Shopping for car insurance can be one of life’s more frustrating experiences. 

For one thing, different car insurance companies often produce hugely different quotes even if the policies you’re comparing are identical. That means comparison shopping is a crucial part of buying auto insurance policies. A wise shopper will compare at least four or five different insurance providers to make sure they’re getting a good deal. But going through a list of insurance companies one by one to compare car insurance quotes can take hours and may not get you accurate results. The quotes you receive may not be based on the same coverage levels, making one policy look more or less expensive than it truly is.

That’s where insurance comparison sites can be a significant help in your quest for affordable auto insurance coverage. Auto insurance comparison sites let you instantly compare quotes from multiple insurance providers. They provide accurate, personalized rates, discounts, and coverage options all on one site—rather like your favorite travel comparison site that gives you airline ticket or hotel room options all in a single page.

To provide an accurate list of options, these comparison sites ask you for basic information such as your postcode, occupation, vehicle make and model, and driving history. Such details allow the site to provide a realistic list of different insurance policies, options, and rates.


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A Note on Car Insurance in the Age of COVID-19

In early April 2020, the Insurance Bureau of Canada announced that member companies would begin to offer discounted insurance premiums to drivers. 

Canadian car insurance companies offering rebates, direct compensation, or other relief like flexible payments include Allstate Canada, Aviva Canada, CAA Insurance, Desjardins General Insurance, Gore Mutual Insurance, Intact Insurance, and TD Insurance.

Driving less? Need a policy with a lower premium or fewer accident benefits? If you’re not satisfied with the amount of relief your insurance provider is offering in light of the coronavirus pandemic, compare quotes online to see if you qualify for lower rates. Uninsured drivers will still be penalized for lack of coverage, even now. Find the right policy for you today. 

How Auto Quote Comparison Sites Work

There are two types of insurance comparison websites: quote comparison sites and lead generation sites. Auto quote comparison websites present users with rates based on information submitted during the shopping experience. You can then decide which quote to pursue, and the data you entered is transferred to the agent or company website, significantly shortening the purchasing process. These sites do not sell your information to insurance providers or agencies.

Unlike true quote comparison sites, lead generation sites simply sell your information to their advertising partners—typically insurance companies. These sites are not built to provide you with personalized quotes and are not much help when trying to compare car insurance premiums. Avoid these sites unless you’re eager to receive tons of cold calls from insurance phone banks and desperate agents.

Insurance comparison websites can be further broken down into sites that provide real-time insurance quotes and those that provide estimated ones. The benefit of the former is that you get a more reliable quote; if you follow up on an estimated quote, you could be in for a big disappointment.

Car Insurance Comparison Sites with Real Quotes

The following comparison websites offer Canadians real-time, accurate insurance quotes.

RateHub.ca

RateHub is a personal finance review and information website that launched about nine years ago. The site provides quotes for auto insurance as well as home, life, and travel insurance. You can also get rate comparisons on bank accounts, investment accounts, mortgages, and credit cards. RateHub has education centres for each type of financial product with information and tips on choosing and using these products wisely.

How it works: RateHub asks shoppers to answer a series of questions that it uses to produce real-time, accurate quotes. These questions are typical for quote comparison sites; the quoting tool wanted to know about my driving record (particularly past insurance claims), the type of vehicle I drove, my license type, postcode, etc.—all questions the tool needs to generate accurate quotes. The site required me to enter my full mailing address, phone number, and email address to proceed. It also required me to opt into text messages and/or phone calls but also allowed me to opt out of receiving future updates and news from RateHub.

Results: RateHub produced five quotes that ranged from $2,140 per year to $5,238 per year. I could adjust the comprehensive and collision deductibles and the third-party liability coverage level to generate new quotes, as well as tinker with the endorsements (optional coverages) included in the policies. In each case, a “View Details” link let me see more information about the company providing the quote. Most of the quotes came through insurance broker InsuranceHero.ca; the last was brokered by Begin Insurance. In each case, I needed to call the broker to proceed with getting the policy.

Kanetix.ca

Kanetix is a comparison site for various types of insurance, plus mortgage and credit card rates. It’s been around since 1999, is part of the Kanetix Ltd. family of companies, and offers car insurance quotes for drivers in Alberta, Ontario, or Quebec. Kanetix claims to check rates for over 50 different auto insurance providers.

How it works: Kanetix asks shoppers to answer a typical set of questions required to produce accurate quotes, including whether I wanted comprehensive coverage. It also asked if I was willing to have my driving habits tracked in exchange for a discount. The site did insist on having both my phone number and email address to proceed.

The questions were easy to answer, and the process was straightforward—I was able to submit my information and get personalized quotes in under five minutes.

Results: Kanetix produced 12 quotes that ranged from $2,143 per year to $5,233 per year. However, the site didn’t include any details about the policies that came with those quotes. The only option was to call Kanetix or (in a few cases) apply online. Calling in causes the call to be routed to the insurance provider through Kanetix’s “priority phone queue” (which presumably earns Kanetix a commission for sending you to the insurer). The page included a quote number and the option to log in later to retrieve the quote.

LowestRates.ca

LowestRates.ca is an online insurance comparison tool that generates real-time quotes from multiple insurance providers. The site provides quotes for auto and home insurance, as well as rates for mortgages and credit cards. There’s also a blog and knowledge centre with information on insurance and other financial topics.

How it works: LowestRates.ca’s shopping process asked me to enter the same general information that other auto comparison websites did. Entering the information was fast and straightforward. LowestRates.ca required me to enter a phone number and email address to proceed.

Results: LowestRates.ca produced 17 quotes ranging from $2,156 per year to $5,578 per year. The site allowed me to customize the deductibles for comprehensive and collision and liability insurance coverage, but I couldn’t make any other changes. Changing those three options did allow me to immediately bring up a new set of quotes, which was nice.

To get one of these policies, I had to call LowestRates.ca’s partner insurance company. The site provided no information on the quoted policies aside from the provider name and monthly and annual premiums.

InsuranceHotline

InsuranceHotline is another Kinetix company. This particular site, not surprisingly, focuses just on insurance quotes and information. InsuranceHotline launched in 1994 and provides quotes on auto, home, motorcycle, life, commercial, and travel insurance.

How it works: I had to answer a fairly typical set of questions, which included providing my phone number and email address. InsuranceHotline did let me opt-out of future communications from it, offering a chance to win a prize if I elected to opt-in instead.

Results: InsuranceHotline produced three quotes ranging from $1,917 per year to $3,779 per year—the top quote was from Kanetix.ca (another comparison site from the same family of companies). I was able to adjust my deductibles, coverage levels, and endorsements such as roadside assistance, but only by going back to the beginning of the questionnaire.

Lead Generation Sites

Unlike quote comparison sites, lead generation sites are paid when they send customers’ personal information to external agencies.

These sites often attract your interest with competitive rates, but then transfer you to a different site to continue shopping and complete your transaction, often at a far less attractive rate. This is because lead generation sites are paid to sell your information to an agency, not to present you with the best rates on car insurance.

You can sometimes get auto insurance quotes on lead generation sites, but expect them to be far less reliable than quotes from comparison sites. Using lead generation sites most likely means that you’ll end up wandering from one auto insurance website to another in pursuit of the best rate, which rather defeats the purpose of using a quote-generating site at all.

The easiest way to tell quote comparison sites from lead generation sites is the questions they ask. To give you an accurate quote, comparison sites need to collect quite a bit of information, including:

  1.  Your car’s make, model, and age (including whether it has winter tires).
  2. Your annual mileage, including the length of commute.
  3. How you use the car and where you store it at night.
  4. Your driving history, including how many years it’s been since you last had a car accident or driving infraction (needless to say, a good driving record earns you lower rates).
  5. Personal details for yourself and any other drivers on the policy, including name, age, postal code, and type of work.

Any site that asks for just one or two details, such as your phone number and postcode, is a lead generation site and is best avoided.

Comparing Car Insurance: FAQ

Are quote comparison sites better than buying directly from the insurance provider?

The biggest advantage of using a quote comparison site is that you can quickly and easily compare quotes from a number of different providers. Reaching out to insurance providers one by one to get a collection of quotes will take considerably longer. A good quote comparison site will lay out all the details about each policy so that you can be sure you know what you’re getting.

Why do I have to provide my address and other personal details?

Insurers use your address, driving history, make and model of the vehicle, and many other details to set your insurance premiums. Without this information, quote comparison sites can’t give you an accurate and reliable quote for insurance.

How long does it take to get a quote on a quote comparison site?

It takes less than 10 minutes to fill out the questionnaires on most quote comparison sites. Once you have your quotes in front of you, you’ll probably need a bit more time to compare the details on the cheapest quotes so that you can be sure you’re getting a policy that meets your needs. When you choose a policy, you’ll then proceed to the provider’s website in order to purchase it. The entire process typically takes less than an hour.

Conclusion: How to compare car insurance quotes online

Insurance experts suggest that you compare car insurance policies every time your current policy is up for renewal (typically every six months to a year). Before you launch your quote hunt, review your existing policy, and see if your needs have changed. For example, you may want to increase your comprehensive and collision coverage deductibles to reduce your car insurance rates, assuming you can afford to pay more upfront in case of an accident.

When you’ve worked out just what car insurance coverage you need, an insurance comparison site can help you find the best price for your desired policy. However, you’d be advised to stick to reputable comparison sites that give you real quotes rather than lead generation sites that will throw you on the mercy of cold-calling insurance agents.

Updated July 14, 2020

Wendy Connick is the founder and owner of Connick Financial Solutions, a provider of tax and bookkeeping services and a QuickBooks Online Certified ProAdvisor. A long-time freelance writer, she specializes in business and finance articles on subjects including taxes, investing, and retirement. Wendy is an Enrolled Agent (EA), the only federally licensed tax practitioners who specialize in taxation and have unlimited rights to represent taxpayers before the IRS. She is a member of the National Association of Enrolled Agents and a certified volunteer for VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance), an IRS-sponsored program to provide free tax help for low-income individuals and families.