How Do You Pick an Auto Insurance Agent?


UPDATED: JAN 2021 | 3 MIN READ

When you’re looking for auto insurance, finding the right kind of coverage at an affordable price can be a challenging task. But one thing that can help in your search is finding a good insurance agent who will be in your corner and doing the necessary research to find you the best deals for quality auto insurance. Having a good insurance agent comes with a range of benefits. They can break down dissertation-length insurance contracts into understandable language, identify potential snags and surprises, and advise you on provisions that affect your premiums, coverage, and overall costs. This can help you find the best plan options, assist you in filing claims, and help lower your overall monthly premiums.

Key Takeaways

  • Insurance agents can be found and vetted using friend and family networks, the internet, and through personal interviews.
  • There are many benefits to choosing a local insurance agent, including increased responsiveness, a familiarity with local insurance concerns, and personal accountability
  • Buying directly from an insurance company in lieu of using an insurance agent can also have benefits, as you will be insured faster and may pay less in premiums. However, there are downsides, as you will be left on your own to navigate the complex language of your insurance policy

Do Your Research

Expertise in auto insurance doesn’t come easily, and you’re unlikely to master it overnight. There is no standard wording for auto insurance nationwide, and coverages can vary drastically between companies and between locations. A good deal of education and experience is needed to confidently navigate the world of auto insurance. To find an insurance agent that will  best advocate for your needs, you’ll need to do some of your own research first.

Asking Friends and Family

When searching for insurance, it can help to get candid reviews from people you trust. If you have friends or family who can give you referrals, it’s worth checking out those insurance agents further. You can ask friends and family in-depth questions about aspects of an auto insurance agent that are important to you, like their knowledge, their responsiveness, or their bias towards or against certain providers. The people close to you may also have an idea of your preferences and help you in your search by vetting their insurance agents based on your needs. Keep in mind though that an agent’s friendliness or how “likable” they are doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the best quality!

Searching Online for Customer/Company Reviews

If you’re looking for a range of perspectives on a prospective insurance agent, the internet can also be a good source of information. To start, you can look at the testimonials on the agent’s website, but to get more unbiased information, you can also look at third party review websites. For sites such as Yelp, you should beware of bots and fake reviews—which can make up to 20% of the review content on the site. Reviews from Google and Facebook, while being some of the most common platforms where customers post reviews, are subject to abuse. For instance, there’s an industry for “buying” Google reviews, which can increase the online visibility of a company if the company’s activity goes undetected. When searching through online reviews, it can be helpful to look through the most negative ratings first – to see if there are any commonalities or red flags – before looking at positive reviews for detail. You can also find if formal complaints have been filed against an insurance agent by a customer through the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. Simply visit their website or call their main office to make an inquiry.  

Interview Prospective Agents

Even if an insurance agent looks good on paper and your family raves about them – that doesn’t always mean they’re a good fit for you. Only you can decide that, and a good way to come to that decision is by reaching out and contacting them directly. Just as you wouldn’t ordinarily hire someone for a job based on a resume without an interview, there’s nothing wrong with interviewing someone tasked with the important job of finding you insurance. It can be demanding on your time and energy to contact many different insurance agents, but this is an excellent step to find someone who is a good fit for you once you’ve narrowed down your options to a few candidates. Someone who can give you the best advice for your situation and isn’t focused solely on selling you a policy during an interview may indicate a level of reliability and professionalism expected from a good insurance agent. 

Don’t Forget to Verify Credentials

Reliability and professionalism isn’t all that marks a good insurance agent – they also need to be an expert in their field, someone with the requisite knowledge and experience to help you navigate purchasing insurance and making claims. A good way to verify an agent’s expertise is by looking at their credentials. These should be easily accessible to you, and a trustworthy insurance agent should be able to readily provide them if asked for. First, your agent should have an up-to date license – you can ask your agent to give you a copy. Additional qualifications that demonstrate a wider understanding of the insurance field can take the form of acronyms you can find beside their name in a business card. Among the most common credentials for agents working in auto insurance are CIC (Certified Insurance Counselor), CPCU (Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter), and even more rigorous qualifications like the AAI (Accredited Advisor in Insurance). 

Benefits of Choosing Your Own Local Insurance Agent

When choosing an insurance agent, should you go local? This is often one of the best choices you can make – not only will you be able to easily conduct a face-to-face interview with ease when using a local agent, but there are many other benefits. Among these are:

  • Responsiveness – a local agent, especially one you have a personal relationship with, can easily advise on everyday insurance concerns like consumables coverage for break oil, or minor fender benders. They can become more acquainted with your personal needs in the insurance market and quickly find policies for you that a more distant agency, unfamiliar with you, would need several hours and many steps to find.
  • Local knowledge – local insurance agents can be more informed of insurance laws within your region, as well as insurance concerns unique to your community. While an agent in Alaska might concern themselves more with damages from snow and earthquakes for example, the insurance needs of someone in Louisiana pertain more towards floods and mudslides. An insurance agent facing the same kind of insurance environment as you can be better equipped in helping you navigate it successfully.
  • Local accountability and references – if your local agent garners most of their customer base from the community, they can be motivated to provide better service to gain customers through word-of-mouth recommendations. To a local insurance agent, a customer can be more than a number. A customer is a valuable individual upon which the business, and its advertising depends. As with all agents, you also have the ability to sue for malpractice if the insurance your agent provides does not meet your needs or match what was promised to you.

What If I Don’t Want an Insurance Agent?

Cutting out the middleman of an insurance agent can also come with benefits. If you play your cards right, you can end up paying lower premiums, as insurance companies won’t need to also pay a fee to your insurance agent. Additionally, buying insurance directly online or over the phone is a much quicker process than going through an agent – if you’re pressed for time, buying direct may be the better choice.

However, there are some downsides to buying your insurance directly from your provider. You’ll likely need to become more familiar with the dense language of your insurance plan, and it may be difficult and time consuming to research your options for a custom plan. Not only that, but needing to file an insurance claim can be a complex challenge for someone who isn’t trained in the field as an insurance agent is. If you’re looking for an expert advocate for your auto insurance needs, it may be better to look for an auto insurance agent than to try and navigate the process on your own.

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