Searching for the lowest quotes?
If you are looking for the very cheapest possible price for your car insurance, then like most motorists you will be looking for quotations on a price comparison site. Many people can in fact save a great deal of money, as well as time, in this way. However, to get the maximum savings it is usually best to get quotes from several sites, rather than just one. Most people just visit a single company because they believe: -If you are looking for the very cheapest possible price for your car insurance, then like most motorists you will be looking for quotations on a price comparison site. Many people can in fact save a great deal of money, as well as time, in this way. However, to get the maximum savings it is usually best to get quotes from several sites, rather than just one. Most people just visit a single company because they believe: -
- They all offer the same products at the same price - but this is not correct
- They vet the insurers, so those providing quotes can be trusted - but perhaps not
- They are completely impartial - but perhaps they are not
- All the car insurance companies in Britain are on their panels - but they are not
- They have many insurers on their panels, all of whom will provide a quote - but they don't
- They offer a free service - but they have to pay their bills somehow
- The lowest prices offer the best value - not necessarily
- All the policies and optional add-ons offer the same benefits - I'm afraid not
- The price they quote is the price I'll have to pay - not always
- It's cheaper than going straight to the insurer - sometimes yes, but sometimes no
- They provide instant quotes, online - some do, but some don't.
We have carried out extensive research with hundreds of quotes from the major price comparison sites (as well as some of the lesser known ones) and what we have found out is listed below: -
1) Do all price comparison sites provide the same policies, with the same premiums?
No. They all have individual agreements to carry the products of different insurers and brokers. Some of these are quite happy for their products to be offered by all and sundry, but some are more choosy. This means that the panel that each company invites quotes from will vary from one comparer to another.
In addition, each company negotiates it's own commission deal with each insurance provider. Depending on market forces, some of these deals may be more generous than others. So, the prices that are offered to the consumer for identical policies can vary, sometimes considerably.
Thirdly, insurance companies sometimes run special promotions. These may be limited to just a few, or even just one, comparison site. Usually, the only way of finding about this is to visit the site and get a quote.
Fourthly, many of them include different extras such as a courtesy car, legal representation, breakdown recovery etc in the package. At the quoted prices these often represent poor value for money and you may not need or want them, but they make it very difficult to compare like with like.
And finally, since certain large companies own both a comparison site and several insurers, they may feel it worth their while to offer their own products at a lower price.
So, to get the best deal, you may have to visit a lot of them rather than just one.
2) Do comparison sites vet the insurance companies whose products they carry?
No company that wants to stay in business will want to be associated with others companies with a bad reputation. In addition, all businesses which offer insurance products in the UK have to be regulated by the FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) which is very rigorous in trying to ensure that these firms operate in a trustworthy and honest way.
However, there is a difference between 'honest' and 'ethical'. An honest company makes sure that it sticks by the terms and conditions of any agreement it makes. An ethical firm makes sure that those terms and conditions benefit the consumer, and not the company.
There have been complaints, for instance, of a certain insurer (which is no longer owned by the same company) making a lot of money by cancelling policies and charging large cancellation fees because motorists who had bought policies didn't respond quickly enough to requests for confirmation of no-claims bonus entitlements. The fact that they could do this was clearly laid down in their policy documents; but very few people ever read them. Complaints were, however, routinely rejected because, technically, they had behaved 'honestly'.
So, yes, comparison sites will only work with honest and properly authorised businesses. However there are degrees of honesty. If in any doubt at all you should search online for reviews of any company you are thinking of dealing with, and judge them yourself.
3) Do they provide completely impartial results?
Insurers and comparison sites are often owned by the same companies, or are part of the same group. For example, Esure took control of gocompare.com in 2015; confused.com is part of the Admiral Group who run an insurer under their own name as well as elephant.co.uk, and Diamond, the female car insance specialist. Comparethemarket.com is controlled by the BGL group, who also own insurers Budget and Dial Direct. Moneysupermarket.com owns moneysavingexpert.com, which also offers price comparisons as well as consumer advice. So, the temptation must be there for them to favour their own products, even if they don't actually do so! There is no evidence, however, that any of this is to the detriment of the consumer. If they wished to promote their own products by cutting their prices a little, then that can only be a benefit to the motorist.
There may be bias, but if there is, it isn't necessarily a bad thing.
4) Do their panels contain all the insurance companies in Britain?
At the last count by the prestigious ABI there were more than 900 companies which are authorised to conduct general insurance business in the UK. Most price comparison sites claim a panel of around 100 insurers, which is a small fraction of the total number.
Don't believe all the advertising hype that you read.
5) If a comparison site has 140 insurers on it's panel, will I get 140 quotes?
Not according to our experiences. Fairly straightforward cases; ages 30-60, no accidents or claims, small family car - may have got 20-50 quotes altogether with the rest 'unable to offer a quotation' or words to that effect. Younger drivers, those with a claims history or motorists with expensive cars would have been lucky to get a dozen or so quotes.
Perhaps it's coincidental, but it seemed that the same companies were coming near the top of the listings, too. Were the rest includedjust to make up tthe numbers? Surely not.
Once again, marketing hype and reality clash.
6) Do comparison sites provide a free service?
Not at all. They usually receive a commission on sales - this is reported to be about £40 to £50 for each car insurance policy. Even if you don't buy straight off the site, but contact the insurand company direct, you are encouraged to gaive them a registration code. This means that not only can the insurer be granted access to the details you filled in on the application form, but they will also know where the sales lead came from so that they can pay any commissions due.
The comparison service may also make money by selling your details on to other insurers, provided that they have your permission to do so. Did you untick the box that specifically grants them this right? Did you read the terms and conditions? If you did, you're pretty unique.
Like any other broker, they receive part of your premium as a commission.
7) Is the lowest price the best value?
The cheapest basic premium isn't necessarily the lowest cost policy overall. Have you looked at the excess you'll have to pay? There is usually a compulsory one plus a voluntary one. Many people think that the voluntary one they selected is the amount they'll have to find, and it can come a shock when they realise that they have to find, say, £750 out of their own pocket for a claim, when they just remember offering £250 when they took the policy out. You also need to look at all the extras; bear in mind that most of the 'insurers' that offer quotes are actually just brokers (yes, they get paid a commission, as well as the owners of the comparison site) and some of them charge eye-watering sums if you cancel your policy, or even just change a minor detail, such as your expected mileage, or where you park your car. It is not at all unusual for an insurer to wave through an alteration without any extra premium, but for the broker to charge a hefty brokerage fee; I have even seen one as high as £125 for just changing a few details in a file.
As ever, you need to read the policy details before committing yourself to buying any insurance policy. Find out what you are, or are not, getting for your money and make sure that there are no extra charges that you're not aware of.
8) Do all insurers offer the same extras and benefits?
No, and this is something you have to be very careful about. For instance, if we consider the basic policy, are you covered for any vehicle that doesn't belong to you? If so, are there restrictions? Is EU travel covered, and if so, for how long? Are there maximim payouts? Does the policy contain any clauses that may restrict your cover, such as the types of road you can drive on, or the sort of hazardous areas you can or can't visit? If a courtesy car is provided, is it a guaranteed one, or as-available? How long will could you have it for? Under what circumstances will you get one (often you won't, if your car is a complete write-off)? Where can you drive it? If legal cover is included, is there a maximum sum? Will you cover you if you appeal against sentence? Can you pick your own legal representative? Will claiming on this portion of the policy affect your no-claims bonus? Will you have to pay an excess? I could go on, and on, but I think you'll have got the message.
Don't expect all policies to be the same. They are not, and again you should read the policy details thoroughly before agreeing to anything.
9) Is the price you see on a price comparison site the price you'll pay?
It should be, but often it's not. There are many factors that can affect a premium, over and above the routine ones that you answer on the proposal form. Some of these matter to only a very few insurers, and including them on the form could cause annoyance to applicants for whom the questions would be irrelevant. So, it does happen, that sometimes a motorist fills the form in, gets the quotes, finds that one is acceptable, contacts the insurer - and gets told, sorry, but the premium will be higher than the quote you were given because of some factor that you were never asked about. Can they do this? Yes, it's there in the terms and conditions that everyone has to agree to (but scarcely anyone reads) before the quotes are delivered.
Treat the quotes that are displayed as a guide only. They are usually accurate, but not always.
10) Does a price comparison service provides cheaper quotes than those that are supplied by the insurers' own websites?
They shouldn't. Most major price comparison companies wouldn't deal with insurers that undercut them regularly. Also, running a call centre is expensive and some insurers not only discourage potential customers from contacting them direct, but actually charge an extra £10 to £20 or so to those motorists that do so. Also, it is very difficult to tell just what the basic cost of a policy is anyway, since the ones you were offered on a price comparison service are very often completely different that the ones on the insurers' ones anyway.
However, there are times when you really should ring the isurers directly, if you are unsure about anything, or you want to ask for something that wasn't offered initially, such as a monthly payment option. Do bear in mind that many call centre staff have a degree of discretion about premiums and other terms of service, so you may be able to negotiate a premium reduction, or lower the quote by removing included extras, that you don't feel you need. If you have a reasonable risk profile (not too young or old, drive a reasonable car, no bad accident or conviction record, live in a 'non-blacked' postcode, etc, they will want you as a client so may be prepared to negotiate.
If your negotiating skills are good, and you don't mind spending a bit more time, it may be worth your while ringing insurers diect, after you have got a quote from them via a comparison service. If they try to charge you more, you can always say 'no'; they'll be unlikely to risk losing your business for the sake of a small-ish fee.
11) Don't price comparison sites provide instant, online quotes?
The big, heavily advertised ones certainly do. It can be annoying, though, to fill in a long quote form just to be met with a message at the end saying:
"Sorry but we can't provide any quotes at the moment. Please ring 1234 5678 9012 quoting Reference XYZABS and we'll tell you what we've found for you"
or something like that. Alternatively your phone will ring (assuming that you gave your correct number) and a salesman will offer you a policy at a price which may, or may not, be acceptable to you.
Companies that do this sort of thing are almost invariably either (a) smaller companies that cannot justify the overheads of running their own comparison service, (b) brokers with only a small number of insurers on their panel, or (c) lead gatherers who will sell your details to other companies. Can they do this? Of course, it's in their terms and conditions, which you accepted (but probably didn't read) after you'd filled their form in ...........
A large and well-run site will provide you with instant quotes. Perhaps not as many as you expected, but there should be at least half a dozen or so, right up to 50+. If you don't get them, be suspicious. They may well be a good company which will give you good advice and a fair quotation, but then again maybe they won't.
All price comparison sites are different. They can be very useful indeed in helping you to find cheaper car insurance, but none of them offer you evey possible policy, or anywhere like it. So, to get the best deal you can find, get quotes from as many of them as you can. It may cost you an hour or so of your time, but it could save you a great deal of money.