Getting a great deal
How to use price comparison sites effectively
By Joe Elvin
Article 2 of 3
How to use price comparison sites effectively
Use our expert tips to ensure you hunt down the best possible deal when using price comparison sites.
Using price comparison websites is a smart way to compare the financial products you have with the newer, better deals that might be out there. What's more, they can make switching simple and easy.
It's worth browsing these websites regularly, as sticking with the same insurance or savings-account provider year after year is likely to mean you don't get the best deal.
However, it's important to use price comparison sites wisely and be aware of their pitfalls before logging on. Otherwise, you could end up out of pocket.
Here are our top tips for using price comparison websites effectively.
Find out more: Which? Money Compare - hundreds of deals compared
1Don't use just one price comparison site
No single price comparison sites trawl the whole market for the very best financial products in every category. For this reason, it makes sense to use several before choosing which product to take out. We recommend running your search through a few sites and watching out for any differences between the results they throw up.
Some financial product providers choose not to be featured on any price comparison sites. For example, insurance policies from the likes of Direct Line and Aviva won't be included in any comparison site search results, even if they might be the most suitable deals for you.
To compare products from companies that don't subscribe to comparison sites, you'll have to get quotes from them individually. This shouldn't take more than a few minutes per firm, and could be well worth the effort.
Although it takes a little more time to use several comparison sites as well as looking at what 'standalone' companies have to offer, this is the best way to make sure you don't lose out on the best deal.
2Beware assumptions that could invalidate your insurance
Some price comparison websites will make assumptions about your circumstances when you visit them for a quote. In many cases these may be appropriate to your needs, but keep an eye on them, as some people will find the 'standard' situations used by comparison sites do not apply to them.
For example, if your home has a thatched roof or if you live on a flood plain, you may have to provide the website with this specific information when buying a home-insurance policy. If you forget or can't find a way to do so, you could be at risk of buying a policy you're not able to claim on.
If you've used a price comparison website and aren't completely confident that a certain deal is right for your circumstances, phone the product provider directly and ask it.
3Make sure the right boxes are ticked
Pre-ticked boxes often feature on price comparison websites. Ignoring them, or failing to amend what has been pre-selected for you, could have serious consequences.
It isn't unusual, for example, for a comparison site to assume that you do not have a criminal record and pre-tick a box stating that you have no convictions. If you have been convicted of an offence in the past and don't untick the box yourself, you could be left with an insurance policy that won't pay out when you need it to.
Likewise, some price comparison websites pre-tick boxes agreeing that customers will pay for financial products such as car insurance either annually (in one lump sum) or monthly (usually by direct debit).
Paying for insurance monthly is often the most expensive option, so you may want to avoid this if you can. On the other hand, not everyone will be able to afford to pay their entire insurance premium upfront, so be sure to check whether either option has been pre-selected - and to choose the one that suits you.
Find out more: Price comparison site pitfalls - flaws to be aware of
4Consider quality as well as cost
Finally, it's worth remembering that price comparison websites are set up to find customers the cheapest possible deals when it comes to products such as car and home insurance. This may mean you don't get the level of cover or the standard of customer service you would expect.
Quality is as important as cost, so it makes sense to focus on getting value for money - not the very cheapest deals - when you buy financial products. Low-cost insurance policies, for instance, are unlikely to include perks such as the provision of a replacement hire car should your vehicle be damaged in an accident. In a tight spot, you might appreciate benefits like this even if they cost a little more.
We've assessed dozens of car and home-insurance policies based on the quality of the cover as well as price. Our car insurance and home insurance reviews also rate insurers on a range of other important factors such as customer service, claims handling and transparency of charges, to ensure you find the best deal for you.
- Last updated: March 2016
- Updated by: Joe Elvin