9 Questions to Ask Your Insurance Agent Before You Sign

Questions to ask your insurance agent

How many times do we look back on a situation and say, “I wish I had known the right questions to ask!?” It’s not so much that the people on the other side of life’s conversations are willfully withholding information (although that does happen sometimes), but only that so often in life you simply don’t get details that you would’ve liked to have simply because you didn’t know to ask for them. The next time you shop for insurance, ask these questions to demystify the process and make you a better, more informed consumer.

1. Could I see a draft of the policy before it’s written?

Not thoroughly checking your policy specifics can come back to haunt you at your renewal when you realize the company has had you listed as a divorced male when you’re actually a married female, or that you’re listed as driving over 10,000 miles annually when you only make a daily commute of eight miles.

2. When you pull up my driving record, am I listed as “at-fault” for any accidents?

Since your history can have a major impact on the price you’re quoted when shopping around for auto insurance, confirm that what the agent pulls up in the system matches your actual driving record, and get it corrected with the DMV if the data is erroneous.

3. What are my payment options and their specifics?

With the various payment plans and required down payments, look closely at what, when, and why you’re paying what you’re being charged. Are there late fees? Service charges? Advantages to paying monthly versus quarterly? While some companies allow a grace period for late payments, make sure you know exactly what that means and if there are any catches. Most important, of course, would be cancellation of or lapse in coverage.

4. How much will the price vary if I add on another driver?

If you have a new driver in the household, someone with a bad record, or someone under the age of 25, putting another person on your policy will cost you. Be sure to discuss with the agent the significance of “principal operators” and “occasional drivers” and how they can impact your premium.

5. What kind of claims are usually made in the area?

When moving to a new town, it’s easy to sign a homeowner’s or an auto policy without first doing your research on local risks. Car theft? Flooded basements? Vandalism? Home break-ins? Chat with the agent and get a feel for what the most commonly reported claims are.

6. What is covered within my policy?

A broad question—and an obvious one—but many people walk away after signing without ever asking it. Some companies include roadside assistance from the start, whereas others may not. How about coverage for a rental car if you’ve been in an accident and your car’s in the shop? Especially when dealing with a homeowner’s or personal articles policy, make sure it’s clear if your engagement ring is covered in the event of theft or a hungry garbage disposal.

7. What are some instances in which my policy could be cancelled?

If you’ve got a solid history and have provided all the required information up front, there really isn’t a reason for your coverage to ever be cancelled, but your policy IS stored in a computer and managed by humans, so there’s always room for error. Get briefed on any potential problems, and keep a close eye on everything you receive from the company, even that junk mail you’re prone to pitch.

8. Can I switch to another company, then come back to this one at any time?

Some providers have strict rules about cancelling coverage and then returning after a period of time to re-insure the same piece of property. While you may not foresee yourself switching to another company and then returning to the old one, it’s good to know what your options are in case your circumstances change.

9. What are the chances of my premium going up, and when?

Some companies assure that your price is locked in for a year, while others can raise it mid-period. Discuss with your agent the most common causes of a fluctuating premium and find out if and how you can avoid them.

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Published March 3, 2014
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