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Brokers, Agents, or Online: How to Buy

April 29, 2016

You’re ready to purchase insurance and you want to get the best deal possible. How do you decide who to buy from? Brokers, Agents, and insurance websites all claim to offer you the best deal, but which one can deliver? Compare.com breaks down the pros and cons for each one.

Should I buy from a broker?

Before we get into that let’s explain what an insurance broker is, exactly. Brokers work for you. You go to them and say I want to purchase insurance for the lowest price, then the broker asks you what coverage levels you’d like, what you’d like your deductible to be, and so on. The broker will then use that information to get quotes from several different insurers. The broker negotiates prices on your behalf, using their expert knowledge of car insurance products to find you discounts and policies that work for you. He’s a jack of all trades when it comes to insurance shopping.

Pros of buying from a broker:

The broker knows the product and knows the insurance company. He (or she!) knows which car insurance company would prefer you as a customer versus those that are indifferent or those who would prefer you not be their customer.  The biggest pro is that you’ll get multiple quotes.

Cons of buying from a broker:

While a broker may know a lot, they don’t know everything. Sometimes, when it comes to the nitty-gritty details of insurance policies and discounts, there may be some things with which they are not familiar. It’s also worth noting that you’ll likely pay more by using a broker as they are commission based. While you may get multiple quotes, you’ll be getting higher prices.

Should I buy from an agent?

Agents work directly for a given insurance agency. They are paid a salary and don’t work entirely off commission, unlike brokers. Buying from an agent is a very common practice, though significantly less so since insurance companies began selling direct through their websites. An agent is knowledgeable about their company’s products, policies, and discounts.

Pros of buying from an agent:

The agent will know just the right product for you and will be able to help you maximize your discounts. They can also answer more detailed questions concerning the coverage you intend to purchase.

Cons of buying from an agent:

Buying from an agent means you’re getting a single quote. To ensure you’re getting the best price, you’d need to speak to several agents from several different companies. This can be a long and tedious process.

Should I buy online?

There are significant advantages to buying car insurance online. We need to be clear before we go any further though. When we talk about buying auto insurance online, we mean buying a direct policy; that is, purchasing directly through a site without speaking to agents or calling a hotline. This has become an increasingly popular way of shopping for car insurance in recent years to the point that it’s considered the norm.

Pros of buying insurance online:

When you buy an insurance policy online, there isn’t anyone making a commission off of that sale. Direct insurers also tend to have smaller staffs and less overhead, which tends to mean savings for you.

Cons of buying insurance online:

When you buy direct, you’re on your own. You don’t have an expert on hand to tell you where to look for discounts, additional savings, or whether or not another insurance company might have a similar product for a lower price. To find that out, you’ll need to get multiple quotes from multiple insurers which can take some time.

So how should you buy insurance?

When it comes to buying car insurance, you know what you’re most comfortable with. If you prefer the one-on-one interaction and personal attention of an agent or broker and don’t mind paying a little extra for their help, then we absolutely recommend doing that.

If you’re looking for savings however, buying your insurance only from a direct insurance company might be your best bet. Just remember, to ensure you’re getting the best savings you’ll need to get 3 to 5 quotes from different insurers.  Since you’re here, we should mention that Compare.com provides multiple quotes from trusted insurers when you fill out a single form. We even allow you to compare them side by side. If buying insurance online sounds like the path for you, then take a moment and get your free quotes right now.


Buying auto insurance can be a confusing and disoriented process. We want to make sure that our users can make informed choices about their car insurance, selecting from as many options as possible. Read our Auto Insurance Buying Guide to educate yourself before you start a quote.

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