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Are Pushy Insurance Agents Really a Problem?

Pushy Insurance Agent

As part of my morning ritual, I enjoy catching up on the day’s headlines. I particularly love the News app on my iPhone, it’s a great way to stay current with some of my favorite blogs. When reading the news, as you might imagine, if there is a story about auto insurance or insurance agents it catches my eye. Well, just such a thing happened the other day when I read an article about pushing insurance agents.

Is this really a thing? I mean, is it something unique to insurance, or was this an indictment of the craft of sales more generally?

As the owner of an independent insurance agency, you’ve got my attention. What is the issue? Who wrote the pieces and why?

Before we jump into the who and the why, let’s first understand the argument.

Avoid pushy insurance agents and online insurance quotes

The crux of the argument was simple. The author asserts that while insurance carriers have armies of actuaries, underwriters, research marketers, and data, it is really the insurance agent who understands the game. Insurance agents know the rules, systems, products, and underwriting guidelines, and an unscrupulous insurance agent will use this knowledge to service their own agenda.

These are the pushy insurance agents, and they are the reason that so many are electing to get online auto insurance quotes.

Without providing any data or research to back up their claim, the author offers up that the pushiest insurance agents are captive insurance agents, these are the insurance agents who work with companies like State Farm, Allstate, or Farmers.  He claims that these agents will:

  • Pretend to know what is best for you, or that they know exactly what you need.
  • They will offer you the most basic of policies, without optional coverages.
  • They will withhold information about discounts and emergency services.

Without skipping a beat, the author then makes claims about “aggressive” tactics which he calls “emotional blackmail,” and alludes to the fact that insurance agents will lie or misinform. These types of behaviors are the sales habits of the dishonorable insurance agent. It is the sum total of these behaviors which will cause the consumer to pay more for less coverage.

Could This be True?

If this were true, it makes sense that consumers should seek out an alternative to pushy insurance agents. The author suggests online auto insurance quotes are the remedy. However, this isn’t true.

Let us set the record straight; the portrayal of captive insurance agents is just patently inaccurate. If there is any criticism of insurance agents and their understanding of the underwriting rules, systems, and products, it comes from the insurance companies they represent, not the consumer. It’s not that they use their knowledge to sell less coverage for more money. Rather, it’s that they use their knowledge to find ways to get the consumer the most coverage for the least money.

Captive insurance agents, and independent insurance agents that sell preferred brands like Travelers, The Hartford, Nationwide, and Safeco, sell the value of the coverage they offer. They’re trained to offer all the emergency services and optional coverage without applying high-pressure sales tactics.

It’s laughable to think of an insurance agent not applying all available auto insurance discounts. They may even try to get you a few you don’t qualify to receive. In reality, insurance agents know that price is a large component of the auto insurance buying decision. They are also well aware of the need to match or improve the benefit the consumer is presently receiving. These two basic understandings will lead the insurance agent to offer a matching or better coverage, at their best overall rate. It’s basic Freakonomics.

Are online quotes the answer to a problem?

If the author of the article is arguing that pushy insurance agents are too self-interested, and not offering a proper consultation, then online insurance quotes cannot be the answer. They are a DIY insurance solution and by definition lack consultation.

We agree the consumer deserves a trusted advisor to provide consultation about the value of optional coverages and emergency services. However, online auto insurance quotes aren’t the remedy. Even to the fictitious problem of pushy insurance agents.

How to use online auto insurance quotes

The process flow of an online auto insurance quote is not designed to efficiently provide coverage and policy advice. It’s a tool designed to render a rate quote. They have existed for years, and insurance agents use them when they shop for your auto insurance policy. Online quotes are novel, what is new is that they are now available to consumers.

The consumer who receives comparison online auto insurance quotes is typically not an insurance professional, and therefore, not always aware of the company’s policy exclusions, the limits of the coverage they select, or why they may want to consider optional coverages.

Moreover, many consumers don’t appreciate why certain questions are being asked. In many online insurance quotes, the consumer will not respond to the question, “Current Insurance Company,” thinking this is being collected for marketing purposes. However, in most states, this question, along with the current bodily injury limits is used in rating. Therefore, the customers who elect NOT to answer, may not be getting the best rate.

Online auto insurance quotes aren’t a solution to undersold coverages and misapplication of underwriting rules or discounts. It’s a tool that allows consumers to do independent research before they buy.

Who wrote the article?

The article in question is actually a press release from a website called, and it’s been picked up by many blogs and other venues. It received enough credibility to be included in my iPhone News feed. I don’t know for sure what is, but they appear to be a site that drives traffic for the purposes of selling clicks to various online auto insurance quotes providers.

This leads me to my primary criticism, the rules of the internet, those that govern how websites rank and how traffic is generated, are weak in their ability to discern between junk and valuable content. This press release is a poorly researched piece. It was created for the sole purpose of generating traffic and adding SEO juice. The consumer who actually reads this press release will be ill-informed, or worse, be driven to a site that cannot provide the value it purports to offer.

The bottom line

As a former P&L manager for two of the most recognizable direct-to-consumer brands, I appreciate the value of online auto insurance quotes. I understand the value they bring to the consumer’s buying process. In fact, you can get an online auto insurance quote with IronPoint. But online auto insurance quotes and insurance agents are not mutually exclusive things. Used in conjunction with one another they provide the greatest overall value.

It is true, not all insurance agents are the same. There are some pushy insurance agents. However, for the many things that insurance agents are, the overwhelming majority certainly aren’t “under-sellers,” and “over-chargers”. That’s just not in the insurance agent handbook.

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