As an independent insurance agent, I must offer a rebuttal to some statements in the column about auto insurance.
First, we are not selling the highest-priced automobile insurance. We are often able to obtain rates comparable to and sometimes less than the "direct writers".
Second, we may receive a slightly higher commission than the direct writer agent, however, we spend more time servicing our accounts. We act as an intermediary between our customer and the insurance company when the customer has a loss or complaint. When a customer calls for help, he or she always talks to the same service representative. When a customer calls a direct writer company, he or she rarely speaks to the same person twice.
Third, an independent agent is knowledgeable enough to recommend the correct coverage to a customer, regardless of what he has been purchasing in the past. He fully explains each coverage and the options available and certainly does break down the cost of each coverage. We have the advantage of dealing with several insurance companies whose rates may vary dramatically for different types of risks, so we are able to shop for our customer for the best rate much more efficiently than he could by making a series of random telephone calls.
Fourth, the quote from a State Farm spokesman, that State Farm even has a "good student" discount, is very misleading. We deal with several companies and they all give a "good student" discount; in fact, I believe all California auto insurance companies do.
One final statement in favor of an independent agent: The staff is trained in all types of insurance, so the customer has the advantage of dealing with one agency instead of several different companies.
Rancho Palos Verdes