Choosing an insurance agent

Match your insurance needs with the right agent.
There are several different reasons to purchase insurance. Maybe you want the peace of mind of knowing your home is taken care of in a flood, or that your love ones will be financially secure in your absence.

Just as there are varying reasons to purchase a policy, there are several varying types — auto, life, health, property and home or renter's insurance are some of the most common. Knowing what type of insurance you want will help you find an agent that specializes in that area.

Getting started

  • Determine your insurance needs. Match those needs with a company or agent best suits them. Keep in mind, some companies can write multiple policies.

  • Get several quotes. Try different insurance agents since prices can vary depending on the agent's fees or how many connections he or she has. Be careful; you don't want an agent that gets a kick-back from an insurance company for selling a certain number of policies to customers.

  • Be wary. Make sure an agent doesn't push a certain policy on you. You should decide what insurance is best for you and your family, and your agent should respect your wishes as well as advise you.

How do you find the right agent?
  • First, understand the difference between captive and independent agents. A captive agent sells one company's insurance products. An independent agent represents an average of eight companies, which should allow him to combine coverages and service to meet your insurance needs and price target. See these profiles of insurance agents.

  • If you own a business, consider your insurance agent as a new business partner. For example, look for someone who understands your business, the types of products sold, services offered and competitors.

  • Gather referrals from trade associations or colleagues. An industry trade association is a good place to seek insurance help or guidance. Also look for agents at trade shows, and ask other industry associates for their recommendations.

  • Check an agent's credentials and experience. There are many industry designations that signify an agent's level of expertise and demonstrate a strong professional commitment.

  • If your insurance is business related, consider your company's size and agent's size. If your business has multi-state operations, choose an agent who also operates in more than one state and is equipped to provide services, such as loss control assistance.

  • Ask for references, and then call them.

  • Contact the Atlanta Better Business Bureau for a list of insurance agents who have had complaints filed against them. Also use the state Department of Insurance to verify an agent's license.

  • One sign of a top-notch agent is whether he asks many questions concerning your business and insurance needs. He also should be able to carefully explain policy details, including limitations and exclusions.

Additionally, it might be helpful to ask a potential agent:

  • What steps does the agency take to deliver insurance quotes quickly?

  • How does the agency ensure that claims are handled properly?

  • What insurance companies does the agency represent, and what are these companies' financial ratings?

  • Does the agency protect itself against errors and omissions that it makes with proper liability coverage?

In answering your questions, the right insurance agent should illustrate an understanding of your needs, as well as win trust by demonstrating that your interests are his priority.

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