Consumers shopping online for financial products may not get the best deal if they rely on a single price comparison website, a consumer group has warned.
Which? Money checked three of the largest price comparison websites for the cost of insurance deals, loans and credit cards and found that the best price offered by the sites was different in most cases.
It added that people could sometimes also get a better deal by going directly to the product provider. The group looked at the cost of home insurance for contents worth £40,000 in a property in a medium-risk area where the customer had a five-year no claims discount on Gocompare.com, Confused.com and Moneysupermarket.com.
It found that the cheapest quotes ranged from £51 on Gocompare.com to £71 on Confused.com.
There was a similar variation for standard credit card rates, with Moneysupermarket.com offering the cheapest deal of 6.8 per cent APR, while Gocompare.com offered a best rate of 12.9 per cent APR.
The research found that in the case of a Bradford & Bingley home contents policy, the cover could be bought for £68 on the group’s own website, while it cost £72 through Moneysupermarket.com, £83 on Confused.com and £100 on Gocompare.com.
The group also found that it was difficult to make a true comparison as different websites asked different questions and showed different product features.
It added that in some cases it was necessary to visit insurers’ own websites to check details, such as the excess people would pay if they made a claim, while in other cases the cheapest policy offered did not provide a high level of coverage.
Martyn Hocking, editor of Which? Money, said: “With such an array of financial products to choose from, it can be tempting to turn to a price comparison site to do the legwork for you. But you might be very confused to find that different sites can give you vastly different quotes and often don’t give enough information for you to make an informed choice.
“You need to use two or three comparison sites and check directly with providers to get the best quote, and remember that cheapest isn’t always best – it’s a false economy if you don’t get enough cover for your needs or have to pay a huge excess if you claim.”
Hayley Parsons, chief executive officer of Gocompare.com, said: “There are various reasons why Which? may have found quotes differed from site to site.
“For example, some comparison sites don’t compare as many insurers or products as we do, therefore the search results would be different. It’s also worth pointing out that this research is nearly two months out of date and since then we’ve added even more insurers and products to our service and will be adding still more in the very near future.”
Stuart Glendinning, managing director of Moneysupermarket.com, said: “This is not a comprehensive report from Which? on price comparison sites.
“Accuracy is of paramount important to us. Our customer promise makes it clear that our aim is to compare more providers than any other site, to list every provider (and make clear which ones we don’t list and why), that the price you see is the price you pay and that you won’t get cheaper by going direct.
“As well as price we provide a huge amount of supporting information to help customers find the product that best meets their needs.”
Carlton Hood, chief executive of Confused.com, said: “All comparison sites work in slightly different ways and as such may differ in the results they provide.
“Confused.com, for example, provides customers with quotes not estimates which means the price you see is the price you pay. The questions we ask are designed to offer customers ‘real’ prices and not estimates - something which we pride ourselves on.”