Should I get an insurance agent or can I get homeowners & car insurance for 2 cars & 1 teenage driver online?
October 26, 2010 2:39 PM   Subscribe

I need new insurance - homeowners and car. Do I need an actual human agent or can I do it all by myself online? Bonus related question! Should I add my son to my policy or keep him on his own?

I live in North Carolina and I don't like my insurance agent. She works for a big, well, biggish local insurance company who used to handle the health insurance at my old job. I don't work there anymore and I'm not happy with them, so there's no reason not to switch when my policy, which includes both auto and home and is with Central Mutual, expires in, um, a week. I've done a little googling and already it looks like just buying a homeowner's policy from Progressive online will save me in the neighborhood of $200 a year. That is excellent. However, it seems too easy. Just fyi, I don't have a mortgage, so transferring an escrow account is not an issue here.

The other detail is that my 18 year old son, who lives with me, has a Progressive auto policy for his car which also needs to be renewed. I have agreed to pay for it for six more months and then it's all his - he's had it for six months so far. I've kept him off my insurance because the last time I added someone to my car insurance it backfired badly. Also, of course, he is the highest cost demographic on the planet, whereas I am a middleaged lady with a perfect driving record and no accidents in the last 15 years. Therefore I feel as if he should have his own policy that a) will not jack up my rates and b) cannot bite me in the ass if he screws up. However, this was one of the things that pissed off my old insurance agent. Am I right in this? He doesn't drive my car - can't, actually, he hasn't learned a stick yet - and his car is in his name. My daughter also lives with me, has her own car and her own insurance and it's never been an issue.

Should I go talk to a human being? If so, which human being? One of the ones - and there are quite a few, which leads me to extrapolate that the insurance agent business is not in the healthiest of shape - who have been sending me mailers in the last four weeks? Should I keep on googling? Is there a good comparative site out there? How do I find the cheapest and best policy for me? Is Progressive, which seems pretty cheap and user friendly, actually any good? I would vastly prefer to do this whole thing online, but if the hive mind says use an agent, I'll suck it up and start calling around.
posted by mygothlaundry to Grab Bag (7 answers total)
If you have access to USAA, use it. You can do everything online and via phone. It will always be the cheapest insurance, period. Great service, too.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:01 PM on October 26, 2010

I am in NC as well, and have been happy with my policy, which I got from a real person. I would recommend him, as he was amazingly competent and always answered my questions promptly, but he's left the branch near me. I haven't yet developed enough of a relationship with the new person to recommend her specifically. It's Liberty Mutual, though.

I've found a real person to be super helpful when stuff goes wrong, like I get a letter from the state insurance commission saying that my rates have been calculated wrong for the last two years, and oh also your rate is going to go up $90 a month to fix this. I called his office and was like, WTF, and he said, "I'll take care of it." And that was that. No increase in payment. No paperwork. No two-hour-long phonecalls with no resolution. Amaaaaazing. I surely would not have understood how to fix it on my own.

When I super mega flaked out on my previous auto policy and realized that I had no car insurance and was about to be fined, I called him (I had renters' insurance through him at the time) freaking out and he had me on a new, reasonably priced policy by the end of the business day. He came to my house so I could sign the paperwork. So awesome.

You are probably more responsible than me, so you may not require an actual person on a regular basis. It's worked really well, though, which is not what I expected when I started out insuring myself. Just thought I'd point out some of the advantages.
posted by Fui Non Sum at 3:01 PM on October 26, 2010

My credit union offers a full line of insurance services. I have no idea whether that would help you, but you could look into CU's in your city.
posted by Danf at 3:06 PM on October 26, 2010

You might try an independent agent, one that isn't "locked-in" to a particular company. That way they can shop around the different policies. Total your current coverage expense, and ask "What can you do for me? " Just make sure they are comparing apples to apples. The savings Progressive offers might (or might not) be eclipsed by having everything under one roof. Hey, it's their job to give you a quote, you don't need a penny to ask.
posted by lobstah at 3:09 PM on October 26, 2010

Your insurance agent shouldn't be allowed to get mad at you! My parents always kept the kids with separate policies. I don't see the problem, seems sensible to me - did the agent mention having a legitimate problem or was she just bitchy?

When I went to switch I didn't at first compare policies super closely, which I should have and eventually did - I would make sure that whatever you switch to has everything you have now and/or all the coverage you want and that it's not cheaper because of some really important difference. I read them all line by line.

If you talk to a person, keep in mind that there are some agents that only deal with one company and some that handle multiple companies (not sure if these are all called brokers or what the exact term was). I still got better prices contacting individual companies on my own as opposed to the prices the broker/agent gave me - I assume that was because she was tacking a commission on top of the price, but she never really would answer that question.

Will Progressive let you use anyone you want to repair your car? Someone with Progressive hit me and the claims process was hideous, even though the company admitted fault from the first conversation - they really push the "concierge claims center", which I did not use. I am convinced they screwed me somehow, but I also feel like that's how most any insurance company interaction will leave a person feeling...

Which ties in to the fact that I had trouble researching various companies, because people that hate individual companies really seem to hate them, and unless you have a ton of accidents I guess it's tough to compare one company to another in terms of service.
posted by mrs. taters at 3:12 PM on October 26, 2010

Get a quote from Geico online:
We have been with them for some time and they do us well. Was previously with Progressive through a local agent but with The Internets I feel Agents must be a dying breed.
posted by lungtaworld at 4:11 PM on October 26, 2010

My real-person insurance agent got me a MUCH better deal than online or phone agents for both home and auto insurance.
posted by desuetude at 6:57 PM on October 26, 2010

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