The Mess of Online Auto Insurance

This article was originally published on LinkedIn by Daniel Whallon, CLCS.

I have been in the insurance business for over 8 years now. During that time I have worked both as a captive and an independent agent and have helped clients with both their personal and commercial insurance needs. The purpose of this article is to provide the average insurance consumer insight on purchasing personal auto insurance and urge them to rethink purchasing auto insurance online.

Personal auto insurance premiums can be very costly. For most households in the United States, it is the primary cost driver for their personal insurance, not counting health insurance. There are other factors that can make it even more painful for consumers: youthful operators, high end cars, tickets, accidents, and increased cost of repairs due to the technology in vehicles. Pair these facts with our cost driven, consumerist, digital culture and you end up with a messy result: online auto insurance.

Why is online auto insurance a mess? Lets explore that question.

  1. Most consumers are not licensed insurance agents– this doesn’t come as a shock to anyone reading this article, but it has important implications. If I were to give 10 prospects a pop quiz on what each coverage actually does for them, at least 9 out of 10 would fail. It’s simple, the vast majority of consumers don’t know what auto insurance does.
  2. It puts all the liability on the consumer– as insurance agents, we need to be offering clients the best available coverages and limits. If we fail to do this and something happens, we could be liable from an errors and omissions standpoint. Online companies allow consumers to quote their own insurance, eliminating the agent which potentially lowers the cost. However, it also eliminates any agent liability since no reccomendations were made. A consumer without the right insurance or the right amount of insurance cannot accuse the agent of an error because they chose everything themselves.
  3. It makes cost the priority- if I am at the store and I see something I want to buy, I can open my Amazon app and might find the same item for 20% less. Not only that, Amazon can get that item to me the next or even the same day. This concept works well for commodities, but insurance is not a commodity. Insurance is a complex, legal agreement between the consumer and the insurer. You would not know this by visiting the top online auto insurance websites because “lowering your rate” is their biggest priority. Is cost a priority? Yes. Is it the biggest priority when buying insurance? No, adequate coverage and limits should always be the priority and price should take a back seat.

The bottom line, when auto insurance was originally designed it was designed to have licensed insurance agents help consumers navigate the complexity of the contract they were signing. Consumers who use competent insurance advisors have someone with in depth knowledge about insurance. These consumers also share the liability of insurance buying with their agent, who is held accountable for his/her advice. Finally, working with an agent prioritizes his/her advice and having the proper coverage over price.