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It may seem daunting to research insurance. There are so many numbers thrown at you, and in many ways, it can create a bewildering environment where there are seemingly no correct answers. There is a fee for make and model, another fee for your address, a three-year-old speeding ticket raised it further, and on top of that another fee for your credit rating. All these figures swirl and make it nigh impossible to make an informed decision about your individual needs as well as how much you need to pay out of pocket. This article will address in some ways how to research a policy but even more so what to ask an insurance agent when you first meet them.
First thing's first, an insurance agent’s job is to convey the various products available to you through the companies they represent. There are different ideas involving how to deal with insurance agents but they overall want to be helpful and the more questions you ask the better suited they will be to help you with your individual needs. Below are a series of common questions to ask as you interview a potential insurance agent. It is like a job and the agent is like a personal assistant in many ways. So, if you treat it like an interview out of the gate and it will loosen you up and let you feel more in control of your experience.
Are you the company I saw advertised on TV? Yes, many insurers only go through independent agents and don't have a great deal of information online. So right out of the gate, it is important to ask if they are representing the company you saw advertised. It seems like a minor thing but there are a lot of agencies and many names. Some sound very similar to those you may have seen advertised but may not be affiliated with them. So just get that right out of the way and ask.
What product lines are available? This question cuts through a lot of the small stuff and gets to the guts of the matter quickly. Some companies offer very limited product lines and others offer an array of bundling options that can save you money in the long run. It's just an easy way to size up what you're looking for in much the same way as you would look at a menu.
What discounts are available? Much like their product lines, there are lots of discounts with most companies, and as they say, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Get an idea of what may be available to lower your rates.
How long have you been operating? This will just give some background and get a good gauge of how they will work with newer technologies. Newer companies have embraced the web and connectivity while some older companies are a little slower to get up to speed in that department. Beyond that, it gives some testimony to the reliability and vitality of the company and how they have evolved from where they started. Insurance is a rapidly evolving market with increasing challenges as computer and automotive technologies improve. By taking a look at the past you can see a likely glimpse into the company's future.
May I see your surcharge schedule? This will allow you to see the expense of rate hikes after an at-fault accident. Rates will change naturally and your premiums may raise and lower over time. This question will give you an idea of how high your rate will rise after a claim. Insurance companies will almost always increase your rate after an accident but this is a way to offer a cheap introductory offer only to vastly raise the rates after a claim is filed.
Will my claims be automated? There are companies out there that utilize software and third-party call centers to file a claim. This is an easy way to check their claims process and see how they will likely treat you as a customer.
Will my occupation, credit rating, and education be a factor? Some companies will increase rates based on credit history. The reasoning is that low credit scores correlate to the likelihood of an accident and how responsible the driver is. This isn't a practice in every state but some companies do use a kind of wealth yardstick to set a rate.
May I speak to current customers? Online reviews are often rife with angry complaints about situations that didn't work out or instances of bad customer service and may not always reflect the actual service they provide. It is best to get in touch with current customers to see what they've appreciated and what they didn't care for. Job references work in the same way and the assumption is you'll be with this company for some time.
What deductible would you suggest? Why not get the agent's opinion on your first encounter. It's questions like this that will cut to the heart of what you need and how their company can best work for your needs.
It's also not a bad idea to engage in a little bit of role-playing. What happens if I get hit by stampeding deer? Perhaps not as outlandish but it's good to get all the possible angles when it comes to choosing an insurance agent. These scenarios will give you a surprisingly good picture of what their services will look like in practice.
Insurance agents can give you a more personalized touch when it comes to insurance and they are often more knowledgeable about obscure products and discounts offered. Direct buy models have dominated the market in recent years and indeed they may be an option for you but there can be some excellent benefits from the personal touch. Insurance agents have experience with an array of customer needs where the direct buy may be working off a script garnered from some of those old professionals. Ultimately the decision depends on your individual needs and which company best covers those needs. These questions will give you some relative ground to work from.
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