How credible are car insurance reviews on review sites and what should you believe?
It's a big question because as consumers in today's busy world we are looking for credible feedback from previous customers to aid us in making an informed choice as quickly and reliably as possible. So when it comes to choosing insurance, whether that be car insurance or any other type, we want to know that the online reviews we read are credible and transparent. This issue spans much further than insurance as well, it really covers the whole online internet when we consider the review credibility issue.
The trouble lies in the fact that many review sites are not very well monitored and allow 'guests' to post on the sites or even people that can just set up a random email address and profile and post a false review - unfortunately it would be a very elaborate operation to monitor and analyse customer feedback.
However in the research below we will see how erroneous and unsubstantiated reviews for car insurance companies can be. The conclusion of which leads is to the fact that to be able to rely on a good review from a customer in this writer's opinion you will have to consult a more 'officiated' site where reviews are what they say they are. A good example of such a site is: Which.co.uk or to just compare car insurance policies on one of the biggest comparison sites such as Confused.com and opt for the cheapest policy.
Let's re-inforce this outlook by taking a look at some of less monitored consumer review sites out there regarding car insurance:
So here I have picked a few random reviews from the reviewcentre.com car insurance section:
www.carinsurancemegastore.co.uk Not only was they the cheapest by far, they showed prices from pretty much every company that i had searched idividualy.
I unfortunatley had to make a claim because my wife opened the car door on a post causing minor damage .. the car insurance megastore was so helpfull aranging the claim i had a replacement car within 4 hrs and my car was back on the drive 3 days later and i could not tell a scrap of difference to the original paint or door.... amazing
i realy feel ive found a perfect insurer afer nearly 50 yrs of driving never have i had such a good price nor have a ever recieved such excellent service in the most profesional manor
In example 1 we see an unrealistic consumer review that sounds very much like a television advert. Over praising and too many generic benefits are focused on for this to seem like a realistic and genuine consumer review, I smell a rat.
After a nightmare with the online broker I used last year (not the insurer) I shopped around for a good policy that combined cost and benefits. I don't automatically go for the lowest quote as that often misses out key benefits such as protected no claims and/or a higher excess. The Royal and Sun Alliance brand www.morethan.com proved to be an excellent experience and very professional. As listed above the policy benefits showed great 'bang for buck' and I included European breakdown cover, courtesy car, legal expenses cover, and accident insurance for £422 for my car (Comprehensive) on direct debit. No other quotation came near the benefits and any cheaper quote (not many) had a significantly higher excess and none of these policy benefits. Any extra queries by phone proved an excellent experience and the 0800 contact numbers (not just sales bit also claims and customer service contact numbers). You can even request a personal contact at RSA to manage your policy regardless of your level of business with them.
I found the online aspects easy to use and they were very prompt in issuing the documents in advance of the renewal date.
Example 2 also shows an exaggerated review hitting home on too many benefits in an attempt to place a company on a pedestal. An overly passionate review that no consumer would be likely to write. The writer mentions too many intriciate points about his or her insurance policy as opposed to touching on possibly one fine point that made him/her write the review in the first place. This almost perfect review for morethan.com smells very fishy.
For those companies that have hundreds of reviews you can generally assume that some of those reviews are bound to be credible but the question is which ones and how many compared to the potentially fake ones. There's no way of telling.
It brings me to the point that any one can create an email address, give false details and create a review (so even those reviewers that are not classed as guests on reviewcentre.com could still be giving false reviews. Car insurance companies could even pay people to write these reviews or even write poor reviews about competitors. Who know's what to trust? My general advice is be cautious about swallowing any review information you read from review sites.)
So for a second, let's take the majority of reviews to be credible on review centre, let's take a look at which car insurers receive consistently good feedback and those that receive below standard. (review count as of 19th November 2012)(It's important to remember that some of these maybe comparison sites and not direct insurers)
Top 5 on Review Centre
- Hastings Direct- Number of reviews: 4376 reviews, Average rating: 4/5
- One Call - Number of reviews: 3390 reviews, Average rating: 3.5/5
- Confused.com - Number of reviews: 883 reviews, Average rating: 4.5/5
- 2Gether - Number of reviews: 439 reviews, Average rating: 4.5/5
- SureTerm - Number of reviews: 208 reviews, Average rating: 3.3/5
- Liverpool Victoria - Number of reviews: 100 reviews, Average rating: 2.5/5
- Elephant - Number of reviews: 204 reviews, Average rating: 1.7/5
- Adrian Flux - Number of reviews: 364 reviews, Average rating: 2.3/5
- RAC - Number of reviews: 117 reviews, Average rating: 1.5/5
- Saga - Number of reviews: 108 reviews, Average rating: 1.5/5
- Privilege - Number of reviews: 61 reviews, Average rating: 1.2/5
- Admiral - Number of reviews: 201 reviews, Average rating: 1.5/5
- Post Office - Number of reviews: 135 reviews, Average rating: 1.3/5
- Esure - Number of reviews: 181 reviews, Average rating: 1.5/5
- Diamond - Number of reviews: 140 reviews, Average rating: 1.5/5
- AA - Number of reviews: 111 reviews, Average rating: 1.5/5
- Swinton - Number of reviews: 232 reviews, Average rating: 1.2/ 5
- Bell - Number of reviews: 70 reviews, Average rating: 1.6/5
- MoreThan - Number of reviews: 258 reviews, Average rating: 1.2/5
- HSBC - Number of reviews: 39 reviews, Average rating: 1/5
- Virgin - Number of reviews: 29 reviews, Average rating: 1/5
- Aviva - Number of reviews: 158 reviews, Average rating: 1.2/5
Given the above scores for most car insurance companies, consumers are likely to write reviews more when they experience a poor service than when they get a good service from a company. It's the classic scenario that when things are going swell people remain quiet! Therefore this represents another potential inaccuracy of review sites.
Bearing the above point in mind, when I then come across a car insurer who has 4 out of 5 stars after over 100 reviews there surely must have been some tampering with the results.
I think one of the biggest talking points from the above results is the fact that One Call Car Insurance has well over 10 times the amount of reviews that most other insurers have receiving a whopping 3390 reviews as of the 19th November 2012. Only Hasting's have more than them who I will get to in a minute. Several questions are raised by this surprising figure:
- Can all these be credible?
- Are One Call Car Insurance so good that they have achieved a rating of 4/5 after well over one thounsand votes?
- One Call Car Insurance are by no means the biggest insurance company out there so regardless of how good their service is why do they have far more reviews than companies such as Admiral, HSBC, Aviva and Hastings?
Reading the reviews on One Call Car Insurance some interesting and all too common names were used. Now going off my own experience if I am writing a review online about any company I have dealt with, whether positive or negative I would always refrain from name dropping as this is something you just wouldn't naturally do. Yet on many of the reviews for One Call Car Insurance the names 'Carl Drury' and 'Daniel Walling' are used too regularly. It has a feeling to me that the review count has been falsely padded out. I couldn't see why so many customers would name drop in reviews on only one car insurance company and not on any others.
This point alone proves that being cautious towards what information you believe in reviews is very wise if your looking for a good car insurer online.
Here are some examples of such reviews:
I had to call Customer Services at One Call Insurance to make an address change to my car insurance policy and spoke to Carl Drury. Carl was very helpful, fair and informative and I would recommend his and the services of One Call Insurance. It is my intention to renew with One Call when my current policy expires, mainly due to the helpfulness of Carl. Thank you.
I recieved a very high level of customer service from the advisor by the name of Daniel, he was very polite freindly & very helpful in finding me the cheapest & best quote for me, he was very profesional & not at all pushy with getting me to renew like other companies do. Highly recommend this adisor keep up the good work.
It begs the question that if review sites like reviewcentre.com are not being properly monitored for potential review spam or false reviews, what actual good are they? It will be interesting to see what else I can dig up on other reviews sites associated to insurance.
Hasting's is another interesting company. Having luckily counted their reviews back in November 2010 they had a total of 307 reviews and an average rating of 1/5 stars. Within the space of two years over 4,000 extra customers have taken it upon themselves to visit ReviewCentre.com and give the company a 4 or 5 out of 5 stars. That is a hell of a lot of ratings to collect in the space of 2 years and a big score gap to fill. I wouldn't trust these reviews without an independent consumer body validating them first.
The next site in the pecking order to take a look at is Ciao.co.uk to see if they had any better filtering policies for fake reviews. The most obvious factor that stood out on Ciao.co.uk compared to reviewcentre.co.uk was that reviewer's were much more generous in their ratings of companies.
So let's take a look at ciao's car insurance results as of the 19th November 2012. (any company with a review count less than 10 has not been mentioned)
- WarrantyDirect.co.uk - Number of reviews: 154 reviews, Average rating: 4/5
- Tesco Insurance - Number of reviews: 68 reviews, Average rating: 4/5
- Churchill - Number of reviews: 47 reviews, Average rating: 3.5/5
- Eagle Star - Number of reviews: 26 reviews, Average rating: 4/5
- CIS - Number of reviews: 27 reviews, Average rating: 3.5/5
- Abbey National - Number of reviews: 11 reviews, Average rating: 4/5
- Egg Insurance - Number of reviews: 11 reviews, Average rating: 4/5
- Direct Line - Number of reviews: 102 reviews, Average rating: 3.5/5
- Elephant - Number of reviews: 54 reviews, Average rating: 3/5
- Warranty Wise - Number of reviews: 70 reviews, Average rating: 4/5
- Admiral - Number of reviews: 32 reviews, Average rating: 3.5/5
- Bell Direct - Number of reviews: 12 reviews, Average rating: 3.5/5
- Esure.com - Number of reviews: 26 reviews, Average rating: 2.5/5
- AA - Number of reviews: 24 reviews, Average rating: 3/5
- Endsleigh - Number of reviews: 39 reviews, Average rating: 3/5
- Norwich Union Direct - Number of reviews: 62 reviews, Average rating: 3/5
- Kwik Fit Insurance - Number of reviews: 17 reviews, Average rating: 3/5
- Diamond - Number of reviews: 38 reviews, Average rating: 3/5
- Adrian Flux - Number of reviews: 31 reviews, Average rating: 2.5/5
- Privilege Insurance - Number of reviews: 18 reviews, Average rating: 2.5/5
- Hastings Direct - Number of reviews: 30 reviews, Average rating: 2 /5
- Helphire - Number of reviews: 11 reviews, Average rating: 2.5/5
- Swinton Insurance - Number of reviews: 22 reviews, Average rating: 2/5
- Swinton Insurance - Number of reviews: 22 reviews, Average rating: 2/5
- Budget Insurance - Number of reviews: 49 reviews, Average rating: 2/5
- Swift Cover - Number of reviews: 28 reviews, Average rating: 1.5/5
Here i'm interested in the provider that I have personally never heard of before - WarrantyDirect.co.uk and how it has managed to accumulate more reviews than big companies like Hastings, Esure and Endsleigh who are massive advertisers and would surely have more customers who would review their companies.
So it was time to dig into the reviews of WarrantyDirect.co.uk to test their credibility.
**** Introducton **** Many people I know berate this form of insurance (for that is what it is - insurance). It can be a small price for peace of mind .... but do your sums first. **** Overview **** I have had a Warranty Direct on one car. I purchased a 1 year warranty on my Vauxhall Omega which I had purchased 18 months old. You can obtain a warranty on most cars directly from Warranty Direct either online (http://www.warrantydirect.co.uk/) ...
...quoted will depend on your car, age mileage, estimated annual mileage. You are able to claim up to £5000 per annum on your policy and it can cover elements of wear and tear which cause other problems. You can take annual or longer policies out - there is a small discount for taking a longer policy. The policy is effective from day 1 so no 'cooling off period' . There are now 4 levels of cover which have maximum age and mileage limits when you ...
In the above example we can clearly see that someone has copied and pasted an almost advert like description into the review box for Warranty Direct and then also included the website address. It suspiciously looks like a fake review to me. Note the title's with the asterix around, not many reviewers would break a review down into such sections.
When I thought my world had collapsed due to my car's engine needing a replacement, Warranty Direct has once again been very professional and helpful. On the phone to them I was in tears but they managed to calm me down and offer advice. They suggested I wait and see what their independant engineer was going to find once the car's engine was stripped. He unfortunately confirmed my car did need a replacement engine and wrote a report to Warranty Direct ...
...working on my claim and it only took 24 hours to authorise it. Warranty Direct even covered my car hire charges whilst my car was been repaired. I would like to extend my special THank You to Mr David Carter who has been ever so helpful and I am extremely grateful to him as well as the company in general. The service is excellent, Thank You. ...
I particulary enjoyed reading this surreal and dramatised review for WarrantyDirect.co.uk on Ciao. In this review Warranty Direct play super hero to the victim of a car engine fault, rescuing the customer from a life of torment due to engine failure! This review is more of an advertisement for their company and it sounds completely unnatural over praising the company on a service you would expect to receive as standard from any company.
After scanning through Ciao and realising that they also don't seem to monitor and sift through erroneous and spam-my reviews this writers recommendation is to avoid review sites if your looking for a credible car insurance company.
Instead I would ask family and friends for personal recommendations as opposed to reading fake reviews on-line that are unsubstantiated. At least you know what they have to say has a 99% of being true, if you can't trust family and friends who can you trust right?
The other option is to consult insurers on and off comparison sites and then just go for a policy on price alone as opposed to spending too much time trying to find a credible review on customer service which can be a minefield.