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Buying Auto Insurance Online vs. Agent

The lowdown...
  • With advances in Internet technologies, consumers can now price and secure coverage online
  • If you buy through an agent, make sure to check and see if they’re an independent agent or captive agent
  • Captive agents can only give quotes or sell policies that are underwritten by the carrier that they are employed by
  • If you get quotes online, choose either an official site or a site that’s authorized to give multiple quotes
  • Always compare insurance companies before you apply for a policy and you regret choosing price over quality

Spending your free time in an insurance office doesn’t sound like a fun time away from work.

When you get off of work or you’re using some of your vacation time, the last thing that you want to do is dedicate time to spend in someone else’s office talking about how much money you’ll have to pay to protect yourself from financial loss.

Insurance might not be something that you look forward to talking about, but when you have a car, it’s a product that you can’t live without.

You could elect to carry the most basic of coverage and call it a day, but part of being protected is customizing your policy to afford you sufficient limits.

Sometimes deciding what type of insurance you need leaves consumers wondering if they should buy insurance online or with an agent.

No matter which route you choose, you should start by comparing rates online so you get a good idea of a fair rate for the coverage you need.

Here’s what you should know as you buy your personal coverage:

Is an insurance agent really on your side?


All insurance companies claim they are on your side when you need them. While it’s an insurer’s contractual obligation to pay for covered losses, there are carriers that are notorious for delaying claims payouts and denying payoffs.

It’s important to find both a carrier and an agent that are actually on your side.

Technically, an insurance agent is a licensed professional who’s responsible for recommending coverage options and selling the consumer the best plan for them.

Whether or not the agent’s role is to protect you or to protect the client depends on the type of agent you’re working with. When working with an exclusive agent, it’s the agent’s role to make decisions to protect the company and not the client.

What does it mean when you’re working with an independent agent?

Exclusive agents are directly employed by the agent that they sell insurance for. On their agent license, it will show that they are employed as a captive agent and can’t market products sold by other companies.

Most salaried agents who also earn commission are classified as captive/exclusive agents.

When you work with an independent agent, that agent has more power to help their clients find affordable insurance.

Independent agents are appointed by insurance companies but they are free to have several appointments at one time. They can give you several quotes just so they can match you with the right plan.

What’s the difference between an independent agent and a broker?


Brokers and independent agents both work on their own rather than being employed by one company.

If you look at each job description at surface level, you’d think a broker and an independent agent are the same things. In a sense they are, but independent agents have a bit more power than brokers.

When it comes to brokers, they are free to shop the market for their clients. They can give multiple price quotes to clients in a single sitting and they aren’t in any way bound to one carrier.

The biggest difference is that agents have the power to issue a binder for coverage. Brokers have to call the company and ask someone with authority to issue the binder for them so that you have coverage right away.

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Are there advantages to working with a broker?

Insurance brokers spend a lot of time with you asking you about your personal needs.

Once they find out exactly what you need, the broker will do all of your comparison shopping for you just so that they can find out which carrier will check all of the items off of your checklist.

If you’re looking to work with an expert, professionally speaking, most brokers are more experienced than most agents. They must be well-versed in all of the product offerings on the market and different underwriting criteria.

Are there any disadvantages to working with a broker?


Brokers are on your side but they are also working to earn a commission. Since much of their income is based on the premiums that they sell, they could benefit from selling you a more expensive policy.

Another disadvantage to working with a professional in a brokerage is that you’ll have to pay a fee for the services. Some brokers charge very reasonable fees when they sell a product and others make hundreds just for comparison shopping.

If you really need expert help to match you to a product, paying this fee could make sense.

How can you get in contact with an agent?

Years ago, consumers would have to find a way to an agent’s office to get a quote for insurance on their car.

Not only did they need to be present to secure their coverage, they also had to have their vehicle inspected before coverage could be bound.

Nowadays, there are so many different ways that you can contact an agent.

  • You could do business the old-fashioned way by visiting a local agency or district office but you have to visit during business hours and you might need an appointment.
  • You could also pick up the phone and call the agency while they are open to getting a quote by phone.
  • If it’s after hours and you’re willing to wait, you could always leave a message for the agent or shoot an email over so that they can provide you with a quote by email when they come back into the office.

Do you have to get a quote from an agent?


Agents have the power to issue quotes but you don’t have to talk to an agent to find out how much coverage will cost you. Now, with online quotes systems in the mix, the marketplace is entirely different.

You don’t just have to choose whether you should work with an agent or broker, you also have to decide if it’s better to get quotes online.

Computer programmers can easily design a quoting system and update that system at any time which makes online quote systems are so effective when it comes to giving prospective clients rate estimates.

When rates change through a carrier, the system can be updated and users can get their updated personal estimates right away.

What does it mean when you get a direct online quote?

There’s more than one kind of quote system that you can use. One popular option is to get a direct quote on the carrier’s official website.

The company will spend the money to have the system developed and it can only be accessed directly through the URL address.

You know that getting a direct quote is convenient, but you can only get quotes from the carrier when you’re filling out the system. If your mission is to shop around, you’ll have to get several direct quotes from different addresses.

What’s a comparison shopping quoting tool?


If you don’t want to get direct quotes, there’s also a comparison shopping tool that you can visit online where you can get a handful of quotes at once.

This tool isn’t a direct tool because you’re visiting a third-party site that’s partnered with several carriers at once. You don’t have to pay a fee to use the tool but it’s like working with a virtual broker.

Everyone has their own preference when it comes to conducting business. Some more technologically savvy shoppers don’t mind doing everything online.

Others would like to speak with an expert who can add a personal touch to a boring process. You need to decide if you’d like to work with an agent or you’d like to get quick and convenience quotes online.

Get free online quotes today right here!

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