Independent Insurance Agent vs. Insurance Broker: Key Differences Explained

Understanding how independent agents and brokers differ allows you to choose the right professional for your insurance needs. Here’s an overview of their distinct roles and services.

An independent insurance agent and an insurance broker serve similar functions – helping consumers find and purchase policies. But they operate under different business models. Learning the key differences between the two is crucial when selecting help buying coverage.

What is an Independent Insurance Agent?

An independent insurance agent is a licensed professional who sells insurance policies on behalf of insurers. Some key attributes include:

  • Works as a representative of insurance carriers
  • Can sell policies from multiple companies
  • Earns commissions from policy sales
  • Focuses on niche insurance products
  • Can directly bind coverage after application approval

Independent agents have contracts to sell policies from a range of insurance providers. This gives them the flexibility to offer consumers choices to find the right fit.

An independent agent acts as an intermediary between insurers and policyholders. Their primary role is selling insurance products to generate commissions.

What is an Insurance Broker?

An insurance broker is also licensed to sell insurance policies to consumers. But they operate under a different model:

  • Works independently as the client’s representative
  • Can source insurance quotes from any provider
  • Earns commissions from policy sales
  • Specializes in complex commercial and specialty insurance
  • Cannot directly bind coverage

The key distinction is brokers strictly represent the interests of insurance buyers, not insurers. They search the entire marketplace for the optimal policies based on the client’s needs.

Brokers focus on business clients and complex risks, leveraging connections to secure tailored coverage. They are not affiliated with any one insurer.

Key Differences Between Agents and Brokers

While agents and brokers both sell insurance, several factors set them apart:

Who They Work For

  • Independent agents act as sales representatives on behalf of insurance carriers. But they can sell policies from multiple companies.

  • Insurance brokers work solely on behalf of clients to find them the right coverage across any insurance company.

Types of Insurance Sold

  • Independent agents focus on common personal insurance like auto, home, life, health, and disability for individuals and families.

  • Insurance brokers specialize in commercial policies for businesses as well as complex specialty insurance.

Policy Authority

  • Independent agents are appointed with insurers, allowing them to directly quote, bind, and issue policies on their behalf.

  • Insurance brokers cannot directly bind coverage but act as intermediaries between clients and insurance providers.

Number of Insurers Represented

  • Independent agents typically represent between 3-10 insurance companies that they are appointed with.

  • Insurance brokers can shop and secure quotes across dozens or hundreds of insurers in the marketplace.

Revenue Model

  • Both independent agents and brokers earn money through commissions paid by insurance carriers on policies sold.

  • Brokers may also charge service fees to clients for the initial policy search and placement.


  • The primary role of an independent insurance agent is selling policies on behalf of insurance companies.

  • An insurance broker’s objective is finding the optimal coverage for clients across any provider.

When to Use an Independent Insurance Agent

There are certain situations where working with an independent insurance agent makes sense:

  • You want to purchase common policies like auto, homeowners, renters, or life insurance.

  • You value having an ongoing, long-term relationship with your local insurance advisor.

  • You prefer the simplicity of dealing with just one intermediary for multiple policies.

  • You know exactly what type and amount of insurance you need.

  • You want to quickly and easily bind coverage through a single application.

When to Use an Insurance Broker

Other scenarios are better suited for working with an insurance broker:

  • You need specialized commercial policies like E&O, D&O, or cyber liability.

  • Your business has complex risks that require tailored solutions.

  • You want quotes sourced across a wide range of insurance providers.

  • You need an expert advisor who will advocate for your best interests.

  • You expect to regularly make claims and want assistance handling them.

How Independent Agents and Brokers Are Compensated

There is no difference in how independent agents and brokers make money – both earn commissions from insurance providers based on policies sold. These commissions are built into premiums.

However, brokers may also charge service fees to clients for their assistance shopping for policies. Extra services like risk management advice or claims processing could also involve fees.

It’s important to ask upfront about any charges beyond the insurance premiums themselves. Both independent agents and brokers should disclose how they are compensated.

Finding the Right Insurance Professional

Start your search for an independent agent or broker by checking directories like Here you can match your needs with licensed professionals in your area.

Consider meeting with several advisors before deciding. Look for:

  • Expertise handling your type of insurance needs

  • Access to multiple reputable insurance carriers

  • Responsiveness in providing quotes

  • Dedication to finding you the right coverage

  • Proactive communication and follow-up

An independent insurance agent or broker acting as your advocate can simplify the process of securing protection. Understand how they differ to determine which option best serves your situation.

FAQs About Insurance Agents and Brokers

Can an independent agent also be a broker?

In some cases, an independent agent may be licensed as a broker as well. This allows them to source quotes from insurers they don’t have an appointment with already. But their primary role would still be that of an agent.

Do insurance brokers shop all companies?

Brokers have the capability to shop among hundreds of insurers to find competitive pricing. But in reality, they tend to build relationships with a smaller subset of carriers they trust to deliver quality coverage.

How do brokers make money from clients?

Insurance brokers earn commissions paid out by insurance companies they place business with. They may also charge service fees to clients, especially for specialized services like consulting.

Can both agents and brokers offer business insurance?

Yes, both independent agents and brokers can sell commercial insurance policies to businesses. However, brokers specialize in this type of complex coverage.

Are insurance brokers fiduciaries?

Brokers may have a fiduciary responsibility to act in the client’s best interest, depending on the state. Agents represent insurers, so they are not fiduciaries.

The Bottom Line

Independent insurance agents and brokers both aim to help consumers find appropriate coverage. But understanding who they work for and how they operate allows you to choose the right option to meet your needs. With the right insurance professional guiding you, finding protection can be smooth sailing.

What Is the Difference Between an Insurance Agent and a Broker?


Is independent agency a broker?

Key Takeaways Independent agents are insurance agents or brokers that are not employed by any specific insurance agency. Independent agents are, therefore, able to sell insurance policies from multiple companies, where they are paid on commission for each policy sold.

What is the main difference between agents and brokers?

The main difference between an agent and broker is the number of responsibilities they’re able to take on. A broker can do everything an agent can do, but they have the added responsibility of making sure all real estate transactions are lawful, all paperwork is accurately completed and all finances are accounted for.

What does being an independent agent mean?

An independent agent is a person that sells insurance products from various companies in the insurance industry. Independent agents and brokers don’t work for a specific insurer. Instead, independent agents work for an insurance agency.

What is the advantage of using an independent insurance agent?

Multiple quotes from different companies One of the best benefits to working with an independent insurance agency is having them shop for insurance quotes for you. With access to multiple companies, the independent insurance agent can check rates and coverage types with multiple companies at once.

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