Car Insurance Comparison Websites: How Do They Make Money?

If you have been searching for car insurance quotes online, you will likely have landed on several car insurance comparison sites. It can be confusing navigating these sites to select the best insurance quote for you. We will help you understand how these sites compare and help you choose the best comparison site to fit your needs.

>>MORE: Car Insurance Comparison Websites, Explained

Marketplaces and Car Insurance Brokers

In general, there are two types of car insurance comparison sites: marketplaces and insurance brokers.

  • Marketplaces are sites that function as third parties connecting consumers and car insurance companies. Their goal is to be useful to consumers while maximizing their profits. These sites usually provide lots of useful content to help you understand the ins and outs of car insurance. They are not able to give you quotes, because they are not insurance companies and they don’t work for one. However, they usually try to connect you with as many insurance companies as possible. They will make money on each connection that they make. Examples of marketplace sites are BravoDollar, NerdWallet, ValuePenguin, Insurify, Compare.com, InsuranceQuotes, thezebra.com, and EverQuote, etc.
  • Car insurance brokers are broker websites who represent multiple insurance companies. In the old days, large car insurance brokers have many offices in different cities to service consumers. Nowadays, they service thousands of consumers via a website. Insurance brokers are able to provide you quotes and help you compare quotes, but only from companies that they represent. After you buy a car insurance policy from a broker, in most cases, they will service your policy as well. They will make money on each policy that they sell. Popular digital car insurance brokers are AnswerFinancial, Gabi, CoverHound, Goji, Cover.com, etc.

Marketplace and insurance broker sites have different goals and different ways to make money:

  • Marketplace sites try to connect you with as many insurance companies as possible since the more connections you make, the more money marketplace sites will make. You have to get quotes from these insurance companies separately and on your own.
  • Car insurance broker sites’ goals are to find you the best policy from the insurance companies that they work with. If you buy a policy, they will make money. They can help you compare quotes, but only from the insurance companies that they work with. The problem is that your best or cheapest quote might not be from the insurance companies that the broker works with.

How Can You Compare Car Insurance Quotes on These Marketplace Websites

In any marketplace website, you must complete the quote flow before you can be connected with insurance companies. After providing similar information about yourself, your vehicle(s), and your current car insurance, you will see a list of insurance companies that can provide you with coverage and want to compete for your business.

You can see your estimated quotes in some marketplaces such as thezebra, compare.com, and insurify. Remember that these are just the estimated quotes, your final quotes can be very different. You have to go on to the insurance companies’ websites to get the final quotes. On the other hand, you won’t see estimated quotes in others such as EverQuote, netQuote, and QuoteWizard.

Below are result screenshots from Insurify (with estimated quotes) and EverQuote (without estimated quotes).

You will notice that on marketplaces that display estimated quotes like Insurify, thezebra, and compare.com, you will never see estimated quotes from the top 4 car insurance companies: State Farm, Geico, Progressive, and AllState. These 4 companies disapprove the practice of displaying estimated quotes to consumers since they believe it is misleading to consumers if the quotes are not final.

Why Are Insurance Companies Not Willing to Provide Quotes on Marketplace Websites?

It boils down to 2 main reasons:

  • First, it is actually very expensive for carriers to provide you with an accurate quote. In order for them to provide you with an accurate quote, they have to obtain up to a 7-year driving history report, which costs from $15-$30 per report. They choose to spend this on consumers who have demonstrated a level of interest that demonstrates that they are interested in purchasing car insurance.
  • Secondly, insurance companies do not want to commoditize the industry. If their quotes are available on all marketplace websites, consumers are much more likely to choose companies based on price only.

And here is the results screen of EverQuote, without estimated quotes. EverQuote also provides an explanation why they don’t display rates, which is completely accurate. However, not displaying estimated rates enables them to work with the top 4 insurance companies. As you can see below, Progressive and Geico are the top 2 options out of 9. AllState is also included at #5. They are the top advertisers in the industry with an advertising budget of billions of dollar a year.

You might prefer comparing quotes before deciding on the final insurance companies, Insurify (and compare.com and the Zebra) will give you something to compare. Remember these are not your final quotes, which might be very different. However, your cheapest quotes might be from the companies that are not on Insurify and the likes.

On the other hand, EverQuote (and netQuote and QuoteWizard), will be able to connect you with these large companies with possible cheapest quotes for you, but they are not able to provide you with any quotes to compare. You have to decide which is more important to you: estimated quotes or large companies with possible cheapest quotes.

How do Marketplace Websites Make Money

Insurance Click Business Model:

In the result screen, if you click to visit the insurance companies’ websites, marketplace websites will get paid by the insurance companies. They get paid for each click that you choose.

Car insurance companies are realizing that consumers are increasingly shopping online. Therefore, several car insurance companies invest significant resources to build their digital business. Leading the pack are Geico, Progressive, and Esurance. These companies with significant strength in their digital operations usually prefer to buy “clicks” since they are confident that their great digital experience will win your trust and your business.

However, many carriers in auto insurance industry, especially the big ones like Progressive, Geico, State Farm, AllState, Amica, and Esurance, have collectively decided that they do not want to provide their quotes on any third-party websites. They only provide their quotes to consumers on either their websites or through their agents. So if you really want to compare quotes from multiple carriers, you have to get quotes from the websites or the agents of carriers of your choice. This is one of the main reasons why working with an insurance broker to compare quotes can be a good idea.

Insurance Lead Model

If you select Email and/or Phone options, after providing email and/or phone options, you will become a lead that marketplace websites monetize with car insurance agents or brokers or companies. Popular insurance lead buyers are captive agents of State Farm, AllState, and Farmers; or independent agents or brokers who represent several companies; or the insurance companies themselves like Geico or Progressive through their sales centers which mostly operates through phone.

If you read the Terms of Service carefully, you will see that by providing your email address and phone number, you allow marketplace websites to match you with up to 5 parties who are willing to buy your contact information. These parties will contact you by phone and/or email to win your business.

Final Thoughts

If you search on Google trying to compare car insurance quotes, it is very likely that you will land on one of the car insurance marketplace websites. These sites try to connect you with as many car insurance companies as possible since the more connections they make for you, the more money they earn. Connecting with several car insurance companies also helps you maximize your chances of savings, but it also requires more work on your end. If you work with an insurance broker you are limited to only the insurance providers they work with, but this narrows down your options and also the amount of legwork.

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