Personal Finance: Internet Investor

YOU ARE likely to get a nasty surprise when your motor insurance comes up for renewal. The industry is shouldering losses of pounds 1.2bn from last year. To keep costs down we must shop around - and the easiest way is online.

You may recall the upset caused in the motor insurance market 15 years ago with the launch of Direct Line's telephone-based motor insurance. Now it aims to take the high ground in cyberspace with the launch this week of motor, home and car breakdown insurance online. Direct Line claims its website will provide the most efficient "quote and buy" service in the market, aiming to offer the option of purchasing cover within two minutes.

It says customers will pay the same via the Net as they would over the telephone. However, Eagle Star Direct claims its Net customers may save as much as 15 per cent. AA Insurance and Norwich Union Direct offer 10 per cent discounts.

Both the AA and Screentrade use a panel of insurers. Screentrade will offer up to five premiums from different insurers and give you the option of retaining your details online for up to 30 days to try to vary the information to improve the price. The AA uses a panel of 20 insurance companies.

Direct Line: www.directline.com

Eagle Star Direct: www.eaglestardirect.co.uk

AA Insurance: www.theaa.co.uk

Norwich Union Direct: www.norwichuniondirect.co.uk/quote.

Screentrade: www.screentrade.co.uk

Robin can be reached at RobinAmlot@aol.com

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