Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ):
What is the difference between Independent Insurance Agents and other types of agents?

There is a difference where you buy your protection. Many people don't realize there are four sources for insurance:

  1. Captive Agents, who can sell you the insurance of only one company.

  2. Telephone Representatives, who can offer you the insurance of one company, and only on the telephone.

  3. Internet sites where you can fill out an application online and get an insurance quote without any help or direction from a qualified professional.

  4. Independent Insurance Agents, who represent an average of eight insurance companies, and research with these firms to find you the best combination of price, coverage, and service.

What are the benefits of an Independent Insurance Agent?

Your Independent Insurance Agent:

  • Is a licensed professional with strong customer and community ties.

  • Gives you excellent service and competitive prices because your agent can access the insurance coverage from more than one company.

  • Unlike other agents, is not beholden to any one company; thus, you don't need to change agencies as your insurance and service needs change.

  • Assists you when you have a claim, ensuring that you receive a prompt and fair settlement, whether it is your own insurance or a third party.

  • Is your consultant, working with you as you determine your needs.

  • Offers you a choice of insurance plans and programs.

  • Is a value-hunter who looks after your pocketbook in finding the best combination of price, coverage, and service.

  • Offers one-stop shopping for a full range of products - home, renters, auto, business, and life.

  • Will periodically review your coverage to keep up with your changing insurance needs.

  • Treats you like a person, not just another number.

  • Customer satisfaction is the key to an independent agent's livelihood. So, serving you is your independent agent's most important concern.

Why Sears & Associates?

  • Problems don't always happen during business hours. That's why you will never get a recording telling you the office is closed. You can always contact us, anytime, for assistance.

  • Because we represent so many companies, you are able to take advantage of the collective purchasing power of Sears & Associates.

  • Sears & Associates are brokers for all lines of commercial and personal insurance. Because we're independent and locally owned, we work for you, not for the corporate headquarters of some insurance company located somewhere else. We are a part of this community, our customers are also our neighbors and friends.

Who are some of your current clients?

Below is only a small listing of the types of businesses we insure:

  • Apartment Complexes

  • Art Galleries

  • Attorneys

  • Auto Body Shops

  • Auto Dismantlers

  • Auto Repair Shops

  • Auto Service

  • Bakeries

  • Banks

  • Bed & Breakfast Inns

  • Computer Stores

  • CPAs

  • Delis

  • Dry Cleaners

  • Dump Truck Operators

  • General Contractors

  • Golf & Country Clubs

  • Long Haul Truckers

  • Marinas

  • Mini-Markets

  • Not-For-Profit Organizations

  • Printers

  • Restaurants

  • Rock Quarries

  • Specialty Contractors

  • Taxi Cabs

  • Tennis Clubs

  • Tow Truck Operators

  • Tree Farms

  • Veterinarians

  • Video Stores

  • Wholesalers

  • Yacht Clubs

  • Water Companies

What is the process of buying insurance?

  1. The customer meets with an insurance agent or member of the agency staff and discusses their needs and responsibilities. The agent will help the customer decide on the most appropriate policy for their situation.

  2. The insurance agent or member of the agency staff completes an application containing information on the insured, which is then submitted to an insurance company for approval.

  3. The company, in turn, issues a quotation, which lists what is covered by insurance and what is not covered (exclusions), provided the insured complies with certain conditions outlined in the policy.

  4. The insurance agent is responsible for the collection of the premium, except when the premium is billed directly by the insurance company (this is called direct billing). The insurance agent receives a percentage of the premium (commission) as pay for his or her services. When the insurance agent is responsible for collecting the premium, the agent is responsible for forwarding the remaining premium to the insurance company.

How much auto insurance is enough?

Auto insurance blends several types of coverage into one policy. Typically, your policy will include some combination of comprehensive, collision, medical, liability and uninsured motorist coverage.

How much coverage you need depends on your specific situation. Liability pays for the bodily injury and property damage you cause to others if your car is involved in an accident. It also protects you from being wiped out financially if you are sued following an accident. The greater your assets, the more you stand to lose. If you have substantial financial resources, you may need liability coverage that exceeds the coverage that you'll get from an auto insurance policy. In that case, a Personal Umbrella can provide the extra liability protection you need.

Collision covers damage to your car from an accident. We can help you decide whether or not to carry collision coverage by balancing the cost of collision insurance with the value of your car. It might not be worth paying $200 a year for collision insurance on a car that's worth only $1,000. But if the car is worth $10,000, you probably want this coverage.

Comprehensive coverage pays for your car if it is stolen, vandalized or damaged in some way other than in a collision. Medical coverage provides for medical expenses to you and your passengers that are the result of an accident. The way you use your car may make a difference in the amount of medical coverage you need. For example, we might suggest more coverage for a parent who regularly takes a carload of kids to soccer practice than for a driver who expects to drive mostly alone.

Keep in mind that many states require certain minimum levels of coverage. We'd be happy to talk with you about these and other factors.

How much homeowner's insurance is enough?

The cost to rebuild your home is its replacement value. This can be very different from the estimated market value or actual purchase price. In most cases, it costs more to rebuild the home you own than to buy a new one. This is an important insight into why your Dwelling (Coverage A) limit is so important.

We'll work with you to estimate the replacement cost for your home and to adjust your policy limits from time to time as needed.

It is critical that you provide us with accurate, updated information about your home and contents. If your dwelling limit accurately reflects your home's true replacement cost, some companies will pay more than the limit if a covered loss is greater than the limit on your policy. Ask us if Home Replacement Guarantee or Extended Dwelling Coverage, is available in your state.

Once a review of your home and possessions indicates you are properly insured, it's a good idea to reexamine your coverages and limits from time to time, especially whenever you make additions or improvements.

How can I be sure I have enough coverage?

Here are some steps you can take to reduce the danger of being seriously underinsured:

  1. Call us. If you have questions or concerns about the limits in your policy, ask us to show you how those amounts were calculated. This will also give you an opportunity to make us aware of any overlooked information.

  2. Read your policy. Certain property, such as jewelry, and certain perils, such as earthquake or flood, is better insured separately. Knowing what is covered and for how much will help you insure properly. If there is anything in your policy you don't understand, contact your agent and ask for an explanation.

  3. At each annual renewal of your policy, you receive a new Policy Declarations page showing limits of coverage and optional coverages. Review this information. If you do any significant remodeling or add a family room, extra bedroom or bathroom, etc., tell us about these changes so your coverage limits can be adjusted to cover the improvement.

  4. Consider carefully whether your policy provides all the protection you need. Does it provide coverage for extra costs resulting from building code changes? Does it automatically increase coverage limits annually to keep pace with inflation? Does it provide additional funds if the cost of rebuilding your home exceeds the policy limits?

  5. Find out whether your insurance company will stand behind agreed upon repairs after a claim. Some companies are willing to put this guarantee in writing.

  6. Does your policy include replacement cost coverage for contents (clothing, furniture, appliances, and other personal property inside your home)? If not, you can add it by endorsement. The cost is small, the protection valuable. Replacement Cost Coverage pays for losses to your possessions at the cost of brand new items. Without this option, a covered loss to your personal possessions would be depreciated by their age and condition, reducing the size of your claim settlement.

  7. If you have an art collection, antique furniture, jewelry, or other valuable possessions, talk to your agent about supplemental coverages, such as fine arts or scheduled property endorsements, to adequately protect your investment in these items. The cost is modest for the extra protection, and often the deductible is waived.

  8. Consider whether you should have more coverage for personal property (contents) than your policy provides. Personal property coverage is usually 70% of the coverage limit for the structure. Your limit may be lower than 70%. Supplemental protection is available for a small additional premium.

  9. Prepare an inventory of personal property items, update it periodically, and keep it in a safe place outside your home, such as a safe deposit box at your bank. It will save you hours of time trying to list everything damaged or destroyed if you need to make a claim. It will also help ensure you don't forget some items. We can advise you on ways to simplify the job of preparing a personal property inventory such as videotaping each room with descriptive information on the sound track.

  10. Besides making sure you have enough protection to cover possible damage to your own home and contents, you should also evaluate your exposure to liability risks. These result from damage to the property of another, or injury to a person, not a member of your household, for which you can be responsible. In recent years it's become common for homeowners to be sued for injuries or damages to others, even when there is no evidence of negligence by the homeowner. The reality today is if you have any appreciable assets, you are exposed to the risk of being sued. Even if you ultimately prevail in court, your legal fees and the months or years of worry and uncertainty can be a terrible burden on you and your family.

  11. The Personal Liability coverage provided by your Homeowners Policy usually provides a limit of $100,000 or $300,000. We recommend increasing this protection with a personal umbrella policy. Not only will it increase your personal liability, but also your auto liability. Limits are available from $1 million to $10 million and beyond. The cost of this coverage is usually very reasonable.

Are there discounts available for my policies?

For auto insurance, there are several possible ways in which to save money on your annual premium:

  • Being a good driver
  • Being a good student
  • Driving a safe car
  • Having a homeowner's policy with the same company.

For homeowner's insurance, there are also several discounts:

  • Having a burglar alarm
  • Owning a newer home
  • Being claim-free in the past
  • Also insuring your vehicles with the same company.

Sears & Associates, Inc.