Price comparison sites How price comparison sites work

Woman typing on her laptop with calculator and bills

Price comparison sites are commonly used to compare financial products 

Price comparison sites are designed to do just what their name implies: compare the price of goods and services from a range of providers

This allows the consumer to make an informed decision about which provider to choose in order to save money.

What are comparison sites?

Price comparison sites exist for a whole host of consumer items, but the most well-known tend to specialise in financial products such as insurance, credit cards, personal loans, and gas and electricity tariffs. 

The appeal of comparison websites that specialise in products such as car, home and travel insurance is that they allow consumers to get quotes from a variety of insurance firms in a single stroke - thus avoiding the need to fill in multiple sets of forms and make enquiries about what's on offer from the market's vast array of insurers. 

The Which? comparison website, Money Compare, lets you search hundreds of deals from providers large and small in the credit card, mortgage and savings markets to choose a great deal based on quality of service, as well as cost and benefits.

Find out more: Which? Money Compare - hundreds of deals compared 

Using a price comparison website: the basics

Price comparison sites generally allow users to search for the products that might suit them via simple 'best buy' tables, or using quotation tools that require consumers to enter their preferences and some personal details before information about products can be revealed. 

Personal loans and credit cards, for example, can be quickly compared on screen - but the comparison of products such as car, home and travel insurance, which will be priced in accordance with individuals' circumstances, will call for consumers to fill in online forms about themselves and their needs.

When you're hunting on a comparison site for car insurance quotes, for instance, you should expect to be asked for information including your age, address and occupation - all of which can affect the cost of cover - before any results can be returned. 

Typically, it might take just 10-15 minutes to supply a price comparison website with the information necessary for it to supply you with dozens of quotations for financial products.

However, Which? research shows that using a price comparison website isn't always straightforward. 

Find out more: Tips for using price comparison websites - learn how to use price comparison sites effectively

Don't rely on a single price comparison site

It is vital to be aware that no two price comparison websites are likely to yield exactly the same results - even if you provide them with identical information. This is because they may provide quotations from different financial product providers and insurers, depending on which companies they have access to. 

Price comparison websites tend not to have a 'whole of market' focus, which means most sites will miss out some possible deals when providing you with quotations. 

For this reason, Which? Money experts would always advise against using a single price comparison site when trying to track down the best price you can find for a product such as insurance. 

Likewise there are certain issues you might encounter when using price comparison sites, which it's important to be aware of up front. These can affect the level of cover you receive when buying insurance, the excess you are expected to pay and could see your email inbox clogged up with marketing messages.

Find out more: Price comparison sites: what to watch out for - flaws to be aware of 

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Last updated:

March 2016

Updated by:

Joe Elvin

Which? Limited (registered in England and Wales number 00677665) is an Introducer Appointed Representative of Which? Financial Services Limited (registered in England and Wales number 07239342). Which? Financial Services Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FRN 527029). Which? Mortgage Advisers and Which? Money Compare are trading names of Which? Financial Services Limited. Registered office: 2 Marylebone Road, London NW1 4DF.