2018: In a shopping center in the rural Midwest, a shopper was walking across the parking lot after exiting a store. A kind driver stopped and motioned her to cross in front of his vehicle. As she did, another vehicle behind the kind stranger couldn’t stand the delay and went around, hitting the pedestrian with his vehicle.
Her injuries were serious—and so were her medical expenses: an ambulance, the local hospital, an air ambulance to a bigger hospital, a broken hip surgery, a wheelchair, more surgeries, and physical therapy.
To top it all off, the driver who struck her had no auto insurance.
Here’s where it gets interesting. Both the victim and the insurance company hired attorneys to try and recoup some of her expenses. One of the attorneys decided that the kind stranger, by motioning her across, had placed the victim “in his care and custody,” so they went after him, too.
Stories like this one are all around us. But you might be wondering, “What does this story have to do with hiring the right car insurance agent?”
Preparing for the Unexpected
We all know the financial and legal consequences of an accident can be devastating. As much as we hate to think about it, we really should.
But for some reason, many people don’t consider those consequences when buying auto insurance. Instead of letting the professionals do their job, they try to be their own agent. Why is that?
Often, people don’t understand the purpose of each coverage, so they try to figure it out for themselves. Other times, they just want to hurry up and get it over with and move on. And sometimes, they don’t trust agents when buying car insurance.
Some people feel like all agents want to do is oversell them. Are there some unscrupulous agents out there? Sure. But not as many as you’d think. The fact of the matter is that agents are the ones who deal with stories like this every day. They see what happens when people don’t have enough coverage—or the right coverage.
The best time to understand your auto coverage is when you buy it, not after something happens. A good insurance professional can help navigate the insurance jargon, explain the coverages, and make sure you’re protected.
In the following, we’ll discuss some important things to consider when hiring the right car insurance agent.
Online vs. Offline: The Human Touch
It’s easier than ever to get an online quote for insurance, and many people opt for that convenience. But it’s important to remember that you always pay extra for convenience.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that shopping online will always save you money. For starters, you don’t always get the best rate. Sure, for some buyers it’s all about the money, but hidden costs can lurk in those initial savings.
If you find yourself saying things like, “Just give me the cheapest thing you’ve got,” or “I only want the minimum coverage required by law,” you could be setting yourself up for a huge risk. The hidden costs of having the wrong coverage can be financially devastating when you have an accident.
It’s vital to be able to sit down with a human and ask questions. You should understand exactly what the coverages mean. A good agent will go over the coverages and explain what could happen in various situations. They will also take the time to look at different options to get as close to budget as possible.
The Problem With Captive Agents
A captive agent is an insurance agency that sells for only a single carrier like State Farm, Allstate, Farmer’s, etc. While they are reputable companies, they can only offer a one-size-fits-all approach. You are limited to only whatever they offer.
If your rates have increased at renewal time, your only option is to change coverage amounts. If you had the right coverage in the first place, that means you’ll have to now opt for the wrong coverage.
Another thing to consider is the diversity of a single carrier. What if you need more than auto insurance on your two family cars? You might need a motorcycle, RV or watercraft covered too. Some carriers are really good at a few things, but you get a sky-high rate on the others.
There are some carriers who won’t even touch things like high-risk insurance. Or they do, but it comes at a cost you can’t afford. So, hiring the right car insurance agent is crucial to have your needs economically covered.
The Changing Tide of Auto Rates
All insurance companies have fluctuations in their rates. That’s just the way it works. When one is high, another will be low. And vice-versa. Ask any independent broker. If they’re being honest, they’ll say the same thing.
While nobody wants to lose customers, independent brokers know it’s the nature of the auto insurance business. Ironically though, those fluctuations are one of the biggest advantages an independent has.
If you have a premium increase at renewal time, an independent has multiple carriers to go to and get you a better deal—without losing you as a customer. You get a better rate, and they get to keep you as a customer.
If you’re with a captive and need to get a quote from a different carrier, it can be time-consuming and frustrating. You’re starting over with a new company, so you have to gather all your info again, and that takes time. If you’re getting several quotes, it can feel like Groundhog Day all over again.
If you’re insured with an independent, they already have all your info and they’ll do the legwork for you.
Hiring the Right Car Insurance Agent: What to Ask
In the end, hiring the right car insurance agent is about a relationship and good old fashioned customer service.
In your search, here are some important questions to ask:
- Will they take the time to explain the various coverages?
- How long have they been in business? Experience matters.
- Are they Captive or Independent (one carrier or multiple)?
- Are they willing to make an effort to get the best possible deal?
- Do they offer other lines of insurance (homeowner’s, renter’s, etc.) You’ll get a discount when you bundle.
- Do they have a good reputation?
- If you have an imperfect driving record, is that a problem?
- Do they make it easy to get insurance documents and ID cards?
If you’re willing to take a little time up front to get to know your agent and get your questions answered, you might just find a lasting relationship that will save you time and money in the long run.
At Affordable Insurance, we’re about creating long-term relationships. We care about our customers and we care about keeping them happy.
Buying insurance shouldn’t be a pain. Stop worrying about hiring the right car insurance agent and Contact us today at 303-344-0154.