them, it may not be worth it to try to force the relationship, even if they have all of the qualifications.
Questions to Ask an Insurance Agent
It's important to ask a lot of questions before picking an insurance agent because it's a big decision that impacts your budget. It might help to write down a list of questions so you can make sure you get all of the important information you need.
Here is just a handful of example questions you can ask:
- What services will you provide?
- How do you get paid?
- Does your commission vary based on the type of product you sell?
- How do you calculate how much coverage I need?
- What types of insurance coverage do you recommend, and why?
- What do you do if a customer pushes back on your recommendation?
- Do I qualify for any discounts on premiums?
- How will you assist me if I need to file a claim?
- How often do you contact me to reevaluate my needs after I buy the policy?
- Will my premiums increase over time?
With this list as a starting point, think about other questions that are important to you and add them to your list. Again, don't be afraid to walk away if an answer makes you feel uncomfortable.
How Do I Verify an Insurance Agent?
Each state has a department that monitors insurance agents, brokers and companies that do business within the state. In fact, before an agent can sell insurance in a state, they must get licensed with the state's insurance department.
You can find contact information for your state's insurance department through a tool provided by United Policyholders, a nonprofit organization that advocates for consumers in the insurance field. Once you've landed on your state's website, you can search for an agent's name to find out which insurance companies they're affiliated with and whether their license is up to date.
If you have issues with an insurance agent, you can reach out to your state's insurance department directly to get assistance.
Finding a Good Insurance Agent Can Save You Money
Insurance agents often get a bad rap, but there are many who are trustworthy and who will put your needs first. That said, it's still important to ensure that you're working with an agent that takes the time to get to know your situation and who won't sell you coverage that you don't need.
There's also the option of shopping for coverage online without an agent, which can ultimately save you money.