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Buying Auto Insurance: Online vs. Agent

by EINSURANCE

buying auto insurance online vs from an agent

The Internet has changed our lives in so many ways. Where we get the news, how we learn, the way we do business and how we shop. Now you can even buy insurance policies online. But which is better, buying an auto insurance online or the “old fashioned” way through an agent?

Buying Online

Today, most insurance providers allow you to purchase policies directly online. This convenience allows you to enter your specific parameters and receive several quotes to consider.

Pros of Purchasing Online

Online processes are quick and easy. You’re in the driver’s seat and can make your decision without pressure. You can very quickly have the coverage you need. Since you’re not paying any service fees you will likely pay a little less than you would otherwise.

Cons of Purchasing Online

When you compare quotes and buy a policy online, you should read the fine print and understand your plan well since you don’t have an agent to filter it for you. You can, however, still ask questions to make sure you fully understand your policy. Although you can connect with your carrier at any time, over the phone or online, you won’t necessarily communicate with the same individual each time. That said, some companies do assign agents to specific clients.

How It Works

With an online comparison engine, such as the eInsurance.com user-friendly service, you are prompted for information and will feedback and then provided choices by the support team, whether you are asking about an existing policy or a new one. Using the eInsurance process, for instance, you enter your zip code and then several established insurance carriers are presented, including any special offers each may provide. You then provide information about what you need to each and receive quotes from which you can make a selection. Once you select a policy you can download proof of insurance and complete the process completely online.

Buying Through an Agent

Agents provide recommendations based on your specific needs. There are two types of insurance agents who can help you: independent and captive.

Independent Agent

An independent agent researches several insurance carrier rates and present the lowest to you. You can generally trust that this kind of agent, who works as a consultant and not an employee of any particular insurance company, will offer objective information since they aren’t affiliated with any particular carrier.

Captive Agent

Unlike an independent agent, a captive, or exclusive, agent represents one insurance carrier. This kind of agent will consider what kind of coverage you need and prepare personalized recommendations for you.

Pros of Using an Agent

The value of working with an agent is the relationship you have the opportunity to build over the years. When you have a question or issue, you can contact your agent specifically for assistance. An independent agent has your best interests in mind and can bring you several carrier and policy options to consider. The captive agent will also work on your behalf to make recommendations based on products he or she is very familiar with.

Cons of Using an Agent

The downside to working with an agent to purchase an auto insurance policy is that you will probably pay a higher premium. An independent agent will build a service fee for into your premium. Even though a captive agent is an employee or representative of a single carrier, you still might pay a slightly higher premium than you would otherwise so the agent can receive compensation.

How It Works

You may already have a relationship with an independent or exclusive agent, so, if you are happy with this person, consulting with that individual is a good way to approach your insurance needs. Otherwise, contact a carrier or agent of your choice. Your agent will discuss your auto insurance needs, explain the kinds of coverage you should consider and then come back to you with specific policy recommendations. You then make your decision based on what you have learned.

Be Prepared

Whether you want to buy online or through an agent, have your current policy in front of you. Learn about types of auto or vehicle coverage. Look into state minimum insurance requirements for where you live. Talk to your agent to get help with understanding your policy. Should you need help with getting quotes or purchasing online, you have support options such as email submissions, self-help portals and often, as is the case with eInsurance, live support chat. You can also read helpful articles in our Auto Insurance Journal.

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