Getting the Right Help: The Top Tips for Choosing an Auto Insurance Agent

Posted on June 26, 2019
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Did you know that in 2017, there were over 34.32 million registered vehicles in Canada? Of that number, more than 22.67 million were for light vehicles.

That means almost two-thirds of the country's population own and drive a light vehicle!

All this, despite new vehicles having an average transaction price of $33,464 that year. In fact, new car ownership will continue to grow, as predicted by the Canadian Black Book. The organization says that 51% of Canadians are likely to buy a new vehicle up until 2020.

Now, if you'll be part of this group of buyers, an auto insurance agent should be part of your shopping process. After all, having car insurance is a legal requirement for all Canadian car owners.

But with so many car insurance agents in the country, how do you choose the right one?

That’s exactly what you’ll discover in this post, so be sure to keep reading!

Car Insurance Agent vs Broker vs Direct Writers

As you start your search, you'll come across the terms "agent", "broker", and "direct writers". They all sell insurance products, but which ones depend on their "title".

So, what is an agent exactly and how does it differ from a broker and direct writer?

Insurance Agents

An insurance agent is someone who usually represents only one insurance company. The great thing about them is that they can find you the most affordable deals within the company they work for. They can give you the cheapest car insurance quote, but only from that insurer they sell products for.

As agents often represent only one insurer, they better understand that company's products. They can also save you money by giving you access to the insurer's promotions or discounts. Sometimes, these discounts are only available through the insurer's agents.

If there's a specific insurance company you want to get a policy from, an agent may be your best bet.

Insurance Brokers

An insurance broker sells policies from different insurance companies. These are individuals or organizations selling policies on behalf of many insurance companies.

One of the best reasons to hire insurance brokers is they can save you time by giving you several quotes in one go. These quotes are from the different insurance companies that they sell insurance for. With brokers, you no longer have the need to go through each insurance company to request for quotes.

Direct Writers

Direct writers are the insurance companies themselves. You can go straight to them and buy their insurance products.

Get Recommendations from People You Trust

With a land area of more than 9 million square kilometers, having a car is a must in Canada. Hence, more than 22 million light-vehicle owners in the country.

This means it’s likely you have family, friends, or colleagues who know a reliable insurance agent. They're some of the best sources of insider details, so make sure you ask them for recommendations.

Ask them if their agent gave them a good deal and which insurer their agent works for. Make a list of at least five agents and get their contact information.

Ask Your Employer

If your employer has company cars, you should also ask them for recommendations. Especially if you only got a couple of agent names from family or friends. The more options you have, the more likely you’ll find quality and affordable auto insurance.

Check for Individual Agent Licensure

Once you have at least three to five contacts, start calling each of the agents. One of the first things to look for in an insurance agent is licensure.

In Canada, all insurance agents and brokers need to have a license to sell insurance products. This applies to all insurance products, be it car insurance or home insurance in Canada. Even online life insurance agents and brokers need to have a license.

That said, be sure you ask all your prospective car insurance agents about their license. Take note of the details of their license, including the number and expiration date. Then, confirm the validity of their license through your provincial licensing body.

Each Canadian province has its own licensing authority. For instance, there's the Insurance Brokers Association of Alberta. They can help determine if an agent has the proper licensure to sell you auto insurance in Alberta.

Also, note that an agent may only have a license to operate in one province. This means if they hold an Alberta license, then they may only sell insurance products in Alberta. There are, however, some agents with multiple state or territory licensure.

What's important is to confirm that they have an up-to-date license. Here’s a complete list of the licensing bodies in all Canadian provinces.

Verify the Licensure of the Insurance Company the Agent Works for

Before you choose a car insurance agent, research the company they work for first! The company itself should have a license to sell car insurance products in your state. There are both federal and provincial regulatory boards governing direct insurance writers.

On the federal level, there's the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions. The OSFI ensures the financial soundness of almost all insurance companies in Canada.

On the provincial level, there are the individual "Superintendents of Insurance". They regulate not only the insurance products but also the ethical practices of insurers.

You should check with these regulatory boards first before selecting your insurance provider. This way, you can ensure you're dealing with a legit and financially-sound insurer. Otherwise, you may have difficulties settling a claim once the need for it arises.

Choose an Agent Working for a Highly-Rated Car Insurance Company

Don't get excited right away if your agent gives you access to low insurance premiums. Before you buy car insurance from that agent, check the insurer's track record first! One way to do this is to look up customer reviews and testimonials.

These reviews will tell you if the insurance company has an easy (or difficult) claims process. They're also a great source of information on how great the company's customer service is. You may even find out if an insurer implements accident forgiveness provisions.

Keep in mind that bad experiences always get spread to more people than good experiences. Use this to your advantage to find out which insurers you should avoid.

Look at the Track Record of the Auto Insurance Agent

Insurance agents are individual professionals, so you'll likely find reviews of them too. Look for specifics, like how prompt they are in answering calls from their clients. Also, find out if they provided excellent service in helping out their customers file a claim.

Conduct your own interview with each prospective insurance representative too. You want to hire an agent who answers all your questions in an easy-to-understand manner. Gauge how helpful they are when you can't understand a term or provision in a policy.

The Agent Should Discuss Every Part of an Insurance Policy

While your goal is to get the best deal on car insurance, make sure the policy gives you enough coverage! What exactly does "enough" constitute though?

First, having adequate coverage means you meet the mandatory minimum insurance requirements. A reliable car insurance agent should know what your province's laws are when it comes to this.

In fact, they should inform you about the minimum requirements. Keep in mind that in Canada, lack of insurance can lead to penalties and fines. This can also mean higher out-of-pocket costs in case you get involved in an accident.

Trustworthy agents should also discuss what each policy covers and what it doesn't. The last thing you want to happen is to think that you're covered for something when you're not. Again, this will only rack up out-of-pocket costs if you get into an accident.

At the same time, the agent should give you advice on which additional coverage to get based on your needs. They should also give you options if you want to increase your liability coverage. If there’s an “extra” on a policy you don’t need, they should be willing to help you drop it.

Choose an Agent Who You Feel Comfortable With

Don’t sign any contract based on rates alone. Remember, your agent will be your first contact in case you get into an accident and need to file a claim. That's why you want to ensure you choose an agent you feel comfortable with and is always easy to reach.

Start Your Search for the Best Car Insurance Agent Now

So long as you keep these tips in mind, it won’t be long before you find the right auto insurance agent for your needs. Just make sure you compare the quotes they provide you for similar policies. Even a $5 difference in monthly premiums can already mean a $60 yearly savings!

Need multiple car insurance quotes as soon as possible? If so, then we can help! Request for your quote now so we can start helping you find the most affordable car insurance in Canada.

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