Shopping for auto insurance is sort of like shopping for socks. It’s not exciting, but it’s important.
Certain shoes will leave your feet covered in painful blisters if worn without socks. So, you want to purchase a solid pair that will provide the proper protection and not slip off with every step.
Similarly, certain situations could leave you with a mountain of new debt if you don’t have the right car insurance. If you get into an accident without the proper coverage, it will cause more than just physical damage to you and your car.
It will cause damage to your bank account, too. Auto insurance will protect you from a situation like that before it’s too late.
But before you sign any papers, you’ll want to make sure you’re getting the best deal on the right policy. You don’t want pay more than what’s necessary for your needs. The first step is choosing how you want to shop for auto insurance.
Should you hire a broker, an agent, or simply compare quotes online by yourself? We’re going to help you answer that question right now. Let’s get started.
What is an insurance broker?
An insurance broker is an independent contractor who will search auto insurance rates from numerous competitors to help you find the best offer. Unlike an agent, who works for one insurance company, a broker is free.
John Espenschied, agency principal and owner of Insurance Brokers Group in St Louis, MO, has worked as a broker and as a captive agent with Allstate. He explains that the main reason he became an insurance broker was to offer his customers more choices.
“Insurance companies will raise and lower rates like the tide in the sea. If your current insurance policy is caught in a high tide and you’re with a captive agent, such as Allstate, Farmers, State Farm, USAA others, you are stuck with their one company. Insurance brokers will have agreements with multiple insurance carriers, and 90% of the time they can find you the same coverage with an A-rated carrier for a lower premium.”
Shopping for quotes online is similar to using a broker because you can sift through rates and reviews of numerous companies.
Here are some key advantages and disadvantages of both methods.
Compare the pros and cons to make a better decision.
- Help you sift through multiple options
- Assistance with deciphering policy terms
- Clarity when assessing actual needs
- Guidance finding the right type of insurance
- Brokers work on commission
- May try to sell you more insurance than you need
Pros of using an auto insurance broker
A good auto insurance broker can help you:
- Sift through lots of choices: Brokers have access to a plethora of insurance companies.
- Decipher information: Auto insurance policies can be confusing, so it’s nice to have a broker explain each one to you.
- Decide what fits your particular needs: Alex Lauderdale, a senior transportation analyst and editor at EducatedDriver.org, says a good broker will listen to you and help you fulfill your particular needs. “Your needs don’t always mean ‘less expensive‘; sometimes your needs circle around ‘less risk’ (i.e. more coverage). Either way, if you aren’t sure about what you need, a good broker is the way to go.”
- Help you avoid buying what you don’t need: Sometimes it’s difficult to know not only what you do need, but also what you don’t need. You have to know what type of coverage you should avoid so that you don’t pay more than necessary. A good broker can help you figure this out, says Lauderdale, “thereby saving you money.”
Cons of using an auto insurance broker
Brokers work on commission: This means that a dishonest broker could choose a policy that earns them more money, rather than the one most beneficial to you.
They might talk you into more insurance than you need: Lauderdale says, “Understandably, brokers are interested in the commission they will gain from a sale. One can easily find themselves purchasing more than their needs require if a broker is less than honest with their advice. The more you buy, the more they earn.”
Compare the pros and cons to make a better decision.
- Compare companies
- Skip the middleman
- Shop anywhere, anytime
- No waiting time for documents
- Need online access
- Must be somewhat computer savvy
- No personal touch
Pros of shopping for auto insurance online
Comparing rates on your own offers many benefits that you can’t get with a broker.
Compare companies: This is the key benefit of using an online search engine to shop for auto insurance. When you work with a broker, he or she will compare plans for you and you have to trust that you’re being presented with the best deals. Doing your own research, however, allows you to easily compare rates and reviews and make your own decision about what’s best.
Skip the middleman: The broker acts as the intermediary between you and the car insurance company, which is why he or she earns a commission. If you figure it all out by yourself, you can skip that part and potentially save money.
Shop anywhere, anytime: Maybe you’re sick but still, want to get things done on your to-do list without having to leave your house. Technology in this day and age is built specifically for that reason — to be extremely productive in the laziest way possible! Shopping for auto insurance is no exception. Open your computer, smartphone, or tablet to shop for car insurance without ever leaving your bed. You can beat a level of Candy Crush and compare insurance rates all at the same time!
No waiting time for documents: Once you purchase a policy online, you can immediately receive the insurance card, print it out, and pop it in your car.
Cons of shopping for insurance online
Need online access: Though most of us have multiple methods of accessing the internet, not everyone has that same luxury. If you’re one of these people, buying insurance online will most likely be the more difficult option.
Must be somewhat computer savvy: You don’t need to be a programmer to purchase auto insurance online, but you will need to have a basic amount of ease on the computer. If you’re not a digital native or don’t feel comfortable shopping online, then this route isn’t for you.
No personal touch: If you want to speak to an actual human being, you won’t feel satisfied shopping online for insurance. You may be able to call someone using an 800 number, but it will be a bit of a pain and not the same as having a dedicated agent or broker on your side.
Shopping for auto insurance is equally necessary as it is tedious. If you want the best deal, you have to do your research to find it.
You may still be unsure how you want to go about it, but the best place to start is exactly where you are right now — online. It’s simple, quick, and, most importantly, won’t cost you a dime.
To find the best policy for your needs, use SuperMoney’s auto insurance engine to review company details and compare rates all in one place.
Heather Skyler writes about business, finance, family life and more. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including the New York Times, Newsweek, Catapult, The Rumpus, BizFluent, Career Trend and more. She lives in Athens, Georgia with her husband, son, and daughter.