Should You Approach An Agent When Buying Car Insurance?

About 10 years ago, the only way in which one could procure a suitable insurance policy was through an agent. With the advent of insurance sales through the internet, customers have begun to realise that online insurance purchase is, in fact, a very convenient option. Here, we have put together the advantages of buying car insurance through the online route and the traditional offline mode.

Channels For Car Insurance Purchase:

In India, it is possible to buy motor insurance through various channels:

  1. Through agents - Agents can be classified into two types:
    1. Captive agents - A captive agent sells the policies of only one insurance provider. This agent works directly for the concerned insurance company. The responsibility of a captive agent includes getting business for a specific insurance company. Despite the presence of a customer service centre for the insurance company, the agent would handle most of the needs/queries of the customer directly.
    2. Independent agents - An independent agent sells insurance from multiple insurance providers. They sometimes sell the insurance of a primary carrier in greater number, but can also be accessible to place business with other insurance companies, if it is beneficial to the customer.
  2. Through dealerships - When you buy a car from a dealership, you will have the option of buying insurance through the dealer. Most dealerships would have partnerships with insurance service providers. You may not receive the most cost-effective insurance policy this way, so you should do your own research before agreeing to buy the first insurance solution that the dealer presents you with. Some dealers have year-end promotions that bundle insurance with the purchase of the vehicle itself. If you are planning to buy a car during such a sale, you should go through the terms and conditions provided in the insurance documentation and weigh it out with the premium quoted to see if you are getting a good deal.
  3. Online - Buying car insurance online is one of the most reliable and hassle-free ways in which you can get coverage. You stand to benefit from premium discounts and easy policy maintenance through this route. You can choose to buy insurance directly from the website of the insurance company or purchase from a neutral insurance broking website. The advantage of buying through a neutral website is the fact that you will be able to compare insurance plans across an assortment of insurance companies and find the best deal out there.

Advantages of Approaching an Agent:

If you approach an agent to buy a motor insurance policy, you can benefit from the following:

  1. Receive personalised service - Many customers still prefer personalised service as far as financial products are concerned. For those who are not very tech-savvy, approaching an agent is a better way to get information about a policy than working your way through a series of voice prompts.
  2. Knowing your area - If you have a local insurance agent who is aware of your area, you will benefit greatly. In case you have to file a claim, the agent will be able to suggest appropriate body shops or glass retailers in your locality, apart from helping you with the claim intimation process.
  3. Bundling discount - Most agents are able to offer you bundling discounts when you buy multiple policies from the same insurer. This facility is not easily available online.

Points to Note Before Buying Insurance From an Agent:

  • Authorised agent - Ensure that the agent you are approaching is licensed by the IRDA to sell insurance. Insurance agents are required to take a certification exam before starting insurance sales. This is essential for them to be able to provide sound advice to a potential customer. So, it is advisable to ensure that the agent is an authorised personnel from the insurer you are dealing with.
  • No cash payments - Never make cash payments to an agent. It is best to pay premium through a cheque or credit/debit card. Before writing the cheque, make sure you contact the insurance company to get the correct name that needs to be written on the cheque. Also, write this on the cheque yourself.
  • Get a receipt - After you pay the premium to the agent, make sure that you get a receipt for the payment.
  • Check the coverage - Agents work on the basis of commissions; so they may try to upsell a specific product that may not be very useful to you. So, it is best to do your homework before you get in touch with an agent and inform him/her about your specific insurance needs.
    • If you are offered a very attractive price on the policy, check the coverage under the plan. The agent may be offering you a very low premium by reducing the extent of coverage under the plan. Also, pay close attention to the exclusions and add-on covers.
    • Most agents provide a quote that includes the cost of add-on covers. You should assess whether you really need this coverage and if you don’t, request for the price of the base policy.
    • Agents can also reduce the Insured Declared Value (IDV) of the car itself to bring down the premium quote. This implies that you will receive a lower amount at the time of a total loss claim under the policy.
    • Check the voluntary deductible amount under the policy. If this value is very high, you will have to bear a large portion of the claim amount.
  • Special offers - Agents may increase the price of the base policy and then offer you a discount. This way, you will be under the impression that you are getting a good deal on your car insurance premium. As indicated above, it is important to be aware of the standard market prices by comparing plans across insurers.

Advantages Of Buying Insurance Online:

Online purchase of insurance offers you the following benefits:

  1. Quick and convenient - Buying insurance online is easy and free of the hassles of unlimited paperwork.
  2. Increased savings - When motor insurance companies sell insurance online, they eliminate the processing and distribution cost heads that are associated with agents. This helps them bring down the premium for online policies and still retain the income margins they are targeting.
  3. Better understanding of the product - When you research on the different car insurance offerings in the market for online purchase, you will have a better understanding of the product. If you are comfortable with the legal terminology in the insurance policy documentation, you need not have an agent to make a judicious purchase.
  4. Highly secure - Online insurance purchase is very safe, as the websites follow global security norms. If the agent you approach is not an authorised seller of insurance, you may fall prey to fraudulence that is very common in the insurance industry.
  5. Easy maintenance - When you buy an online car insurance policy, you can easily renew it or download the documentation for reference. The insurer may also send you renewal reminders when it is time to pay the premium. Hence, the process of policy maintenance is eased to a large extent.

From the aforementioned points, it is evident that buying insurance through each of the channels has its own set of advantages. It is up to the customer to understand the intricacies involved in the purchase process and make a calculated decision.

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