The Value of Working with an Independent Insurance Agent
When shopping for insurance policies: you can either work with an independent insurance agent (someone who represents a variety of insurance companies), or you can choose to acquire your insurance directly from a captive insurance agent (someone who represents a single insurance company), essentially buying from the company directly).
Independent insurance agents do not work for any one particular insurance company but can instead sell policies from multiple companies. By comparison, agents that work for one company are often called "captive" or "career" agents. They will only sell insurance policies from one insurance company. State Farm, Northwestern Mutual and Bankers Life are three companies that are well known for using captive agents. The only way you can buy insurance policies from those three companies are through their exclusive captive agents. Captive or career agents can only provide you with insurance policies that are sold by the parent company they work for.
Independent insurance agents can evaluate your insurance needs and find a policy that meets those needs with much greater specificity. The independent agent does not have to focus only on the policies of one company, but can shop around for you. Independent insurance agents function identically to insurance brokers in that they represent multiple insurance carriers. The primary difference between brokers and independent agents is that insurance brokerage companies are often larger than independent insurance agencies. However, independent agents and brokers approach the business in the same way, which is that they represent the customer. The labels agent and broker are used interchangeably. It’s important to pay more attention to the distinction between captive and independent.
How to find a good independent insurance agent
You can simply try out an independent insurance agent by yourself; there’s no cost (and if someone does try to charge you to get quotes, just walk away).You can also ask friends and family who they recommend. Or, you can do the digital equivalent of this: Look up consumer reviews on the Better Business Bureau or Trustpilot to see what other people are saying.
Insurance prices are regulated by states. Insurance companies determine their rate tables for different risks (age, health, and other specific factors for different types of insurance) and then file those rate tables with state insurance departments. That means that they’re set in stone for everyone - one agent can’t offer you a better price than another agent or a broker for a given insurance policy. In other words, agents cannot arbitrarily change prices or tack on extra commissions. No matter who is selling you insurance from a specific insurer, it will always cost the same to you. Where you can benefit (and where independent insurance agents bring value) is finding the insurance company with the best-fit product and premium for your specific needs and lifestyle.
An independent insurance agent can do other important things on your behalf
Independent agents have at their disposal the ability to quickly check prices and coverage with dozens - if not hundreds - of different insurance companies. Since rates vary widely, an independent agent can likely get you a better value than you can get for yourself; and do it quickly. This can save you untold hours combing the internet and eliciting unwanted calls from all corners of the state or country.
Independent agents can be a one-stop-shop for most, if not all of your insurance needs. Independent agents typically don’t sell just health insurance; they also sell life insurance, dental, vision, medigap plans, critical illness protection and Long term care insurance. You can rely and utilize an independent agent, at no cost to yourself, to handle all of your insurance in one place.
Everyone’s needs, health, and lifestyle are different. For this reason, buying a health insurance or Medigap policy that’s designed to cover some of your needs could be a mistake. Fortunately, enlisting the help of an independent insurance agent can help you get your insurance policy back on track.
Additional reasons why you should choose an independent insurance agent when shopping for any insurance
Objectivity & Choice: One of the biggest advantages of working with an independent insurance agent is that you will have more choices. The independent agent is not tied to a specific provider. This allows him or her to point out the pros and cons for each of the different companies. In turn, this allows a much more objective opinion which can help you make the right choice. When an agent is only able to offer a limited selection of health insurance plans, then the tendency is for the agent to highlight his company’s benefits while strongly downplaying any potential shortcomings. This is to be expected when an agent is compensated only for selling insurance plans from one particular insurance company. The independent agent is under no such constraints as they are happy to point out the pros and cons for each of the different companies and typically be able to offer a; much more objective information on the different options. Independent agents represent many different insurance companies that offer a wide variety of coverage options and price points. Most on average sell for five to eight different insurance companies. There’s no need for you to accept one quote from one company, and there’s no need for you to spend time filling out many different online applications to get your own quote comparisons. With their connections and their knowledge of the market, independent agents can often find a better value for your insurance dollar than you might find searching on your own. Agents do the shopping and you do the saving; and, find you the right blend of price, coverage, and service. When you work with one insurance company, you will have limited insurance options available. On the other hand, when you work with an independent insurance agent, they can show you all the options from many insurance companies. This will provide you with many options to choose from and it will ensure that you find a policy that you like. Independent agents work with a variety of insurance companies so that selecting the right policy for your needs comes easy. This allows you, the consumer, to pick and choose, and compare rates from all of the top insurance providers. While many agents are only able to offer insurance plans from one or two insurance companies, an independent agent has no such limitations. This in turn allows the insurance shopper to pick and choose; comparing rates from all of the top health insurance providers.
Relationship & Service: An independent agent’s service is a valuable long-term resource. He or she will be committed to helping you stay protected and can assist you in conducting annual policy reviews. To them, you are much more than just a policy number. Another benefit of working with an independent insurance agent is that they represent you instead of an insurance company. Independent insurance agents look out for your best interests. They do not have to abide by the strict rules that come with being a captive agent and they can help you instead. If the insurance agent does not like something about a particular company, he or she can provide you with and honest assessment to help you avoid bad policies. An independent agent is more familiar with the insurance carriers’ customer service, coverage, and history. Independent agents work for you, not the insurance carrier. Unless an agent has a pre-negotiated program, they have no control over your premium prices.
Save Money: Another advantage of using an independent insurance agent is that you will be able to save money. When you look at different choices, you can generally find one that is less costly than the rest. The insurance agent will not try to make you focus on a particular brand or company and will instead be focused on helping you find the best value. However, as many are so familiar, you do get what you pay for, at least in most instances. This will allow you to save money on your premiums and still get a policy that gives you what you need. As a licensed advisor who partners with many insurance carriers, an independent agent is the best option if you are looking for coverages customized for you at the best price available.
Independent agents are professional advisors, not salesmen: Independent agents put you in the driver’s seat. Because an independent agent is solely focused on your unique needs, he or she can help with comparison-shopping, honing in on the best prices for the coverage you need. They can even advise you on how to best bundle or customize your policies in ways that career captive agents might not be able to do (either because they are restricted in their policy offerings, or simply because they lack the insight into your specific needs). Because independent agents work with a variety of insurance companies, they tend to have a broader understanding of companies’ offerings and key benefits. When you work with only one insurance company, they will want you to believe that they are the best option for you. In reality, they may not even be one of the top three choices that you should be looking at. Independent agents not only find you competitive pricing, they make sure you are adequately covered. Working with you one-on-one, your agent becomes your personal adviser, taking the time to listen to you and understand your individual needs. They know it’s not just about finding a price you can afford; it’s also about making certain you are appropriately covered so that you don’t end up insurance-poor if you do suffer a loss.
Licensed knowledgeable experts: Independent agents can explain the complexities of insurance in simple terms, helping you make smart decisions. They are knowledgeable about the industry and the different companies that exist in the marketplace. They have worked with customers in the past and have a good idea of which companies have the best track record when it comes to pleasing their customers. They can narrow your options down and help you choose between the best insurance companies in the market.
Independent agents make a career out of assessing their customers’ insurance needs and matching them with the insurance carrier best equipped to meet those needs at a price the customer can afford. Think about it. While you might research wording for wills on the Internet, you’ll likely go to an attorney to ensure that the document is drawn up correctly. Why wouldn’t you seek the advice of a licensed insurance professional to be certain that your home, your auto, your health plan or your business is properly protected?
Since Insurance is a complicated subject, it’s an agent's business to understand it and communicate it to you so you understand it as well. In almost all cases, an ordinary consumer will benefit from having someone who deals with this subject for a living; advise them. If there are any hidden surprises, a licensed experienced agent is equipped to know where these nuances are. Even if you understand insurance thoroughly you can get tripped up; the industry is regulated on a state-by-state basis. Move from one state to another and you'll find that the coverages may look the same at first glance, but on closer inspection, things work a bit differently (very differently, in some states). Coverages don't just vary from state to state but often vary from company to company within the same state.
Simple Explanations: Independent agents make it easy to understand your options. Unless you have a real passion for the fine print and legalese of insurance terminology, it’s difficult to understand what you’re seeing when comparing various insurance options. Licensed insurance agents live and breathe this stuff every day. They’re specially trained and certified to help you understand how plans differ from one another and how your coverage will actually work in the real world.
One-stop shopping: Independent insurance agents can often meet all of your insurance needs with the companies they represent, providing auto, home, renters’, and business coverage. Many offer life, Medigap coverage and health insurance as well. They are consultants for a lifetime: Independent agents periodically review your coverage. They are there to help you through all the changes in your life, whether you’re going from renting an apartment to buying a home, starting a business, getting married, adding a teen driver to your auto policy, or looking for a dental or vision plan. An independent insurance agent is potentially a much more valuable long term resource than an agent that is affiliated with only one insurance company. If a client is best served by changing health insurance companies to find a lower rate, select different benefits, or simply needs to adjust coverage because their health insurance needs have changed over time, then an independent agent is happy to continue to be of service to the client and help them select a new company while an agent offering only one company’s products is unfortunately unable to meet the client’s needs. The length and depth of the client-agent relationship has much more of a chance to grow when an independent agent is involved, leading to many money saving opportunities for the client. Independent insurance agents often conduct annual policy reviews with each of their clients to evaluate client needs and make sure that they are with the insurance company and health plan that best meets their needs.
Free Advice: You can use an agent’s services for free. Independent agents make money through commissions that are already baked into the cost of every health insurance plan, no matter where you buy it or whether an agent was involved. A plan never costs more just because you choose to buy with an agent. When you understand the benefits of shopping through a licensed agent – and the fact that you don’t have to pay more for using an independent agent – it’s easy to see why shopping with an agent is the smart way to go.
Your advocate: If you have a billing or claim concern, or need to change your coverage, your agent can be your advocate, working with the insurance company on your behalf. Agents are your advocates even after you enroll. Your agent is there for you even after you buy a new health insurance, medicare supplement or prescription drug plan. Your agent can help you re-shop each year during open enrollment periods, or whenever big life changes happen and you need to update your coverage. What’s more, your agent can serve as your advocate with the insurance company when you have questions about benefits or about how a medical claim was processed.
They live around the corner: Independent agents are your neighbors and they share your interest in the community where you live, and understand the benefits and challenges of living in your locale. They are often highly involved in the community, sponsoring youth sports teams, buying from your local businesses, supporting school organizations, and voicing opinions at the monthly Chamber of Commerce meeting. They are right around the corner, ready to help.
Obtaining the best value: Acquiring any type of insurance is often a puzzling and complicated process; especially for the untrained eye. You’re not buying milk or bread. However intangible it may seem, you’re paying for a promise of protection that could potentially make or break your financial well-being, not to mention the quality of the care you receive. How do you know that you’re making the right choices about coverage? Are you sure you’re getting the best possible value for your dollar? The variety of options can be confusing and the policy lingo difficult to comprehend. No matter what your insurance needs are, be sure and request quotes as indicated on this website and then be in contact with one of our independent insurance agents today! You’ll be happy you did.