The Zebra.com – Critical Review of a “New” Source for Auto Insurance Quotes

I’ve seen commercials for Zebra a few times in the last month, so I decided to take a look. I am generally pessimistic about auto insurance comparisons, because:

1) every potential customer is unique, so generating reliable comparison estimates is not possible unless the comparison site asks you for a LOT of information (which gets annoying), and

2) to make an accurate determination about which coverage is best for a customer requires more than just a PRICE, it requires a thorough review of the policy terms.

Most comparison services get either one or both of these elements wrong.

So I went to TheZebra.com and entered some fake information that I am able to judge with some accuracy. Agnes Angryface drives a VW Jetta and lives in Alma, Michigan. I’m from the Alma area and I’ve owned a Jetta. So I can probably judge if the rates are reasonable and the search results make sense…

I did need to enter an email address and phone number in order to get the results, which was annoying. They promised not to spam, but in this era of no privacy, I am still not pleased. Who knows where that info goes after I enter it. Agnes Angryface, indeed.

Here are the results:

Well the prices look decent for the information I entered… so let’s see how much detail these quotes will provide. Here’s what happens when you click the “What’s Included” text.

Okay, well still not particularly useful, but I like how clearly presented the info is. The icons are nice, too. Below is a sampling of the auto insurers and their rates (only about 1/3 of the results). The first thing I notice is that the small, local carriers are listed.
Frankenmuth is a small German-American town east of Alma, MI. I like to see these carriers listed, and I like it a LOT. This fosters competition and shows that The Zebra did a thorough job locating potential carriers. Big Thumbs Up!

Incidentally, Frankenmuth is great fun for tourists because they have a Christmas theme 365 days a year, and the largest Christmas store in the world. If you haven’t been there you should totally check it out. Once-in-a-lifetime trip.

When you click “Details” under Liberty Mutual, here is the coverage information you get:

Okay, this is pretty good. This information is what you’d get from a local agent if you contacted one, or from an individual insurance company you contact online, and The Zebra search engine retrieved it for you more quickly.

However, what is missing is the exact policy language which can change these coverages entirely (see my complaint #2 above). The problem with insurance quotes is always that the exact policy language is not being reviewed before the quote is issued. Insurance policies are tricky and what you think you are buying may be completely illusory.

Another thing I did like, however, is that you can open the info from two insurers at once, to compare. Here’s an example:

Overall, the website is user-friendly and saves auto insurance shoppers a lot of time. I think this is definitely an improvement on previous comparison sites. However, I think The Zebra, like every other site, is phoning it in (i.e. being a bit lazy). My criticisms are these:

  1. Don’t force me to give you my email and telephone number. If you send me great rates I will happily tell the insurer that I found them through The Zebra. Create some other arrangement that doesn’t make me concerned about my privacy.
  2. While the data available for the major carriers like Liberty Mutual was mostly populated, the smaller carriers had unreasonably high rates listed and there was no data to back it up. I suspect those rates are incorrect. Do the job, Zebra, and get the information. You are so close.
  3. Still, no comparison site is looking at the policy language for red flags. Consumers don’t want to read policies and attempt to understand complex insurance lingo. If a comparison site would do that for them, and point out the clauses which invalidate or change the listed coverages, THEN we’d have some real competition and some much better prices for consumers. Bueller? Bueller?

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