Car insurance comparison sites can create problems

PUBLISHED: 12:52 11 October 2011

Car insurance comparison sites can create problems

Car insurance comparison sites can create problems

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Some providers don't play the game and refuse to be included. Money often changes hands between sites and providers in one form or another, which makes people cynical about the results.

Car insurance savings abound on comparison sites, but the sites also create problems says ADAM ATIKEN

CAR insurance comparison sites have an undeniable upside - they save you money, but there is also a series of potential downsides associated with their existence. If you believe the figures - and that’s a question in itself because they are often based on relatively small samples of people questionned - the savings you can glean from comparison sites are significant.

And in a market which is constantly rising above and beyond inflation, the opportunity to bring down car insurance bills is one which we would all, surely, be foolish to ignore. So it is hardly a surprise to find the number of people using such sites is increasing and their efforts are often being well rewarded.

According to some new research from one of the leading comparison sites, shopping around at renewal time, rather than sticking with your existing provider, can provide savings of, on average, nearly £350 per year-long policy.

Pete Harrison, car insurance expert at Moneysupermarket.com, said the figures showed the benefits of scouring the market and added: “The average saving to be made by searching the car insurance market online at MoneySupermarket is £348, certainly a welcome surprise to those who doubt the savings that can be made.”

Now there are some fairly well rehearsed arguments about the disadvantages of comparison sites. Some providers don’t play the game and refuse to be included. Money often changes hands between sites and providers in one form or another, which makes people cynical about the results. Many customers believe the best tactic is to use the sites to build a picture of costs and then get on the phone to do the actual haggling.

And, of course, there is the obvious problem of comparison sites being price-led, with customers failing to check or care about what the actual policy states and instead focussing only on price. They can then sometimes get tripped up when the unfortunate happens and they have to make a claim. And you can bet your bottom dollar that many of the best deals on comparison sites will have the worst renewal prices once year one has come to an end. But there is another factor to consider, simpler but less discussed and as worthy of note as the traditional gripes. And it centres on people who don’t use the sites at all. For every cheap deal found on a comparison site, there will be some way in which the provider will try to claw back the money saved by the customer. Some of that money invariably comes out of the pockets of people who don’t haggle their way through the market using these sites. They simply trust their provider to do the right thing when it comes to policy renewal. So if you don’t use the sites, and there are plenty of people in that position, then you may well end up getting stung.

So it’s a case of education, of knowing the best way to get the best deal and not being blindsided by the insurance providers.

For more personal-finance news and views, visit www.mymoney24.co.uk.

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