Shopping for car insurance can be one of life’s more frustrating experiences. Let us help you find the best policy and price by avoiding common online mistakes.
Different car insurance companies often produce very different quotes for the same person, even if the policies being compared are identical. This makes comparison shopping a crucial part of buying auto insurance; wise shoppers will compare at least four or five different insurance providers to make sure they are getting a good deal.
Auto insurance comparison websites, which let you instantly compare quotes from multiple insurance providers, can be a huge help in your quest for affordable car insurance. They provide accurate, personalized rates, discounts, and coverage options all on one site—much like your favorite travel comparison site that gives you airline ticket or hotel room options all on a single page.
In order to provide an accurate list of options, comparison sites ask you for basic information such as your zip code, occupation, vehicle make and model, and driving history. These details allow the site to provide an accurate list of different insurance policies, options and rates.
However, not all sites that claim to provide insurance quotes are the real thing
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, greatly shortening the purchasing process. These sites do not sell your information to insurance carriers or agencies.
Unlike 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 rates. 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 versus those that provide estimated ones. Estimated quotes are derived from historic data and are often out of date; to get the most accurate information you should use a site that provides real-time quotes generated by the insurance companies.
The following comparison sites offer real-time, accurate insurance quotes.
Insurify is a free insurance comparison website that provides real-time, accurate quotes from top insurance companies in the U.S. It is rated 4.8 out of 5 on ShopperApproved, where it has 735 user reviews.
The site offers a wide variety of carriers to choose from, an easy-to-use interface, and can effectively service drivers in all segments of the market. To-date it has delivered over 4 million insurance quotes from top providers such as The General, MetLife, and Liberty Mutual.
Insurify has been featured on Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, and CNET and is considered one of the top auto insurance comparison sites.
How it works: Insurify asks shoppers to answer a series of questions that it uses to produce real-time, accurate quotes. In addition to its mobile and desktop sites, the site also offers the ability to receive quotes and buy insurance via Facebook Messenger.
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: Insurify produced nine quotes, starting at $78/month, each with the option to contact the insurance company immediately or schedule a phone call for a later time. Some of the quotes included helpful information about the policy or the insurance company offering it. The site allowed me to change the coverage from the left hand sidebar, and it was easy to click on the different coverages and see the prices change in real time.
Clicking on the button to the right of each quote brought up a pop-up window with more details about the policy, payment information, and options to buy a policy via phone or Internet.
The site also included ads for certain insurance companies, and clicking the “check rate” button for the ad connected me directly to the insurance provider’s website. It’s easy to tell the ads from the quotes; the ads all say “ad” next to the company name and the button says “check rates” rather than “view deal.”
Insurify’s quote comparison tool was a great help in shopping for car insurance. I particularly liked how easy it was to compare rates based on a custom coverage level; with a few clicks, I could alter the parameters (say, by changing the liability coverage maximum or adding roadside assistance) and get a whole new basket of quotes instantly. Every year, Insurify also publishes a Best Car Insurance Companies list.
Compare.com is another online car insurance comparison tool that generates real-time quotes from multiple insurance providers. In addition to car insurance, Compare provides quotes for home, health, and small business insurance, as well as tools to help you choose car loans and mobile phone plans. The site is rated 4.5 out of 5 on eKomi, based 640 user reviews.
How it works: Compare’s shopping process asked me to enter the same general information that other auto comparison websites did. Entering the information was fairly straightforward. Most of the fields were drop-down menus or pre-filled based on information I had submitted on previous pages. The questions were detailed, including some about my current policy limits that required retrieving my insurance documents to answer. I did like that Compare asked if I was willing to accept paperless documents and/or e-signing
Results: Compare produced seven quotes ranging from $148 per month to $329 per month. The quotes were all from fairly obscure companies; I didn’t see any of the big-name providers. The site allowed me to customize coverage, but only by going back to the coverage selection part of the process—meaning that I had to wait for the quotes to re-load each time. It also didn’t allow as many customization options as Insurify. Only one of the quotes permitted online checkout; all the others required speaking on the phone with an agent. I did like that the quotes all let you choose between a pay-as-you-go policy (with a down payment) or a pay upfront policy (at a slight discount).
Unlike Insurify and Compare, some comparison sites only provide estimated quotes, based on aggregate information from your local division of insurance. Rates from these websites are based on what other drivers in your zip code with similar histories are paying for insurance, rather than real-time quotes from insurance companies.
The following sites fall into the estimated quotes category.
Nerdwallet.com is a well-known personal finance website that offers free comparison tools for car, health, and life insurance quotes. The site also has reviews of different insurance providers and numerous tips for picking the best policy. It is rated 4.5 out of 5, with 1,601 user reviews on ShopperApproved.
How it works: To get quotes, you’re required to sign up for a free Nerdwallet account. This includes signing a disclaimer giving Nerdwallet permission to pull reports from the credit reporting agencies and share your credit score and other information with its partner companies.
During the quoting process, Nerdwallet asked questions about my vehicle, driving, and insurance history. One question that stood out was the one asking how much I currently paid for auto insurance; I couldn’t see how that helped Nerdwallet come up with rates (although it no doubt helped the company with its future marketing efforts).
Results: Nerdwallet returned three quotes ranging from $154 per month to $315 per month and six “estimated rates” ranging from $153 per month to $330 per month, from mostly name-brand insurance carriers. Each quote/rate included a little information about the company, a company rating, and a summary of Nerdwallet’s review (accessed by clicking on the “view details” link). The quotes had a button to click in order to buy the policy over the phone, but only one quote offering the option to purchase online. The estimated rates included a button to click to access the company’s website and get an actual quote from them.
Nowhere in the process did Nerdwallet allow me to customize coverage options—I could only choose one of four pre-assembled packages. The selection process also made no mention of discounts—either how to qualify for them or which companies offered them.
The Zebra is another free auto insurance comparison website. The site’s name refers to its founders’ goal of presenting “insurance in black and white.” The Zebra has a few articles about choosing car insurance, a car insurance calculator, and some basic information about other types of insurance in addition to its quoting tool. It is rated 4.7 out of 5, and has 565 user reviews on ShopperApproved.
How it works: The quoting process was similar to that of other comparison websites, although it offered me the option of connecting my Google or Facebook account to speed up the process. After I entered the requested information, the Zebra announced that it had matched me up with nine possible discounts, although it warned that not every insurance company offered all of these discounts.
Results: The final page offered five quotes ranging from $141 per month to $215 per month, and three links to other websites that I could use to get additional quotes. Unlike the other comparison websites, the quotes weren’t in any order (the others sorted their results from smallest to largest). Each quote included a company rating, policy features and a button that would either take you to the company’s website or allow you to compare it with another company. A list of options on the left side of the page allowed me to check off the features that I wanted to include, and eliminated companies not offering those features.
The Zebra didn’t allow me to customize coverage preferences, forcing me to choose one of four pre-assembled packages. It also didn’t list which companies allowed which discounts, making their earlier list of pre-qualified discounts less useful. On the right side of the page, the site provided an “Insurability Score” listing the factors that insurance companies use to set rates and grading the information I’d provided during the quoting process, which could help drivers looking to improve their rates in the future.
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 generations sites are paid to sell your information to an agency or insurance company, not to present you with the 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.
DMV.org is a privately-owned site that helps drivers interact with their local Department of Motor Vehicles. This site is not an official government agency, but acts as a middleman between you and your local DMV; for example, a visitor may renew their vehicle registration or driver’s license on the site for an additional fee. The website is rated 4 out of 5, and has 5,830 user reviews on Trustpilot.
How it works: Each state page on the site offers information on required coverage, optional coverage, proof of insurance, vehicle registration, insurance plans, rates, and discounts. They also have an insurance quoting engine that works similarly to those on other lead generation sites.
Results: After working my way through the DMV.org quoting process, I discovered that they don’t actually provide car insurance quotes. Instead, they just provide you with links to other websites where you can get a quote. In my case, it gave me exactly two links: to Esurance and Allstate. Clicking a link to go to one of these websites required me to start all over with the quoting process, leaving me wondering why I’d bothered with DMV.org in the first place.
InsuranceQuotes is a free, online comparison tool that offers quoting processes for auto, life, health, homeowners, and other types of insurance. The site also has articles on insurance-related subjects and provides information on auto insurance by state, including average rates. It is is rated 1 out of 10, and has 9 user reviews on Resellerratings.
How it works: The quoting process asked me for the usual information, however. clicking the “get quotes” button required me to consent to a somewhat unnerving declaration that I would be called by up to eight insurance or partner companies, potentially including robocalls.
Results: I was led to a “quotes page” informing me that I had been matched with three insurance agents who would be contacting me shortly. The page listed the three companies (Nationwide, Allstate and Apliant) but provided no information about them, not even contact information.
NetQuote is a free, online insurance comparison tool that provides leads to insurance agents.
In addition to auto insurance, Netquote also offers quotes for health, home, renters, business, and life insurance. The site is rated 1 out of 5, and has 38 user reviews on ConsumerAffairs.
How it works: Once I entered my zip code the site launched its quoting process, which was completely identical to InsuranceQuote’s – leading me to suspect that the two sites belong to the same company.
NetQuote even asked me to agree to the same fine print agreement as InsuranceQuotes, which allowed eight or more insurance companies to contact me with offers and information.
Results: I was delivered to a results page that also looked identical to InsuranceQuote’s, although the agents who would be calling this time were from Nationwide, Allstate and Esurance.
QuoteWizard is another insurance lead generation site that sells leads to insurance agents and carriers. In addition to auto insurance, they also offer quotes for home, renters, health, and life insurance. The site also has a blog with articles about various insurance-related topics. QuoteWizard is rated 3.68 out of 5, and has 36 user reviews on BBB.org.
How it works: The auto insurance quote process opened by advertising “Cheapest rates from only $19/mo!” After answering the usual questions, I clicked the “Get My Quotes” button, thereby consenting to telemarketing calls, emails and other sales contacts, both human and robot.
Results: QuoteWizard dropped me on a page with a link to Geico’s website, announcing that it was my best match for an online quote. The link led to the start of Geico’s own quote generation tool. Needless to say, using QuoteWizard is a waste of time.
SmartFinancial’s home page boasts that it can get you rates from top-rated carriers in less than 3 minutes. The quote processing tool provides quotes for auto, home, health, and life insurance, among others. The site is rated 5 out of 5, with 1 user review on BBB.org
How it works: The quoting process did indeed move very quickly with the help of drop-down menus. After asking the usual questions, the tool asked for my email address while claiming, “no spam, ever.”
But before I clicked to view my quotes I noticed the fine print asking me to agree to allow, “marketing partners to contact you for marketing/telemarketing purposes at the number and address provided above…” So much for no spam.
Results: After a short wait, the quoting tool produced two quotes, for $299 per month and $971 per month, plus links to two other insurance sites. SmartFinancial allows you to narrow down the results further by selecting desired features such as local agents and low down payment, but given how limited the results were in the first place, that particular option isn’t much help.
Like Nerdwallet, ValuePenguin is a personal finance site dedicated to helping consumers make informed decisions about their credit cards, banking, investments, and insurance. The site offers quoting tools, in-depth financial product reviews, and analyses of industry trends.
How it works: ValuePenguin’s quoting tool is essentially nonexistent. The only thing it asked me for was my zip code.
Results: Once I typed in the requested zip code I was immediately taken to a page with links to four actual insurance quote comparison websites. Rather than create a quoting tool of its own, ValuePenguin has apparently chosen to guide visitors to other comparison websites. All in all, you’d be better off just skipping ValuePenguin and going straight to a site that will produce quotes for you.
Everquote actually has two websites. One is a typical lead generation insurance site with quoting tools for auto, home and life insurance. The other, Everquote Pro, is for insurance agents—it provides a way for agents to sign up to receive information about visitors to the site who use the quoting tools. Everquote is rated 1.5 out of 5, and has 80 user reviews on BBB.org.
How it works: Once I launched the quoting tool for auto insurance, I was greeted by a large-print brag that “Drivers Pay As Low As $29.32/Month for Car Insurance.” When I began filling in my vehicle information, the site offered to save me time by looking up the information for me—a frightening reminder of how much of our personal information is available online. The contact information fields were accompanied by text stating that “we respect your privacy” and “NO SPAM, privacy guaranteed.”
Everquote also provided checkboxes to opt out of receiving calls and emails from agents. However, under the “Show My Quotes” button, the usual legal boilerplate informed me that by clicking the above button I was providing express written consent to be contacted by Everquote and a whole laundry list of insurance companies and partners, whether or not my phone number was on the Do Not Call list.
Results: Once I submitted my information, the site produced one quote, along with six links to other insurance companies. “View my quote” buttons next to each quote took me to the beginning of the insurance website’s own quoting tool, making it clear that these were strictly hypothetical rates. Everquote provided a blurb of marketing text about two of the companies and no helpful information whatsoever to guide my decision.
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, many auto lenders will require you to have no more than a $500 deductible in comprehensive/collision coverage—but once you pay off your car loan, you can increase this deductible and save a considerable amount on your insurance premiums.
When you’ve worked out just what coverage you need, an auto insurance comparison site can be helpful in finding 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.
You may find that a few minutes spent on a site like Insurify will save you hundreds of dollars a year in insurance cost. Good luck!