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How to Choose a New Insurance Agent

November 6, 2013

I Insurance renewaljust changed my insurance agent after over 30 years with my previous one. He retired and closed his agency, so I had to make a move.

Looking at my choices, I saw that I could buy over the internet with several solid and fine insurance companies by picking my own plan and coverage. The attraction of this is that I could do it at home with no pressure or distractions. After all, I had been a property-casualty underwriter for over 30 years and can do this in my sleep. The negative of this program is that it seems to be very price-oriented.

Another factor was that I have been with my current company since the middle 1970s and am very satisfied with their service and programs. Besides, being a long-term customer, it seems to me that if things go seriously wrong, they have a track record that shows that I am a good citizen going through a rough patch. Carriers I have worked for often did consider this as a renewal factor. I am concerned that as a new client, that would not be there.

So, looking at all of this, I decided to stick with a personal agent who handled my current carrier. I started checking around for the right agent. My criterion was actually very simple; I wanted an agent who was client-oriented and not price-driven. Since I know many agents who work this way, it was a little hard as I did not want to insult any of the many friends I have made over the years.

In the end, I made a choice and took my current program to her and asked if she would represent me. She agreed, looked up each of my policies, and then came back with a list of improvements that could be made. She recommended that I increase some coverage, add others, and delete those that were no longer needed. Price-oriented? Under her program, my auto liability went up $250,000, my home was brought closer to the true replacement cost, and with other alterations, the total was less than $200 for the year!  I was struck by how many changes had occurred over the years and how much I had interfered with my old agent’s attempts at improvements. I just knew better!

I had just relearned an old lesson. The old USF&G insurance company had a slogan: “Consult your insurance agent as you would your doctor or attorney.” How right they were.  As an insurance professional I had let my personal program get old and out of date. I cannot imagine how someone not in the business could get this right without professional help. However you choose to buy your insurance, keep this in mind: you are buying protection for your possessions and your loved ones. A cheap price means gaps and low coverage. When buying insurance, talk to someone who knows, not just someone who is trying to sell you on price. The choices on how to buy are many; use the one you are comfortable with but the end product is the same.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions, even if buying on the internet; this is about you and your family. The Northwest Insurance Council (http://www.nwinsurance.org/) is an outstanding resource if you are not sure where to turn. They are a non-profit organization designed to help the insurance consumer.

-Tracy Skinner CIC

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