In recent years comparison sites have become perhaps the most popular and obvious option for those trying to shave pounds off their car insurance bills. They promise to do all the hard work for you, scouring the market for the cheapest deals at the click of the mouse. But do they always deliver? It’s very tempting to sign right up for the policy at the top of the comparison site’s table, but here are a few things about these sites that you might not have considered.

Car Insurance Comparison

Not all comparison sites are equal – Have a brief look at who they compare, and how many. Will they share your details? How much do they save on average, and how is it calculated?

Think the best value rather than lowest price – The cheapest quote may leave you with scant cover and result in your paying out more in the future.

Check your quote – The ‘blanket’ approach means your comparison site quote could turn out too good to be true, verify it directly with the insurer.

Go direct as well – Insurers are bouncing back and focusing on rewarding customer loyalty with great value policies.

Hidden costs – We all know about assumption being the mother of all errors, well comparison sites make many assumptions about you in order to generate the quote as fast as possible and often, conveniently assume things about you as a driver that might not be close the fact.

Sponsored policies – Sponsorship deals between the comparison site and the insurer can result in a policy being pushed much harder and thus present unbiased results overall.

Get ready to be bombarded – Many of the companies will sell on your details to other companies for sales and marketing purposes, which may go someway towards explaining where all that junk mail started coming from? Check the details of your policy carefully.

Average savings claims – Rather dubious facts about average savings made and yet hide the details of how this figure arose in the *small print.

Low quote, but at what price?

The primary aim of a comparison site is to show you the lowest priced policy out there. So low, in fact, that you may be compromising your level of cover. When confronted with a rock-bottom price for this legal requirement it can be near impossible to resist signing up. Furthermore, with the vast number of options offered by the sites, you can (very) quickly grow bored of trying to interpret the reams of insurance speak and just plump for the name at the top of the list. Yes, you likely will be paying less for car insurance, but the chances are that you’ll also be getting less. Saving on your premiums comes down to value, the best price for a level of cover that’s appropriate for you.

Hidden Costs

Comparison sites sell themselves on their efficiency, on being the quickest at getting you the lowest quote. It sounds good, except one way of achieving ‘one-click click quotes is predicting or making assumptions about your personal details, your driving history and the type of policy you’re after. This means that unlike when you go direct to an insurer’s website, the quotes returned are not tailored to you. You could end up with a level of cover lower or higher than you set out to get, and the quote listed on the comparison site might mysteriously hike up a few (or more) pounds when the company in question learns more about you.

How many insurers are they really comparing?

Comparison sites may boast that they’ll be sifting through hundreds of insurers’ policies when you click their ‘compare’ button. But can you take this claim at face value? Do they really have that many insurers on their database? Well in some cases, it’s all smoke and mirrors. You may have trouble finding out who they’re comparing at all, and if you can find a list, it will usually include both direct dealers and brokers to make up that impressive sounding number.

While comparison sites will certainly save you from having to fill out your details on a hundred different web-forms, bear in mind that they typically won’t cover the whole market. To secure the best deal, it’s smart to check a number of different sites, and go direct to a few insurers. This is especially important as some big insurers shun comparison sites, claiming they can offer cheaper deals by cutting out the middle man. Some see comparison sites as unprofitable due to their users’ typical disloyalty, and prefer to focus on providing the best deals for valued customers who come to them direct.

Beware of sponsored policies

Many comparison sites are in the business of providing sponsored quotes. That means they hold a commercial agreement with certain providers to ‘push’ their policies a little harder than the others. In practice, this could mean the sponsored insurer’s quote might appear at the top of the table, leading unsuspecting consumers to sign up for a deal that may be far from the cheapest. You might also find yourself being contacted by a certain provider, as they’ve struck a deal with that comparison site where you so trustingly handed over your personal information.

So where are your personal details going?

Chances are that on entering your chosen comparison site you obediently input a range of contact details, information about your driving history and your car insurance renewal dates without hesitation. After all, they need your info to carry out their purpose. However, it might be worth sparing a thought as to where all your details will end up, if like most of us, you wish to keep your email from being snowed under with spam, and your phone calls marketing free.

While some sites do make a clear promise not to pass your info onto third parties, others employ crafty opt-out schemes, and with some, you’ll be left scouring pages of terms and conditions in font size four, simply to discover that your details will be spread liberally between hundreds of baying companies. Unless you want your phone to be ringing off the hook when you’re nearing renewal time, it’s smart to check out who’ll be getting your number before you enter it into that little box.

How much are you really saving?

You might’ve been lured to a particular comparison site due to big claims about how much money they’re routinely saving cash-strapped consumers. However, this will usually be based on an average of some sort, which could, in fact, have very little bearing on your individual case. They may also be a little shady about what information has actually been included to create the statistic, for instance, the size of the sample. However, on some sites you may fail to find any kind of information on average saving, in which case you could be wasting your time in typing in your details at all.