Buying insurance direct vs. through an agent: Pros and cons


Not sure whether to buy insurance directly or through an agent? Find out the pros and cons of each option and decide which one is ideal for you.

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Written by
Digital Growth Manager
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Reviewed by
Farmers CSR for 4 Years
UPDATED: 2022-09-23T13:34:30.262Z
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Things to Consider

  • Many drivers opt to purchase car insurance indirectly through an agent or directly from the insurance company
  • Drivers should consider their needs to decide which purchasing option makes sense for them
  • Buying car insurance directly from the insurance company is often the faster, easier way to get coverage

Buying car insurance indirectly through an agent or directly from the insurance company are two common ways to purchase insurance. Drivers should evaluate their needs to determine which option is ideal for them, but knowing the pros and cons associated with each option is just as beneficial.

We’ll explain how you can purchase car insurance, how each buying option may or may not suit your needs, and if it is cheaper to buy insurance online or through an agent.

What is an insurance agent?

An insurance agent is someone licensed to sell auto insurance in specific states. They recruit and guide customers through the auto insurance purchasing process as well as assist with policy management following the purchase. For example, customers can contact their agents for help with adjusting coverage amounts, adding or removing coverage, or renewing a policy.

Every insurance agent must be a high school graduate or a college graduate, depending on the employer. Additionally, a specified number of classroom hours and an exam must be completed to acquire a state license to sell insurance, specifically property and casualty insurance. Further education could also be required to maintain an active license status.

With agents, customers have a hand to hold throughout the buying process. Using certain details provided by the customer, agents can put together a quote and help complete the purchase of the insurance policy.

Benefits of Buying Insurance Through an Agent

Many varied reasons exist to turn to an agent for help. When buying insurance through an agent, you will interact with an independent agent or a captive agent. Either agent gets you the insurance coverage you need.

Pros

Here are the pros of purchasing insurance through an agent.

  • Captive agents are knowledgeable. Captive agents educate customers and help them understand car insurance, including state minimum insurance requirements, coverage options, discounts, and more.
  • Work with customers to identify their needs. Working with an agent can help you to know your needs and can ensure you purchase the appropriate type and amount of insurance.
  • Receive multiple quotes for comparison. Customers receive multiple quotes from different insurance companies when using independent insurance agents.
  • Customers receive additional assistance with managing their policies. After you purchase insurance, agents can further assist with policy updates, modifications, and renewals.
  • Personalized buying experience. Agents work closely with customers to learn their needs, so the buying experience is more personalized and focused.

Even though insurance agents are trained to help customers purchase car insurance, this doesn’t mean this option is without flaws.

Cons

Here are the cons of purchasing insurance through an agent.

  • Lack of autonomy. You have little control over the purchasing process when working with an agent, which can cause a delay in securing a policy.
  • Agents motivated by commission. You could be convinced to potentially purchase more insurance coverage than necessary if your agent wants to make more money on the commission from a high sale.
  • Missed savings opportunities. Working with a captive agent who is unable to assist you with quotes from different companies or with switching insurance companies won’t help you find the cheapest insurance option.

If using an agent sounds like the way to go, you can connect with a local agent from the insurance company of your choosing to learn more about your options.

Buying Insurance Online

Rather than going back and forth and discussing every detail with an agent, customers can go directly to an insurance company’s website and purchase online. Typically, it starts with entering some personal and vehicle information to get a quote.

After reviewing the quote and deciding what coverage options and limits work best, customers can pay and get coverage immediately. Or you can use an online marketplace, which allows you to receive multiple quotes at once and compare before purchasing. If buying directly interests you, consider both the pros and cons before moving forward.

Pros

The pros of purchasing car insurance directly from the company include the following:

  • More control over the purchasing process. Agents handle most of the purchasing process for you, but when purchasing insurance online, you have the control, including selecting which company to receive quotes from and when the purchase will happen.
  • Quick, easy, and convenient purchasing process. Your insurance coverage purchase won’t be delayed when buying online because insurance companies offer an easy-to-understand, user-friendly purchasing process.
  • More affordable policy. The cost of your policy may be less compared to the cost of the policy purchased through an agent.
  • No pressure to decide or purchase coverage from a particular insurance company. Customers are not pressured or tricked into purchasing expensive coverage they may not need.

Purchasing insurance online is a straightforward process, but it’s possible you’ll be missing out on a few things by choosing this option.

Cons

The cons of purchasing car insurance directly from the company include the following:

  • Risk of purchasing the wrong coverage. Without an agent to explain the diverse types of coverage, you run the risk of purchasing insufficient or unnecessary insurance coverage due to a lack of understanding.
  • Purchasing experience is not personalized. No agent is there to assist you when purchasing insurance online, so no personalized attention is provided.
  • Certain insurance agencies will not be an option. Larger insurance companies offer insurance online, but not every company makes their products available to customers directly.

If you decide purchasing car insurance online makes sense for you, we recommend getting quotes from a few different companies and comparing the types of coverage, cost of coverage, coverage limits, discounts, and more.

What is an insurance broker?

Insurance brokers and insurance agents provide similar but different services for customers. The goal for both is to get the customer insured, but unlike insurance agents who represent the insurance company, insurance brokers represent the customer or client. Brokers focus on researching and locating the best car insurance company and policy for them for a fee.

Below are the pros and cons of working with an insurance broker.

Pros

  • Increased chances of finding the lowest-priced insurance coverage. With a knowledgeable, experienced broker looking for the perfect insurance company for you, your chances of getting the lowest-priced insurance coverage are high.
  • Saves time for the customer. Since brokers shop around, customers do not have to spend time doing it themselves.
  • Personalized experience. Brokers work for the customer, so their focus is on finding the best insurance coverage, which requires them to get to know the customer, their needs, and their circumstances.

Cons

  • Customers pay a fee for services. Insurance brokers earn a commission, but they are also paid a fee by customers for their services.
  • Delayed purchasing time. Using a broker can delay the purchasing process because customers must wait to purchase insurance until they get more information from the broker and compare costs.

Buying Car Insurance: The Bottom Line

Whether you purchase insurance directly or through an agent, you’ll get the coverage you need. One option may be better than the other, but this really depends on your individual needs. Once you figure out what you need and which option works best for you, you can move forward with your purchase.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I buy insurance online or through an agent?

You can base your decision to buy insurance online or through an agent on your needs. If you need assistance because you are not familiar with insurance coverage types, limits, or anything else related to car insurance, you may opt to purchase through an agent. However, if you are comfortable and feel as though you know enough about car insurance, purchasing online makes sense.

Is car insurance cheaper when purchased online or through an agent?

The cost of car insurance varies based on multiple factors, so whether you purchase directly or through an agent, there is no guarantee either will be the cheapest option.

What is the difference between an insurance agent and an insurance broker?

The difference between insurance agents and insurance brokers is that insurance agents work for insurance companies, do not charge customers a fee, and provide customers assistance with purchasing and managing their car insurance policy.

Insurance brokers work for the customer and charge a fee for shopping around, locating potential insurance options, and assisting with the purchasing process.

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