You know how it is when you shop for insurance. It's a familiar story. Buying insurance often ends up at the bottom of the to-do list, put off until it's absolutely necessary to tackle. I needed to renew my auto insurance and also find home insurance for my new apartment, and I thought I might save money by getting both from the same company.
Having to call various insurance companies asking about quotes though ranks right up there with visiting the dentist, at least in my opinion, but finally I picked up the phone to get it over and done with. Every quote was somewhere between $1,000 and $1,300 for both the apartment and the car. I called a local agent too, somebody I used in the past, and he quoted $1,250.
Unlike shopping for something tangible, shopping for insurance can be confusing. In the grocery store, you can pick up two packages of sausages, compare the prices, compare the labels and see which looks more appetizing, then make your choice. Insurance shopping isn't quite like that, mainly because I'm not an insurance professional, I don't understand all the terms, and I wasn't sure which type of coverage I needed. Also, should I go with the cheapest or does their comparatively low price mean they aren't as reputable? Talk about confusing!
Comparison shopping is not supposed to be fun, but it's certainly a tedious chore in my opinion, especially where insurance is involved. I managed to call four companies although I know some people will call more than that in the hopes of finding a real bargain. I wasn't sure at any point whether I would be under-insured, over-insured or just right. I just don't know all the insurance jargon, and because the wording on each insurance policy differs, I was not sure which company to go for. Time was running out and I knew I only had a couple more days before I had to tell my loan officer which company would be insuring our home.
I had to call a couple of the companies again, asking for clarification on certain points and asking the same questions to each of them. It took a whole afternoon and I still wasn't sure which one to go for. Then, finally, something happened. The agent I had used in the past called me and offered to introduce me to his wife, who was an independent insurance agent at Conrad Insurance.
A 'captive' insurance agent only sells one insurance brand, but an independent agent shops from a number of carriers, and this means they can get you the best deal. Would you believe my initial four-figure quote dropped right down to $750, for both the house and auto insurance? The policy was with a reputable, known insurer, and I didn't have to do any phoning around for comparison quotes.
Agents work for commission of course, but when they are finding you an affordable policy, something much cheaper than you could find on your own, it adds up to a much better deal for you, so what difference does it make? You end up fully protected and you are saving money too. The independent agent gets paid by the insurance company, not by you, and they also shop more carriers than you would, so you almost always end up with a great deal, without having to do any of the work yourself in finding it. From a customer's point of view, it's a win-win way to do it.
Remember how confused I was about all the different wording and coverages in each policy? Well an independent agent breaks down each policy in a spreadsheet format to compare things like the price, limits and sub-limits, and definition of named insurer, so they can see how the coverage differs between the policies. If one policy is $50 a month more but it covers a lot more than another policy, that might be the better one to choose, and an independent agent would be able to not only find those differences, but also explain the reasons to you so you know exactly what you are getting from each, and the end decision in what to buy is all yours.
Find a good independent agent and they can shop around for you at the end of the year when your policies are up for renewal, to see whether a company is going to go up in premiums or whether there is another company in the market who could offer you a great deal. A lot of people just stick with the same insurers every year for convenience sake, but that means paying more than you need to, in some cases a lot more.
A broker will call an average of eight companies to get you the very best deal for your money. They will also offer you a choice of insurance plans and programs, explaining them clearly to help you make the best choice, look after your pocketbook by finding the best combination of price, service and coverage, and also assist you if you have a claim. They periodically review your policies to ensure you are still getting the best deal. Brokers are great at checking and comparing policies because they do it every single day, while consumers (like myself) just get frustrating having to do it manually and then still end up with a worse deal at the end of it all!
Although not all independent insurance agents are the same, and you might have to try a couple before finding one you like, they have errors and omissions policies, which means if they make a mistake, such as selling you a policy which does not cover what you need, they might be liable for malpractice and you could recover damages if it is down to their error, so this gives you added protection and peace of mind. You can't go wrong shopping for insurance in this way.
Personally I would never spend an afternoon calling insurance companies again, getting frustrated at the different quotes, getting lost in the jargon, and not being able to pick the best one. Now I have found a great independent agent, I will just give her a call and she does all the work for me, getting me a better deal than I could get on my own. Conrad Insurance is my one-stop shop for Home Insurance, Auto Insurance, Business Insurance, and many other kinds, and their service is second to none. That means I end up with excellent, affordable insurance and absolutely no hassle at all!