Check out this short video clip on the value of working with an independent insurance agent. We spied it on Twitter the other day, posted by one of our great insurance company partners, Safety Insurance. It talks about the value, expertise and advocacy services that agents provide 24/7.
Joe Harrington of Markham Group, one of our Renaissance Alliance agency members,
made a good case for why you should use an independent agent in a blog post a few years ago. We think he said it well, so we reprint it here:
For some people it does not matter where they buy their insurance. That decision could be costing them money, service and proper protection. Buying insurance is not like buying gasoline at a gas station. It is an important financial decision in protecting those things that are important to you such as your family, home, autos and business.
Independent agencies differ greatly from direct insurance carriers or the internet based insurance companies. In brief, here are the three ways to buy insurance:
Captive Agents: Insurance agents that sell you the insurance policy of one (1) direct carrier.
Internet Based Agents: Agents who potentially represent multiple insurance carriers, but are unable to provide the best customer service and personal knowledge to properly protect you with your changing needs.
Independent Insurance Agents: Agents who represent an average of six – eight insurance carriers. Independent agents are able to research these carriers to find you the best combination of price, coverage and services to properly protect your assets.
Your Independent Insurance Agent:
Is a licensed professional with strong customer and community ties
Provides excellent customer service and competitive premiums because your agent can access coverage from multiple insurance carriers
Because an independent agency represents multiple carriers, the agent can provide flexibility as your insurance needs change. If your insurance needs no longer match your present insurance carrier, the independent agent can easily transition you to another carrier
Assists you when you have a claim
Is your consultant, working with you to determine your proper insurance needs
Saves you premium by looking at the best combination of price, coverage and service
Provides full service by offering a full range of insurance products such as home, renters, condo, auto, business, life and health
Knows you by name and not by a policy number. An independent agent treats you like a person
Insurance isn’t a once-and-done thing – it requires a periodic assessment of the changing circumstances in your life and a thoughtful evaluation of whether you should add protection against any new risks. As you budget for the new year and prep for tax season, it’s the perfect timing to think about these things.
With the start of a new year and the emphasis on resolutions, there have been a few good articles on insurance that caught our attention. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners issued a handy Insurance Checklist for the New Year. It offers some considerations about common forms of insurance – life, home/rental, health, auto.
When new life events occur, you should review of insurance coverage. You may need to add a new type of coverage, you may want to raise or lower deductibles on an existing policy, or there may be opportunities for savings or discounts. Your independent insurance agent will be able to inform you about various coverage options – but can only advise you based upon what he or she knows.
Here’s a list of life events that should trigger a call to your independent insurance agent:
Birth or adoption of a child
Death of an immediate family member
Purchasing a new home, condo, or a second home
Adding buildings to your property
Renting out your home
Moving to a new geographic area
Renting an apartment
A teen child getting an auto license
Getting a new car
Joining a carpool
Acquiring expensive electronics, antiques, jewelry, furs, or specialty collections
Acquiring a recreational vehicle – boat, motorcycle, snowmobile
Getting a recreational drone
Changing jobs and job benefits
Starting a small business
Joining the sharing economy, such as renting property through Airbnb or driving for Uber
Lacie Glover at Nerd Wallet, USA Today offers good risk limiting advice for us all with her 10 smart insurance resolutions for 2017. We particularly like #1 – making an inventory – and #9 – informing beneficiaries about your policy. We’d go one step further and suggest that you look at any insurance policies and financial accounts and make sure your contact information and beneficiaries are updated. People often forget to keep those things up to date – unfortunate consequences can ensue: you might not intend to leave your home, your 401K or your life insurance to an ex-spouse, but it could happen if you forget to update your beneficiaries when circumstances change. See our best practices for updating your beneficiaries for insurance policies and retirement plans.
Whether you’re seeking commercial or personal insurance, an agent can bring a lot of value to the table. There are plenty of online price comparison tools, but getting the right coverage to protect your business, your personal assets and your family involves more consideration than just price. Explore some of the other advantages to working with an independent agent in the links below. And we invite you to check our expert list of independent Renaissance Alliance members in the sidebar or find a New England insurance agent near you.
Why Use an Independent Insurance Agency?
Our own Renaissance Alliance member Joe Harrington of Markham Priest Insurance talks about 3 ways to buy insurance and lists some of the benefits of an independent agent.
This is a guest post by Gordon Insurance Agency, a Renaissance Alliance member agency. It is a post that was previously featured on the Agency’s Personal Insurance Blog.
Insurance can be puzzling- the more you know, the better. As surprising as this may sound, insurance is not entirely about the price. Thus, we’ve created a list of things-to-know about insurance for your convenience. 1. Amount of coverage
What do you want to protect? That’s the overall question for deciding the amount of coverage you need. The best advice we can offer you is for you to think about all the things that could potentially happen. Or consult a professional agent who will ask lots of questions to uncover areas you need to pay special attention. Although you might want to push these thoughts to the side (i.e. “that could never happen to me!”), someone has to think of these situations. Nobody plans for a car accident or a guest being injured at his/her house, yet these sorts of things happen all the time. A good way to cover a lot of these is by running down a prepared list such as this checklist for your homeowners insurance. 2. Risk level
The amount of risk you take sometimes depends on one aspect of your life: money. If you have available money, then choosing a policy with high deductibles is probably the best option for you. Remember, “Insure only what you can’t afford to lose.”
Obviously, this part of our list is also going to discuss risk. Some policies cover more than other policies do, so be informed on what risks you can afford to take, as well as what is the cost of transferring that risk (via insurance)? An example of this is would be a dog with a biting history. The only company that will offer coverage after a dog has bitten someone (resulting in an insurance claim) is the Massachusetts Fair Plan (MPIUA). But they might do so with a $25,000 limit of liability for dog bites. So you have to ask, is the dog worth that much to me that if he/she bites someone and it results in a $100,000 claim (we’ve had one here that exceeded that, and not even from a dog ‘on the list’), are you prepared to pony up the next $75,000? Make sure you know what is covered on your policy, and be careful with what chances you take where insurance doesn’t go. 3. Insurance company
People often assume that the insurance company will be able to handle anything and everything- you should never assume. If the company goes under, or even if the company stays around but has poor finances, then you won’t get what you need. The best way to make sure that your company will be able to provide for you is to check a credit rating agency. We recommend A.M. Best Company for this. Other credit rating agencies include Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor’s. 4. Discounts
Everybody loves saving money; discounts can be available all around you, and you might not even know it! For a list of most prevalent (MA) auto insurance discounts, click our video and list. For homeowners discounts, visit our short video on homeowners discounts here. Account discounts, where you have two lines or more (such as home and auto), are often the most compelling.
Always ask your agent questions, he/she is there is serve YOU. 5. When do I need to look at new insurance?
Certain life changes will cause you to look at new insurance. These changes include:
Starting a new business
Buying an additional home
Adding a driver to the auto policy
Changing jobs (especially if you leave a rich benefits plan for a bare bones benefits employer)
Volunteer work (such as serving on the board of a non-profit organization)
This list just helps prove a very important point: insurance is not only about the price. For a few extra dollars, you can have all sorts of things protected. Think back to the dog example- imagine how expensive it would be to defend a bad dog bite without insurance! When it comes to insurance, price is important, but it’s not the only thing that matters.
In this internet age of immediate access to wholesale prices and discount merchandise, many consumers may be tempted to buy insurance the same way they buy music: immediately downloaded from the source. While with some purchases it can make sense to cut out the middleman, so to speak, insurance is not the same as a new mattress or a DVD. Would you dispense with a lawyer at a real estate closing? What if you’d been unjustly arrested? Expert advice is important and your independent insurance agent can provide that, along with a layer of protection you can’t get in any other way. We’ve spoken about the value of local, independent insurance agents before, but it’s always worth rethinking.
Most people realize that insurance can be purchased in three separate ways:
Directly, from an agent of the insurance company
From an internet or telephone agent who may represent several different companies
Through an independent insurance agent in your community.
Purchasing directly from one insurance company means that you’re not getting any comparison to other policies that might serve you better. It’s not in the company’s best interest to steer you to another company, after all.
Internet and phone agents may represent several different companies, but they are not members of your community. Not only does this mean that they simply may not be aware of specific state and local conditions and laws, it also means that they are just not as accountable as someone you can visit at any time. If you’re purchasing insurance directly, you’re also directly responsible for the level of coverage you may or may not have. That can mean that you’re not covered when it counts, because no one can be an expert in every field.
A local independent insurance agent is an expert and is your representative. They are licensed professionals who know local conditions intimately. They can recommend the coverage that will keep you, your family and your property safe. It’s in their best interest to keep you happy and they can shop around several different companies to find the policies to fit you best. When your life changes, they can help you change your insurance policies to reflect your new circumstances. Your agent knows you and will recommend policies that suit your lifestyle. All too often, people shop for price and sometimes unknowingly sacrifice coverage, a point this writer for Insurance Agents magazine makes. How good is it to save a few dollars if you risk a loss that costs you thousands?
Your insurance agent can also help when you need to file a claim. They act as your agent and not for the company. That can offer a lot of peace of mind at a time when you may need it most.
Don’t have an agent? Here’s a list of New England independent insurance agencies.