Car insurance comparison sites: can you trust them?

Car insurance comparison sites
2 Apr, 2016 5:00pm Joe Finnerty

Follow our guide to getting the best cheap car insurance from price comparison websites

If lavishly produced TV ads for insurance comparison websites featuring meerkats, opera singers and break-dancing bodyguards prove anything, it’s that there’s big money to be made in the online insurance market. No wonder, when our Driver Power survey reveals that around 40 per cent of motorists looking for cheap car insurance head straight to those same websites.

Best car insurance providers

It’s a sad fact of life that insurance companies do little to reward loyalty, and sticking with your current insurance provider at renewal time can often prove costly. Whereas once you were faced with a time consuming ring-around of insurance companies and brokers in the quest for the best deal, the online comparison websites would have us believe they’re a one-stop solution - saving you money and time.

While that can certainly be true, it’s worth remembering to compare quotes between different online comparison websites too – you may be surprised at how much annual premiums can differ.

The independence of comparison websites has been questioned with some accused of having a conflict of interest, according to a recent report from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). For example, GoCompare is 50 per cent owned by Esure while Admiral has a stake in The FCA found no evidence that these insurers had profited from their involvement, but said the websites weren’t always making it easy for consumers to get the right policy.

That’s why Auto Express – with help from the British Insurance Brokers’ Association (BIBA) – has compiled this guide to navigating price comparison sites.

Key things to consider on comparison sites

Voluntary or compulsory excess?

To drive down the headline price and get ranked near the top of the site, insurers will add a high voluntary excess on top of the compulsory excess, irrespective of what details you’ve entered.  Make sure you check the excess before proceeding with the deal.

Is it the best deal?

Previously, comparison sites told insurers they could only offer their best deal on the sites, but a review by the Competition Commission has put a stop to this practice.  

Websites charge a fee to the insurers to appear on the site and cash in by getting successful concluded deals. This fee adds to the amount you pay so ringing the insurer could net you the same cover, but without the site fee added on.

Is it suitable for you?

Comparison sites cater for the average motorist, but if you don’t fit into this category you’re unlikely to see the best deals online. For example, if you’ve got a classic car, need driving abroad cover or have convictions on your licence, then trying a specialist insurer is the way to go.

• Click here to take part in the 2016 Driver Power survey

The devil is in the detail

Some sites make assumptions that can pump up your premium. The better sites ask all the necessary questions to return relevant deals, but if you’ve got modifications on the car or you’re not the main user, then the offers you see won’t be applicable.

Time is of the essence

If you find a suitable policy at a decent price you’ll want to take advantage of it. Check how long any deal is guaranteed for and if it’s guaranteed at all. Once you click through, be careful that the offer in front of you is the same as you’ve seen on the comparison websites, and unwanted extras haven’t been added on or the APR for instalments has risen.

Multicar policies

Comparison sites offer one-car deals, but bundling your motors together can score you a good discount under a multi-car policy offered by some of the big insurers when you call up. 

• Best and worst car dealers 2015

Can a broker help?

Not everyone signs up to comparison sites and so their best offers won’t show up – for example Direct Line or Aviva. Consider using a broker, too, as they can tailor a policy for you.

BIBA’s top tip

“It's not all about the headline price. Make sure the cover is right for you.”

What you've told us about price comparison sites

Auto Express readers have differing views on price comparison websites. Here's what they told us...

“I am wary of insurers’ renewal procedures. They are often much cheaper on comparisonsites than at renewal time.”

“I always check directly with the chosen provider as they always match the comparison site and usually better it.”

“Ideally, I’d prefer to order it by speaking to someone as searching and selecting categories can be a little uncertain sometimes.”

“You obtain a quote but then search elsewhere online, too. You come back to the original quote only to find it is no longer available and instead receive a higher quote for the same cover.”

“Beware of discounts online as they don’t always add up as they say.”

“Comparison sites saved me nearly 50 per cent from renewal quote.”

“I had to phone the insurer to get them to process it and they tried to charge me a higher price than it was advertised online.”

“The price difference from comparison site to comparison site for the same product was the strangest anomaly.”

Have you used a price comparison site? Tell us your experiences on Twitter, Facebook or in the comments section below... 

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