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What's an Independent Insurance Agent and Why Does it Matter?


Not all insurance agents work the same way. In addition to classifying agents by the type of insurance they sell – property & casualty versus life & health, for example – agents can also be classified as either captive or independent. The arrangement makes a big difference in terms of how agents operate and the options they provide to their clients.

Understanding Captive vs. Independent

A captive agent works for a single insurer. As a result, a captive agent will only sell policies from that one company.

An independent agent, on the other hand, does not work for a single insurer. Instead, an independent agent can contract with multiple insurance companies and sell policies from all of them.

Regardless of type, all insurance agents are paid by the companies they represent – most receive some form of commission on the policies they sell.

Comparing Multiple Policies

Comparison shopping can help you find the best deal regardless of what you’re buying, and insurance is no exception. Before settling on a policy, you will probably want to compare multiple policies in order to find the one that best meets your needs.

If you go to a captive agent, that agent will only be able to show you policies from one insurance company. If you want to compare these policies to the policies offered by other insurance companies, you will have to go to another agent who works for them. Unless you are already absolutely sure you know which insurance carrier you want to buy from, this can be a time-consuming and tedious process.

However, if you go to an independent agent, the independent agent will do the legwork on your behalf and provide you with multiple options from various insurance companies.

Looking Beyond the Premium

Insurance is a complex matter. While it’s easy to focus on the premium when comparing policies, there’s a lot more to consider. Some policies may come with major exclusions that leave you with big coverage gaps. Others may include more coverage types or higher limits. It can be a bit like comparing apples to oranges.

Likewise, different insurance carriers have different underwriting appetites. For example, some home insurers may not offer coverage if your house has a certain type of roof, if you own a particular breed of dog or if you live a close distance to the water, while others are fine with those risk characteristics.

As a result, one insurance company may be a better match for your unique needs. A captive agent won’t be able to make these comparisons for you, but an independent agent will.

Deciding What’s Best for You

By working with an independent agent, you receive quotes from multiple carriers as well as impartial advice on which policy best meets your needs. This can save you a significant amount of time that you would otherwise have to spend comparing policies. It can also provide peace of mind knowing that you have the right coverage to protect your assets. 

Working with FICOH

Here at FICOH, we want to make sure you have the best coverage. This is why we use independent agents. Find an agent.