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The cost of insurance is on the rise: the price for auto insurance rose 3.6% between 2011 and 2012, and 3.1% for homeowners and renter’s insurance, according to the Insurance Information Institute. In fact, auto liability insurance premiums alone have been increasing by 2.8% annually for the past three years. This makes choosing the right coverage and provider all the more crucial to save money without sacrificing important aspects of coverage.
Most people are familiar with or have worked with an insurance agent at some point in their lives. However, a broker has an entirely different role from an insurance agent. Unlike insurance agents, insurance brokers do not work for an insurance company. They work for their clients, providing advice on the best insurance options for their clients’ needs. Their goal is to support their clients’ interests — not to sell a particular policy on behalf of an insurance company.
In the United States, brokers are regulated by the state (or states) in which they work. Most brokers are required to have an insurance broker license, which involves taking courses and passing an examination. Each state has different requirements for insurance brokers, which a broker must meet to be licensed in that state. Most states require insurance brokers to take continuing education courses in order to maintain their license.
Insurance agents have a responsibility to the insurance company. Agents act as the insurance company representative in the buying process as they are typically salaried employees. Most insurance agents are “Captive” to represent only one company, such as: Allstate, State Farm, Farmer, etc. Because they are contracted as captive insurance agents, they are not able to discuss or recommend other insurance companies.
Brokers are not appointed by insurers. They solicit insurance quotes and/or policies from insurers by submitting completed applications on behalf of buyers. Brokers don't have the authority to bind coverage. To initiate a policy, a broker must obtain a binder from the insurer. A binder is a legal document that serves as a temporary insurance policy. It usually applies for a short period, such as 30 or 60 days. A binder is not valid unless it has been signed by a representative of the insurer. A binder is replaced by a policy.