We found some excellent advice here, at the National Insurance For Insurance Commissioners. We’ve edited it just a bit.
Selecting an Agent
Whether you’re looking for your first agent or thinking about switching agents or companies, it’s a good idea to have several to choose from. When evaluating your list, consider these things:
Have conversations with prospective agents. Explain your situation and ask for a quote. Simply asking does not mean you have to work with them. This is a chance for you to get a feel for how they work and if you’re comfortable with them.
Many agents and brokers will have letters behind their names on their business cards. These represent designations or credentials they have earned from various insurance groups or associations. Ask them what these letters mean and what they had to accomplish to earn the credential.
Make sure the agent and the company they are writing your policy with are licensed in your state. You can check company licensing information on the NAIC Consumer Information Source (CIS) web page (https://eapps.naic.org/cis/) or by calling your state insurance department. Find their contact details here: http://map.naic.org.
While you’re checking whether the agent and the company are licensed, also check to see if they’ve had complaints filed against them. For the company, you can check the NAIC’s CIS or call your state insurance department. The insurance department can also tell you if any complaints have been filed against the agent. You also might check with the Better Business Bureau to see if any consumers have filed complaints – or compliments – about the agents you’re considering.
Financial Strength of the Company
When evaluating a company, you also want to check its company financial rating. There are five major rating services. Each has their own criteria for rating that uses a combination of qualitative and quantitative numbers to assess the company. Generally, a letter rating from A to F is assigned to the company. Be sure to review how the rating agency assesses the company and understand the rating system.
When you’re applying for a job, you provide references, so don’t be afraid to ask a prospective agent for the same.
If you’ve had a particularly interesting insurance experience, or have heard of one, ask the agent how they and the company they represent would have dealt with the situation.
When in Doubt
If you’re not sure what questions to ask or you would like more guidance on how to evaluate a potential agent, contact your state insurance department.
What to Expect
Now that you have a short list of potential agents, what should you expect when you go to the office to purchase coverage?
Answers to Your Questions
If you have any questions about the quote or coverage you need, this is the time to ask. If the agent can’t answer the question, they should offer to find out the answer. An agent should never leave a question unanswered prior to your purchase.
If the agent doesn’t tell you about the company he/she is placing your coverage with and why that company has the best coverage for you, ask why he/she chose that company.
You shouldn’t feel pressured to choose an agent, a company or a quote. If an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is.