Internet Investor: Drive a hard bargain with car insurance

There is something about buying motor insurance which tends to bring out a reaction in many people remarkably similar to that occasioned by sitting in a dentist's chair with the drill being revved up next to them. If you really cannot face going to see a broker or an agent to sort out your insurance, you can always check out what is available on the web.

Using an on-line insurance provider, you can make your own insurance decisions when it suits you, a principle already accepted by the financial services industry in what marketing insiders call the Martini business model - customers increasingly want to do business "any time, any place, anywhere".

In theory at least, we may reasonably expect the savings thus made to be passed on to us in the shape of more competitive insurance quotations.

Several insurance providers and insurance brokers have websites which offer you a form to fill in. In return, they will, in most cases, email you an insurance quotation.

At present, a significantly small number of websites offer a full on- line service. In fact, there are only two: Eagle Star Direct, the on- line arm of an established telesales operation, and Screentrade, a new on-line insurance brokerage, quoting premiums from a range of insurers.

Eagle Star Direct was set up in 1989 and has had a presence on the web since 1995. It claims to offer savings of 15 per cent for people who pay via the website.

Screentrade Motor offers quotations from a panel of eight insurers: AGF, Bishopsgate, Folgate, GAN, ITT London & Edinburgh, Norwich Union, Royal & Sun Alliance, and Zurich. The site will offer home and contents cover in early 1998.

Screentrade also hopes to add more companies to its panel of insurers.

To insure a car through Screentrade, you access the site and complete the on-line form. Once you have filled in your details and submitted the form, the system returns a list of quotes from which you may make a selection. Alternatively, you can resubmit the form, altering the details in order to reduce the premiums offered by increasing the excess you are prepared to pay or by reducing the number of insured drivers.

If you need to exit Screentrade, you can return up to one week later and not have to re-enter your requirements, providing you have made a note of your session reference number.

This can be useful if you need to exit the website to check the details of your car, or your insurance policy, for example.

Both Eagle Star Direct and Screentrade will accept payment via credit or debit card. Cover takes effect once the card transaction is confirmed and your insurance documentation is mailed out the following working day.

Eagle Star Direct:

www.eaglestardirect.co.uk

Screentrade:

www.screentrade.com

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