It seems I can't watch anything on TV these days without at least 4 insurance commercials coming on. Some of them are pretty good, others offer you "anonymous" quotes from their websites or talk about all the discounts you can get by bundling everything with one carrier. I always thought bundling had more to do with rope than insurance.
While online quotes are great, they are quick, you can pick and choose your coverage, you can get several of them in a short time, there are some disadvantages to them that you, the customer, should watch out for.
First, they rely on you to put in accurate information. I'm not saying that you don't pay attention to detail, just that what that information means to the carrier and to you could be different. I know that when I talk to many of my clients they will say "...the house is about 1800 square feet." For the carriers, there is no about, what is the exact square footage. If it's 1820 and you put 1800 this causes a little problem which the carrier may adjust and charge you for later, or when you go to rebuild you may have to pay out of pocket for 20 square feet of master bathroom.
Second, how well do you know insurance terms? There are some I even have to look up. While some websites are helpful, the industry still has some ways to go on using clear lingo. If you answer x to a question that should have been answered y and something happens, you may not be covered.
Last, many of these online quotes are designed to be fast and simple, not accurate. So you get a great quote back from generic insurance website for $300 when everyone else quoted you $500. You jump on it. You go through the online buying process or call their sales department to lock up this great rate. You complete the process and are asked if you would like to pay your $800 yearly premium by credit card, check, payment plan or sacrificial first born.
So what happened to $300?! Well, during the buying process you should have been asked some questions. Your answers to those questions changed your coverage.
While online quotes can be a good way to see whats out there, you should be prepared for coverage changes at the end. A half our on the phone or a site that sends the information you provide to a licensed insurance professional to work up your quote and respond by e-mail can help take the tease out of those online teaser quotes and make the whole process less stressful for you.