When it comes to purchasing your personal insurance, you have a lot of options. These options basically boil down to buying your insurance one of four ways:
Many insurance carriers offer insurance directly through their website, without going through an agent or other third party. Some of the bigger companies that do this include Geico, Progressive, The General and Liberty Mutual. The biggest advantage of buying insurance this way is how easy it is; in ten or fifteen minutes you could have an insurance policy quoted and in force, day or night. A downside is that you may really not understand what you are purchasing or how well you are protected, and you don’t have a relationship with a trusted local adviser to assist you if and when you need to file a claim. A second downside is that most direct carrier websites show just their own rates, which makes it harder to compare to find the best value. And when you do compare multiple carriers’ rates, it can be very difficult to compare the full value of different policies, making it very tempting to choose based on price alone.
Web-based Independent Agency
This is kind of a newer thing, but a number of independent agencies are starting to spring up who sell online rather than face to face. They use technology to compare options from various insurance companies for you, which may make it easier to find a good rate. Since you are still just looking at numbers on a computer or phone screen, it may still be difficult to discern how well you will be covered. And you still won’t have a relationship with a trusted local adviser to assist you when you need help.
Local Exclusive Agency
There are many local insurance offices here in Bemidji who sell for well-known brands such as State Farm, American Family, Farmers, Country Financial and others. These agencies are considered “exclusive” because they sell only or primarily for just the one company. An advantage of buying your insurance through a local exclusive agency instead of directly online is that you can now have a relationship with a trusted local adviser, to help you understand and choose the right coverage and to be there for you when things go bad in life. However, this individual will not be able to help you choose the best value among multiple insurance carriers, and he or she may also be somewhat limited in what coverage they have available to offer you.
Local Independent Agency
Buying your insurance through a local independent agent gives you the relationship with a trusted local adviser, as well as the ability to access multiple insurance carriers to find the best value. Local independent agents can compare these options for you and often have access to more coverage choices than an exclusive agent might have. A good independent agent will sit down with you and explain these options in easy-to-understand terms and help you make an informed decision. And if you need help later, you have someone to call for assistance. Here at Pine Country Insurance, we are an example of a local independent agency.
What we often find is that when young people are starting out and have just a car to insure for basic minimum coverage, buying their insurance directly online seems the easiest and makes the most sense to them. But as their insurance needs get more complex (such as when they purchase a house), many realize that having the assistance of a knowledgeable local agent is a good idea. So, while we may not always be your first choice when you buy your first insurance policy on your own, we hope to eventually have a shot at your business as things in life change and you realize the value that we can offer.
About the Author
Agent Ken Cobb
Ken is the owner and principal agent at Pine Country Insurance in Bemidji. Active in the insurance industry since 2000,Ken uses his years of personal insurance knowledge and experience to assist clients in customizing insurance coverage to fit their needs. Ken considers himself a "farmer" rather than a "hunter"; rather than focusing on writing a lot of new policies as quickly as possible, he works on cultivating long term relationships based on trust with his clients. When writing new policies and meeting for annual reviews, Ken spends time with his clients explaining and helping them understand their insurance, and he is also pleased to share his knowledge with his blogging audience as well.
Ken Cobb is owner of Pine Country Insurance and has been active in the insurance industry for over 15 years. Meet Ken.
Coverage descriptions found in this blog are summaries provided for general educational purposes and cannot fully detail the terms, conditions, limitations or exclusions of a specific insurance policy. Please read your policy carefully.