Whether you are new to buying insurance or are shopping for the best rates and service around, here are some things to think about before you buy.
Agent or a broker?
You can buy insurance from either an insurance agent or an independent broker. An insurance agent works for one insurance company and sells its products. A broker, on the other hand, represents you, and shops many insurance companies on your behalf.
If you’re familiar with a particular insurance company, working with an agent of that company might be a good fit for you. He can bundle home, auto and other property insurance into one discounted package, saving you money. On the other hand, if you don’t know a lot about insurance or insurance companies, a broker might be better for you. Brokers are experts on many insurance companies and their products, which helps them find the coverage and prices that meet your needs.
Do a background check
Reputation and the ability to pay claims are critical, but often overlooked factors when choosing an insurance provider. Before you buy, do your homework. Check with ratings agencies such as A.M. Best and Fitch to learn about the financial strength of insurance companies. You can also research regulatory histories and backgrounds at the North Carolina Department of Insurance and the Better Business Bureau.
What do you expect?
Find out if your agent or broker will:
- Take the time to learn about your situation and needs
- Perform an annual policy review to ensure coverages are up-to-date
- Explain the claims process so that is easy to understand
- Provide access to customer service and claims representatives available 24 hours a day
In addition, think about how you want to work with your agent or broker. Online? Mobile app? Phone? Coffee in his office? Don’t sign up with someone who will not be able to meet your expectations.
Know the cost
If you decide to use an agent, get quotes from several different agents and make sure you compare apples to apples. Policies should have the same coverages and similar deductibles when you’re comparing quotes. If you use a broker, he will do the comparisons for you. Ask about discounts for bundling coverages together — like home and car — for a lower premium.
Focus on these areas to make the best decision for you when you are in the market for insurance.
The advice given is for informational purposes only. Contact your insurance advisor for additional guidance.