Email domain names, such as Hotmail and Gmail, are just one of the many pieces of information some insurance firms will take into account when giving you a quote but it appears there may be no set pattern as to how this will affect the price.
When we ran a test for annual car insurance using three different email addresses on three different comparison sites, we received a range of results showing that some insurance companies do appear to change their quotes when given a different email address.
Our test follows an investigation by The Sun newspaper, which claimed having a Hotmail address could lead to higher quotes compared with having a Gmail address.
For full help on cutting your costs, see our Car and Motor Insurance section.
What did we find?
We ran three quotes on three different comparison sites, with the same details on each, but using Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo email addresses as the only variant.
We took the first 12 companies' quotes we received on Confused.com and compared these with quotes from the same companies on two other comparison sites, Gocompare and MoneySupermarket.
Across the three comparison sites' results, six companies quoted the same prices for the three different email addresses. These were Brightside, Churchill, Privilege, Rias, Swinton and Tesco.
The six companies that did quote different prices for different email address were Admiral, Diamond, Elephant, Hastings Direct, One Call and People's Choice.
Of the six companies that did quote different prices, the difference was always less than £5, except in one case where it was £14.35. This price differential was from One Call.
On Confused.com in particular, our top 12 search results showed different quotes from five companies:
- Admiral and Diamond part of Admiral Group PLC
- Hastings Direct and People's Choice part of the Hastings Group PLC
- One Call
Meanwhile, Gocompare returned different quotes for the Admiral brands but not the Hastings Direct brands or One Call, while MoneySupermarket returned different quotes for the Admiral brands and Hastings Direct, but not People's Choice or One Call.
There was no overall pattern as to which email address gave the cheapest results. For instance, in some cases the Gmail quote was cheapest, but in others it was the most expensive.
It's worth noting the limitations of the research and there are many reasons a quote can vary, such as which comparison site you use, time difference between quotes and your personal driving history.
What do the insurers say?
Admiral, which admitted it factors email domain addresses into its quotes across the group, said: "We use a variety of pieces of information to accurately produce a competitive price for our customers."
A spokesperson for Hastings said: "Email domain address is not a factor that we use when setting prices. Hastings does not discriminate and a customer's name or ethnicity is also not used for pricing purposes. Our anti-fraud and pricing software do screen for inaccurate customer details and this may create a result in which the premium appears to vary based on, for example, a name change."
A One Call spokesperson said: "One Call Insurance does not use email address domains as a rating-factor for any of its product lines."
What information do insurers use to provide quotes?
Each insurer will use a vast range of data to create a quote for you, including the vehicle, your age, address and past driving history.
There is, however, no comprehensive list available of what each insurer will use, and there will be circumstances where different companies will look at different information, such as an email domain name, to create a quote.
It is also worth knowing the premium could also be affected if the insurers notice a trend of 'quote manipulation' as part of an anti-fraud process. This is when you get a quote, tweak the details and get another quote, and repeat this process again and again. So if you try to get a cheaper price by swapping email addresses, on top of other tweaks such as job titles and second drivers, which can save huge amounts, this could make insurers concerned about unusual activity.
Kevin Pratt, consumer affairs expert at MoneySupermarket, said: "When people use our site we send their information to our panel of insurers, who each analyse the data and send us premium quotes which we display in price order on our results pages. Each insurance company calculates its price according to its own underwriting criteria. These criteria are developed separately according to the firm's claims data and market knowledge.
"The price an individual pays will reflect a broad range of 'risk' factors, primarily their age, car, driving history and where they live, along with other details. If an insurer's records suggest a particular characteristic is associated with an increased likelihood of a claim being made, then a driver with that characteristic will be charged more."
A spokesperson for Confused.com said: "As an independent price comparison website we are not able to influence the rating factors which insurers use to determine their pricing."
Gocompare was unable to comment without further details on the quotes.
Surefire things to check when buying car insurance
- Combine comparison sites never just use one. Comparison sites don't all cover the same insurers, so using more than one gives a wider spread. See more on which order to use.
- Find deals comparisons miss, including a free £55 Amazon voucher. Some deals aren't on comparisons see our full hot deals comparisons miss.
- Counter-logical savings. Use trial and error to see if comprehensive's cheaper than third party, whether adding drivers slashes costs and if tweaking your job description cuts costs. Plus remember paying monthly is a loan.