Finding an Agent or Broker
Suggestions for Finding an Agent or Broker
After conducting comparison research in the areas of price, service and a company's financial strength, you may wish to speak with an agent or broker representing a company. Here are a few tips to help you locate an agent or broker in your area.
- Agent Language Locator. Locate an insurance agent or broker that speaks your desired language.
- Try Calling the Company Directly. A phone number for each company is provided at the beginning of each company profile. The yellow pages are also an excellent resource for local information on agents.
- Check the Company Website or Social Networking Sites for Agent Information. Many companies have an interactive agent locator which provides the address and phone number of your local agent.
- Contact an Agent Association. These associations will assist you in finding a local agent:
- American Agents Alliance (866) 497-9222
- California Association of Health Underwriters (800) 322-5934
- Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of California (800) 772-8998
- National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors-California (NAIFA-California) (916) 646-8600
- Western Insurance Agents Association (916) 443-4221
Before Making a Decision. . .
Once you find an agent or broker in your area, it is important to check their license status. Using an agent's name or insurance license number, you can obtain valuable information concerning their licensing history with us. All insurance agents and brokers licensed in California must display their license number on their business cards and any marketing material they give you concerning the insurance products they sell.
Methods of Product Distribution
Insurance companies generally employ four methods for distributing and servicing their products. These include using captive or independent agents (sometimes both), an insurance broker, or selling directly to you though their own employees. It is important that you understand and are comfortable with the sales and service approaches of a company prior to purchasing insurance.
In California, all insurance agents and brokers selling residential homeowners insurance must be licensed as either a Property and Casualty Broker-Agent or Personal Lines Broker-Agent by the California Department of Insurance. While all agents and brokers (collectively known as "producers") hold the same type of licenses, they may act in different capacities which affect how you purchase your insurance.
The following are descriptions of the four basic distribution methods:
A broker-agent acting as a captive agent represents a single insurer, or single fleet of insurers, and is obligated to submit business only to that company or, at the very minimum, give that company first refusal rights on a sale.
A broker-agent acting in the capacity of an insurance broker is an independent insurance sales person who searches the marketplace in the interests of clients, not insurance companies, and may place coverage with any admitted insurance company. Since brokers are not appointed to represent specific insurance companies, they must post a $10,000 bond before acting as a broker. Broker bonds can be verified on this Website with the broker's name or license number.
A broker-agent acting as an independent agent is a contractor who represents different insurance companies and who searches the market for the best coverage based on a client's insurance needs. However, unlike an Insurance broker, independent agents must be appointed by each insurance company they represent before placing coverage with that company. Agent appointments can be verified on this Website with the agent's name or license number.
Direct writing is a method of selling insurance directly to customers through a company's own employees, usually via Internet, mail or telephone solicitations, or at airport booths. Agents and brokers are not used in this method of product distribution.