January 10, 2022

Guide to Auto Insurance Brokers

Is using a broker to buy auto insurance right for you?

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If you want to buy auto insurance the old-fashioned way, meaning through a human being, then you have two options: an auto insurance agent or broker.

Brokers survey all of the insurance carriers out there, get quotes from each, and make a recommendation for you. Thave the distinct advantage of being loyal primarily to you, the customer. Insurance agents work for specific insurance providers and can present policies from those providers only. Of course, brokers also have some disadvantages, like broker’s fees.

We’ll help you figure out if using a broker is worth it.

Auto Insurance Brokers

First, let’s define what an insurance broker is.

What Is a Car Insurance Broker?

A car insurance broker is someone who acts as a middleman between the customer and insurance companies. They get car insurance quotes from different companies, compare the terms and rates, and then present their findings to the customer to help them make an informed decision.

Types of Car Insurance Brokers

While you’re most likely work with a retail broker, there are three types of brokers:

  • Retail brokers: Retail brokers work with buyers directly, soliciting policies from many different auto insurance companies.
  • Wholesale brokers: Wholesale brokers are the middlemen between retail brokers and auto insurance companies to help them find more specialized policies, like a high-limit commercial policy. By definition, you won’t work with a wholesale broker as a regular auto insurance customer.
  • Surplus-line brokers: Finally, surplus-line brokers are the middlemen between wholesale brokers and surplus-line and excess insurance carriers. They look for policies with complex coverages and high limits, as well as those that cover new ventures or dangerous activities like long-haul trucking. Similar to wholesale brokers, you’ll never work with a surplus-line broker to buy personal auto insurance.1

Who Pays Car Insurance Brokers?

Brokers make money in two ways:

  • Commissions: When you buy an insurance policy, the broker will receive a percentage of the premium. Companies pay brokers’ commissions, not customers.
  • Fees: Some brokers charge broker fees on top of the commissions. In contrast to commissions, customers pay broker fees, not companies.

Pros and Cons of Using an Auto Insurance Broker

While it may make sense to use an auto insurance broker, an agent might be a better choice for some people. Let’s break down the advantages and disadvantages of using a broker versus an agent.

  • Compare rates: Brokers let you compare insurance from many different companies without having to obtain the quotes yourself. As anyone who’s tried to switch auto insurance knows, this can be a pretty time-consuming process.

  • Has your best interests: Since the broker isn’t tied to any particular company, unlike a captive agent, they have your best interests in mind. A captive agent is an agent that works with a single carrier, such as State Farm.

  • More specialized: By working with wholesale and surplus-line brokers, brokers can offer more niche policies that regular independent or captive agents cannot.

  • Broker’s fees: While agents don’t cost anything to the customer, some brokers charge additional fees on top of their commissions, which can be as high as $250.

  • Confusing options: Sometimes having too many choices can be a bad thing, especially if your broker isn’t explaining them clearly. Of course, this will differ based on the broker you’re working with.

Do I Need a Broker to Buy Car Insurance?

You do not need a broker to buy car insurance; rather, you can use an agent or buy from a car insurance carrier directly either over the phone or online. But if you’ve decided to use a broker to buy your insurance, keep reading below to learn how to pick one.

FYI

More and more carriers are offering auto insurance online, where you can complete the entire transaction without interacting with a human. Get an online quote today.

How to Choose an Auto Insurance Broker

Thanks to the internet, you can find a reliable auto insurance broker in no time. Here’s how:

  1. Do your research. Research brokers in your area by reading customers’ reviews on Yelp or Google. Also, check the Better Business Bureau for ratings and customer complaints.2
  2. Verify credentials. Before you contact them, verify the broker’s credentials with your state’s insurance department. See below for the contact information.
State Address Phone number URL
Alabama 201 Monroe Street, Suite 502

Montgomery, Alabama 36104

334-269-3550 http://www.aldoi.gov
Alaska 550 West 7th Avenue, Suite 1560

Anchorage, Alaska 99501-3567

907-269-7900 https://www.commerce.
alaska.gov/web/ins/
Arizona 100 N. 15th Avenue, Suite 261

Phoenix, Arizona 85007-2630

602-364-3100 https://insurance.
az.gov/
Arkansas 1 Commerce Way

Little Rock, Arkansas 72202

501-371-2600 https://insurance.
arkansas.gov/
California 300 South Spring Street, South Tower

Los Angeles, California 90013

800-927-4357 http://www.insurance.
ca.gov
Colorado 1560 Broadway, Suite 850

Denver, Colorado 80202

303-894-7499 https://doi.
colorado.gov/
Connecticut 153 Market Street, 7th Floor

Hartford, Connecticut 06103

860-297-3900 https://portal.
ct.gov/cid
Delaware 1351 West North Street, Suite 101

Dover, Delaware 19904

302-674-7300 https://insurance.
delaware.gov/
District of Columbia 1050 First Street, NE, 801

Washington, D.C. 20002

202-727-8000 http://www.disb.
dc.gov
Florida The Larsen Building

200 East Gaines Street, Room 101A

Tallahassee, Florida 32399-0301

850-413-3140 http://www.
floir.com
Georgia 2 Martin Luther King Jr. Dr.

West Tower, Suite 702

Atlanta, Georgia 30334

404-656-2070 https://oci.
georgia.gov/
Hawaii P.O. Box 3614

Honolulu, Hawaii 96811

808-586-2790 http://cca.
hawaii.gov/ins/
Idaho 700 West State Street, 3rd Floor

Boise, Idaho 83720-0043

208-334-4250 http://www.doi.
idaho.gov/
Illinois 320 West Washington Street

Springfield, Illinois 62767-0001

217-782-4515 https://insurance.
illinois.gov/
Indiana 311 West Washington Street, Suite 300

Indianapolis, Indiana 46204-2787

317-232-2385 http://www.in.
gov/idoi
Iowa 1963 Bell Avenue, Suite 100

Des Moines, Iowa 50315

515-654-6600 https://iid.
iowa.gov/
Kansas 1300 SW Arrowhead Road

Topeka, Kansas 66604-4073

785-296-3071 https://insurance.
kansas.gov/
Kentucky 500 Mero Street 2 SE 11

Frankfort, Kentucky 40601

502-564-3630 https://insurance.
ky.gov
Louisiana 1702 North Third Street

Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70802

225-342-5423 http://www.ldi.
la.gov
Maine 34 State House Station

Augusta, Maine 04333-0034

207-624-8475 https://www.maine.gov/
pfr/insurance/
Maryland 200 St. Paul Place

Suite 2700

Baltimore, Maryland 21202

410-468-2090 http://www.
mdinsurance.state.
md.us
Massachusetts 1000 Washington Street, Suite 810

Boston, Massachusetts 02118

617-521-7794 https://www.mass.gov/
orgs/division-of-insurance
Michigan 530 West Allegan Street

Lansing, Michigan 48933

517-284-8800 https://www.michigan.
gov/difs/
Minnesota 85 7th Place East, Suite 500

St. Paul, Minnesota 55101

651-296-4026 https://mn.gov/commerce/
industries/insurance/
Mississippi 1001 Woolfolk State Office Building 501 North West Street

Jackson, Mississippi 39201

601-359-3569 http://www.mid.
state.ms.us
Missouri 301 West High Street

P.O. Box 690

Jefferson City, Missouri 65102-0690

573-751-4126 https://insurance.
mo.gov/
Montana 840 Helena Avenue, Suite 270

Helena, Montana 59601

406-444-2040 https://csimt.gov/
Nebraska Terminal Building

941 O Street, Suite 400

Lincoln, Nebraska 68508-3639

402-471-2201 https://doi.
nebraska.gov/
Nevada 1818 East College Parkway, Suite 103

Carson City, Nevada 89706

775-687-0700 https://doi.
nv.gov/
New Hampshire 21 South Fruit Street, Suite 14

Concord, New Hampshire 03301-7317

603-271-2261 https://www.nh.
gov/insurance/
New Jersey 20 West State Street

P.O. Box 325

Trenton, New Jersey 08625

609-292-5360 https://www.state.
nj.us/dobi/index.html
New Mexico 1120 Paseo de Peralta, Suite 428

Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501

855-427-5674 https://www.osi.
state.nm.us/
New York 25 Beaver Street

New York, New York 10004

212-480-6400 https://www.dfs.
ny.gov/
North Carolina 1201 Mail Service Center

Raleigh, North Carolina 27699-1201

855-408-1212 https://www.
ncdoi.gov/
North Dakota State Capitol

600 East Boulevard, Dept. 401, 5th Floor

Bismarck, North Dakota 58505-0320

701-328-2440 https://www.
insurance.nd.gov/
Ohio 50 West Town Street, Third Floor, Suite 300

Columbus, Ohio 43215-1067

614-644-2658 https://insurance.
ohio.gov/wps/portal/
gov/odi
Oklahoma 400 NE 50th Street

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73105

405-521-2828 https://www.
oid.ok.gov/
Oregon P.O. Box 14480

Salem, Oregon 97309-0405

503-947-7980 https://dfr.oregon.
gov/Pages/index.aspx
Pennsylvania 1326 Strawberry Square

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17120

717-787-2317 https://www.insurance.
pa.gov/Pages/default.aspx
Rhode Island 1511 Pontiac Avenue

Cranston, Rhode Island 02920

401-462-9500 https://dbr.ri.
gov/divisions/insurance/
South Carolina 1201 Main Street, Suite 1000

Columbia, South Carolina 29201

803-737-6160 https://doi.sc.gov/
South Dakota 445 East Capitol Avenue

Pierre, South Dakota 57501-3185

605-773-4104 https://dor.sd.gov/
Tennessee 500 James Robertson Parkway, Suite 660

Nashville, Tennessee 37243-0565

615-741-2241 https://www.tn.gov/
commerce/insurance-division.html
Texas 333 Guadalupe Street

Austin, Texas 78701

512-676-6000 https://www.tdi.texas.gov/
Utah 4315 S. 2700 W., Suite 2300

Taylorsville, Utah 84114-6901

801-957-9200 https://insurance.
utah.gov/
Vermont 89 Main Street, Drawer 20

Montpelier, Vermont 05620-3101

802-828-3301 https://dfr.vermont.gov/
industry/insurance
Virginia 1300 E. Main Street, Tyler Building

Richmond, Virginia 23219

804-371-9741 https://www.scc.virginia.gov/
Washington Insurance Building

P.O. Box 40255

Olympia, Washington 98504-0255

360-725-7100 http://www.insurance.wa.gov
West Virginia West Virginia Lottery Building

900 Pennsylvania Avenue

Charleston, West Virginia 25302

304-558-3386 http://www.wvinsurance.gov
Wisconsin 125 South Webster Street

Madison Wisconsin 53703-3474

608-266-3585 https://oci.wi.gov/
Pages/Homepage.aspx
Wyoming Herschler Building

106 East 6th Avenue

Cheyenne Wyoming 82002

307-777-740 http://insurance.
state.wy.us
  1. Hire someone: Once you’ve verified that your insurance broker has good reviews and is accredited, contact them and set up an appointment. From there, they can help you find the right policy for you.3

Agents vs. Brokers

What does an insurance agent do, and how does it differ from what brokers do? See the major similarities and differences between agents and brokers below.

Key Similarities

  • Help you find insurance: Both agents and brokers help you find auto insurance. Captive agents work for one company, while independent agents work with multiple carriers, similar to brokers.
  • Advise you: Both agents and brokers are experts on auto insurance and can help you find the best policy for your vehicle.
  • Make commissions: Both agents and brokers earn commissions when policies are underwritten. The companies pay these commissions at no cost to you, the customer.
Auto Insurance

Both agents and brokers help you find auto insurance.

Key Differences

  • Whom they work for: While agents work for insurance carriers directly, brokers work for consumers.
  • Which carriers they represent: Agents can present quotes only from insurance providers they’re associated with, while brokers can present quotes from all carriers. That means that you’ll get a wider range of choices through a broker than through an agent.
  • Broker’s fees: Only brokers charge fees, while agents are paid commissions only. That means that you may have to pay for a broker, while agents are always free to the customer.
  • Completing vs. facilitating transactions: Only agents can actually put policies in force; brokers merely act as middlemen.4
  • Customer service: With an agent, even after you’ve purchased your policy, you’ll still work with them if you have any questions, need to file a claim, or need to add coverages. With a broker, you won’t work with them when the transaction is over, so the customer service post-sale might be limited. For higher average rates of claims satisfaction, look for agents over brokers.

TIP

If you’re looking for the cheapest auto insurance but don’t mind paying a one-time fee, go with a broker, who can show you more options than an agent. But if customer service is more important to you post-sale, agents are a better choice.

Recap

Your broker, if you choose to go with one, has a huge effect on the auto insurance rates. Not limited to one or just a few companies, brokers can show you all of the options out there and help you decide. If you want to get the full scope of the entire market, brokers would be a better choice than agents. Learn more about the process of buying auto insurance in our detailed car insurance guide and our article on how to switch car insurance.

If you want to learn more about brokers specifically, keep reading our auto insurance frequently asked questions below. Brokers certainly make the process of buying auto insurance much easier, so if you’re okay with paying a fee of up to $250, they’re totally worth it.

FAQs

Keep reading to get all of your insurance broker questions answered.

What does an auto insurance broker do?

An auto insurance broker connects auto owners and lessees and auto insurance companies, helping customers find the right insurance products and services for their vehicles. They will provide quotes and let customers know which companies offer discounts.

Is insurance cheaper if you go through a broker?

Auto insurance probably may or may not be cheaper if you go through a broker. It may be cheaper because they can present every carrier available to you, not just the ones they’re appointed with, unlike agents. However, you may have to pay a broker’s fee to a broker, which could make it more expensive than buying insurance from an agent, paid by commissions solely.

When should I use an auto insurance broker?

You should use an auto insurance broker if you want to see policies from every carrier on the market. Agents can show you quotes only for the carriers they’re appointed with, so your options are more limited.

Who pays an insurance broker?

Insurance brokers receive commissions from insurance companies and, in some cases, broker’s fees from customers.

Citations

  1. Insurance Broker vs. Insurance Agent. Business Benefits Group. (2018, Jan 26).
    https://www.bbgbroker.com/insurance-broker-vs-insurance-agent/

  2. Home Page. Better Business Bureau. (2022).
    https://www.bbb.org/

  3. Should I Use an Insurance Broker to Buy Car Insurance? Experian. (2021, Sep 29).
    https://www.experian.com/blogs/ask-experian/should-i-use-insurance-broker-to-buy-car-insurance/

  4. Agents vs. Brokers: A Guide To What They Are and How They Differ. Indeed Career Guide. (2021, Mar 19).
    https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/agents-vs-brokers