Insure on the Net within minutes

Online quotes and cover are big business.

Whatever you want to insure, whether its your car, house, holiday or life, you can do it online in just a few minutes. Insurance companies, brokers and internet portals are all competing for your business over the internet.

Whatever you want to insure, whether its your car, house, holiday or life, you can do it online in just a few minutes. Insurance companies, brokers and internet portals are all competing for your business over the internet.

Some sites allow you to set up instant cover online when buying with your credit card, and discounts for buying online are sometimes available, but not always.

Motor insurance is expected to be the most popular online insurance in future years, according to a survey by Forrester Research, published this summer. Buildings, contents and travel insurance are also expected to prove popular. But more complex forms of cover, such as life insurance, will take time to establish online.

To grasp the full scope of online insurance, try visiting financial services directory www.find.co.uk. You can access a huge number of sites set up by different providers, from AA to Zurich.

Direct Line prides itself in leading the pack of insurance companies selling its own products direct online. It has sold more than 100,000 motor, breakdown, household, travel and life insurance policies since September 1999, says marketing manager Justin Skinner.

The insurer sells travel and household insurance wholly electronically. "Most people buy travel insurance a couple of days before they shoot off, leaving little time for paperwork. We still post proposal confirmation forms for motor and life insurance. Until electronic signatures are widely acceptable, we will continue to do so."

Other insurance company sites which allow you to buy online include AA Insurance Services, CGU Life, Legal & General and Royal & SunAlliance. The AA offers instant quotes and immediate cover for motor insurance. Legal & General allows you to seek a quote online for household, life, health and pet insurance, but this is dispatched by post rather than calculated online. Lloyds TSB offers instant quotes and instant cover for household, motor and travel insurance online.

Disappointingly, few providers give discounts for online purchases. But some special offers are out there. Direct Line is offering 5 per cent discount on travel and household insurance bought online, but not for motor and life cover. The AA also offers 5 per cent discount for car insurance requested online, while Churchill offers 10 per cent discount on all online quotes.

Some of the most competitively priced cover is available from specialist insurers. Travel insurers Columbus Direct, Direct Travel and Journeywise can all seriously undercut cover sold by travel agents and tour operators. They also allow you to set up instant cover online.

An increasingly popular form of travel cover is annual multi-trip insurance. Direct Travel's website allows you to set up annual worldwide cover from just £45 per single adult, or £65 for a couple.

If you don't know which insurer is likely to offer the best insurance deal, broker and web portal sites allow you to compare quotes from different insurers.

Some sites ask you to register your details before a search, but online motor specialist Quote and Buy allows you to go straight to its quick-quote mechanism.

Broker sites differ in the range of services and cover on offer. Auto Direct and Quote and Buy sell only motor insurance online, while InsuranceWide and Screentrade sell household, motor and travel insurance.

More complex insurance such as life cover, critical illness cover and income protection are also available online. But understand what you are buying before taking the plunge. Direct Line sells life cover, as does CGU Life, which offers an online quote and immediate cover of up to £250,000. Some broker sites also offer life cover, including Ins-site, Term-Assurance Online and Simply Online.

Discounts may also be available on life and protection cover. Financial advisers Maddison Monetary Management sells a wide range of health protection online, including life assurance, critical illness cover and income protection insurance.

Director Andy Harris says selling over the internet cuts his costs which means he can reduce the commission he takes on sales by up to two-thirds, reducing premiums by 10 to 15 per cent.

Motor insurance sites AA Insurance Services: www.theaa.co.uk; Auto Direct: www.autodirectinsuranceservices.co.uk; Churchill: www.churchill.co.uk; Direct Line: www.directline.com; Quote and Buy: www.qandb.co.uk

Travel insurance Columbus Direct: www.columbusdirect.net; Direct Travel: www.direct-travel.co.uk; Insure and Go: www.insureandgo.com; Journeywise: www.journeywise.co.uk; Money extra: www.moneyextra-insurance.com

Household insurance Halifax Insurance: www.halifax.co.uk; Insurance-Wide: www.insurancewide.com; Prudential: www.pru.co.uk; RapidInsure: www.rapidinsure.co.uk; Screentrade: www.screentrade.co.uk

Life insurance Ins-site: www.ins-site.co.uk; CGU Life: www.cgulife.co.uk; Lloyds TSB: www.insuredirect.lloydstsb.com; Simply Online: www.simplyonlineltd.com; Term-Assurance Online: www.termassuranceonline.co.uk

Health protection BUPA: www.bupa.co.uk; Maddison Monetary Management: www.maddison.com; Medibroker: www.medibroker.co.uk; PPP healthcare: www.ppphealthcare.co.uk; XShealth: www.xshealth.co.uk

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