If you want to use a price comparison site to buy your home insurance, you have to be prepared to read some of the small print. It’s not as simple as going for the cheapest policy. Here are my tips for using price comparison sites for home insurance.
Price comparison sites
Millions of us use price comparison sites to compare insurance policies before we buy. It’s made comparing insurance much quicker and can save you money, but there is a danger that you may end up with the wrong insurance policy or with one that doesn’t do what you expected it to. In the past, I’ve bought my household insurance through a price comparison site and by using a broker (currently, it’s been arranged by a broker).
There are some key things you should look for if you’re buying a home insurance policy. Read my articles on Choosing contents insurance and Saving money on buildings insurance. These give you an idea of some of the clauses that are really important if you want to buy a decent policy that will give you the cover you need when you claim.
How price comparison sites are paid
It’s important to understand how price comparison sites are paid. They are generally paid a fee if you buy a product through them. Some may be paid if you click through to the provider’s website, but in most cases a sale has to be made before they’re paid.
- It’s in the price comparison sites’ interest that we switch to a new company every year. If you happily stayed with the same company year after year and renewed directly, they wouldn’t make any money. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t switch, but it is worth bearing in mind when you see lots of messages about the importance of switching.
- Some price comparison sites are owned by insurance companies. For example, Confused.com is owned by Admiral (which owns esure, elephant and Diamond) and Compare The Market is owned by the Budget Group.
SAVVY TIP: Not surprisingly, the price comparison sites that are owned by insurance companies say they don’t favour policies from the companies that own them.
Using price comparison sites for home insurance
I shopped around online and compared insurance policies on two of the big price comparison sites. Both came up with a range of policies from cheaper to more expensive than I’m currently paying: However:
- In all cases, the cheapest policies had quite high excess levels (much higher than the excess levels I’d typed in when I filled in the forms online).
- Some of the company names were unfamiliar. Without doing a bit of your own research about them, you may not know who’s behind them or what their reputation is for paying out claims.
- Insurance policy documents are often 20 pages. One I skim read was 40 pages (eek!). So, unless you’re prepared to check the details of policies that are selected for you and that appear at the top of the price comparison table, you still won’t actually know what cover you’re getting.
What to look for when using price comparison sites
Saving money on your insurance is well worth doing. And I’d definitely recommend shopping around for your policies as you’ll be able to make some real savings. However:
- When using price comparison sites for home insurance, be aware that the comparison site may well increase the excess. When I looked I said I wanted an excess of £100, but most policies carry a compulsory excess. In some cases this is higher than £100. The excess levels could be up to £250 each on the contents and buildings sections.
- You don’t want the cheapest policy — you want the one giving you the best value. The cheapest policies may not have the cover you need.
- Check the levels of cover for something called ‘trace and access’. This pays out for the cost of — for example —finding the source of leaking pipes in your kitchen and not just the cost of the damage. If, for example, you have to dig up your kitchen floor or rip out your units, that could cost a lot. You need at least £5,000 cover, preferably more.
- Check how much cover you have for alternative accommodation. If you have to move out of your home, it’s normally because a disaster has happened — it’s been flooded or damaged by fire. That can take many months to repair. Some policies have low limits (may be as low as £15,000 — certainly several have £25,000). If you’re out of your home for nine months, that won’t go very far.
- Check the excess levels for water damage/burst pipe — some have a much higher excess. A number of policies will have an excess of £100 to £250 for most claims but will impose an excess of up to £500 for water escape claims. Could you afford to pay the first part of the claim if your boiler leaked?
- heck how the policy pays out. Some policies give you the choice of a replacement, cash or vouchers to spend online or on the high street. Some will offer vouchers as a default option and you have to fight to get cash or a replacement if you have — for example — valuable jewellery.
SAVVY TIP: Do a keyword search of the policy document PDF if there are particular parts of the policy you want to check. I always do this for ‘alternative accommodation’ limits, trace and access and exclusions. Don’t just check the policy summary – make sure you read the document itself.
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