Insurance agents..want to make a change..review coverage..advice?

prairiemoon2 z6 MAOctober 11, 2007

Hi

We haven't reviewed our insurance coverage for awhile. I have been unhappy with my agent for even longer. I didn't select this company but rather inherited. Someone in the family used them, sent us to them long ago. So, how do you find a good insurance agent and what makes an insurance agent good?

I would also like to update my homeowner's, auto and all our insurance policies and make sure I have everything I should have. What about flood insurance or damage from a tornado or hurricane? What about replacement costs and inflation clauses, etc? Those are the things I am wondering about. Once in awhile I see an ad for an insurance company..State Farm is one I remember...'like a good neighbor..' lol I always wonder why I don't have this company and why my agent has me in another company. It makes me think maybe the agent is getting some sort of fee for sending people to one insurance company over another.

Anyone thinking about this or has done some review of their own lately, I would be interested in hearing about it.

Thanks

:-)

pm2

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spanky67

The easiest way to start is talk to your friends about who they use. If you get an answer like "...yeah they're great!" you should immediately follow up with "when was the last time you spoke to them?". I'm always amazed when people tell me they love their current agent/company, yet they've either never spoken to them, or haven't in years.

Armed with referral info. start dialing the phone. Let them know you were referred by so and so and that you'd like to compare prices. MOST IMPORTANTLY...compare coverages exactly as you have them with your current carrier. I realize you want to re-examine those coverages, but it's much too easy to get buried in numbers making a true comparison almost impossible. It won't take long for you to sense whether you jive with the person or not. Once you get that comfortable feeling, evaluate how attentive they are to your questions. Also keep track of how prompt each agency is with calling back. You probably won't get immediate quotes on your first call. If they can't call you back in a timely fashion when you're trying to give them money, how good do you think they'll be when you need their help (claims, service, etc)? Finally, make a note before you begin calling of the things that annoy you about your existing company. You certainly don't want a repeat.

What you need now is a tough thing to reccommend over the internet. I tend to favor the Consumer Reports idea which is carry as high liability as you can (to keep the suit birds away) and as high deductibles as you can afford to help reduce the cost. That pertains mostly to auto insurance.

House insurance coverages tend to be fairly standard from one carrier to the next. Nobody covers flood or earthquake in a standard policy (you can buy seperately), every policy covers hurricanes and tornadoes (basically just wind, which is covered). With all the hurricane nonsense happening, most companies have instituted a "named storm" wind deductible. In english that means your policy deductible applies to all losses...even normal wind that causes a loss. A special hurricane deductible (usually a percentage of dwelling coverage...1%,2%,3%, etc) would apply to damage from a named storm(hurricane).

I tend to take a wait and see approach with flood insurance. Most people don't need it. Your mortgage company would be the first to tell you need it, if you were truly in a flood zone. It tends to be very expensive ( a stripped down policy would generally double you house insurance premium), and coverage is not as all encompassing as you might think.

If you tend to have higher valued assets, an umbrella policy is also something to give serious consideration to.

That should get you started. Let me know if you've got something specific you're confused about and I'll try and clear it up.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2007 at 12:15PM
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Chemocurl zn5b/6a Indiana

It is my understand that agents don't sell 'all' companies insurances. I know mine sells Allstate for my auto, but he has me for Citizens (I think they changed the name or merged recently) for my homeowners. I assume he got the best coverage for the money and that he probably sells for some other companies as well.

I'm thinking of starting to check around for the same coverage at a 'better' price.

I pay some extra on my homeowners for earthquake insurance. My house is on a poured basement and the house is brick. Even a small earthquake could do mega damage costing big bucks...in my opinion. I think wind (tornando) is covered, and I have no concern about flooding, as I am high and dry here in Indiana.

Sue

    Bookmark   October 11, 2007 at 12:17PM
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spanky67

The vast majority of Allstate agents can only write Allstate products. There are some independant agents that have been appointed to write Allstate, but they're few and far between. I do know Citizens is who the agents in FL put all homeowners business thru.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2007 at 4:28PM
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joyfulguy

Do you know someone(s) quite knowledgeable about insurance?

Maybe invite the person, or couple, over to your house for dinner/evening some time, and ask a number of questions. Many people like talking about things that they know some things about. Plus arrange for some diversion, if indicated, for the spouse while the business is active.

It might be nice if you could arrange for the spouse to get in touch with some interest that s/he has, so that the spouse can increase his/her knowledge of a topic of interest, while you pick the brains of the other spouse.

Let them know beforehand what you have in mind, though - don't spring it on them, please.

So that if they'd rather not go for that deal, they can bow out early.

Do you have names, email and phone numbers of a number of friends, not only current ones, but from years back, and from various areas of your interest?

How about sending a message to them along the line of your post here?

You'd likely learn a lot from some of them.

Good wishes as you pursue and research this important aspect of your life. One that sometimes we neglect, quite possibly at our peril.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   October 11, 2007 at 7:54PM
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blue_velvet_elvis

As an insurance agent, I'd like to make a little footnote to OJ's post. Before you invite them over, or with the invitation, make sure you tell them the purpose of the visit. Everyone wants to tell you about thier insurance and claims history when they find you're an insurance agent.

My best advise is to call up agents and ask questions. Learn what the coverages mean yourself. Don't rely on someone else to make the right choices for you. I only sell auto policies myself but daily I have people trying to compare a minimum liability policy with low deductibles and thinking it's great because they have low deductibles. Hello? That kind of policy only helps the insurance company. Low payout where it really matters, on the bodily injury and property damage. So what that the insurer has to pay 450 more if there is a claim? What's worse? a policy where they pay out 75k in an accident or one that they pay out 25k with an additional 450?

State Farm agents, like Geico agents are captive agents. Which means we only sell insurance for our respective companies. If you want to get a lot of different quote simultaneously you need to find an independent agent.

Keep in mind that tenure often times not only brings discounts with policies it also brings sometimes guaranteed renewals and other perks. Don't be so quick to jump on a new rate which can rise and lose out on special things you may have accumulated over the years with your current provider.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2007 at 6:35AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

spanky....

Lots of good ideas here. I like the idea of pricing my current coverage. Let's see what is it I dislike about our current agent...they have an answering machine and they're not afraid to use it [g]; the last time I left a voicemail, I did not receive a call back; last claim we made, I had to work it out myself with the insurance company, the agent was useless; they gave me the wrong information in a potential claim situation once; and they never review our policies or update us at all or call even once a year to check on us. We end up just renewing because our attention is elsewhere and because we haven't any confidence in the agent anyway.

spanky...why does carrying a high liability keep the suit birds away? You don't mean it would discourage suits, you just mean it will cover you if someone sues you, right?

I thought that might be the case with flood insurance. I am not in a flood zone. The last time we had serious rain, there were areas in my state that had overflowing riverbanks and towns that were flooded, but none of it effected us in the slightest. What about if you get flooded from an accident of some kind? Like a burst pipe from workmen in the street? Burst pipes in the house are covered, right? We aren't in an earthquake area either, so what if we had a freak earthquake? These days, to my way of thinking, you could get any kind of disturbance anywhere. Could we lose our house? We would still have our land, but we could put up a tent, right? [g]

Hurricanes we do get. We are on the East Coast and have lived through many of them. Our house was built in the 1950s and never had damage from one though. When you say 'special hurricane deductible' ...so I would have one deductible for everything else covered by the policy, but a hurricane would be an exception and would be higher, as in a percentage of the total damage the insurance company paid us?

I'll have to look into umbrella coverage. Sounds familiar.

Very helpful..thank you very much. :-) pm2

    Bookmark   October 12, 2007 at 7:06AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Thanks Sue, are there earthquakes in Indiana?

spanky...I am not usually very susceptible to advertising, but those two Insurance companies' ads hooked me I think...State Farm, with their ' like a good neighbor' jingle...and Allstate, with their 'your in good hands' slogan. :-)

joyful and blue_velvet_elvis....friends and relatives for referrals are usually the best, but lately, we have been asking for every referral under the sun, because we are doing a lot of work on the house, etc. We don't want them to start ducking when they see us coming. [g]

We did just sign on to Angie's List, which is a membership of consumers of these type of services and all kinds of home services and we are hoping that will give us some place to start.

bvelvis...
If I am following you here, on the auto policy, for a higher deductible, you can have coverage that covers the bottom line of the costs of damage, but for the lower deductible, there is a cap on what the insurance company has to pay?

Why is it that companies like State Farm or Geico, don't want to go through agents?

We have been with our agent for over 20 years and believe me we do not have any perks. [g]

Love your screen name btw. :-)

Thanks, everyone!

    Bookmark   October 12, 2007 at 7:27AM
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spanky67

PM, I'll try an hit your points.

Yes, higher liability will simply give you more coverage WHEN they show up...and they always show up :-)

Regarding flood coverage...the biggest problem (after price) is generally that FEMA sets all the rules. As such, what you might think is a flood, doesn't meet the definition. If it pours out and your basement floods, but no one elses does, it's not a flood. Basically a flood has to effect a certain number of houses or acres in order for the definition to be met. And yes, a burst pipe from your basement is covered by your house insurance. The plumbers bill generally is not (usually the pipe breaks from wear and tear and that's not covered) but the water damage is.

Earthquake coverage is sort of like flood coverage. Seems like allot of companies are removing earthquake coverage as an optional purchase. If you're concerned about it and can still get it, it's probably not nearly as expensive as flood.

Hurricane deductibles aren't complicated. If some one steals your TV you $500 deductible applies. If you lose that same TV as a result of a hurricane your deductible is usually 2% of your dwelling limit. Example: stolen TV...value $800. Insurance pays $300 (800-500 deductible). Total hurricane damage to your house $10,000. Current dwelling coverage on your house $100,000 (meaning deductible for hurricane is $2000 (100k x 2%=$2k)). Insurance pays $10000-$2000= $8000.

Umbrellas basically increase you overall liability limits to usually between $1m & $5m depending on what you choose.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2007 at 12:14PM
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blue_velvet_elvis

A lower deductible means you pay more in the event of an occurance normally about $200-$750 less in the event of a loss.

Lower liability levels means the insurance company pays less, up to hundreds of thousands less in a claim that you will have to pay the difference for. You can, and likely will get sued for the difference.

Say you are in an at fault auto accident and you hit a mini van full of children. You live in Iowa and you have the minimum requirements which are 20k per one person in the other car and 40k for everyone else in the other car. One child sustains 50k of medical bills and there is a grand total of 80k in medical bills for everyone else together. Your policy will pay 20k for the child with the 50k medical bill and 40k of the additional. You are personally responsible for the difference.

I think you misunderstood. Geico and State Farm have agents but they are captive agents which mean we only sell products for our respective companies. When you have companies that allow a traditional agent/agency relationship they stand a chance of the agent moving all the business to another company and you losing all the profits to a competitor.

It also benefits the customers to not be moved around so they don't lose the discounts and perks they have accumulated throughout the years.

And thanks, it's my chihuahua's name :~)

    Bookmark   October 12, 2007 at 7:01PM
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xantippe

prairiemoon2, I wanted to say that I know what you mean about asking for referrals a few too many times. We are first time houseowners with a dead furnace, a leak in the wall, and siding blowing off. Talk about asking for referrals and/or advice! I so hope my friends aren't sick of me. :)

Good luck with your hunt. When I was looking a year and a half ago, the two best insurance companies in Consumer Reports (I think it was Consumer Reports!)were Chubb and Cincinnati Insurance. My parents have Cincinnati--have had for decades--and love them. Cincinnati is absolutely fantastic every time they've had a claim. And Cincinnati always return their calls in a timely fashion! Amazing. :)

    Bookmark   October 17, 2007 at 11:56AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Spanky...I wonder if having a lot of coverage could actually encourage someone to sue you?

Thanks for the very clear explanations on the different options for coverage. :-)

elvis...I didn't realize you could be personally responsible for a busload of people's medical bills. I am wondering....I think Massachusetts where I live has no fault, is that different? So then, you have to have some idea of how much medical bills could amount to and have realistic coverage.

I see what you mean about Geico/State Farm. I wonder why the other insurance companies put themselves in that position?

So what do you call your dog for short? [g]

xantippe...That is a lot for first time homeowners! Gosh!
I wonder if those insurance companies are available here in Massachusetts?

I am looking into it and have found a new potential agent and am sending policy info for review this week.

Thanks for all your help
:-)
pm2

    Bookmark   October 20, 2007 at 2:21PM
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blue_velvet_elvis

prairie, we normally call him Elvis or I call him Mister E as he is rather a mystery. :~)

Additionally, some states have limited vs full tort which means that you agree not to sue for larger amounts. I'm not well versed on the full vs limited tort issue as the states I sell insurance in are just "regular" insurance states.

The insurance laws in Mass at this point, although changing are prohibitive enough that Geico doesn't yet offer insurance there. It's the only place in the country. There are many other larger companies that don't as well. The laws are gradually changing and I heard some rumors that Geico might start if things change "enough".

    Bookmark   October 21, 2007 at 8:04AM
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