Watchdog: Shopping around for car insurance

Shopping around for car insurance
7 Nov, 2012 10:00am Jon Morgan

Comparison sites promise big savings, but do they give you the best deal?

Everyone knows the only way to get a fair deal on your car insurance is to shop around. And 85 per cent of respondents to our Driver Power 2012 owner survey said they did exactly that when looking for cover.

What surprised us, though, is how many of those who searched for a cheaper deal didn’t manage to save any money. True, 72 per cent of Driver Power respondents cut their premiums by shopping around – but given the big savings comparison websites promise, we thought the proportion would be closer to 100 per cent.

So we decided to do some digging, getting quotes from comparison sites Confused.com, Comparethemarket.com and Gocompare.com, plus direct from big-name insurers Direct Line, LV and More Than, to see how much we could save.

We searched for quotes for a fictional married 38-year-old man living in Hertfordshire with 10 years’ no claims discount on a new Ford Focus 1.0-litre Zetec.

The comparison sites returned very similar quotes. Gocompare came up with £273.63 from an insurer called OneQuote Direct. Comparethemarket offered us £277.06 from Allianz and Confused offered £279.99, also from OneQuote Direct.

Most buyers will be looking for a brand they recognise and trust. And interestingly, Allianz was the only provider we’d heard of in the top 10 quotes from any of the comparison sites – although we wouldn’t necessarily consider it a major UK car insurer.

LV offered the best mix of this crucial trust and price. It was the cheapest big name on all three sites, coming 11th on Confused, 13th on Comparethemarket and 14th on Gocompare, with an identical £367.11 quote – and it would have been the insurer we’d have chosen had we been buying. Plus, LV beat the price quoted by the comparison sites when we called direct, offering a premium of £351.57.

More Than quoted us £844.11 and Direct Line £509.86. Neither of these insurers would negotiate, though, even when we said we’d found cheaper deals elsewhere.

So while the comparison sites offered us the lowest prices, most were from providers we hadn’t heard of and would be less likely to choose. LV was the lowest-priced brand we were familiar with, and its best deal was offered first time when we went direct – so it’s still worth giving companies a call.

That’s especially true when renewing your cover. One of the most common complaints in our Driver Power survey was insurers quoting high renewal prices, then dropping them when customers say they can find a better deal elsewhere. So while they’re not prepared to negotiate with new customers, you can be sure they will to keep existing customers – just be prepared to haggle each year to get the best rates.

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Anyone who's lucky enough to have a spare 70-odd quid to pay just for a brand name really needn't bother complaining about the cost of insurance. I have two cars insured through Allianz (formerly Cornhill Direct, I believe) - in both cases they were substantially cheaper than the next cheapest quote. Big name brands charge extra for unnecessary bells-and-whistles attached to your cover, whereas with Allianz I choose exactly what I need and pay for nothing more. And yes, I have had occasion to claim, for a broken windscreen, and the claim was dealt with quickly and efficiently, just as it should be.

Before renewal I always look around for comparative quotes and if my current provider's quote is not competitive (i.e., they don't reward loyalty) then I always move to another provider.

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