With some insurers moving away from insuring small businesses, some contractors are forced to look for a new carrier. Whether you’re working with an independent agent, or doing the shopping yourself, below are a few tips to help you make the most informed decision as you shop.
- Look for experience: Ask around and do your research to see if the insurer has a history of handling businesses like yours. A proven track record with the contractor trade is a good indicator of how well an insurer will handle your claim if you ever need to file one. If you can’t find the information you’re looking for, don’t be afraid to ask about their experience – think of it like an interview where you are the employer and they are the employee.
- Find out if they have claims reps who know your business: If you do have an accident, it’s nice to find a company that has dedicated commercial auto claims representatives, not general reps who work for a third-party. Specialized claims reps will help get you get back on the road quicker, and in your business, time is money.
- Check if they have dedicated repair shops: Similar to specialized claims representatives, finding an insurer with a network of shops or service centers is important. In addition to speeding up the repair of your vehicles, many of these shops will offer guarantees on their work for long periods of time. That offers you peace of mind when you pick your truck up and put it back in commission.
- See if their coverage fits your needs: Insurance isn’t “one size fits all.” Ask about the things you and your business need to be covered, and be specific. If your truck or van is paramount to getting supplies to your customers, check if your insurer offers rental vehicle coverage. It provides you with a temporary vehicle if yours is out of service. If you have permanently attached equipment, ask about replacement coverage, and if it is covered in your policy (or extra). Ladder racks and other large equipment are integral to you doing your job —make sure your whole vehicle is covered.
- Ask if they’re available 24/7: Chances are you don’t work a typical 9 to 5 schedule, so look for an insurer who can work around your timeline. You never know when you’ll need your insurance company to be there for you. Find a company who works around your schedule, not vice-versa. And 24/7 doesn’t just apply to call centers and claims representatives – check if your insurer offers 24/7 roadside assistance. That way you’re covered if you need things like battery-jump starts, tire changes, locksmith services, fuel delivery or general labor in the field.
- Compare value: Value doesn’t always mean price. Make side-by-side comparisons and see who’s giving you the most for your money. Consider other factors like customizing your coverage, customer service and special offers. Then, once you’re comfortable with what your insurer is covering, ask about discounts.
- Look at the discounts: After you’ve taken the time to compare the value of what you’re getting, check what discounts you’re eligible for. Among a long list, there are discounts for having three years of business experience, paying your policy in full and bundling your policies. Ask your insurer or independent agent plenty of questions to ensure you’re getting the most for your money.
- If you need it, get help: If you find the process is getting overwhelming, or aren’t sure about something, ask an expert. Just like when you go to a doctor for medical advice, independent agents are there to provide you with insurance advice. Independent agents can offer multiple coverage options, prices and service levels because they represent a variety of companies. Your coverage requirements could include a combination of auto, cargo, general liability, worker’s comp, an umbrella policy, etc., and they can put together a customized package specific to your needs. They can help guide you through the process to help you find the right coverage for your business.
Asking the right questions as you compare insurers will help you make the most informed decision. Knowledge is power – and with a little bit of information, you can make sure you’re working worry-free this year, knowing your business and your vehicles are covered.
Ken Bowman is a commercial auto product manager at Progressive Insurance. Progressive, in business since 1937, is a market leader in commercial auto insurance and the No. 1 truck insurer. For more information on Progressive’s coverages or to find a local independent agent, go to http://www.progressivecommercial.com.