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Usually to decide on a company to go with and put your trust with, all you need is a good sense of judgment.

If you’re walking up to a parking lot with used cars scattered around and the sales guy immediately comes flying out of his office spewing some nonsense about the best deals in town wearing a 1960 plaid suit, you’ve probably judged the situation correctly and moved on to a different auto dealer.

But how can you make a decision on a bail bond company when most of the time you will only be speaking with them on the phone, emailing them, or faxing them? Here are some suggestions and five good questions to ask.

First, get someone on the phone. Amazingly enough, this is the easiest part with contacting a bail bonds company, because the bail bond companies know that answering the phone is the key to their success.

Now you’re on the phone with the agent and you want to quickly decide whether this is a company you want to work with. Meanwhile your loved one is in jail, you don’t have much time to interview every company you call, and you need some good questions to ask for making the best decision on which bail bond company to move forward with. Remember, you are going to entrust this company with getting your loved one out of jail and usually making a decision within a five min phone call.

  1. Is your bail company listed with BBB, what is your rating and where can I find the information?

    You will find that not all bail bondsmen are with the Better Business Bureau. Normally a company gets listed on the Better Business Bureau to appeal to the public. BBB is an organization created to protect the rights of consumers where consumers can satisfy their need for finding a trustworthy company. Here you can do research to find out if there are complaints about the company you are thinking about doing business with. Find out what their rating is and see if there are any major complaints about the bail company and make sure this all matches with what the agent on the phone is telling you. Obviously, if the bondsman is touting a AAA rating with the BBB and you look up the company and find out they’re not even a B rating, well then you can start questioning the values of this company.

  2. What percentage do you charge for a bail bond and why?

    A reputable, licensed bail company will usually charge 10%. If the bondsman you are on the phone with starts mentioning discounted bail at 5% and they are overselling this aspect of the deal, beware. If they are cutting corners here, they’re probably cutting corners in other important places as well. Think of it this way, do the good companies -- the ones you want to do business with -- heavily discount their services: NO! The great companies always have enough business because of integrity and therefore they don’t need to cut corners or discount their services and these are the ones you want to work with.

  3. Will you help me understand the bail bond process?

    The agent should reply with a quick, “Yes.” If the company knows their industry, they will understand that most of their potential clients will know nothing about the bail bond industry and therefore education is needed for a few reasons. One, to make the sale of course, and two, bail bonds companies need their clients to understand the process as much as possible, this helps when dealing with expectations throughout the entire process. The more the clients know and understand, the smoother the process will go and both the client and bail bond company benefit.

  4. Are you licensed?

    This is quite an obvious question but this wouldn’t be a great article if I didn’t put it in. Bail bondsmen are licensed by the California Department of Insurance. Go there. Check out the license status. Dealing with a bail bondsman that does not have a license is like getting a heart transplant from the local newspaper boy. Enough said.

  5. How fast can you get my friend (or family member) out of jail?

    Any bail bond company that gives you an exact time-frame for a defendant's release is probably giving you a line to close the deal. Bondsman can control when they get their portion of the release process complete, but they cannot control the jail system. Jails operate on a safety-first basis. Flow of people and processes is often slow and unpredictable at best. That said, an experienced bondsman should know the individual jails' normal processing times.

Well, that’s 5 questions to ask a Bail Bondsman. If you have any other great questions that can quickly qualify the bail bond company, please let us know. We will read them and maybe even change the article.

Last updated: 09/25/2013