Each insurance company has a different business model that is geared towards their niche market. Call center companies and captive/independent Brokers are the two choices you'll have when shopping for an auto insurance quote (not including the new online insurance companies).
Today I will talk about call center insurance companies. They are probably the easiest way to get a quote for your car insurance. You call, press a few digits on your phone, give your personal information and get a quote on the spot. People who go with call center insurance companies are usually concerned with price alone, which isn't a bad thing. After all, we all want the cheapest rates out there.
One niche that call centers market towards is young drivers looking for cheap car insurance. A 16 year old who just got their license and is itching to get on the road in their Chevy cavalier usually finds the best rates through call centers. For all the 16 year olds reading this, yes call centers offer you competitive rates but let me give you a little hint: If you live with your parents, get a quote from their insurance company. Chances are that if they have their home and car(s) with that company, you will be eligible for multi-car and multi-policy (home and auto) insurance discounts. Even if the car is on a completely separate policy then your parent's cars, as long as you live in their house, you would still qualify for the discounts. I've seen young drivers save more then $1000 on their car insurance after just adding our multi-car and multi-policy discounts. If you don't have that option and you are a young driver, call centers can usually offer you very competitive rates.
Call centers are also known for their group discounts. Although captive agents/brokers sometimes have group discounts, it seems that the call center companies have cornered this market. If you work for a big corporation, go to college or are alumni of a college, chances are that you have access a group discount. Find out what insurance company it is with and you'll be surprised how much you can save.
Another great thing about call centers is that for the most part, they offer far superior online services compared to captive/independent agents or brokers. From getting quotes to viewing your policy information, they are way ahead of the game and some now even offer printing your liability cards (pink slips) from your own computer. This is a service you will most likely not find with a captive/independent agent or broker.
What is the down side of call centers you ask? I think we all know the answer to that. Lack of personal attention. Imagine you have a claim and you call the 1-800 number. You then spend thirty minutes explaining what happened, they then put your claim through for you and you hang up the phone. The next day you need to call again and ask about a rental car or accident benefits coverage or whatever other questions kept you awake worried all night. What are the chances you will get the same representative on the phone the second time you call, or the third, or fourth? Every time you make that call, you will be introducing yourself and telling your story to a new customer service rep and that usually leads to "well that's not what the person told me yesterday" and the headaches begin.
Another down side to call centers is the lack of experience in the sales department. Before I continue on this thought, let me say that I think a call center is a great place for insurance agents and brokers to start their careers, but I am looking at this from a customer point of view. Call center agents are usually hired very young and most of the time, it is their first job in the insurance industry. Most call center agents who decide that insurance sales are the career for them will move into the captive/independent agent or broker field after a couple of years experience.
If you are a young driver looking for the best rates, or somebody who prefers online and over the phone service, then call centers may be the way to go for you. If you don't like the hassle of dealing with many different people to solve one problem or you prefer a more experienced insurance representative then maybe a call center insurance company isn't for you.
My next post will explain the pros and cons of captive/independent agents and brokers (The alternate choice to call center agents).