Because brokers work with a variety of insurance companies, they tend to have a broader understanding of companies’ offerings and key benefits. They are commission-based, which is a double-edged sword: they may be more motivated to earn your business year after year by getting you the best deal possible; or they may try to sell you a policy with unnecessary bells and whistles since that would pay them a higher commission. Regarding the double-edged sword: the best way to nail down the best deal possible is the annual review and re-shopping of coverage. The best way to avoid unnecessary “bells and whistles” is to remember that your needs guide what you purchase. If you don’t need “bells and whistles”, don’t purchase them. Approaching insurance this way is always the best way forward. Consider this: having options placed in front of you and explained in detail allows you the opportunity to hear about the newest “bells and whistles,” some of which may be just what you need or were looking for, but simply never asked about. Policies change, and new options are added by carriers all the time.
6The monthly rate shown is for Preferred Elite based on a Male, age 37. Allstate Lifetime UL® is a flexible premium universal life insurance policy issued by Allstate Assurance Company, 3075 Sanders Rd., Northbrook IL 60062 and is available in most states with contract series AC13-12. In New York, issued by Allstate Life Insurance Company of New York, Hauppauge, NY with contract series NYLU676.
J.D. Power’s annual U.S. Household Insurance Study and Consumer Reports’ customer experience survey measure communication, price satisfaction, claims process, and timely reimbursement. From J.D. Power, we required companies to have a score of 3/5 or better, and at least an 80/100 Reader Score from Consumer Reports. High scores reflect a company’s ability to handle claims and communication kindly, effectively, and without frustration.
Permanent life insurance policies do not expire. They are intended to protect your loved ones permanently, as long as you pay your premiums. Some permanent life insurance policies accumulate cash value. That means, the value of the policy will grow each year, tax-deferred, until it matches the face value of the policy. The cash can generally be accessed via loans or withdrawals, and can be used for a variety of purposes. This type of plan is typically portable so coverage can continue if employment terminates.
Along with State Farm, Liberty Mutual has one of the lowest Consumer Reports reader scores on this list. Those numbers revolve around the company’s claims system: how quickly agents respond, how simple the process is, how timely and fair payments are. And while Liberty Mutual’s score isn’t poor — dubbed “very good” across the board — it doesn’t quite compare to the “excellent” ratings brought home by our other picks. This is worth considering if you live in a disaster-prone area like the East Coast, where the likelihood that you’ll have to file a claim is high and it’s important to choose a provider that makes them as painless as possible.
When it comes to educating prospective buyers about the intricacies of homeowners insurance, Allstate stands out. Allstate’s website contains a library of best-in-class resources — everything from articles and videos to quizzes and infographics. Particularly impressive is the Common and Costly Claims tool that lets shoppers type in their ZIP code to see the most common claims in their region, complete with average dollar amounts for those claims. There’s also a startlingly realistic GoodHome home report that plays a Google Street View video of your home (or potential home) as it enumerates potential risks and gives local hazard data, plus prevention tips. Tools like this make it simple to understand which areas of coverage you may want to increase or supplement because of geographic or neighborhood risk.
Analysis: You’ll likely get better services from outside specialists, but that’s not the overriding factor here. The real problem is that tying services to insurance products makes it disruptive for you to leave your broker. The products and services should be unbundled so that there’s real competition for the big-ticket item: the insurance itself.