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What is the difference between an insurance agent and broker?

Oct. 4, 2022
3 mins
A professional woman in trendy glasses sits outside at a table while working on her laptop and talking on the phone

This article has been updated from a previous version.

The terms “insurance agent” and “insurance broker” are often used interchangeably, but there are key differences between the two that matter when looking for an affordable auto insurance policy.

Most importantly, an insurance agent represents a single insurance company while an insurance broker represents you as the buyer and will seek quotes for you from more than one insurance provider. Both are licensed to sell insurance products while following provincial and federal regulations. And while either can sell you a home or car insurance policy, each offer their own unique advantages.

What does an insurance agent do?

Agents sell insurance from a single company, and often work at call centres with a set price for products and services, including auto insurance. Agents are also known as direct writers because they issue insurance policies directly from the company to the consumer. If you want to take the time to compare insurance packages, you also must consider the nuances in the fine print for each one on your own.

With that said, buying insurance directly from an agent does have its advantages. It’s easy to get a quote over the phone or online, which can speed up comparison shopping. Not only does it save you time, but it saves the insurance company money, so theoretically some of those savings can get passed on to you in the form of a lower premium.

When working with an agent, you don’t necessarily know if the price being offered is the lowest available for the coverage you’re getting. It’s up to you to do your homework and shop around for the best car insurance rate.

Questions to ask an insurance agent

Regardless of the type of insurance you’re looking to buy, there are several things you want to know when buying it directly through an insurance agent:

  • What is the process for making a claim?
  • How long does the claims process take?
  • Will a person handle my claims or are they handled online?
  • Will the same agent always manage my policy?
  • Are you able to tailor existing insurance products to my specific requirements?
  • How will I be compensated in the event of a claim?

What does an insurance broker do?

The advantage of working with a broker is that they can provide you with more choice than an agent.

A good broker is out to get the best insurance product for you based on your needs and has access to different providers selling a variety of insurance coverages. Long-term customer relationships and a good reputation are what make a successful insurance broker. Depending on where you live, provincial organizations such as the Registered Insurance Brokers of Ontario and the Insurance Brokers Association of Alberta, among others, provide governance and education for independent brokers.

Insurance brokerages are often independent businesses with in-depth knowledge of the evolving industry and available services; that is their competitive edge. A broker’s job is to quickly and accurately compare insurance options from a variety of carriers on your behalf.

Your broker may receive a commission for providing their service that is reflected in your premium.

Questions to ask an insurance broker

Just as there are questions you should ask an agent, there are questions to ask when selecting an insurance broker:

  • What are your qualifications?
  • How long have you worked in the insurance industry?
  • Will you work with me all the time, or will it be another staff member?
  • How often will you be in touch?
  • What is the process for making a claim? How long will it take?
  • What carriers do you represent?
  • Do you offer customized insurance products?

Choosing between an agent or a broker involves weighing pros and cons while understanding your specific insurance needs. It makes sense to shop around to find a  fair rate for the appropriate coverage. The good news is that when using a comparison site like RATESDOTCA, you’ll get access to both direct writers and insurance brokers.

Interested in creating content with RATESDOTCA? Contact us at email@rates.ca

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Gary Hilson

Gary Hilson is a Toronto-based freelance writer who has produced thousands of words for print and pixel about business and technology for a variety of publications and corporate clients. When he’s not tapping on the keyboard, Gary collects comic books, attends live theater, constructs Lego, and buys books he always intends to read.

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