“Sure,” you may be saying, “I know why I should obtain several rate quotes before deciding on an insurance company. You always have to shop around for the lowest price.” Congratulations! You are absolutely, 100%.....wrong. While it is true that “comparison shopping” is required for a good decision whatever it is you’re buying, it is not true that you should decide on any product (much less an insurance policy) based on price alone. The reason that you want to shop around, and get various quotes, is to give you a benchmark with which to measure all the other things that are important in the coverage. In other words, you are trying to establish “bang for the buck.” It’s not just about money When you stop and think about it, you rarely decide on a purchase based on price alone. You certainly don’t do that with your auto purchase, not until you are comparing apples to apples. That is, you don’t decide on the 1988 Dodge Dart because it costs only $400, when you actually need some kind of minivan or SUV for the family. The fact that you have 2.4 kids, a dog and make lots of trips to the supermarket should be more influential, and for everyone but the most inveterate penny-pinchers, these critical considerations will steer the process. Insurance policies, whether for life or health or auto or home, can be complicated contracts, so you really do need to read the fine print. If you think you need help in figuring out coverage, premiums, deductibles and other features of a policy, then get it, by all means. A friend or colleague may have sufficient expertise in the area to be of assistance, but the fact is that a good insurance broker – a “multi-line” agent or company not tied to a single company – is also a great source of independent facts and customer-oriented judgment.

It’s about value

The value of a policy can only be determined when, as mentioned above, you being comparing apples to apples and oranges to oranges. Once you have the basic financial outlines of a policy – coverage amounts, premium, deductibles, etc. – you can begin to make calculations as to the “buck bang” factor. However, there are important intangibles in the formula, too, that you would be wise not to ignore. Getting the “best deal” based on price just might leave you at the mercy of an underachieving insurance company, if not a downright bad one. The A.M. Best Company provides news and ratings about the insurance industry – and, more recently, the finance and healthcare industries – and has the best reputation in the business. Choosing an insurance company without checking its “bona fides” is like letting people who claim to be doctors operate on you without finding out if they really have “MD” after their names. You have to get your policy from an upstanding, ethical and profitable insurance company or you just may find that there’s no check for you when you need it.

How to get quotes

In this fast-paced, always-on, networked world we live in, some people think they can successfully compare and buy products entirely in the “virtual” world. This can be done, certainly, but it may not be the best idea in every case. Even if you shopped for a car and found your deal online, it is not likely you would simply take delivery without driving it first, kicking the tires (figuratively or literally) and checking under the hood. You need to do the same with any insurance policy you locate on the Internet. How do you do that? For one thing, you can do it the old-fashioned way. You can call an agent who represents the firm, or the firm itself, and go meet someone in person. No matter how much data you amass online, the person-to-person contact can be critical in making the final choice. This is particularly true when you will be dealing with an agent for any claims – as with State Farm, Allstate and other old-line firms – as opposed to opting for a “virtual” relationship over the phones or Internet.

The hybrid method

You can also have your personal contact with a broker or multi-line website, and that personal contact can occur in a variety of ways in addition to “in person.” You can establish a relationship through the phone calls and e-mails you exchange with agents or brokers. The point is, you want at least one person or company to help you navigate through the many offers from the many insurance firms that are seeking your business. Summing up, you need to get information on the life, health or auto policy that you need, certainly. But you also need to get good information on the company behind the policy, too. You need to be as certain as you can be that the insurance company will be around, and have the money available, to pay your claim and take care of your losses. You are not just shopping for the best price. The main reason to obtain several insurance rate quotes before deciding on an insurance company is to make sure you get the right coverage at the best price – from a solid, dependable company that is the best choice for your situation. Simple to say, not so easy to do, but if you go through the appropriate steps and be a smart shopper, you will most likely end up a satisfied buyer, too.