The trouble with comparison sites

I’ve discovered an unfortunate rule of consumer finance: the best value is often from the chavviest, most embarassing, most insultingly infantile providers out there. Gritting my teeth, I checked out GoCompare for my car insurance, and it was instantly £30 cheaper with a far lower excess than the next-best quote from another comparison site … perhaps because it let me specify my situation in greater detail. I mean, surely it makes a difference that my vehicle’s kept overnight in a private street with an electronic gate and CCTV, but most sites only let you state whether it’s in your garage, on your driveway, or out on the street at the mercy of roaming lowlife.

Given thought, it’s hardly surprising: “chav” providers cater to the section of society that likes bargains best and is quickest to complain, so the sites that appeal to them have to be red hot. It’s a bit sad that the quality names – First Direct is an example; its fees and interest rates for everything from mortgages to share dealing are on the high side – can’t compete on price, when their customers tend to be higher income and less concerned about saving that last quid.

I’ve always thought “comparison sites” were a scandal waiting to happen – none of them actually offers a consumer service; they are paid referrers, arranging their listings in order of who pays them the most commission. (Nothing wrong with that.) But hey, they work. I’m sure I’m now in for a month of spam, but bringing down a first quote by nearly £1500 is worth a lot of junk mail.

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