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Iain Maciver: Price comparison sites can help separate the Vincents from the Alans

Getting good deals on car insurance can be tricky thanks to modern technology. Photo by Sychugina/Shutterstock
Getting good deals on car insurance can be tricky thanks to modern technology. Photo by Sychugina/Shutterstock

Getting insurance quotes for vehicles is such a lottery.

The quickest way to do it is online via a price comparison site. However, I am learning that may not be the cheapest way to get a quote from a particular company. More and more, insurers can be cheaper if you go direct to their websites.

A word of warning, though, watch the cookies. The quotation you get the first time may be the cheapest because, if you shop around and come back, you may find the price has shot up. Their websites use cookies so the insurer recognises that you did not accept their first quote, then went elsewhere and then came back.

They simply punish you for shopping around. That’s not how they explain it, of course, but that is the effect. Computer says no. So, if you do decide to return to an insurance website, or even an airline booking site, use a different browser – or wait at least 24 hours, after which such cookies usually expire.

Close up of Hand holding credit card and using laptop.
Shopping around can be more difficult thanks to data cookies. Photo by Kite_rin/Shutterstock

When new cookies or a different browser try, the dim-witted computer thinks you are a first-time customer and rolls out the best discounts for you. That tip may save you loads.

Are you old enough to remember Vincent Price, the gravel-voiced actor from the horror movies of 40 years ago? Let me tell you about him.

Vincent Price was taller than Katie Price and he was heavier than Alan Price. I found all that out on a price comparison website.

A confused but happy customer

Two weeks ago, I had to get an insurance quote for a van. Needing commercial insurance for work, my existing insurers, which were good value, said they didn’t do business cover anymore. Fair enough, I thought. Goodbye, your loss.

So, I went to a comparison site and the best commercial quote was from… my existing insurer. How on earth? I was

There are different kinds of vehicle insurance, depending on how you use your car or van. Photo by Shutterstock

I called back the insurer I thought I was quitting and waited for 20 minutes for an answer – because my call was important to them. I asked why they had refused me commercial cover half an hour before.

“Well, sir, we would only refuse you business cover if you called us direct. We still have business insurance contracts with some comparison sites, so it is still possible to get business vehicle cover that way.”

Why hadn’t they told me that? Because the sad truth was my call, and my insurance needs, were not important to them.

The call-taker could not find Tobson so, on that basis, she gave me a further low-risk discount as it ‘must be very small and very quiet’

Anyway, they were still the cheapest via the comparison thingummyjig so I’m a wee bit confused but a sort of happy customer again.

Many years ago, when I was a teenager at home in Tobson on Great Bernera, I phoned some company for a motor insurance quote. The call-taker could not find Tobson so, on that basis, she gave me a further low-risk discount as it “must be very small and very quiet”. Oh, absolutely.

The following weekend, I was messing about, misjudged a cattle grid, hit the post and wrote off my wee minivan. Luckily, I was fully, if very economically, covered thanks to the RAC road map or whatever the insurance company was using as the 1970s predecessor to Google Maps.

Cutting back on luxuries

Recent demands of the cost of living make it very difficult to go shopping with Mrs X. Last weekend, we were in the supermarket and I put a bottle of a certain Skye peaty whisky which almost rhymes with Alister in the trolley. Family birthday coming up, you know.

Snatching it back, Mrs X plonked it back on the shelf. Then she snapped: “No. You are not having any luxuries like a whisky that costs more than £20. No way.” She then carried on buying so-called essentials, like food and cleaning products. She even bought coconut shampoo. I think that’s a luxury. We don’t even have a coconut.

A wee while later, I noticed out of the corner of my eye that she had spotted a really expensive beauty cream she likes. She placed it in the trolley, under the fish fingers, thinking I hadn’t noticed.

I complained loudly: “I thought we were on a tight budget and buying only essential items, right?” Mrs X shrugged: “This product is essential. It makes me look beautiful.”

Oo-ooh, hark at her. I told her straight: “Listen, a ghràidh. When I drink enough of that whisky it also makes you look beautiful – and it’s less than the price of that flippin’ skin cream.”

Iain Maciver is a former broadcaster and news reporter from the Outer Hebrides

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