Give Local Insurance Agents A Shot

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My wife wrote an article last week about how you can save money going local for balloons and flowers, but here’s another reason you might want to go local – superior service.

In working for my how to buy term life insurance post yesterday, I emailed my insurance agent, Deborah from State Farm, to get some updated quotes on term life insurance. I’ve had the need to email her on several occasions and each time her responses were usually back in minutes. She knew me as Jim Wang, a recent new customer, and not as customer #XXXXXXX in a database somewhere.

It really underscored one thing I had missed when I was with Geico and Traveler’s, personalized service with a real person.

With Geico and Traveler’s, the process was very transactional.

  • I talked to them about what coverages I wanted, then I bought it. Done.
  • My car was totaled. I had no comprehensive coverage, I’m responsible. Done.
  • I am switching insurance providers. They attempted to keep me, I said “no thanks.” Done.

There was absolutely nothing wrong with my relationship with Geico and Traveler’s. They were always responsive to me but I was just another number in their database. And I was fine being a number because my insurance was cheap and that’s what I needed.

When I reviewed my insurance policies earlier this month, I found that I could get the same insurance coverage for less from State Farm. Since then, the only “big” thing I had to talk to Deborah at State Farm about was when my wife was rear ended a week ago. She advised us on what to do, since my wife was not at fault in any way, and even checked in a few days later just to see how we were doing.

It’s that “check-in”-type of relationship that makes me appreciate going local for something as transactional as insurance.

I still had the 24-hour service touted by every other insurance company (have a problem, call the same number; if it’s after business hours then the call gets routed to their national call systems) but I also had a person I could talk to each time. More importantly, I could just email her if I had a quick question.

So, the next time you’re thinking about getting anything, whether it’s flowers or insurance, consider going local. You might be surprised to find it’s both cheaper and better. (Ironically, I found this local agent by using NetQuote, a national broker of insurance agents)

(Photo: cups)

{ 18 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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18 Responses to “Give Local Insurance Agents A Shot”

  1. Carrie says:

    i use state farm because that’s what my parents use so it was easy for me to go with them when i got my own car. they’re helpful, they know who i am, and they’re significantly cheaper than any other quote i find.

  2. Dave says:

    I had State Farm for about 10 years and when I got married, I switched to NJM (New Jersey Manufacturer’s – best insurance ever). State Farm was great because of all the things that Jim mentioned above, but the one thing that really annoyed me was that when I told them I wanted to cancel my policy with them, they asked if they could “requote” my rate. Even though they had the personalized, local feel to them, my rate was still being generated out of some system somewhere that still treated me like a number…

    • Jim says:

      Ultimately that’s what happens with every insurance company, they have their actuaries do the calculations and the answer isn’t something based on how they feel about you (which is good right?).

      I always hear great things about USAA, unfortunately we don’t qualify.

  3. ManVsDebt says:

    This is a very timely post as I just bought Term Life Insurance from a local insurance agent that I knew.

    The price was competitive, but certainly not the best anywhere. Maybe 5-10% mark-up, but I was willing to pay this due to the outstanding service that I got!

  4. Ben says:

    I remember waiting for over an hour for 4 cans of custom color paint at Lowes. The next time my local hardware store filled my order in less than 10 minutes. I spent more time waiting at the checkout lanes in Lowes than the entire time it took at the local guy.

    If I can get something locally I always do. Plus it helps keep my local community going strong.

    • Jim says:

      I would think the local guy has a vested interested in the customer service experience whereas the employee at Lowes has less of a vested interest, it makes all the difference. There’s also something to be said about supporting local businesses too.

  5. I live in a very small town and try to do all my shopping and retain all my services locally. Even if I have to pay more, the better service is worth it. My insurance agent knows me and has known me for 25 years. He advises me what insurance I need and explains what I don’t understand. I can call him anytime and know I’ll get a good answer.

    Last year I had my water heater break and my basement, where my washer and dryer were located, flooded. I had no idea what my insurance covered in that regard I just knew that I had bought what my agent had advised. Turns out I had replacement cost insurance and got a new washer and dryer for no additional cost.

    There are so many examples. Online pharmacies may be cheaper but they won’t bring your meds to your house on a Sunday when the drugstore is closed and you’re too sick to go out. My local pharmacist will and has. Shop local – it’s the way to go!

  6. nickel says:

    For certain policies, I would agree that local is the best option. When it comes to something like term life, however, all I really care about is: (1) stability/reputation of the issuing company, and (2) cost. I don’t need a personal relationship, as filing a claim is literally a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence.

  7. thomas says:

    Local is so much better for everything.
    1) You almost always get better customer service
    2) You are giving to your community
    3) You are treated as a person, not a number
    4) When problems come up, they will be more willing to work with you and not against you.

    This goes for insurance, banks, pharmacies, grocery stores, markets, you name it.

  8. Bargain babe says:

    I’ve had great luck with AAA. Their prices are probably higher than Geico, but when I got into an accident they were prompt and professional. That’s not to say Geico would have produced the same results. I used Geico for car insurance when I lived in NJ and never had a problem. (Never had an accident, tho).

  9. My Journey says:

    I 100% agree with using a local agent, the only thing I’d like to chime in with…

    I would use a local agent that has the OPTION of checking out other companies. For instance in my office, the agents will usually check out multiple companies and the compare the price differences.

    Just a thought

  10. Good advice. I would rather know the local face when I have an issue, then to have to call some 1 800 number and speak to a stranger halfway around the world . . .

  11. lostAnnfound says:

    We just switched back to our local agent (and a company that they write) from Progressive Insurance. The new policy on our truck will cost $30.00 per year, but the folks at Progressive were not able to understand that we needed them to stamp the registration for our camper, as required by the DMV, because liability coverage comes from the vehicle towing the camper, and so they declined to stamp it. Also, they did not have an office I could go to get the stamping done if they would do it. Our agent is familiar with all the ins and outs of insurance in our state and is only a 3 minute ride away. Prompt & polite service well worth the extra $30.00 per year.

  12. Mike says:

    Ahh you have seen the light. I am a sales rep for a local independant insurance agency and I truly feel our service and other local agencies will far surpass dealing with the big boys. For most insurance, it’s the exact same price whether you deal with us or the carrier directly so why wouldn’t you want to help out the locals? I think there is a big misconception that buying from a big company will always lead to better prices. Not true! The other side is that you buy insurance in case something happens. When that “something” happens you will get personalized service from someone that actually cares for you and for how your claim is handled. You won’t be just a number. Just my 2 cents.

  13. Carlos says:

    Watch out for NJM (New Jersey Manufacturers). The are great when it comes to small claims like scrapes and dents, but they fight tooth and nail to get out of paying big claims (when it really matters).

  14. Jared says:

    I won’t deny that having an agent is a fantastic option for many, but it’s just not a service I value.

    I personally use Progressive simply because they have the best rate by far. Sure, I’m just a number in their database, but they also have the best web site, in my opinion.

    Of course, I also work in the property/casualty insurance industry and know a lot about it, so an agent’s knowledge has little value to me. Ironically, I don’t purchase my own company’s insurance either because it’s mega-expensive.

    • aua868s says:

      thats interesting…because i switched from progressive (online) to state farm (local agent)and saved about 150 bucks/6months.

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