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22 Aug 2018

Comparison sites failing to give a clear picture of car insurance cover

Incorrect policy information shown for six out of 10 policies

Comparison sites enable you to check dozens of quotes within minutes, but new Which? research found some users are being given unreliable information about car insurance policies.

In a mystery shopping exercise, we sought out quotations from 21 car insurance brands through four leading comparison websites - Compare the Market, Confused.com, Go Compare, and Moneysupermarket.com.

But for six out of ten policies, there was a discrepancy between information provided by the site and what was in the insurer's policy. Find out how accurate policy information on comparison sites is and how to find the best deal on car insurance.

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How accurate are comparison sites?

Where quotes were provided, we examined the information given by the site about the policy on offer - then clicked through to the insurance provider's website and cross-checked those details against the information there.

Of the 79 policy descriptions we analysed, 48 (61%) contained at least one discrepancy when compared with the wording in the insurer's policy booklet.

Apparent errors included:

  • Between Go Compare, Confused.com and Compare The Market, 10 instances where the comparison site claimed a courtesy car was available on a 'guaranteed' basis, while the policy document made no such guarantee.
  • With Compare The Market, claims about sunroof cover being included that weren't borne out by the policy wording
  • Unreliable descriptions of personal accident cover on Compare the Market and Go Compare - with the latter in one case appearing to overstate a provider's disability cover by £2,500
  • Among Compare The Market, Go Compare and Moneysupermarket.com, we identified similar cases about cover for loss and theft of keys.

How the different comparison sites performed

Different comparison sites offer varying degrees of detail about the policies available through them, which makes direct comparisons in the numbers of errors unfair.

Proportionally, of the points we were able to directly compare between comparison sites and policy documents, Compare the Market and Go Compare published more details that didn't match policy documents (13% each) than Confused.com (6%) and Moneysupermarket (5%).

However, Compare The Market and Go Compare publish significantly more policy information than the other two websites.

Locating the mistake

Our investigation identified contradicting information at various stages of the journey between browsing a comparison site and purchasing a policy.

Identifying at which of these stages incorrect information was given was less than clear cut, with comparison sites not the only sources of flawed information.

When we contacted Confused.com about one example, they told us they had confirmed the accuracy of the published details with the insurer in question. This suggests that the information the insurer had published was therefore inaccurate or out of date at the time we checked it.

Our researchers also discovered multiple discrepancies between information on the websites of some brokers - reached via the comparison sites - and the documents provided with the actual policies. With one broker, an astonishing 31 pieces of information given about a policy turned out to clash with the terms and conditions.

How to use comparison sites

Comparison sites aren't perfect - but their ability to instantly provide a wide range of quotes makes them an invaluable tool. Indeed, 85% of internet users have used a comparison site at least once, according to the Competition and Markets Authority.

That said, if you're shopping around for a new policy, it's worth following these tips:

  • Don't rely on the policy details published on price comparison sites. Comparison sites told us that they take measures to audit and verify policy information shown, but none denied that errors creep through. Make a list of the policy features that really matter to you, and be sure to double-check these on provider's website. If there's any ambiguity about the detail, ask the provider/broker directly.
  • Use more than one site.Don't put all of your eggs in one basket. Our research also found you may end up finding the same policy at a different price depending on the comparison site or broker used.
  • Watch out for assumptions and defaults.Make sure to filter outpre-ticked boxes and optional extras you may not want or need - as well as making sure you include the ones you do want.
  • Check the excess.Most car insurers have a fixed compulsory excess, but may, by default, add a voluntary excess on top of this. Voluntary excesses can reduce your premium but will increase the amount you pay if you need to claim. Make sure that the total excess applied to your policy is one that you're comfortable with.

You can find out more in our guide to finding the cheapest car insurance policy.If you're a Which? Money member, you can also see our reviews of all the major car insurance providers.

What the comparison sites said

In response to our findings, the comparison sites said the following:

Compare The Market said: “We work with our providers and check that the information provided is accurate. If we discover any discrepancies, this is promptly addressed.”

Confused.com said: “Insurance policy documents can be incredibly complex. We're constantly reviewing how policy information is displayed to our customers and value the feedback you've provided.”

GoCompare explained that it carries out “a series of checks, including verification by our insurance partners. We rely on partners to keep us updated with any changes. We'll be reviewing our processes to ensure the highest levels of accuracy.”

MoneySupermarket said: “All the insurance providers we work with have to provide MoneySupermarket with information on any changes to their level of cover. In addition, every car insurance brand that can quote on our site is audited on a regular basis. If we pick up any inaccuracies we then liaise with the insurance provider to clarify and resolve the issue to ensure there is no customer detriment.” They also told us: “The definition of extra features in policies can differ between providers. This can result in small differences in the information displayed. We are currently undertaking a full review to help with this issue.”