1. Know the difference between independent agents and other insurance agents or carriers.  An independent agent represents a number of different insurance companies. In contrast, agents who represent large national companies only sell products from that carrier. A direct insurance company sells to you directly without an agent, typically online. An independent agent has the opportunity to quote multiple carriers at the same time to get you the best price and coverage for your individual needs. And as rates can change frequently, if your carrier is competitive one year but not the next, your independent agent can place you with another carrier who is.

2. Ask for referrals. Referrals from family, friends, and colleages are a good place to start. When you do ask around, find out why they like their independent insurance agent and the carrier they are with. Ask about their customer service and follow-up, and if the agent is friendly and knowledgeable. Is their policy reveiwed anually?

3. Decide if their location is important to you. It may be important for you that your independent agent has offices in your community. You have the convenience of being able to stop by to ask questions or help with a claim and develop a trusting relationship. Many independent agents are very committed to their community and are actively involved.

4. Visit their website. An independent agents website can be full of valueable information. Read about their history, the staff’s bios, and their customer testimonials. See if their website provides insurance information and easy-to-access quotes, either online or over the phone. Websites will give you a feel for the personality of the agency, what they think is important, and the type of customer service they might provide.

5. Interview the independent agents. You should interview the independent agents you are considering working with. Personality is important since you should like the agent you are going to work with, potentially for many years. You should feel respect for their knowledge and get a sense about their integrity.

6. Knowledge and trust are key. It is not so simple to determine knowledge and trust because these qualities will be established over time. You can start by asking the independent agent you are considering to explain the products they sell and how they determine which products, coverages, and limits you may need. This will give you a feel for how the agent does business.

Remember that your relationship with your insurance agent will likely last a long time, so it pays to spend the extra time and energy into selecting the right one for you