Mention cheap car insurance and we all think of price comparison sites. They let us compare numerous insurance offers at the same time and can save us a lot of time searching through many different sites.
Do remember, though, that they all charge a commission or other fees to the insurers that you buy from. They also usually only show offers from companies that pay them; there may be other cheaper offers elsewhere, but you won't see them if the insurers are not signed up on their panel.
In revenue terms, in 2021 Moneysupermarket is the biggest comparison site in the UK, and their group also includes Travelsupermarket and moneysavingexpert.com, which has Martin Lewis as chief editor. They tend to be adventurous with their marketing; some of their adverts have attracted record complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority but it doesn't seem to have harmed their sales in any way! In 2019 they made a profit of £116 million on a turnover of £388.4 million.
This price comparison website is a subsidiary of the BGL Group which started life in 1992 as the Budget Insurance Company. The group also own insurers Dial Direct and motorcyle insurance specialists Bennet. In 2009 they launched their advertising campaign featuring Alexander Orlov, a Russian meerkat, compaining about the similarity between 'comparethemarket.com' and his own site 'comparethemeercat.com' (yes it does exist!) and the ad became instantly popular with kids clamouring for meerkat toys. Not everything has been plain sailing though. In November of 2020 they were fined £17.9 million for allegedly breaking competition laws by banning insurers on their panel from offering lower prices elsewhere.
This site was the first car insurance comparison site in the UK when it was launched in 2001 by the Admiral group, which also owns the insurers Bell, Elephant, Diamond and Veygo. By 2001 in the face of heavy competition they slipped from the biggest to the fourth biggest, despite several changes of advertising techniques and numerous industry awards, and they have now been sold to RVU, the owners of Uswitch, in a deal reputed to be worth £500 million.
Gocompare was owned by the GoCo group which also owned voucher discount site myvouchercodes.co.uk, and energy switching site lookaftermybills.com. GoCo, which was partly owned by Esure, was set up in 2006. Go Compare concentrated on describing the actual features of insurance policies rather than just the price, which qualified them to join the prestigious British Insurance Brokers Association. In 2009 Welsh singer and actor Wynne Evans started featuring as Gio Compario, an Italian Tenor, which certainly attracted attention but was felt by many people to be the most irritating advertisement ever (they obviously hadn't watched the nonstop Meerkat ads!). The GoCo group was bought in early 2021 by Future PLC, a publisher of more than fifty magazines.
Back in 2000 the UK gas and electricity markets were deregulated, which meant that they could be bought from multiple sources, so Uswich was set up with a $4 million investment. A good investment too, since the company was sold six years later for over $350 million by a US company! The expected surge in gas and electricity provider switches didn't meet hopes however and it was sold again for $10.3 million. Ownership changed again in 2015 when Zoopla paid £160 million then it was bought again by RVU, who have now bought confused.com. Confused? So am I. However they now offer price comparisons for several services including insurance, energy, broadband, finance, and mobile phones.
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