With every other ad on television or Facebook promising the lowest insurers premiums, it can feel overwhelming when you’re trying to choose the best insurance company for your needs.
And honestly? You can’t help but feeling these insurance companies almost bank on the fact their customers don’t have the time to read the fine print.
These companies feed old stereotypes. We’ve all had a bad experience with the agent who wants to sell you the most insurance, regardless of whether you need it, and then disappears into the ether and won’t return your calls when you need to file a claim. Yuck.
Insurance is about so much more than escrow and auto finance requirements and premium rates. When it comes right down to it, the customer’s not buying the policy. They’re buying peace of mind, access to reasonable rates, responsive service and protection for the future. Any reputable insurance company should understand that.
Let’s dig a little deeper and explore some of the things to consider when you’re looking for an insurance company that best fits your needs.
What’s Your Priority?
There’s an old business adage and it applies to just about everything including insurance:
Cheap. Quality. Service.
Say you need a website. You need killer SEO, you want it to look slick and beautiful, and you’re looking for an experienced professional designer who will spend some time with you to flesh out your vision and answer your calls within 24 hours.
With the level of quality and service you demand, you’re going to have to invest some cash to make it happen. If you’re more interested in quick, cheap service, you have to accept you’re likely sacrificing quality.
Just as with website design or any other service, you need to be clear on what your priorities are when choosing an insurance company
Are You Price Focused?
When you’re looking for an insurance company, and your biggest priority is price, you’ll have no trouble finding companies like Geico, Liberty Mutual, and Progressive that focus almost exclusively on offering the lowest prices.
Here’s what price shoppers need to know: these companies can offer bargain basement prices because they’ve slashed costs in other areas, like the number of local agents available to answer questions and provide hands-on service when it comes time to file a claim.
In a nutshell, don’t expect service if the price is your only concern.
Are You Product Focused?
Do you know what product you need and whether it’s quality or not? It’s not enough to know you need auto insurance. You need to know what type of auto insurance you need and you need to know if its value is in alignment with its cost.
There are products to cover just about any circumstance or event, but you need an insurance company that can offer you those coverage options. And you need to know what the auto insurance policy actually covers and whether it's of value to you.
For example, you know that bodily injury covers your liability in the event you’re in a car accident that injures another person, but you have to take a look not just at the coverage itself, but at the definitions, exclusions, conditions and endorsements to get a true understanding of what product you’re buying.
Beware the insurance company that presents its products as one-size-fits-all. Instead, look for an insurance company that helps you understand the product you’re buying, so you can determine whether it’s actually of any worth to you.
Use The Goldilocks Principle
A reputable auto insurance company will take into account your unique life circumstances and will be able to offer a variety of car insurance options to accommodate your specific needs, without trying to upsell you on the coverage you don’t need or suggest cutting corners to save you a buck or two.
Yes, you want to save money, but not at the cost of being underinsured. Each insurance product should be tailored to protect you, your family and your assets, and should take into account your unique circumstances so you don’t end up underinsured or overinsured.
You want insurance that meets the Goldilocks standard of being ‘just right.’
Is Customer Service Important?
Don’t Underestimate The Value Of Service
In your search for insurance that’s ‘just right’ for you, look for a company that provides excellent customer service.
Look for a company that employs knowledgeable professionals intimately familiar with how different products work, and who will take the time to understand your specific circumstances and find creative solutions to your individual insurance needs.
Ask about their return call timeframe. Few companies guarantee they’ll return calls within 24 hours, but this type of service can be invaluable when you need a quick response.
If you decide to use your lunch break to hit the tag agency, for example, you’re going to be frustrated and annoyed if you can’t get your insurance company to respond quickly to your request for an ID card.
Communication is key. Not just with you, but between the insurance agency, the claims adjuster and other stakeholders involved in the process. In a majority of cases, claim delays are almost always the result of a breakdown in communication between these parties.
Some of the big insurance companies take months to process a claim, and you won’t receive any communication in the interim letting you know the status of your claim which can cause unnecessary worry and frustration.
When it comes to working with insurance companies, you won't be sorry you chose one that offers excellent customer service.
Insurance Agent Red Flags
Here are some common red flags to look for when you’re shopping for auto insurance:
- It takes 3-4 days to get back to you with a quote.
- They don’t contact you when they said they would.
- They have a lot of excuses for not following up with you.
- Instead of getting to know your particular circumstances, they ask only for demographic information like your zip code, credit score, driving history or age. (Hint: they’re probably trying to give you the minimum insurance quotes based on your car insurance ratings, not to make sure you’re appropriately covered.)
- Beware the ‘introductory rate.’ When the deal expires, plan on paying an additional 5-10% over and above the normal rate increase when you renew.
- Their policy is to call an 800 number or use a hard-to-understand mobile app to file a claim. (Hint: they’re more loyal to the insurance company than they are to the customer.)
Understanding and Asking Questions
Ask What The Insurance Claims Process Is
The aim here is to determine whether your agent will actually help you during the claims process. You want to know whether your agent believes their job ends when you turn in the claim because unfortunately, most of them do.
A hands-on agent can resolve a claims issue in days rather than months. And an agent that’s involved throughout the process can translate the language of insurance and catch mistakes an adjuster may make which could result in a denial of the claim.
Ask How Insurance Reimbursements Are Handled
The reimbursement process is quite often the most confusing part of filing an insurance claim. There are different rules for different carriers and even different rules for different policies with the same carrier.
In the case of auto insurance, a company should walk you through what’s considered a total loss, and how reimbursements are handled whether the car is deemed a total loss or not. They can explain the best practices for ensuring you’re reimbursed for the maximum amounts.
Don’t bother with an insurance company that’s not willing to take the time to go over how insurance reimbursements are handled.
Understanding The Different Insurance Companies
When you’re shopping for an insurance company, do your research so you understand the differences between companies like State Farm, Allstate, Farmers and independent insurance agents.
Why is this important? Because some agents work for the insurance company. You want the agent that works for you.
Captive Agents v. Independent Agents/Brokers
These terms are important to know before you start calling insurance companies. Captive agents carry only one insurance provider, like Allstate or State Farm or Farmers. Independent insurance agents have access to many insurance carriers and more types of coverage.
So why is this important?
Captive agents can only offer a few options, which doesn’t allow you to find one that’s custom tailored to fit your needs. Also, captive agents work for--- and are paid by -- one insurance company, either with a combination of salary and commissions or just commissions alone. In many cases, the agent then has the insurance company’s benefit at top of mind, not the customer’s.
An independent broker, on the other hand, doesn’t work for any particular insurance company, and so can offer products from a wide range of companies. And they work for you, not the insurance company.
Understand Types of Coverage
A great insurance agent will get to know you and make sure that you have the right type of coverage that takes into account your risk level and what you have to protect.
All auto insurance coverages include the minimum legal liability. Unfortunately, one-in-four drivers in Oklahoma don’t even have that minimum coverage. This means that for many drivers, uninsured and underinsured driver coverage is important.
If you are upside-down on your auto loan (you owe more on the loan than the depreciated value of the car) then you might want inexpensive gap coverage. If your car is totaled and you have gap coverage, it will pay a benefit equal to the difference in value. You won’t owe the lending financial institution anything on the loan.
If there is a novice driver in the family, perhaps you should consider an auto policy with accident forgiveness.
If you are buying a new house and have a mortgage, you might consider adding life insurance to cover a home payoff if the unthinkable happens.
Get A Personalized Insurance Consultation Today
At Thrive Insurance, we hire agents only if they fit with our culture of hard work, excellent service, and recognition of efforts to help as many people as possible.
We offer the best, most diverse products tailored to fit your needs. Our agents are knowledgeable and respond quickly and can offer creative solutions for coverage that’s just right. Why not connect with us today to get your personalized insurance consultation? We’d love to hear from you!