These are certainly unprecedented times. For the past couple weeks, in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, hundreds of thousands of Americans have been gathering to protest the murder of George Floyd by a police officer and support the Black Lives Matter movement. Unfortunately, as has always been the case with protests throughout history, opportunists are also using this time to riot and vandalize/loot businesses around the country. We know as business owners, there are a lot of concerns on your mind every day, but rioting and looting usually isn’t one of them. If you fear rioting and looting at your business or are experiencing it, it can be scary and confusing, especially if it is something you haven’t had to deal with before. Here at Berry Insurance, we get it. Not only are we a business ourselves, but we also work with several business clients comprising diverse industries and sizes who have unique concerns about how they could be affected by this conflict. Fortunately, we have some answers. Let’s get into what insurance covers related to rioting/looting, and what to do if you are affected. What business property insurance covers: If you own a business in Massachusetts, you likely have property insurance for that business. That insurance covers the actual structure of your business’ building (if you own it) and its contents, as well as the exterior features such as fencing, or signage from covered perils. Covered perils include most weather-related damages, burst pipes, fires, explosions, and theft and vandalism. So yes, rioting and looting is almost always covered under your policy as theft and vandalism and you should be paid for damages and stolen merchandise. However, you will need to check with your agent or carrier to make sure. Sometimes, insurance policies carry exclusions against “civil unrest,” “civil commotion,” or “terrorism.” Keep in mind, even if you are covered against rioting and looting, you will have to first pay your deductible before your insurance pays for damages or stolen property. The insurance company will also only pay up to the limit you set on your property insurance, so if the damage and theft is extensive, it might not be covered entirely. What business interruption insurance covers: Business interruption insurance, sometimes called business income coverage, covers lost income if a business is affected by a covered peril, such as weather-related damages, burst pipes, fires, explosions, and theft and vandalism. If you have business interruption insurance and are affected by riots or looting, you should be covered up to your policy limits after you pay your deductible. But what if my business was closed from COVID-19? This is where things get tricky. If your business was closed due to COVID-19 when it was affected by theft or vandalism, you will be covered under property coverage, but may have trouble getting business interruption coverage. Unfortunately, closures from viruses, including COVID-19, are not typically covered under business interruption insurance because in order to be covered, the interruption must be caused by or result from a covered loss, which includes only physical loss or damage. Because of this, many businesses are currently closed without business interruption insurance. If a business isn’t operational during the looting damage, there technically may be no “lost income” for that period of time, so business interruption insurance could limit compensation. If this applies to you, don’t let it hold you back from filing a claim. Insurance carriers are well-aware that the combination of the COVID-19 pandemic and riots are creating unusual and detrimental circumstances, so they may be making exceptions and working harder to secure coverage for clients. How to protect your business from rioting/looting Civil unrest can cause a lot of worries for businesses. With the potential threat of damaged property and stolen goods, it’s difficult to know the right steps to take to protect your business. While the circumstances may be largely out of your control, there are some steps you can take to minimize damage or loss. Stay informed: Keep up on local events through the news or local authorities. Knowing what may be going on in your area will help you to assess any threats to your business. Assess vulnerabilities: Inspect your property, both inside and outside to determine what your greatest vulnerabilities are. Do you have gaps in security? Easily damageable materials? Inventory noticeably on display? Evaluating your risks will help you determine where to focus your protection efforts. Protect the physical property: With your vulnerabilities in mind, take steps to implement security measures. You can install additional locks, alarms, security cameras, or motion-sensing lights, or board up windows to make destruction more challenging for vandals. Remove valuable property: If looting is a risk, you may want to remove valuable property including cash, equipment (vehicles, machinery) and merchandise. In addition to protecting the valuables, it may deter thieves all together if they look inside your business and see nothing of value. Consider closing temporarily: If the potential threats could put your employees or customers at risk, you may want to consider closing or altering hours, specifically if you are open during nighttime hours when the looting and riots are more likely to occur. Get sufficient insurance: Besides physically protecting your property, you should also make sure you have adequate insurance coverage so you can be reimbursed if your property is damaged. Contact your agent or carrier to review your coverages and discuss if you may need any adjustments. What to do if your business is damaged If your business is damaged, take photos and document all damage and stolen goods before beginning cleanup. Next, you will want to reach out to your agent or carrier to file a claim. You will need to provide those details and evidence you gathered of the damage. If you haven’t boarded up yet, you may want to do so to deter additional vandalism. Avoid making permanent repairs until you are confident the civil unrest in your area has subsided. Keep your mind at rest during unrest Things are tense in the world right now. In addition to the root of the conflict, as a business owner, your worries during this time are likely also partially centered around your business and your well-being. Keep in mind that you are not alone during this time. Everybody is affected by this widespread issue and while there are some ways you can be involved, what happens to your business is largely out of your control. Fortunately, your insurance company is here for you during this time. If you have property insurance, business interruption insurance, and an agent or carrier willing to help you secure the right coverage options and limits, you can feel at ease knowing that when we move past this moment in history, your business will be OK. Don’t feel confident your insurance provider has your best interests in mind during these challenging times? It may be time to look for a better match. Check out this article about what to look for when selecting an insurance agency or company.
It’s been quite a year already, but there is at least one positive part of 2020: less cars on the roads. Since the March stay at home orders resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic began, many people have been working from home and not visiting their usual stores or businesses, leaving their vehicles mostly dormant in their driveways. So during these periods of time where you are driving less, it only makes sense you pay less on your insurance, right? At Berry Insurance, we’ve been getting this question a lot, and our answer … well, it’s complicated. While you technically can pay less on your car insurance for driving less, you may not be eligible, and even if you are, it probably won’t mean immediate savings. Let’s get into how discounts for driving less work, as well as some other ways you may be able to save money on your car insurance during this time. What is a low mileage discount? Most insurance companies offer low mileage discounts to drivers who do not drive often. After all, the less you are on the road, the less risk you are at of having a claim and costing the insurance company money. The average American drives approximately 13,000 miles per year, but if you drive less than 7,500 miles per year, you may be eligible for a discount from 5-10% depending on how little you drive, and the rate your insurance company designates for you. Generally, the less you drive, the greater your discount will be. Since the rate is based on a 12-month driving period, you will not be able to get immediate savings if you aren’t driving a lot right now. In fact, you might not even be eligible since you may be driving more later in the year as things get back to normal. However, if you’re driving way less for the year, you may see a discount when your policy renews. When it’s time for your car insurance renewal, check with your agent to see if you are eligible for the discount. Your agent or insurance company can check Registry of Motor Vehicles records for the mileage reported on your vehicle during your last inspection. Keep in mind, if you’re late getting your inspection, you may miss out on the discount because your insurance provider will not have an up-to-date mileage record to use. What is pay-per-mile/pay-as-you-go insurance? You may have also heard of pay-per-mile or pay-as-you-go insurance, which allows you to pay for your insurance based on how much you drive each month. While something like this could be useful at a time like this when you aren’t driving a lot, these plans are only available in certain states, and are not available in Massachusetts at this time. Find ways to save instantly on car insurance: Since you may not be eligible for a low-mileage discount on your Massachusetts car insurance policy once your mileage for the entire year is calculated (or you at least won’t be getting the discount until your policy renews), you might be wondering if there are other ways to save during this time. Fortunately, there are several ways to save on your car insurance, some of which may result in immediate savings. Bundle policies: Many insurance companies offer incentives for the more business you provide them. By bundling your car insurance with other policies (such as homeowners/rental) within the same insurance company, you may be able to save approximately 5-25 % on your policies. Insure more than one car with the same policy or carrier (multi-car discount) Similar to bundling policies, you can also earn discounts for insuring more than one vehicle in the same household. Shop around for rates Insurance prices differ from company to company, so if you feel like you’re paying a lot for car insurance, you might want to obtain quotes from a few different companies. Alternatively, you can also save money by maintaining your coverage with your insurance company, as some carriers offer price breaks for longtime customers, so you’ll want to check with your agent to see which option is best for you. Pay via EFT/ACH or pay ahead Paying for your auto insurance through electronic funds transfer (EFT), automated clearing house (ACH), or paying the premium up front can eliminate billing fees. If you’re comfortable with your payment automatically withdrawing from your bank account each month, or if you can afford to front the premium, these methods can save you both time and money. Choose a higher deductible plan Of course, you can also lower your premium by selecting an auto insurance plan with a higher deductible. Doing this means you’ll be paying less per month, but will have to pay more if you get in an accident, so if you select a higher-deductible plan, you’ll want to make sure you have enough money set aside in case you need to cover damages from an accident. Ask your agent about any discounts You can get a discount for doing the following: Being a member of an association (such as AAA, AARP, alumni associations, wholesale clubs, military organizations, honor societies, and more) Giving to a charity Getting good grades (insurance companies reward both high school and college drivers for earning good grades) Being a safe driver (drivers without accidents or violations for a certain period – usually five years – can save hundreds on their insurance through a safe driver or good driver discount) Ask your agent if you are eligible for any discounts that aren’t already applied to your policy. Remove Optional Coverages Many insurance plans include optional coverages intended to provide services in specific scenarios. If these coverages do not apply to you, or if you have another service that provides similar coverage, you should not be paying the extra amount for them. Collision: Collision insurance offers coverage to repair or replace your vehicle if it is damaged in an accident. If your vehicle is older and the value is low enough that you could afford to repair or replace it if it were damaged or destroyed, you may want to remove collision insurance. Keep in mind, if you are leasing your vehicle, or if it isn’t paid off, collision coverage is typically required. Substitute Transportation: Substitute transportation insurance will pay for at least a portion of the cost of a rental vehicle if you need one due to a covered loss while it is being repaired or replaced (if you have collision insurance). If you have an alternative vehicle you can use, or if you are able to go without your car for a period of time, you could remove substitute transportation. Roadside/towing: Many insurance companies offer roadside assistance or towing insurance if your car breaks down on the side of the road and you are unable to get it to a mechanic. If you have both roadside/towing and AAA, you are essentially paying for the same coverage twice, so choose one or the other. Enroll in telematics It’s no secret that technology is advancing and infiltrating almost every industry, but did you know it can also help save you money on your car insurance? Through telematics, insurance companies are using tracking devices to monitor driver data including speed, mileage, driving time, hard brakes, and more to determine if you are eligible for a discount. Pay-as-you-drive insurance models using telematics, such as Drive with Safety or N&Drive through Norfolk & Dedham, monitor driving habits to offer discounts up to 30% to cautious or low-mileage drivers. Telematics can not increase your premium. At worst, your premium will stay the same, but you could get a discount. Check with your agent/carrier for savings We know all of this can be a lot to digest. Reach out to your agent to discover which combination of these opportunities could save you money on your car insurance while you aren’t driving much. In addition to saving money on your car insurance during this time, you should also be making sure your car isn’t costing you extra money while it sits in your driveway. Read these tips about maintaining a vehicle you aren’t driving.
Going to the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles to register a car is a process that already feels inconvenient for many people, but if you are trying to do it right now, it may be more frustrating than ever. Currently, we’re a few months into the COVID-19 pandemic, so most people and businesses have learned to adapt to a “new normal,” but the state of our world is still throwing us curveballs and causing significant frustration. Much of this frustration lies in dealing with the Registry of Motor Vehicles. They are doing their best to implement guidelines to enable social distancing, but the result is a serious backlog for the already-busy entity. At Berry Insurance, we get how aggravating it can be. We have talked to several clients who have been struggling to get an appointment with the RMV and cannot drive the new vehicles they purchased as a result. If you’re buying a new car through a dealership, you probably won’t have a problem because most dealerships register vehicles for you on the spot, but if you’re buying a vehicle through a private sale, or gaining ownership from another family member, you might run into some issues. Let’s discuss whether you can insure a car before registering it, and what to do if the current RMV restrictions are preventing you from getting your car on the road. Current RMV restrictions: To comply with Massachusetts state of emergency procedures, state registries have implemented several procedures to reduce the number of clients in the buildings. Several of the state’s RMVs are closed, and services are currently limited to appointments only. Because of these restrictions, wait times to get an appointment have been extreme. While some of our clients have communicated to us that they’ve been able to get an appointment in a week or two, others have said they haven’t been able to find an opening until months from now. Can I insure my car if I can’t register it? So if you’re one of these people who can’t find an appointment, you might be wondering if you can insure your vehicle before registering it. Well, we have an answer for you. In order to register a car, you need to show proof of insurance, so technically, you always insure a car before registering it. However, that doesn’t mean you can insure a car if you won’t be able to get to the RMV within a reasonable amount of time. Insuring and registering a car go hand and hand in Massachusetts and must be done within a few days of each other, so generally when an insurance agent establishes a car insurance policy for a vehicle, they will set the policy to start the day the driver plans on going to the RMV to register it. Without an appointment at the RMV, your insurance agent or company won’t know when to begin your policy. What happens if I insure a car before registering it? The insurance company is then notified when the car is registered, so if they notice it isn’t registered, the company will reach out to you to ask why it isn’t registered. If it is still not registered after three weeks, the insurance company will cancel the policy. If you’re adding a car to an existing policy, the whole policy won’t be cancelled, just the coverage for the new vehicle. Even though you might want to cross insuring your vehicle off your to-do list, it really doesn’t make sense to do it ahead of time. In addition to the insurance company questioning you and potentially cancelling the policy, you still can’t drive the vehicle without a registration and you would be paying for a policy you aren’t using. What should I do if I can’t get a registry appointment? If you can’t get an appointment to get your car registered, unfortunately, there isn’t a whole lot you can do. Times are tough right now, and while our society is adapting, it hasn’t figured everything out yet — getting registry tasks done in a timely manner is one of those situations. At this point, we are just recommending that clients check for all registry appointments regularly. New appointments are opening up all the time, so you’ll have better luck if you look for an appointment regularly — at least daily. We are also suggesting that you check all available RMV locations for availability — not just the ones closest to you. You may have to drive further, but it will probably be worth it if you can get an appointment much sooner. Be ready to insure and get your car on the road: While you’re waiting (hopefully not too long) to get your RMV appointment, you can prepare some materials and information to make sure everything runs smoothly when it is time to get insurance. After all, we don’t want you to wait any longer to get your car on the road! Check out this article outlining the step-by-step process of how to buy car insurance so you are informed and ready to efficiently complete the process when the time comes.
A couple months ago during the beginning stages of the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing financial crisis, we published the article Ways to Save on Auto/Home/Renters Insurance During a Crisis. As a small, family-owned company, we at Berry Insurance know that everyone is experiencing unique struggles at this time. In the last several weeks, many people’s circumstances prompted them to search for places to cut costs, so we have responded by trying to guide our clients through the best ways to save money on their personal insurance. Now that things are (at least a little bit) returning to normal, we want to make sure our clients have the best possible coverage, still at the best price. Some of the pieces of advice we provided in the original article are smart money-saving strategies to use all the time, but other tactics may compromise your insurance coverage (potentially leaving you uncovered or with more out of pocket expenses) and should be returned to normal if possible. We’ll address those situations below. Places to adjust your policy: If you’re still experiencing financial hardship, you can keep your policies as is for now, but if things are looking up for you or you expect them to soon, you may want to restore your substantial coverages or adjust your policies in the following ways. Lower your deductible: Raising your deductible on your auto, home, renters, or condo insurance can save you money on your policy, but comes with the risk of having to pay more out of pocket if you were to have a claim. If you increased your deductible to save money during this or another financial hardship, you may want to lower it again when you are no longer struggling so you can ensure better financial coverage in case of a claim. Raise your coverage limits: For those struggling financially, we recommended they lower the limits on some of their coverages, depending on their existing limits and if they have an umbrella policy. While this saves money on the overall premium, it limits the amount insurance will cover if you have a claim, so you may want to consider raising your limits again once you are able to. Re-add optional coverages on auto: Many car insurance plans include optional coverages intended to provide services in specific scenarios. Sometimes, it might be wise to drop some of these coverages temporarily to save some money, especially if you aren’t driving your car, but they may be worth adding back on to ensure coverage in various situations and avoid out-of-pocket costs. Collision: Collision insurance covers damages to your vehicle from a collision (whether you are at fault or not.) These collisions can be with any object like a tree, pole, guard rail, pothole, or with another vehicle, and also include hit-and-runs. This is an optional coverage and there are times when it may be wise to remove it from your policy, but without it, you could be left with a significant bill if you had a collision. If you removed it from your auto policy to save money, you might want to add it back on. Substitute Transportation: Substitute transportation insurance will pay for at least a portion of the cost of a rental vehicle if you need one due to a covered loss while it is being repaired or replaced (if you have collision insurance). If you feel like this coverage could be valuable to you, you should re-add it to your policy if you removed it. Roadside/towing: Many insurance companies offer roadside assistance or towing insurance if your car breaks down on the side of the road and you are unable to get it to a mechanic. Again, if you feel like you might need this service, you can add it to your policy. Go back to the better company/agency: Companies with lower quality coverage and service typically offer lower prices. If you switched to a company with a lower premium to save you money during a crisis, you might want to consider returning to a more reputable company with better coverage when you are able to. While the lower premium can be tempting, there is a lot that goes into choosing a good insurance provider, and you might find a lot of value in a company who has more to offer. Assess any home/inventory changes: This time of quarantine has resulted in a lot of changes in most peoples’ lives. Whether fulfilling a long-time dream or giving into isolation boredom, many people worked on home improvement projects or used their stimulus checks to make large purchases. Did you do landscaping work? Pave your driveway? Add a porch? Do any indoor renovations? Make a valuable purchase? Consider if any choices you made during this time need to be factored into your insurance. Not sure if this is the case for you? Call your agent to find out. Make sure your insurance is meeting your needs: It might sound appealing to maintain the lowest possible cost on your insurance policies, but keep in mind your cheap insurance policy won’t be the best option when you are actually faced with a claim. If cost is a priority to you right now, you might be able to keep most of these methods in place, but if you are in a secure enough place to bolster your policies, it’s always a good idea to make sure your insurance has substantial coverage to avoid costly claims. At Berry Insurance, we work with a wide variety of clients, so we understand that everyone has diverse circumstances and needs. Feel free to reach out to us to discuss your specific situation so we can help you make the best decisions for your insurance policy. And keep in mind: there may be other ways to save! Be on the lookout for potential COVID-19 insurance refunds.
Back in March when the COVID-19 pandemic was ramping up and businesses were temporarily closing or transitioning to remote operations, we wrote this article to help businesses know where to adjust their business insurance during a crisis. Now a few months later, things are starting to get (at least a little bit) back to normal. Some Massachusetts companies may have decided to maintain remote operations, but others are partially or fully re-opening, or working on a plan to slowly shift employees back into the office. For usat Berry Insurance, we are slowly getting back to normal, but things are looking very different for us. We are currently following a detailed plan to slowly phase our team back into the office, while implementing strict social distancing and cleaning practices. So whether you’re ready to fully re-open or are transitioning employees back into the office like we are, there may be some areas of various insurance policies you may need to adjust at this time (or soon). Where to adjust insurance after a crisis: If you changed certain insurance coverages during the pandemic, or are making operational changes post-COVID-19, you might need to adjust some of the following coverages. 1. Increase sales revenue on liability insurance: It’s safe to assume most businesses (aside from Zoom, Netflix, Nintendo, food delivery services, and liquor stores) had a drop in income during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you lowered your sales revenue on your liability insurance during the crisis, or if your business is booming after the COVID-19 era, it is time to adjust your sales revenue to reflect it. If your sales revenue is not accurate on your insurance policy at the end of your policy term, you may run into issues when being audited. 2. Increase payroll on workers’ compensation: If you had a reduction in workforce during the pandemic, you may have lowered your payroll on your workers’ compensation policy. If you’re rehiring and adding employees, don’t forget to readjust your payroll. Again, keep in my mind that your policy may be audited at the end of the policy term, so as things progress, be sure to keep your policy accurate so as to not result in a large audit premium due. 3. Adjust property coverage: For those of you who had to purchase new equipment to enable remote working (laptops, webcams, remote servers, etc.), you probably increased your property coverage to protect that new equipment. Assuming you are keeping that equipment, you’ll need to keep it on your policy (or add it if you haven’t already!), but if you are getting rid of it, you can remove it. You should also consider any equipment that you may be adding when you re-open. For example, at Berry Insurance, we are investing in new safety, social distancing, and cleaning equipment to enhance the safety of our employees and guests. If you are doing the same, you should add that new equipment to your insurance. 4. Re-add collision coverage: If you’re putting business vehicles back on the road after not using them during the crisis, make sure the vehicles have the proper coverages. During the crisis, we were recommending that businesses remove collision coverage on vehicles they weren’t using to save some money. If this is the case for you, you should re-add the coverage before using the vehicles. Collision insurance covers damages to your vehicle from a collision (whether you are at fault or not). These collisions can be with any object like a tree, pole, guard rail, pothole, or with another vehicle. This coverage is optional (as long as you don’t have a loan on the vehicle), but not having it can leave you with a large out of pocket expense if there were to be an accident. 5. Adjust your billing plan/method: Many insurance companies offered payment plans and/or extensions on a case-by-case basis during the crisis. If you are using one of these payment plans, you may need to transition back to a traditional payment plan once the insurance companies require you to. In this case, the company will probably reach out to notify you directly, so just be prepared that this may happen in the coming weeks or months. 6. Remove hired and non-owned auto liability: To adapt to stay-at-home orders, many companies adjusted by offering delivery or using new vehicles for work purposes. These companies needed to add coverage for hired and non-owned auto liability to ensure all drivers and vehicles were fully covered under their commercial auto policy. If this applies to you, you may want to remove this coverage once you are no longer using those vehicles or offering those services. It should even save you a little bit of money! Be protected when you’re back up and running We know you’re excited to get your business back up and running as close to normal as possible (we are too!). But in all the excitement and chaos that will most certainly ensue, don’t forget about your insurance! The last thing we all want is to have to deal with an uncovered insurance claim right after finally getting to open up again. During this time and as always, Berry Insurance is here to help you through your changing insurance needs. We know every business is different, so feel free to reach out so we can make sure you are making the right decisions for your specific business. If your business has gone through significant changes during this time, you may need to make some additional changes. Check out this article about when you may need to switch or update your business insurance.
Some shopping is simple. For instance, put me in a book store and I will have no problem at all shopping. Shopping for other things on the other hand, such as insurance, can be much more challenging. There is a lot that goes into selecting insurance, and a lot potentially riding on a bad insurance decision. So how do you know where to begin? How do you know what coverage options are best for you? And most importantly, who can you trust to ensure you, your family, your business, etc. are properly protected? At Berry Insurance, we’ve been in the business since 1922, so we know a lot about all of the companies and agencies you have to choose from and we can help you determine which is best for you. Why is an insurance agency writing about how to choose an insurance provider when they could instead be using their efforts to convince you that they are the only choice, you ask? Well, to be honest, we know we aren’t the only choice and we’re not pretending to be. Don’t get us wrong, we feel very strongly about our mission, service, and offerings and know we are a great solution for many people, but other people just have different priorities than what we offer. We don’t want you to waste time with a company who isn’t right for you, so that’s why we want to help guide you to the right company for you (and if it happens to be us, then that’s a great bonus!). When selecting an insurance provider, you want to make sure they check all your boxes and align with whatever is most important to you. We’ll go over what some of those priorities might be, then when you have a better understanding of them, you can weigh them to help you find the way to your insurance match. Your insurance provider options: Before we get into what to look for in an insurance company or agency, let’s talk about what your options are. When buying insurance, there are three main entities you can buy through, all with their unique pros and cons. The options are direct writers, captive insurance agents, and independent insurance agents: Direct Writer A direct writing insurance company is a company that can give you a quote online or over the phone, but does not work through an intermediary, like an agent. Examples of direct writers for auto insurance are GEICO or Progressive. Generally, these companies are popular because they are well-known, national brands who provide quick and efficient service either online or over the phone. Captive Insurance Agent A captive insurance agent represents only one insurance company and can only offer a quote with that one company. Examples of captive agents are State Farm, AllState, and Farmers Insurance. Those who are looking to work with someone more local, but who represents a nationally known insurance company may be interested in captive insurance agents. Independent Insurance Agent Independent insurance agents (sometimes referred to also as brokers) represent multiple insurance companies and can provide you with multiple quotes. An example of an independent insurance agent would be us here at Berry Insurance, and many other local insurance agents you see as you drive through your town. Independent agents have the ability to offer multiple options to match you with the best coverage for the best value and are more likely to spend more time discussing specific needs. 7 things to look for in an insurance provider: Before you select a provider, there are many factors to consider. Let’s dive into some of them. 1. Convenience (hours/location/speed/communication): In today’s fast paced world, convenience is everything. If you want to be sure your insurance issues are being resolved efficiently and effectively, you probably want to evaluate the hours, location, and processes of an insurance agent or company you are considering working with and decide how important these factors are to you. Hours: What are the hours of the company you are considering? Are they open 24 hours? If not, do they have a 24-hour emergency claims line if you do have a claim outside of business hours? Location: Does the company have multiple locations? Are they close to you? If not, are you able to do everything with them online safely and securely? Online capabilities: Do they have online capabilities? Do they have a mobile app? Can you view your policy details or account online? Can you get an instant quote online? Can you report claims or pay bills online? Do they have online chat? Communication methods: How can you reach out to your agent? Do they only offer phone conversations, or are they also available through email, online chat, or video calls? Are they still using old fashioned fax? Are they active on social media? 2. Responsiveness: We all know how frustrating it can be to be given the run-around, especially during an already-stressful situation. When shopping for insurance, you should look for an agency or company who is always available to help you, or gets back to you in a timely manner. Does the company you are considering have a call center or automated phone system you have to navigate? Do agents call you back in a reasonable amount of time? Will you be assigned to one agent, or be juggled around by multiple agents? 3. Experience: Before you trust somebody to handle the policies protecting your home, cars, families, or businesses, you want to make sure you can trust them. When researching a company, consider how long they’ve been in business, what credentials they have, what types of insurance they have experience with, and their financial strength. 4. Reputation/local presence: What people say about a company they work with demonstrates a lot about what you can expect if you decide to work with them. For that reason, it may be a good idea to seek referrals from people you know, or read online reviews to vet an insurance company or carrier you’re considering working with. While you can’t trust every single review out there, looking at reviews of insurance companies or carriers will help give you an idea of the overall reputation of the company. You may also notice certain recurring complaints about the company, which will help you determine if it is a good fit for you. For example, if reviews commonly cite that the insurance company uses a call center and never connects you to the same agent, you may decide the company is not for you, or you may brush the comments off, knowing that avoiding a call center or having only one contact aren’t priorities for you. You also may want to make sure the company’s mission, vision, and values align with yours and that they are involved in the community, if that is important to you. 5. Coverage: The point of insurance is to cover you, so more than likely, finding an insurance company that can offer the best coverage (at a reasonable price) is important to you. If an insurance provider you are considering does not offer a service you need, it should be a pretty big indicator to look elsewhere. In this case, working with an agency may be a great solution for you, because agents can compare policies from several companies for you to help you find what you’re looking for. 6. Price: I know many times in life, it makes sense to go with the cheapest option. However, in many cases, you get what you pay for, especially with insurance. If you are simply looking for the cheapest option, you probably aren’t getting the coverage you need. In fact, many insurance companies will quote at the legal state minimums to present the lowest possible price in hopes to simply close a sale. If you have a tight budget and simply want the lowest price, one of those companies might be right for you, but if you would rather have value, it makes more sense to look for a company providing the best coverage for a lowest price. One way to do that is to get quotes from several companies and compare coverages. It also might make sense to look for a company that offers discounts. Many companies offer discounts which could lower your overall premium. Some discount offerings include: Association membership discounts (for being a member of organizations such as AAA, AARP, alumni associations, wholesale clubs, military organizations, honor societies and more) Charity discounts (for donating to charities) Good student discounts (for being a high-achieving student) Safe driver discounts (for having no accidents or incidents in a certain amount of time) Security discounts (for having security systems on your home or business) 55 plus discounts Non-smoking home discounts Recent-purchaser discounts Multi-policy discounts Working with a company who offers several discounts that apply to you is a great way to ensure you are getting the most value out of your insurance policies. 7. Offerings: While some people just want an insurance agent they only hear from once a year while renewing their policy, others prefer their agent be a resource to help guide them through several aspects of insurance and business. For example, at Berry Insurance, we offer additional business resources to our commercial insurance clients such as access to online HR or risk services tools and free educational courses about the ins and outs of business insurance basics, and other topics such as writing a business plan, understanding financial statements, digital marketing, and more. Our owner Kaitlyn also helps many of our business clients with marketing consulting and business development. Some of our clients really value that about us and cite it as the reason they have stuck with us all these years. If this doesn’t matter to you, exclude it from your evaluation process, but if something like this is important to you, you might want to look for a small, independent agency that brings more to the table than your standard national brand or direct writer. Find your best insurance fit: Whether you prioritize convenience, experience, reputation, price, coverage, or a combination of all, you should be able to know what to keep in mind when evaluating your options. We don’t know everything about every provider, but we hope this information will help you be more equipped to research into insurance companies you are interested in working with. One provider we do know everything about is ourselves. If you think you might want to work with a small, independent agency, check out this article to evaluate if Berry Insurance or a similar independent agency could be a good fit for your insurance needs. The article specifically addresses commercial policies, but is full of information applicable to all types of policies and reviews several concerns about and benefits of working with a small, independent insurance agency.