An insurance agent represents the insurance company and can enter into contractual obligations on the insurance company's behalf.
Insurance agents are licensed by each individual state. They must conform to the state requirements for licensing and in most cases participate in continuing education. Typically an insurance agents activities fall under the watchful eyes of the state Department of Insurance, or similar governing body, within the state where they hold a license. You'll find some agents specialize in commercial insurance products while others work primarily in personal lines insurance.
There are two broad categories in which agents fall:
Direct writers - Agents who are direct writers are actually employees of the insurance company. These agents represent only the services and kinds of products their employers offer. The key to direct writers is that they are EMPLOYEES. They represent only their insurance company. They do not work for their client, but represent their company to the client.
Independent Insurance Agents - Independent Agents work for independent insurance agencies. These agencies you will find represent more than one insurance company. Because of their association with more than one insurance company they are able to provide you with more coverage options and products. Typically the independent insurance agent represents his client, you, to the insurance company.
Which one is better? Well, that's up to you. Here's what you need to remember about insurance agents:
They either work for an insurance company or an insurance agency.
They are paid based on some form of commission.
They are trained in the skills of selling a product.