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14 Mar 2020

Energy price comparison tips and tricks: we reveal the secrets you need to know

We explain how to get the best gas and electricity deal for you using price comparison services
Man and dog using a laptop to compare gas and elec

Have you ever been left with the nagging feeling that you could have got a better energy deal or chosen a firm with better service?

Price comparison websites are the most popular way to switch energy supplier, according to our research involving thousands of energy customers, plus most switchers found the process with them easy.

Following a few expert tips will help give you the peace of mind that you've found the best tariff or supplier for you.

And they're worth knowing about - our research revealed you could miss out on £50 of savings per year, or otherwise pick a supplier with poor service.

Whether you're using a price comparison website, autoswitching service or contacting an energy company directly, read on for tips on getting the best deal for you.

If you're ready to switch, compare gas and electricity prices using Which? Switch.

What you need to know about energy price comparison

Using a price comparison website saves you the hassle of checking the prices of tariffs with each energy company - you get a list of quotes upfront. It can then be as simple as picking one and signing up without even leaving the website.

But if you venture no further than the initial list of tariffs presented to you on one price comparison website, you risk missing out on £50 of savings per year.

Many price comparison websites' initial list of recommended tariffs doesn't typically include all available tariffs on the market. It usually won't show those that the website cannot switch you to directly.

This can make your life easier - you might not want the hassle of finding the best deal for you and then having to re-enter all your details on the company's site to sign up.

But it's something to bear in mind if you're on a quest for the very cheapest deal.

Price comparison websites also have exclusive deals with some energy firms. This means that a cheap deal from a company offered on one website may not be available via another.

'You have to select your own filters to see all available deals'

David Philips from Surrey discovered for himself some of things to beware of when shopping on comparison sites. He told us: 'I have used several energy price comparison websites and feel that not showing the whole of the market as the initial default is deceptive because it does not show the cheapest overall deal.

'It restricts choice to deals you can click directly onto, presumably involving commission to the site. You have to select your own filters to see all available deals.

'Recently I received an alert saying I could save £100 on energy, so I clicked through and switched to the best deal. But I realised I had only seen the default view on the price comparison website and might have got sucked into a deal that wasn't the best.

'So I checked the whole of the market and cancelled the first switch because it was not the best. Instead I switched to another firm.'

Why it's important to consider customer service too

Besides price, picking an energy firm whose service is up to scratch is important - especially if things go wrong.

Our annual survey of more than 8,000 energy customers reveals how suppliers compare on customer service, complaints, value for money and more.

Our comparison website Which? Switch shows our latest ratings alongside companies' prices so you can take them into account when you pick a firm.

See the best and worst energy companies for 2020, according to their customers.

Large modern house

Price comparison websites: the most popular way to switch energy supplier

More than half of those people who switched energy supplier used comparison websites*. They're much more popular than going direct to energy companies, and new autoswitching services have a long way to go to catch up.

Most popular ways to switch energy supplier

Perhaps it's no wonder they were also the method that switchers found easiest, according to our research. Some 87% said they found the process of switching using a price comparison website easy or very easy.

That compares with 85% finding the process via an energy company's website easy, but 69% finding switching easy when using an autoswitching service.

Ease of switching: methods compared

Find out whether an energy autoswitching service is right for you.

'Price comparison websites make assumptions'

Bob Williamson from Angus believes that 'price comparison websites make assumptions about the tariff you will go onto at the end of your fixed deal.

'But it was unexpected that, as a result, some of the major energy companies appear and it states that you will save money with them when in fact you would definitely be paying more. I would expect the price comparison website to compare against the current tariff and then the cheapest beyond that, but they don't.

'When I last switched, I went directly to the energy firm, as it wasn't switchable through the price comparison website.'

Top tips to find the best gas and electricity deal for you

When you next come to switch energy supplier, follow these simple tips to make sure you're happy with the company and tariff you pick.

It requires a little extra effort but will pay off in the benefits to your finances, your satisfaction with the company you choose, and your peace of mind.

  1. Always compare prices. Use more than one source, as different price comparison websites offer different deals, depending on their exclusive arrangements with energy firms.
  2. Enter your actual gas and electricity usage (in kWh). Don't rely on estimates, as these will result in less accurate quotes. You can find this on your latest bill or in your online account.
  3. Look at the 'whole of available market' view. You might need to click a link or change a filter to see this. Then you will see the cheapest deals (although you may have to go directly to a supplier to sign up).
  4. Check our latest energy supplier ratings, to make sure you don't sign up to a firm whose customers don't rate it.
  5. Carefully check any savings figures. Compare your current monthly payments against those promised by the new deal. If the new ones are higher, quoted savings won't materialise.

Read our step-by-step guide to switching energy supplier.

Which? energy research

Savings are based on a medium user (using Ofgem averages of 3,100kWh electricity and 12,000kWh gas per year), paying by direct debit, with paperless bills, in the east of England in December 2019. Prices were checked across five of the biggest price comparison websites, as well as whole of available market data provided by Energylinx.

*We conducted an online survey of 8,385 members of the UK general public in September 2019.