Where to buy car insurance: brokers, agents, or online

No matter how you shop, you should compare auto insurance quotes (price estimates for insurance policies) from multiple companies. Shopping directly, or through an independent or captive agent can all be good choices depending on your situation.

Where to buy car insurance: brokers, agents, or online

These days you can get everything online, from dog parkas to aura readings. You can even pick up some car insurance from the convenience of your couch. But is buying car insurance online your best option? Finding a good car insurance policy is stressful enough, and the many ways to buy it just add to the confusion. Not to worry – we’re here to walk you through your car insurance purchasing options so you can find your best policy. 

Ways to shop for car insurance

No matter how you shop, you should compare auto insurance quotes (price estimates for insurance policies) from multiple companies. Each insurance company has slightly different policies and discounts available. Getting quotes from multiple companies helps you find the best deal for your specific vehicle and coverage needs. Learn more about how to compare quotes

You’ve got options for getting quotes. You can use a broker or agent, or you can set out on your own and gather quotes online. There are pros and cons to each option, including price, experience and convenience. 

Is it cheaper to buy car insurance online or through an agent?

On average, buying car insurance directly from an insurance company vs through an agent costs about the same.

How can that be?

Car insurance agents earn commissions on the insurance they sell, typically 10-12% of the policy premium. It seems like a no-brainer - insurance agents must be more expensive.

Not so fast, though. You know all those commercials you see on TV? Flo, and Mayhem, and the gecko and all the rest? Insurance companies that sell directly to consumers ned to attract customers, work that agents would otherwise do for them. The largest insurance companies each spend more than $1B dollars a year on direct-to-consumer advertising. And you pay for that when you buy a policy.

So, in fact, there's a market equilibrium. Since consumers can choose to buy directly or through an agent, the cost is on average about the same.

If you like collecting your own information and are willing to step through the online or call center quote process with a few different companies, buying directly may be a good decision. Just make sure you are comparing the same coverages, limits, and deductibles across companies.

If you prefer to have someone else shop for you, you’re not sure what insurance you need, or you have more complicated car insurance requirements, you might prefer working with an agent. They can help you navigate the jargon-laden world of car insurance. Better yet, they know all about car insurance discounts and can show you which ones you’re eligible for. 

What does an insurance agent do for you?

There are three kinds of insurance agents: direct, captive, and independent. Direct and captive agents only sell car insurance from one insurance company. Direct agents work directly for the company, usually in their call centers, while captive agents own their own businesses. 

Independent agents, like us at Surround Insurance, also own their own businesses. (That’s why we love working with freelancers and entrepreneurs – you get us!) Unlike direct and captive agents, independent insurance agents sell car insurance from more than one company. Independent agents will get quotes from multiple insurance companies to comparison shop to find you the best deal. Coverage options and prices from different insurers can vary significantly depending on you and your vehicle. Getting several quotes could save you a lot of money. 

Your relationship with an insurance agent doesn’t end once you’ve made a purchase. If you need to file a claim, your agent will advocate for you with your insurance company. Our relationship with your insurance company means we can quickly get you the answers and service you need. 

Best of all, most independent insurance agents can work with you online. You won’t have to go to a physical office to get insurance – and you can even avoid making a phone call if you want. 

Learn more about shopping with an independent insurance agent

What is shopping directly for insurance like?

Shopping directly for insurance online is like being your own independent insurance agent. You’ll need to put in the time to: 

  • Research the types of coverage you need 
  • Review the reputations of insurance companies by looking up reviews 
  • Request quotes from multiple insurance companies (we recommend getting at least three quotes) 
  • Learn how to compare quotes accurately, from coverage types and deductibles to coverage limitations and discounts 

Buying car insurance online, with no agent, means you won’t pay a commission. However, to get the best price, you’ll need to thoroughly compare quotes and make sure you get all available discounts. If you feel comfortable with insurance concepts, shopping directly for insurance is the cheapest way to get it! 

Do insurance agents have online service?

Yes! Lots of insurance agents can work with you online, including the independent agents at Surround Insurance. It’s simple to connect with a Surround agent through our contact form. From there, you can email, phone, video call, or text us on your schedule to find the perfect insurance policy for you. You can keep your pajamas on the whole time if you want – we won’t judge.

This is general information based on questions our customers ask us. It may not be right for your specific situation. You should get some advice from a licensed insurance agent (like us!) before you make a decision on your own insurance.